Tag Archives: Italy

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 13



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.


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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.


Can have no complaints. Not good enough.


The Ellis Park Post-Mortem

It was coming. Italy exited the 2010 FIFA World Cup on Thursday, despite a dramatic attempt at a late comeback against Slovakia. The Azzurri failed to muster a single victory. While they were not expected to successfully defend their title, even Lippi admitted as much, no one could have foreseen the humiliation suffered by Marcello Lippi’s team in Ellis Park. “This is Italy”, we were told. And Italy always found a way. In South Africa, from the opening whistle against Paraguay in Cape Town on June 14, there were blindingly evident failings.

The most likely criticism which will be aimed at Lippi’s side is age. Nowhere was this more noticeable than in their captain, Fabio Cannavaro. At the age of thirty-six, having not been offered a new contract by a struggling Juventus, Cannavaro has been pilloried by Italian fans and the Italian sporting newspapers for months. It is a shame to see such a gifted footballer as the former Ballon d’Or winner wither into a spectre. In South Africa, Cannavaro was culpable for at least two of the five goals scored against Italy. The Azzuri captain could only  watch despairingly as Kamil Kopunek galloped past him to score Slovakia’s third. That Lippi was steadfast in his loyalty to Fabio Cannavaro was a tragedy.

Cannavaro was not the only member of the squad entering the twilight of his career. Gattuso, Pirlo, Di Natale, Zambrotta, Camoranesi, Iaquinta and more are all in their thirties. The squad did not have the vivacity or energy to tackle a World Cup tournament played mostly at altitude.

When Lippi first named his provisional side and later his full, 23 man squad there was outrage in the Italian media. The Tuscan manager was seen as being too loyal to his old club Juventus, despite their inauspicious season, with nine making the provisional squad. The selection of Pepe, Di Natale, Gilardino, Iaquinta, Quagliarella and Pazzini as his forwards was lambasted.

In every previous Italian squad for a World Cup there has been a fantasista, a trequartista, a gifted, creative attacker playing just off the strikers. Cast your memories back as far as Gianni Rivera, Sandro Mazzola, Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Baggio and even, most recently, Alessa Del Piero and Francesco Totti.

Lippi controversially opted against offering Totti a recall. This decision looking even more absurd when you consider that the Italian coach decided not to bring any of the following replacements for Totti’s guile and much coveted ‘footballing I.Q.’: Fabrizio Miccoli, Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli, Alessandro Del Piero and Giuseppe Rossi.

Stranger still was Lippi’s insistence that Italy should play with an attacking tridente of three forwards, usually with one of the three fulfilling the trequartista/Number 10 role. With none of the forwards brought by Lippi capable of fulfilling the role, the closest thing Lippi had to a visionary playmaker was Pirlo. The injury sustained by the AC Milan stalwart in training just before the tournament was fatal.

The question now is, where is the next generation? Which players will be promoted under the incoming regime of Cesare Prandelli. It was a cruel blow to Italy that one of the goals that sealed their demise was gifted to Robert Vittek of Slovakia by one of their stars of the present and future, Daniele De Rossi. De Rossi, who plays a dual role as a snarling, combative defensive midfielder and as a pass-machine in the mould of Pirlo, will be a focal point of Prandell’s Azzurri. Recalls may finally be offered to Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi in attack, while defenders Bonucci, Bochetti, Gamberini and Criscito offer Prandelli some intriguing combinations.

Looking even further into the future the likes of Di Silvestri, Forestieri, Macheda, Paloschi and Petrucci may yet realize their potential talent.

The future is not as bleak for Italy as many feel. However, the bitter anguish of Ellis Park and 2010 will live long in the memory and Italian calcio may take some time to recover.

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.

The upsets continue as New Zealand hold Azzurri

New Zealand 1-1 Italy

A controversial goal from Shane Smeltz gave the outsiders the lead inside of ten minutes. Italy attacked the All Whites for the remained of the first half and earned an equaliser from the penalty spot. Vicenzo Iaquinta, played out of position by Marcello Lippi in the opening game, converting the spot kick. A brave defensive effort followed from Ricki Herbert’s side, with goalkeeper Mark Paston and captain Ryan Nelsen each performing valiantly in the face of tremendous pressure from the reigning world champions.

