Tag Archives: Serbia

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 13



Scored early and proceeded to defend their lead. Critics would call it suffocating the opposition and negative football while fans and sympathisers would refer to bravery and necessity. In reality it was a little bit of both, but the end result sees England through to the last sixteen, and the preceding results largely cast aside.

Fabio Capello’s post-match interview painted the picture of an emphatic Three Lions victory but the reality is somewhat different. While this was certainly an improvement for England, it was far from convincing. Slovenia barely turned up while Capello’s men were content to cancel out any opposing threat and retain their slim lead.

Following a week of embarrassment, mutiny and knee-jerk pessimism, England will be delighted to bring some positivity to their camp, but the threat of the old enemy awaits them on Sunday, and the Germans, like sharks, will smell blood in the water.

James Milner

Answered his critics by setting up the decisive goal and lived up to the task presented to him. Not  especially outstanding but solid, which was enough on this occasion.


It would probably have been brought to court had the Americans not gone through. As it turned out they end up top of the group and will avoid Germany in the second round. It was nearly a very different story but for Landon Donovan’s late rescue.

Woodwork smashed, open goals missed and another perfectly valid goal disallowed, it seemed luck was against the good ol’ US of A, but good things come to those who wait and while Donovan’s winner was very much a final act twist, it was no less deserved. The resulting pile-up personified the team spirit that has been present throughout, and their presence in the final sixteen is very much welcome.

Landon Donovan

One wonders where the Americans would be without the invention and determination of the man they affectionately refer to as “LD”. While he may have faltered when previously employed in Europe, his brief stint at Everton at the close of last season, combined with his predatory prowess at South Africa 2010 has showed that Donovan has matured and developed into an exceptional footballer, capable of winning big games. His tears in the post-match interview were as genuine as his attitude throughout.


While their opponents put up a decent fight, the Germans had the edge. It’s been a fairly interesting campaign thus far for Joachim Lowe’s young team. The initial demolition of Australia sent everyone running scared, until Serbia got lucky and exposed weaknesses in the process. The victory over Ghana wasn’t convincing enough to cement Germany as unstoppable, but they should fancy themselves against England, who have had plenty of problems of their own. It remains to be seen just how far this youthful team can go, but the early signs are promising.

The ghosts of Bierhoff and Ballack do not seem to hang over the team and as such an attacking threat is ever present. It seems instinctual to associate Germany with rigid and dull football but it has anything but so far. Hopefully it shall continue.


While they may have gotten lucky, they showed enough spirit and conviction to deserve their spot in the second round.


Wayne Rooney

Showed signs of improvement but still way off his best. His frustration was intensified when the unthinkable happened and Fabio Capello substituted him for Joe Cole.


Failed to turn up for their most important game.

Samir Handanovic and Lounes Gaouaoui

Two goalkeepers who really don’t deserve to be going home.

Jozy Altidore

Sleepless nights ahead for the American striker following the miss of the tournament.

Mark Lawrenson and anyone who had the misfortunate to listen to him

Awful. Just awful. It’s hardly a new and groundbreaking observation but seriously, Lawro has to be the worst commentator/analyst/pundit in the business. From his disgraceful bias to his painfully unfunny one-liners, I wanted to stick large knives through my eardrums the more he bleated on. Vuvuzelas are more appealing.


Germany beat Ghana to secure top spot

Germany 1-0 Ghana

Germany beat Ghana by a single goal in an enthralling contest in Soccer City. An unexpected win for Australia means that both teams progress to the Round of 16. Germany will now face England in what might prove to be the tie of the round, while Ghana will play Group C’s winners, the United States. In an entertaining match, both sides played for the win and created numerous chances. Mesut Özil, an early contender for player of the tournament, scored the crucial goal for Die Nationalmannschaft with a scintillating strike from just outside the penalty area.

Both teams, as they had displayed in their earlier games, played engaging, attacking football in the early stages. Both teams seemed eager to soak up pressure and unleash it back upon their opponents on the counterattack.

