Tag Archives: Hamsik

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 13

Winners

Holland

Three wins from three games and they’ve yet to really hit third gear. This Holland team seem to like 100% records having also won all their games in qualifying for the tournament. An awful lot is expected of them as a result and they will need to raise their game when they line out against giaint-killers Slovakia on Monday afternoon. The return of Arjen Robben is a major boost and should Holland find their feet there may be no catching them this time.

Robin Van Persie

Following a torrid injury-related season, the Arsenal striker will be delighted to open his World Cup account. Threatening throughout, it is paramount that Van Persie remain fit for the duration of Holland’s campaign.

Japan

A comprehensive victory over a poor Danish side was capped off by the scoring of not one, but two free kicks.

Keisuke Honda

Lived up to all the “hilarious” engine-related humour by running the game for his country. The midfielder has impressed thus far with goals, assists and workrate. Japan will be relying on him to keep, ahem, driving them forward against Paraguay.

The Jabulani ball

Turns out you can score free kicks with it.

Paraguay

Unfancied but in the end unbeaten. The South Americans have shown grit and determination and set up a match against Japan that could surprise many.

Slovakia

Nobody expected them to get this far, especially at the expense of the Italians. Similarly, nobody expects them to give Holland problems on Monday but as the Eastern Europeans have proven, surprises can happen.

Marek Hamsik

By not scoring against Italy, his employers Napoli will probably just hold back on issuing his P45.

New Zealand

Touted as whipping boys, the Kiwis brought pride to their nation by not only finishing their campaign unbeaten, but placing higher in the group than Italy.

Losers

Slovakia

Slightly took the gloss off a famous victory by play-acting and time-wasting at the death. They won’t care though.

Italy

Farewell to the 2006 champions. Then again this Italy was barely the same one that took the crown on penalties in Germany four years ago. While some names remained, the spirit did not. Fabio Cannavaro and Marcello Lippi will wonder just why their country has crashed out of their first World Cup at the group stage in 36 years, but the writing was on the wall even through their qualification.

While they may have topped their group, it was a far from convincing. In truth, Ireland should have taken at least four points off them instead of two. Their frailties were exposed in most of the games they played, frailties

Fabio Quagliarella

The Napoli striker will never win an Oscar with acting that melodramatic. Trust an Italian to go from the ridiculous to the sublime though, netting one of the goals of the tournament shortly after his “I’ve been shot in the face” antics.

Cameroon

Three games, three losses and no points brings a hugely disappointing campaign to an end and leaves only one African team in the last sixteen.

Denmark

Can have no complaints. Not good enough.

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Slovakia progress in 3-2 thriller

Slovakia 3-2 Italy

Marcello Lippi’s Italy became only the fourth defending World Champions to fail to progress past the group stage at a World Cup finals. Slovakia, having failed to impress in their opening two games, came from nowhere to stun the Azzurri and took a 2-0 lead deep in the second half courtesy of a brace from Robert Vittek. Antonio Di Natale pulled one back for Italy before Kopunek gave Slovakia an incredible 3-1 lead. Fabio Quagliarella, who had battled admirably since coming at half-time, chipped in a magnificent goal to gave Vladimir Weiss’ side an scare. The Slovakians held on, however, to register a famous win and progress to the Round of 16.

Italy got off to a very slow start. The passion they displayed at national anthem time had apparently deserted them within minutes of Howard Webb’s opening whistle. Vladimir Weiss’ Slovakia were not making it easy for them, committing fouls to break up any spells of possession.

Italian hopes looked to be dashed when in the twenty-fourth minute Daniele De Rossi’s misjudged pass to Riccardo Montolivo was intercepted before Robert Vittek, Slovakia’s record goalscorer, slotted the ball past Federico Marchetti. It was a dreadful mistake by De Rossi, one which could be seen as a manifestation of a poor World Cup for the Italians.

Italy needed answers. Andrea Pirlo, the brilliant but injured AC Milan midfielder was on the bench. Balotelli, Cassano and Totti were at home in Italy. The lack of a dedicated ‘fantasista’ for Italy in the mould of Totti, Del Piero or Baggio was sorely missed by the Azzurri, who had always depended on a Number Ten to provide creativity and incision.

In the absence of a these players, Italy squandered possession and in truth, did not create many chances in the first half. With Italy at least needing a goal to progress, Marcello Lippi produced his gambit. On came Fabio Quagliarella and Cristian Maggio in place of Gennaro Gattuso and Domenico Criscito respectively.

With the Slovakian goalkeeper, Mucha, dedicated to wasting time just minutes into the second half, Lippi attempted to bring further impetus to his side with the introduction of Pirlo. The AC Milan midfielder’s introduction was granted a rousing reception from the Italian fans in Ellis Park, who sensed that a comeback would hang on the midfielder’s ability to mastermind attacking sequences.

