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Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 10

Dave returns after a weekend break to evaluate the good and the great of the World Cup.

Winners

Portugal

And then some. Following a fairly tight first half, the Portuguese opened the floodgates in dramatic style, delivering the traditional World Cup drubbing in the process. While there wasn’t anything on display to rival the scintillating teamwork that led to Esteban Cambiasso’s goal during Argentina’s slaughter of Serbia & Montenegro in 2006, there was enough Iberian flair on display to significantly boost the confidence levels in the Portugal camp. Even Liédson got his name on the scoresheet.

The seven-goal tally also gives Portugal the added benefit of superior goal difference should they falter against Brazil in Durban on Friday afternoon.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Scored his first goal for his country in sixteen months. Just about.

Spain

Commanding but not convincing, or if you prefer Jim Beglin of ITV’s interpretation; “lovely but not lethal”. While the 2-0 scoreline somewhat flattered Honduras, Spain were wasteful in front of goal and really should have come away with a result comparable to Portugal’s romp against North Korea. A missed penalty and several missed chances kept things respectable and while things are definitely looking up for the European Champions, Spain will need to raise their game before they hit the second round.

David Villa

If his second goal was a tad fortunate, the first was anything but. A beautiful individual goal that will remain long in the memory, Barcelona’s newest acquisition displayed tremendous skill and determination to cut inside the Honduran defence before coolly slotting the ball past the goalkeeper while at full stretch. Villa really should have capped his performance off with a hat trick, but despite his missed penalty he was arguably the best man on the pitch in a red shirt. More please.

Chile

Although they made hard work of it. In retrospect it’s amazing that the game finished with only one goal scored and with 21 players on the pitch. At times it looked like a football had been thrown into the middle of a Royal Rumble, with the referee failing to keep control of things.

A combination of large egos and poor finishing meant the game finished with the slight scoreline of one nil, but the final quarter of an hour brought with it palpable excitement as both sides attacked one another relentlessly. Switzerland’s Eren Derdiyok will be left to rue a late miss when it seemed it was easier to score while Chile will go into their final game with Spain knowing that a point will leave them top of the group. They will also know that there is room for improvement.

Bookmakers

Al l those bets on Fernando Torres as top goalscorer currently look like an easy profit for Paddy Power and co.

Losers


Switzerland

While they did manage to net the rather unsexy accolade of becoming the team that went the longest at a World Cup finals without conceding a goal. Alas, their rigid defence finally came undone following wave after wave of Chilean attacks. At least Roger Federer mounted a ridiculous comeback at Wimbledon to save some of the nation’s blushes.

Valon Behrami

Got away with the first elbow but not the second. While the West Ham player’s ‘victims’ may have exaggerated the extent of Behrami’s actions, he can have little complaint at seeing red.

North Korea

Gamely held their own for 45 minutes before being torn to shreds in the second half. It’s rare that a team can take such a mauling and still exit a tournament with some degree of pride but North Korea played with conviction and ambition for the most part of their World Cup campaign and shouldn’t feel too dispirited. Hopefully the Supreme Leader feels the same way eh?

Ivory Coast

Portugal’s stunning haul effectively puts the Elephants out.

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Swiss rolled by red hot Chile

Chile 1-0 Switzerland

Chile took advantage of Valon Behrami’s controversial sending off to beat Switzerland 1-0 in Port Elizabeth. Chile’s goal came courtesy of Mark Gonzalez’s 75th minute header.

Both sides won their opening fixture meaning that the winner in today’s match would take top spot in the group. Chile, true to form, were adventurous throughout but once again failed to convert most of the numerous chances that fell to them.

The return of Humberto Suazo for Chile was seen as a boost for La Roja. The Monterrey striker was involved almost immediately, receiving a yellow card for a robust challenge on Von Bergen.

Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal was tested with two stinging long range efforts in quick succession. The Vfl Wolfsburg ‘keeper first denying Arturo Vidal and then Carlos Carmona.

Alexis Sanchéz was a constant threat but Chile were unable to break a stubborn Swiss side down.

Switzerland’s Valon Behrami was wrongly sent off by the Saudi referee for an apparent forearm smash on Arturo Vidal just thirty into the game. Switzerland’s German manager Ottmar Hitzfeld was incensed on the sideline, the fourth official bearing the brunt of his protests.