Paraguay’s 2-0 victory over Slovakia in today’s early kick-off meant that Italy would need to beat New Zealand by three goals to claim the top spot in the group. The Azzurri started brightly with Juventus’ Vicenzo Iaquinta showing much improvement from his turgid display against Paraguay. Shockingly, despite Italy’s early attacking intent, New Zealand took the lead. A diagonal free-kick was sent by Elliott towards the centre where it was flicked on by Winston Reid. The ball ricocheted off the thigh of Fabio Cannavaro before falling to Shane Smeltz. The A-League’s Golden Boot winner kept his composure to finish past Federico Marchetti.

There were no complaints from the Italian defenders. However, replays showed that Smeltz was in an offside position when Reid’s leapt above Alberto Gilardino to glance the ball forward.

Italy would need to come from behind against Ricki Herbert’s expertly organised side.

The Italians controlled possession and territory for the next half-hour or so. New Zealand resorted to the physical approach in order to frustrate their illustrious opposition. Striker Rory Fallon led with his elbow on numerous occassions against Fabio Cannavaro and Giorgio Chiellini and received a booking.

Chiellini is known as an aerial threat from corners but, as we saw in the first half, his shooting is less than threatening. A corner fell to the Juventus defender at the back post. Chiellini had ample time and space to strike but poked a dismal effort high to the left of the goal.

The Azzurri fullbacks Domenico Criscito and Gianluca Zambrotta posed a considerable menace to New Zealand. Criscito was willing to move into advanced positions while Zambrotta blasted a long range shot just over Mark Paston’s goal.

Italy had a committed to testing Mark Paston with long range efforts, perhaps noticing the goalkeeper’s unexceptional outing against Slovakia. Riccardo Montolivo, of Fiorentina, had the best attempt. His low, curling effort from twenty-five yards left the Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper motionless as it cannoned off his right post. It appeared that an equaliser was brewing for the Italians and they earned it just two minutes later.

A penalty was awarded to the Azzurri following Tommy Smith’s foul on Daniele De Rossi. Smith, a representative of England at underage level, hauled the Roma midfielder to the ground in the penalty area. Vicenzo Iaquinta took the penalty taking responsibility in the absence of Andrea Pirlo. Iaquinta had been the subject of much criticism in the wake of the 1-1 draw with Paraguay but he did not let that condemnation dissuade him from firing a fine penalty after sending Paston in the wrong direction.

Italy continued to press forward. They found it difficult to create any chances through crosses with Ryan Nelsen having such a fine game at the heart of the All Whites’ defence.

Iaquinta was quietly having a fine game for Italy, leading the line with some astute movement and passing. For all of his qualities, his striker partner was having a putrid first half. Alberto Gilardino has been a sufficiently good striker in Serie A for many years now, but his form for the national team has never corresponded with his turns at Fiorentina and AC Milan.

This realisation may have dawned on Marcello Lippi who withdrew Gilardino and the equally ineffective Simone Pepe at the break with one of Serie A’s finest ‘marcatori’ Antonio Di Natale and Mauro Camoranesi replacing the pair.

Lippi did not budge from the 4-4-2 formation he had fielded from the start of this game and Ricki Herbert must have been delighted to see no change in tactics from Italy after half-time.

Di Natale quickly found himself involved in the action, hooking an imaginative volley over his shoulder only to see Paston beat it away.

Further crosses fell on Nelsen and Smith in the New Zealand defence but the duo were good enough to deal with every threatening delivery sent their way.

In search of a potentially vital goal, Lippi brought Sampdoria striker Gianpaolo Pazzini on in place of Claudio Marchisio. Lippi reverting to the 4-3-3 approach which dwindled against the Paraguayans. 4-3-3 was probably a wise move against Herbert’s defence, allowing the Italians more space to create as the All Whites tried to cope with more attacking threats.