Italy’s chance arrived just after the hour. Quagliarella shot from an angle with the goalkeeper out of position only to see his effort hacked off the line by Martin Skrtel. The Napoli striker was adamant he had scored. The referee and his assistants were decidedly less than convinced. Replays failed to clarify whether the ball had indeed crossed the line.

Slovakia made Italy pay for that missed opportunity. Robert Vittek was once again the hero as he slotted past a bewildered Federico Marchetti. In the Italian technical area, Marcello Lippi looked crestfallen.

Despite their failings, Italy did mount a valiant comeback. Antonio Di Natale capitalising on a rebound to slot past Mucha with just over ten minutes remaining.

Substitute Kamil Kopunek looked to have ended the Azzurri challenge with a late third for Slovakia. The forward dashed past Fabio Cannavaro and on to a throw in before producing a sublime finish to beat Marchetti.

That was not to be the end of the drama. Fabio Quagliarella, who had made an impact since coming on for Gattuso, has a reputation in Serie A for only scoring spectacular goals. The Napoli striker lived up to his billing. Quagliarella received the ball on the edge of the ‘D’, from there he took a touch before unleashing a perfect chip over Mucha.

The Italians had one last chance to complete a stirring fightback. Giorgio Chiellini’s long throw was flicked on to the backpost. Simone Pepe attempted to fire home a reaction shot with his right foot but failed to connect.

The miss prompted scenes of jubilation in the Slovakian dugout, Vladimir Weiss’ side progressing at the expense of New Zealand who could only draw 0-0 with Paraguay. The negative football that had characterised Slovakia’s opening two games was overhauled in this afternoon’s match. In a damning indictment of Italy’s World Cup, the Slovakians were the better side.

The defeat marks the end of Marcello Lippi’s decorated career in management and also the international career of one Fabio Cannavaro. The defender, whose contract was not renewed by Juventus at the end of last season, bowed out with ignominy.

Slovakia will progress to meet Holland in the Round of 16.

Last Gasp goal gives All Whites shock draw against Slovakia

Slovakia looked to be coasting to victory against New Zealand until Winston Reid rose above Martin Skrtel to score in the second minute of injury time. The Slovakians took the lead nine minutes after the break when Róbert Vittek converted a cross from Stanislav Sestak. The Slovakians controlled the game from that point until Chris Wood went close ten minutes from time and then Winston Reid went one better. The Auckland-born defender rising above the Slovakian centre-halves to head Shane Smeltz’s wonderful cross into the net with stoppage time nearing completion.

A dour first-half was noteworthy for the organisational awareness of the All Whites. Ricki Herbert’s coaching efforts reflected well in his team, who frustrated a Slovakian side featuring Serie A wonderkid Marek Hamsik.

The game only really took off in the second half as Slovakia began to assert their superiority. Hamsik, Vittek, Sestak and the coach’s son Wladimir Weiss combining to control possession and create opportunities for Slovakia.

The game’s opening goal came in the 54th minute. Striker Sestak received the ball deep before launching a curling cross towards the New Zealand six-yard box. The All Whites’ goalkeeper Mark Paston was unconvincing throughout and was powerless to prevent Róbert Vittek from powering a head home for Slovakia’s first ever World Cup Finals goal.

Slovakia dominated the game for the next half hour and should have been 2-0 up when Hamsik broke up rare New Zealand possession in the Slovakian half. Hamsik then raced forward alongside Vittek and Sestak. Sestak played Vittek through on goal put the Lille OSC player’s first touch brought him too close to Ryan Nelsen.

New Zealand finally began to threaten Jan Mucha’s goal in the final ten minutes of the game. West Brom striker Chris Wood must have thought that he had missed the crucial opportunity when he headed a slowly moving cross inches wide.

The All Whites’ moment came in the second of three minutes of stoppage time. New Zealand’s star player, Shane Smeltz, twisted before delivering an astonishing cross in between Martin Skrtel and Radoslav Zabavnik. Winston Reid, who plays his club football in the Danish league, rose superbly to equalise. Slovakia’s players were incredulous. New Zealand punishing Vladimir Weiss’ team for slackening in the latter stages of the second half.

For Slovakia it was a missed opportunity to take initiative in a difficult group. For the All Whites it was an historic sporting occassion. Coach Ricki Herbert was part of the side which participated at the 1982 World Cup. There they lost all three games, conceded twelve and scored none. New Zealand is traditionally regarded as a rugby nation. Moments like this will do little to dampen the expectations that football is about to overtake it as the most popular game on the islands.