Despite the sending off Chile would have to wait until the second half to take advantage of their numerical superiority. Alexis Sanchéz, the team’s star attraction, thought that he had broken the deadlock on 49 minutes. A well worked free kick saw the ball rolled to Sanchéz on the edge of the penalty area. There he sent a shot crashing through the legs of the Swiss defenders before finding its way past Diego Benaglio. His ecstatic celebrations were ceased by the linesman’s flag. This time it was the correct decision.

Having seen his earlier effort ruled out, Sanchéz looked doubly determined to score now. First he was denied by Grichting’s clearance and then by Diego Benaglio, who was enjoying an excellent World Cup. Benaglio rushed out towards the Udinese star and made blocked all potential avenues to goal.

Chile finally made the breakthrough just fifteen minutes before the end. A terrific through ball was played to substitute Oscar Paredes who crossed to the far post where Mark Gonzalez was at hand to score with a header.

For all of Chile’s domination they very nearly dropped two points. Derdiyok was given the ball just eleven metres from goal but pulled his shot wide of the post. Ottmar Hitzfeld collapsed to his knees in the dugout.

Chile hung on to secure a 1-0 victory which takes them three points clear of the Swiss at the top of Group H. Spain play Honduras this evening needing a win to keep their hopes of qualification alive.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 6

Winners

Switzerland

Who saw that coming then? Considering even the word Switzerland hardly conjures up feelings of excitement, it was no surprise that the first half was an especially drab affair with the Swiss playing ultra defensive and rarely looking threatening. Mick McCarthy repeatedly scolded them for “being happy not to score” but thankfully once the second half rolled around they spat in the face of that particular assessment.

The opening round of games have proved to be mostly very tight affairs with teams playing very defensively, and while this has attracted criticism from viewers who crave goals, can it not be argued that certain teams simply need to play defensively? You can practically set your watch to the amount of times Arsene Wenger will complain about teams not allowing his beloved Arsenal to play their beautiful brand of football by suffocating his team and being happy to come away from the Emirates Stadium with a point.

While Wenger has a point, surely it’s nothing more than suicide for certain teams to repeatedly attack those clearly superior to them? Had Switzerland adopted a free and easy approach against the European champions they would surely have been crushed. As it was Spain had plenty of opportunities to win the contest and failed to do so, while Switzerland grew in confidence and pulled off a famous and deserved victory. This was not anti-football, nor was it winning ugly. And it certainly was no fluke.

Ottmar Hitzfeld


The wily veteran manager got his tactics absolutely spot on.

Eren Derdiyok

Made the goal and was cruelly denied a particularly sweet one of his own by the post. While the commentators were reluctant to heap praise upon the Swiss striker due to his direct nature, he made life difficult for the Spanish defence and his tenacity led to the decisive goal.

Chile

Impressive, but expectedly so. Having finished second in their South American qualifying group, many pundits have touted Chile to do well in South Africa. The 1-0 scoreline flattered their opponents, as Chile dominated the game and really should have come away with a more impressive goal tally. With Spain losing, it makes their upcoming clash all the more interesting.

Alexis Sanchez

The 21-year-old Udinese forward is one to keep an eye on.

Uruguay

Showed the creativity and killer instinct that was absent against France. With four points on the board and one game to play, they should be looking to win the group.

Diego Forlán

And he’s off. The man who destroyed the Europa League dreams of Fulham (and Liverpool) opened his World cup account with a spectacular brace. Both goals, in addition to his crossing, demonstrated that Forlán has little problems controlling the much-maligned Jabulani ball. One of the top strikers in world football, the Uruguayan is definitely worth a punt for top goalscorer should his country progress further. Please come back to Old Trafford Diego…

Losers

Spain

Oh dear. Just when they were beginning to shake off their choke artists tag, this happens. And yet I find it hard to be moved, considering their conduct. Spain, like their native Barcelona, have a quiet arrogance about them. While they do indeed play beautiful football, they seem to believe they have a divine right to victory simply because of their attractive output. Not so. Petulance was on display along with whinging and diving and in the end all that pouting, all that complaining merely amounted to a loss.