The best of the early opportunities came when Mesut Özil was played through on goal. The surging rush out by Richard Kingson smothered the Bremen midfielder’s shot before it could threaten his goal.

At the other end, Asamoah Gyan’s goalbound header was cleared off the line by German captain Philipp Lahm. Replays suggested that the Bayern München defender’s arm may have diverted the ball from it’s path but in any case it was accidental.

Tidy interplay between Thomas Müller and Sami Khedira allowed Cacau to get a volley away. Unfortunately for the Brazilian-born forward, his shot bounced into the arms of Richard Kingson in the Ghanian goal.

Ghana only needed a draw to progress but displayed plenty of vigorous intent in the first half but were unable to find a way past Manuel Neuer and his rigid defence.

The teams headed down the tunnel at the break with the scores somehow still locked at 0-0. Germany would need to be patient. They had looked menacing in the attacking third but had thus far been thwarted by a strong performance from the Mensahs, John and Jonathan as well as a much improved showing from Kingson.

The second half began with both teams showing the same offensive ambition. Asamoah was one-on-one with Neuer but failed to adequately control the bouncing ball and could only watch the Schalke 04 ‘keeper get his body in the way. The end to end marathon here was probably only bettered by the phenomenal duel at Wimbledon. Both sides taking turns to attack and break.

When it came, the breakthrough went Germany’s way. Philipp Lahm and Thomas Müller exchanged tentative short passes before Müller, with his back to goal, turned and progressed with the football into the penalty area. He spotted Mesut Özil on the edge of the 18-yard box and slipped a pass back to the Werder Bremen midfielder. The ball bobbled and sat up perfectly for Özil, who unleashed a blistering shot into the top corner. Kingson, who had until then been exemplary, could only watch.

The goal put Ghana in a precarious situation. A goal for Serbia in the match at Nelspruit would doom their hopes of becoming the only African team to qualify past the group stages. News of a goal did come soon after Özil’s strike. However, it was the Soccerroos and Tim Cahill that were celebrating.

With the lead secure and Ghana still posing an accomplished threat to their goal, Germany were content to control possession and the flow of the game. Terrific spells of passing were instigated by Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger, whose transformation from pacy winger to a central-midfielder has been seamless. The importance of Schweinsteiger to Germany’s chances cannot be understated, which is why it was so worrying for German fans to see him limp from the field of play clutching at his thigh.

With Australia holding on to a 2-1 lead against Serbia, the game ended with both Germany and Ghana progressing. The results presented an accurate representation of the group. Ghana will now carry the hopes of the African continent as its sole representative in the knockout phase while Germany have reached the Second Round yet again.

England lie in wait for the Jogi Löw’s youthful squad. The German personnel will look at England’s performance today against Slovenia and have nothing to fear. It should make for an entertaining match. This talented German side will be boosted by the return of Miroslav Klose and could be on the verge of making an unexpected run into the latter part of this World Cup.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 7

In between offering dry observations on the World Cup and its Winners and Losers, our Dave spends his time drumming for upcoming band After The Explosions, to learn more please visit http://bit.ly/9TW5rL.


The viewers

As hoped, the second round of group matches has brought with them a palpable sense of excitement, with the Slovenia/USA match in particular arguably producing the best contest of the tournament thus far.


Looking nothing like the team that were put to the sword by Ireland a few weeks ago, the Algerians played with ambition and conviction. Unfair critics will accuse them of packing ten behind the ball and suffocating England, but those critics will likely be bitter England fans. In truth, Algeria gave England a game and but for a decent striker things could have been even worse for Fabio Capello’s men.


Rode their luck and won ugly, tearing Group D wide open in the process.

Nemanja Vidic

Following his recent escape in the Carling Cup final and today’s Superman impression to concede the penalty; does Vidic have some dirt on referees that keeps him from getting sent off?

Landon Donovan

Carried his team on his shoulders and deserves a better club than L.A. Galaxy. Let’s hope he returns to the Premier League soon.