‘Toto Di Natale was causing the resolute New Zealand defenders problems. His expressive approach to the forward role has long been admired in Serie A and it was exhibited beautifully here with the Udinese attacker eager to rush out to the flanks in search of possession as he tried relentlessly to force a killer pass.

Italy’s best option, however, still appeared to be long shots. The All Whites had dropped what seemed like their entire midfield on top of their defence in a concerted effort to earn another point at the World Cup. Riccardo Montolivo tested Paston once more with another powerful strike from thirty yards.

As the match reached it’s conclusion the All Whites, helmed by the magnificent Ryan Nelsen, stood firm. They had to deal with some accomplished crosses for the duration of the game and they were not beaten by any of them. In a post-match interview Vicenzo Iaquinta offered his praise to the All Whites.

“New Zealand defended very well and got almost all the headers in the box”, admitted the Juventus’ striker.

The surprise result leaves the All Whites very much in contention for a place in the Second Round. A victory over group leaders Paraguay might be enough to see them through. Italy also face a ‘do-or-die’ game against Slovakia. If they fail to win against Vladimir Weiss’ side then they will fail to progress from the group, a miserable outcome for a defending world champion.

There is little doubt that changes will be made by Lippi for the encounter with Slovakia. It would appear that his patience with Pepe and Gilardino has worn out, albeit belatedly. The Azzurri manager will retire after the tournament and you can be assured that the ‘Silver Fox’ will be hoping for the same adventurous spirit from his Azzurri side against Slovakia but with much improved finishing.

Round One in Review

The first round of group stage fixtures at the 2010 World Cup is complete. Every team has now taken their World Cup bow in South Africa and we’ve already been left with some intriguing permutations for qualification to the last sixteen. World Cup Daily will now take a look back at this mini-milestone stage of the competition.

Group A:

Group A is a bit different by way of having already completed one game of the second round of fixtures. The result was a potentially crippling one for the Bafana Bafana, as they lost to Uruguay 3-0 while also losing their first choice goalkeeper to suspension. France play Mexico tomorrow with the winner of that game taking a massive step towards the next round. Here is the table as it stands.

Group A MP W D L Pts
Uruguay 2 1 1 0 4
Mexico 1 0 1 0 1
France 1 0 1 0 1
South Africa 2 0 1 1 1

The hosts, South Africa, achieved what may yet be their best result in the competition in the tournament’s opening game against Mexico. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s incredible strike will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it. 1998’s winners France stuttered in a 0-0 stalemate against Uruguay. Although they failed to impress against Les Bleus, Uruguay now control Group A courtesy of their victory over Bafana Bafana in Pretoria this evening. Diego Forlan lead the line with conviction and scored two goals, taking him to the top of the goalscoring standings for the tournament.

The outcome of Mexico v France is key to the future of the group. If there is a winner to that game then the hosts will be all but eliminated and the victor should progress to the last sixteen alongside Uruguay. A draw will throw open a range of possibilities and will ensure an exciting climax, with South Africa’s participation in the World Cup still very much alive.

Group B:

The Republic of Korea and Argentina sit loftily atop Group B at the moment courtesy of victories over Greece and Nigeria respectively. The two sides meet tomorrow in the early kickoff at Soccer City.

The Republic of Korea were comfortable victors of Otto Rehhagel’s Greece. The Euro 2004 champions were both lethargic and sloppy and possessed none of the defensive nous that saw them capture the European Championships six years ago. On the other hand, Korea were excellent. Their captain, Park Ji Sung, has excelled in the playmakers role for South Korea for years and demonstrated his immense capabilities in their 2-0 win.

Lionel Messi was at his dazzling best in the Albiceleste’s 1-0 success over Nigeria. The tight scoreline flattered the Super Eagles and Nigeria will need to improve drastically if they are to have a future in the competition. Nigeria will face elimination from the competition should either South Korea or Argentina win and they are defeated by Greece. Lars Lagerbäck will refuse to accept a group stage exit and Nigeria should get the better of a Greek side devoid of ideas.