A shocking loss due to the identity of the opponent yes, but that Spain were defeated is not shocking at all. Hype is a killer, and as tournament favourites and with a history of failure in major competitions, don’t be surprised if Spain take the high-profile early exit this year.

Fernando Torres

Is it harsh to pick on a player who isn’t fully fit? Perhaps, but when you are labelled the greatest striker in the world (is Messi strictly a striker?) and you have thirty minutes to make an impact and proceed to scupper any and all opportunities that come your way, you certainly don’t belong in the winners column.

South Africa

May well suffer the ignominy of not qualifying for the second round of their own tournament.

Steven Pienaar

Sacrificed for the substitute goalkeeper after another poor performance. The new Premier League season can’t come soon enough for the Everton midfielder.

Itumeleng Khune


Perhaps unfortunate to receive a red card, the South African goalkeeper may well have played his final part in the competition.

Chile end 48 years of hurt

Chile 1-0 Honduras

The College View’s Niall Farrell was on hand to watch Marcelo Bielsa’s attack-minded Chile claim La Roja’s first World Cup win since 1962.

A strong performance ensured that Chile got the three points from their encounter with Honduras in Nelspruit. A Jean Beausejour goal was the decider in a fast paced and relatively entertaining match.

The Chileans set out their stall to attack very early on. With just a minute and a half on the clock, Matias Fernandez whistled a 30-yard free-kick over the crossbar.

Honduras looked good when they had possesion, but Chile worked hard to ensure that the ball was rarely under the control of the Hondurans.A second chance came Chile’s way after 8 minutes, with Arturo Vidal’s long-range shot being saved by Noel Valladares in goal. A clever one-two from Jorge Valdivia and Jean Beusejour was played just a shade to fast for Beausejour, who looked like he might have a chance to finish if he connected with the ball.

Arturo Vidal went close again after 24 minutes, but should have done better from a free header in the Honduran penalty area. Seychellois referee Eddy Maillet came in for some criticism after some odd decisions, including a mysterious yellow card for Wilson Palacios, apparently for dissent.

In the 34th minute a Jean Beusejour goal put Chile ahead at last. Arturo Vidal set off a chain of fine passes which found Matias Fernandez out wide. ‘Matigol’ crossed well for Beusejour to get on the end and Beasejour bungled the ball in with his chest.

Chile dominated the match throughout, chiefly due to their control over posession. Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo Millar were always on the ball, while Jorge Valdivia and Alexis Sanchez used clever off-the-ball runs to create chances. The second half begun much as the first half did. Chile were quick to attack, and again enjoyed the lion’s share of posession.

Honduras did have a penalty shout a minute after play resumed, but referee Maillet deemed the tackle by Ponce to be fair. Despite all their chances, Chile just couldn’t break Honduras down to find their second goal. Right-back Mauricio Isla of Chile charged forward to join the attack and went close on 51 minutes with a shot but was judged to be offside. Ten minutes later Chile had another golden opportunity to get the second goal, but Alexis Sanchez pulled his low shot past the far post when it looked easier to score.

Matias Fernandez was a constant threat to the Honduran goal with accurately taken set-pieces, and only a fantastic save from Honduran ‘keeper Noel Valladares denied him an assist on 63 minutes. Defender Waldo Ponce got on the end of an arching Fernandez free-kick, but Valladares pulled off a great quick-reaction save to keep Honduras in the match.

Jorge Valdivia went off the pitch on 71 minutes with an injury, but re-entered to have another great chance minutes later, as his well-finished goal was rightly ruled offside. Alexis Sanchez and Matias Fernandez were industrious in their pursuit of the killing blow, but failed ultimately to find goals. Sanchez had a few long-range chances, including one in the 80th minute which he shot well over.

South African-born Mark Gonzalez came on for Chile and had another long-range chance drift over in the first minute of stoppage time. Chile showed in this match that they are a side capable of progression to the second round. Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal were the stars for Chile, with Vidal winning posession and Sanchez using it skilfully.

Question marks remain for Chile surrounding their finishing ability, but Marco Bielsa’s side will look forward with confidence to their meeting with Switzerland after winning their first match in a World Cup finals since 1962.

For more of Niall’s acclaimed sports writings, please visit http://ht.ly/1ZeKD