Ouch. Perhaps the most worrying (and unsurprising) thing about England’s rotten brand of football is their inability to play together as a team. Make no mistake, this is a collection of selfish individuals determined to get their names on the scoresheet and photograph in the paper. By contrast, USA, who every English pundit will tell you are a far inferior team to England, rose above their perceived weaknesses in both their games so far, united as a team to overcome the obstacles that lay before them.

A great football team isn’t necessarily eleven world class players, but eleven men who can operate together in sync and fight for one another. On the basis of their World Cup campaign thus far, England are drowning in a sea of ego, poor tactics and curious team selections. They go into their final game against Slovenia next Wednesday needing to win (or draw depending on how things fare for USA) and should they produce a performance similar to their first three hours of this World Cup, they will be watching the second round from the comfort of their hotel rooms.

Fabio Capello

Not the birthday surprise he would have wanted.

Wayne Rooney

Dismal and anonymous, the “white Pele” stormed off the field mouthing “It’s nice to be booed by your own fans eh?” after the final whistle. While booing your own team is pretty ugly behaviour, the travelling fans will have spent an awful lot of money for the privilege of seeing their country woefully underperform and are perhaps entitled to vent their frustrations.

Alan Hansen

Made a big deal of sarcastically mocking the Slovenia/USA match before a ball was even kicked. Roy Hodgson dared to suggest it would be an entertaining game, cue Hansen and his childish bullshit. Of course, this being BBC, he wasn’t the only pundit to behave like a cretin…

Gary Lineker

“Message to watching Americans; that’s what makes football so special”. Way to take the shine off a great match by being a patronising wanker Gary.


Quite a contrast to their total football demolition of Australia on Sunday, the Germans suffered their first defeat at the group stages in the World Cup finals since losing to Denmark in 1986. Harshly reduced to ten men in the first half, Sami Khedira saw a goalbound effort cannon back off the crossbar and Lukas Podolski conspired to miss a penalty, rounding off a performance mired in such bad luck that even Mick McCarthy was moved to say that he almost felt sorry for them.

Kazuki Ito

A name that strikes fear into the heart of Pro Evolution Soccer 6 fans everywhere. Innocuous halfway-line challenges punished by straight red cards were par for the course when Kazuki took to the virtual field. In real life however, his legend is looking like it may be eclipsed in South Africa.

Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco dished out no less than nine yellow cards including one red for the unfortunate Miroslav Klose in a game that was rarely ill-tempered. The Spanish referee has something of a card-happy reputation, having doled out an impressive 11 red cards in 17 La Liga games that he took charge of last seasion. Such a stat makes it all the more mind-boggling that Nemanja Vidic stayed on the pitch following his blatant handball. Speaking of dodgy refereeing decisions…

Koman Coulibaly

The Malian official somehow disallowed what would have been a winning goal for the Americans. The offence? Apparently by allowing themselves to be manhandled by the Slovenian defence they committed a foul. Poor show. See what you think…

Miroslav Klose

Even harsher than the red card Tim Cahill suffered when he lined up against Klose on Sunday.

Lukas Podolski

Having scored in the first game, Podolski was in prime position to further silence his critics when he stepped up to take a routine spot kick. Naturally his weak effort was saved.



And so USA continue to write their World Cup story in the manner in which they started. A terrible start followed by an impressive fightback to level things in a game that they could have won. Landon Donovan’s goal early in the second half was a stunning individual effort made all the more amusing by the sight of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic recoiling in terror as the ball rocketed towards his face.

Daddy’s boy Michael Bradley sealed an impressive comeback and but for the efforts of the referee, the Americans would have been in a much more comfortable position come the final whistle. As it stands, they still have a chance to progress, but there could be some last minute melodrama. Fitting.


A case can be made for them to reside in the Winners column despite the draw, but the reality is that following an unlikely lead, Slovenia threw away a glorious opportunity to seal qualification into the next round. They very well may progress but it’s now a much more difficult prospect than it could have been.