Group B MP W D L Pts
South Korea 1 1 0 0 3
Argentina 1 1 0 0 3
Nigeria 1 0 0 1 0
Greece 1 0 0 1 0

Group C:

To everyone’s surprise Slovenia sit in pole position in Group C. They capitalised on England’s 1-1 draw with the United States, beating Algeria 1-0. Slovenia were vulnerable on the flanks, where Ziani was a constant threat. The United States’ Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan could pose similar problems to the Slovenians should they be allowed to transgress deep into Slovenian territory. Slovenia’s goalkeeper Samir Handanovic carried his remarkable Serie A form into the World Cup and will prove a difficult obstacle for Bob Bradley’s side.

The United States themselves were lucky to escape from Rustenberg with a point, Robert Green’s now infamous catastrophy allowing Clint Dempsey to score. USMNT are capable of producing a much superior performance against Slovenia. The Americans’ defensive core of Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit were solid against England, a huge boon considering Onyewu’s terrible recent history of injury. Bob Bradley will need to consolidate that defensive strength with a more potent strike force if the United States are to wrestle command of the group out of Slovenian hands.

England’s performance has been evaluated countless times since that night in Rustenberg. Last minute call-up Jamie Carragher was beaten easily on occassion by the pace of Jozy Altidore and if the rumours of him starting the next game are proven to be correct then John Terry will need to be on top form.

The conundrum of who is the best candidate to partner Wayne Rooney in attack has not yet been solved by Fabio Capello. Emile Heskey’s performance against the United States was bafflingly praised by some pundits in the immediate aftermath of the game. The reality is that Heskey is not a striker of genuine international-quality. Perhaps the best solution for Fabio Capello would be to move new captain Steven Gerrard forward into a support role for Rooney with a four man midfield behind the two.

Group D:

It is no surprise that Germany are the stand out performers in Group D thusfar. Their 4-0 demolition of Australia was founded on individual brilliance from Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski and fantastic distribution and holding from Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger. It will be a great relief to Jogi Löw to see Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski performing so effectively after both had endured difficult seasons for their club sides.

Australia on the other hand seem destined for elimination. They were powerless to prevent a drubbing at the hands of the Germans and to make matters worse their talisman, Tim Cahill, has been suspended. They must now face Ghana, who were better than their 1-0 scoreline indicates.

Stade Rennais’ Asamoah Gyan gave the Black Stars victory over Serbia. The real star performer, however, was Kevin Prince Boateng. The Portsmouth midfielder was busy, creative and determined against the Serbs and if he can continue that form against Australia then Ghana will stand on the brink of qualification for a second successive place in the last sixteen.

Serbia were predestined to be the tournament’s dark horses. They were abject against Ghana. Their celebrated defence was challenged by an under-strength Ghana and it is forgivable to think that they will have even greater difficulty against Germany’s multi-pronged attack.

Group D MP W D L Pts
Germany 1 1 0 0 3
Ghana 1 1 0 0 3
Serbia 1 0 0 1 0
Australia 1 0 0 1 0

Group E:

Holland failed to reach their potential against Denmark but still managed to escape with a comfortable 2-0 victory. The return of winger Arjen Robben will only add further strength to their challenge and they may yet become the swaggering champions that a large section of the world’s observers reckon they were born to become. The revelation of the game against Denmark was Eljero Elia. The young Ajax winger replaced Rafael van der Vaart and made an immediate impact. His energy and innate skill were clear to see and further appearances for the youngster are almost a certainty now.

Japan were everything their reputation told us they were. They were organised. They were boring. And they numbed Cameroon into submission. Keisuke Honda’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory over the Lions. They will not be so fortunate against Holland.

Cameroon’s performance was toothless (pardon the pun). Samuel Eto’o was the only player to emerge with any credit and even he seemed powerless to prevent Japan from hanging on to a clean sheet and a victory. Cameroon should improve against Denmark, they have too many players of high quality not to. A victory is required. Anything less may spell an embarrassing early exit.