Serbia hold on to upset Germans

The College View’s Niall Farrell was on hand to watch Serbia record their first victory at this summer’s World Cup against a much fancied Germany.

Unfancied Serbia got their first win of the World Cup with an effective performance against a German side unlucky not to equalise.

The first ten minutes saw few genuine chances, with both sides displaying a lack of conviction. One notable chance came after seven minutes as Lukas Podolski cracked a shot into the side netting.

As Philip Lahm arched a dangerous cross into the Serbian penalty area, Nemanja Vidic could only head as far as Podolski on the edge of the box. Podolski hit the ball powerfully with the outside of his foot but it fell wide of Vladimir Stojkovic’s goal.

The match did seem to have a streak of ill-discipline as four yellow cards were issued by the twenty-first minute.

Mesut Özil was dynamic as ever, and had a chance on twenty-one minutes with a header at the near post from a corner but the ball was cleared away by Neven Subotic.

Germany played a pressing game with the emphasis on attack, but Serbia couldn’t find a way to mount real attacks of their own within the first thirty minutes.

For all their lacklustre attacking, Serbia did do a great job of keeping the German attack, in particular Miroslav Klose, quiet. Klose was denied an space to move and the Serbs moved quickly to close down the Germans when they advanced into their third of the pitch.

The Germans had a succession of goal chances in the thirty-third and thirt0fourth minutes. Philipp Lahm played the ball to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who attempted a cross to Miroslav Klose three yards from goal on the left side. Left with no clear shot on goal, Klose was forced to head in back across goal but Vidic hoofed the ball clear.

Klose was the centre of attention again as he charged back and put in a clumsy tackle on Dejan Stankovic. Already on a yellow card, Klose was given his marching orders by referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco.

Serbia used the momentum gained from the sending off to get the upper hand in a match that had previously been swinging Germany’s way.

A free-kick was launched down the right wing to Milos Krasic who crossed to 6’’7’ Nikola Zigic at the far post. Zigic jumped and knocked the ball back for Jovanovic, who was able to finish past Manuel Neuer in goal for Germany.

A frantic finish for the first half ensued as a German corner was palmed away by Stojkovic only to find Sami Khedira. Khedira hammered the ball past the helpless Stojkovic, but it thundered back out after hitting the inside of the crossbar.

Thomas Müller tried an overhead kick as the ball came to him, but the ball was dramatically cleared off the line by a Serbian defender.

Germany came out from half time with a renewed vigour and desire to get an equaliser, and had their first chance of the second half nine minutes after the break. A German cross found Mesut Özil just outside the box, but Özil left it for Podolski to strike a fine shot at goal. Vladimir Stojkovic got in the way for Serbia to prevent a fantastic goal.

Özil’s class was again on show as he cleverly played Podolski in yards from goal with a clever flick. Podolski’s fierce shot again went into the side netting.

The tempo of the match went up a few notches subsequently. On fifty-nine minutes a German attack yielded a seemingly innocuous cross, which Nemanja Vidic foolishly handballed. A penalty was awarded, but Lukas Podolski’s poor shot was saved capably by Stojkovic to keep the scores level.

Serbia reversed the seemingly endless tide of German attacks after sixty-six minutes as Milos Krasic forged a chance out of his charge down the right wing.

Krasic passed to Jovanovic, whose shot came back out off the left post as Manuel Neuer looked beaten.

Nikola Zigic continued the theme of Serbian shots hitting the post on seventy-three minutes, as his close-range shot came off the upright and rebounded out.

Referee Undiano was a major talking point, as his rate of giving both free-kicks and yellow-cards dramatically slowed down in the second half, despite several tough tackles.

Serbia spurned a number of chances to kill the match off, with two clear chances from Jovanovic and Zigic in the seventy-fourth minute wasted.

Germany’s seemingly relentless drive for an equaliser lulled a bit in the following minutes, despite the introductions of the energetic Marko Marin and Cacau.

With less than three minutes remaining, a defensive lapse from Arne Friedrich let Milos Krasic go behind the defensive line and play the ball to substitute Gojko Kacar, but Kacar’s cross went well over the waiting Zigic.