Group E MP W D L Pts
Netherlands 1 1 0 0 3
Japan 1 1 0 0 3
Cameroon 1 0 0 1 0
Denmark 1 0 0 1 0

Group F:

Paraguay 1 0 1 0 1
Slovakia 1 0 1 0 1
Italy 1 0 1 0 1
New Zealand 1 0 1 0 1

The immediately striking aspect of your first glance at the Group F table is Italy’s absence from top spot. The World Champions were perhaps the better side against Paraguay but could not convert their superiority into sincere shooting opportunities. If Marcello Lippi insists on keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation then he will need to remove Iaquinta. The Juventus forward was unthreatening throughout the encounter with Paraguay and his place in the starting line-up ahead of Antonio Di Natale is ponderous at best.

Of more immediate concern to ‘gli Azzuri’ is the fitness of Gianluigi Buffon. The decorated goalkeeper has suffered a recurrence of a herniated disc and may play no further part in Italy’s quest to retain the World Cup. Into the breach will step young Federico Marchetti. The Cagliari goalkeeper was a revelation in Serie A this past year and may yet prove to be a worthy replacement to one of the world’s greatest shot-stoppers.

Slovakia controlled the game against New Zealand but concentration lapses ultimately proved to be their undoing. Marek Hamsik, their captain and Vladimir Weiss were stand-out performers against New Zealand and must retain their creative flair if they are to overturn Paraguay as the second side to progress from the group.

There is a feeling that New Zealand have already achieved what they set out to do in drawing with Slovakia. It is unthinkable that they may claim another point against Paraguay or Italy despite their obvious strenghts in defensive organisation.

Group G:

Brazil showed their usual flair but were unable to score more than two goals against North Korea. Robinho and Maicon were the outstanding performers on the night for the Seleçao. They should prove too strong for Portugal, who were terrible against the Côte d’Ivoire, but may yet be tested by the Elephants.

North Korea were the unknown quantity in the ‘Group of Death’. Their star player, Jong Tae Se, garnered a lot of attention for his tears at the national anthems and his subsequent display which culminated in an assist.

Côte d’Ivoire were far more structured than they were in the Cup of African Nations. In Gervinho and Salomon Kalou they have players to supply the now fit Didier Drogba and also to beat fullbacks. If they can achieve a draw against Brazil and proceed to thrash North Korea, then the Brazilians may yet face an unlikely elimination from the World Cup.

Brazil 1 1 0 0 3
Côte d’Ivoire 1 0 1 0 1
Portugal 1 0 1 0 1
North Korea 1 0 0 1 0

Group H:

This group looked to be all about Spain. The European Champions and favourites to lift the World Cup were expected to breeze through this group with minimal fuss. They did not expect to encounter the managerial powerhouse that is Ottmar Hitzfeld and his appropriately strong Switzerland defence. The Swiss demonstrated the frailties within this otherwise exceptional Spain side.

Spain were unable to show the requisite cutting edge and for all of their possession, they mustered very few threatening attempts on goal. They will have a chance at redemption against Honduras, who were disappointing against Chile.

Chile were every bit as entertaining as we were led to believe. Marco Bielsa has created an attacking side with a remarkable flair and creativity to it. The tactical decision to field only three players was not exposed as folly by a blunt Honduras but achieving the same result against Spain may prove to be too difficult a challenge.

World Cup Winners & Losers – Day 4


Anti-football fans

Whoever they may be. Day four delivered three rather dour games in which teams scrapped and scraped for possession much to the chagrin of spectators clamouring for goals. While some knee-jerk doom mongers are already condemning this World Cup to the scrapheap after less than a week, today’s entertainment did little to shut them up.

Holland were largely contained by a defensive Danish side, Japan gave 110% but were content to win ugly while Italy and Paraguay played out a tepid stalemate. While mental battles and seeing who blinks first are part and parcel of football, South Africa 2010 is in dire need of a real spectacle fast. A North Korean mauling at the feet of Brazil would go some way to placating the naysayers.


Just about. While the Dutch were lively and never looked terribly troubled (thanks in part to the rock-solid central midfield partnership of Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong) they didn’t look quite the same team that took maximum points from their qualifying campaign. Robben’s absence was noticeable and despite never looking too shaky, Holland struggled with an admittedly strong Danish defence.

Hype is a dangerous thing and Bert Van Marwijk’s team have been touted as potential winners. On the basis of this start they will need to put a team to the sword in the remaining group games lest the sheen start to come off. At least they’re not fighting among themselves. Yet.


While not exactly invoking the park-the-bus nature of Greece, Japan know they do not possess the skill and flair of other teams and thus played a smart, safe and ultimately boring game. Their workrate was admirable and their win deserved, but few casual fans will have been converted by their brand of football. However, given recent incidents involving own goals and broken arms, at least Japan are making headlines for the right reasons.


Little is expected of the South Americans and although they didn’t excel, they took the game to Italy and fully deserved their point.



World Champions in name only. Make no mistake; this is not the same team that lifted the trophy in 2006. This should come as no surprise to Irish fans, given Ireland were unlucky to only draw with the Italians away and at home, but for others who didn’t follow their qualifying campaign it may have come as a shock to witness such a poor display from the champions.

Petulant and ponderous, Italy have a lot of work to do to improve their prospects. They shouldn’t be troubled by New Zealand or Slovakia, but stranger things have happened.


Suffocated by the Japanese, this is not the start that the Lions expected. Saturday’s game against Denmark is now a must-win showdown.

Simon Poulsen

You’ve just helped set up an own goal. Probably not the best idea to grin like a Cheshire cat.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Turn your phone to vibrate you fool!

Vuvuzela haters

Get used to it kids, that noise is here to stay.

Squad announcement round-up

Italy: Marcello Lippi has removed Marco Borriello and Giuseppe Rossi from his World Cup squad.

Goalkeepers- Gianluigi Buffon, Morgan De Sanctis, Federico Marchetti

Defenders- Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluca Zambrotta, Domenico Criscito, Christian Maggio, Salvatore Bocchetti, Leonardi Bonucci

Midfielders- Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Mauro Camoranesi, Daniele De Rossi, Angelo Palombo, Simone Pepe, Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio

Forwards- Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Antonio Di Natale, Fabio Quagliarella, Giampaolo Pazzini

United States: Veteran USMNT stars Sacha Kljestan and Brian Ching were omitted from the final 23-man roster by coach Bob Bradley. The final 23 is noteworthy for being perhaps the most experienced United States squad ever assembled. The decision to leave out Ching was apparently influenced by the unavailability of Charlie Davies, as Bradley sought to replicate Davies’ pace through young strikers Herculez Gomez and Robbie Findley.

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (ChivasUSA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Jonathan Spector (West Ham)

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Jose Torres (Pachuca)

Strikers: Jozy Altidore (Hull), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Pachuca)

South Africa: Veteran Benni McCarthy has been denied the honour of representing Bafana Bafana in a World Cup on home soil. Coach Parreira’s decision was linked with McCarthy’s declining fitness, with rumours suggesting that McCarthy’s body fat index registered at over 24%.

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Shuaib Walters (Maritzburg United)

Defenders: Siboniso Gaxa (Sundowns), Anele Ngcongca (Genk), Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth), Matthew Booth (Sundowns), Bongani Khumalo (SuperSport United), Siyabonga Sangweni (Golden Arrows), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa), Lucas Thwala (Orlando Pirates)

Midfielders: Teko Modise (Orlando Pirates), Lance Davids (Ajax Cape Town), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), MacBeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan), Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows), Kagiso Dikgacoi (Fulham), Steven Pienaar (Everton), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs)

Strikers: Surprise Moriri (Sundowns), Bernard Parker (FC Twente), Katlego Mphela (Sundowns), Siyabonga Nomvethe (Moroka Swallows)

Germany: The injury ravaged Germany squad was announced by Jogi Löw yesterday afternoon. Jerome Boateng, the brother of Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, was included in the squad following injuries to Heiko Westermann and Christian Trasch. FC Bayern München’s Philipp Lahm will captain the side in the absence of Michael Ballack.

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen), Hans-Jorg Butt (Bayern Munich)

Defenders: Dennis Aogo (Hamburg), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Jerome Boateng (Hamburg), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Marcell Jansen (Hamburg), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart)

Midfielders: Sami Khedira (Stuttgart), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen), Mesut Ozil (Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg)

Strikers: Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Cologne)