Radomir Antic’s Serbia secured a famous victory through efficient defensive organisation, as well as a degree of luck that Germany weren’t in a finishing mood. The group is now delicately poised, with Ghana still to play Australia in the second round of fixtures. A victory there would take the Black Stars to the top of the group.


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.


Özil pens German statement of intent

Germany 4-0 Australia

Germany’s latest World Cup adventure is off to the ideal start. The three time World Cup winners defeated the Soccerroos by a four goals and perhaps could have won by an even greater margin. The Australians, who enthralled fans en route to a place in the Round of 16 in 2006, must now plan for the game against Ghana without the talismanic influence of Tim Cahill. The Everton midfielder was harshly shown a red card by Mexican referee Marco Rodríguez for a mistimed lunge at the legs of Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The rout was initiated early on. Lukas Podolski’s form in the Bundesliga was a matter of huge concern for the passionate followers of Die Nationalmannschaft, but his powerful finish past Mark Schwarzer in the eighth minute quelled any uneasiness surrounding his inclusion in the starting eleven. The move began with Mesut Özil defying the Australian midfield before sliding a precise through-ball in the direction of Thomas Müller. The Bayern München forward pulled the ball back across the goalmouth where it was met by the onrushing Podolski who promptly opened the scoring with a forceful effort through the hands of Mark Schwarzer.

From that point Germany were the only team displaying any meaningful attacking impetus. Müller and Özil were at their inventive best. The duo, both members of the Under-21 side that captured the European Championships in 2009, and Podolski operated in an impressive three man line behind Miroslav Klose.

Klose’s selection was another contentious issue for the German public. So much so that Jogi Löw was forced to defend the Bayern München Stürmer in the build-up to this fixture after he had failed to instill confidence following wasteful displays in the World Cup warm-ups.

It would have been forgivable to believe that Klose’s dreadful form would continue when he lashed a perfect cross from Lukas Podolski high and wide little more than twenty minutes into the game. Klose’s grimace perhaps betraying a lack of confidence. Redemption was swift. A wonderful cross from the deep-lying Philipp Lahm drew Schwarzer foward where he was beaten to the ball by a brave header from Klose, doubling Germany’s advantage on the half hour.
The intrepid Mesut Özil was unlucky not to add to the tally shortly after. Another dazzling passage of play saw the Werder Bremen starlet clip the ball over Schwarzer only to see it sliced off the line by Lucas Neill. With the first half ending, Germany continued to forage for a third goal. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira combined attacking intent with their defensive duties as they persisted in attempting to force passes through a brittle Australian defence.

Any faint hopes of a SoccerRoo revival were scotched ten minutes into the second half. Tim Cahill, playing as Australia’s lone striker, lunged clumsily at the feet of Schweinsteiger and was promptly dismissed by the Mexican referee. Television replays suggested that the decision was a harsh one.

The red-card any lingering Australian attacking intentions and allowed Germany decelerated the tempo. Captain Philipp Lahm continued to move the ball forward while the Polish-born pair of Podolski and Klose demonstrated the same chemistry that was so compelling in the 2006 tournament. The twosome combined magnificently just after the hour mark before Schwarzer denied Klose, who failed to make further indentations into the World Cup goalscoring record of Ronaldo.

Klose was soon substituted by Joachim Löw and replaced with Cacau. Müller crowned his enthralling display with a well deserved goal in the 67th minute. Podolski marauded towards the Australian penalty area. He laid the ball off tidily to Müller who dragged the ball away from Scott Chipperfield before emphatically powering a low shot against Schwarzer’s right post and into the goal.

3-0 soon became four. The recently introduced Cacau scored his first international goal as the architect, man of the match Özil, squared precisely for the Stuttgart striker. Cacau’s first-time effort beating the goalkeeper and adding a justifiable gloss to the scoreline.

Marin and Gomez were brought on with the day’s business concluded. Jogi Löw is certain not to dwell on the implications of this handsome victory beyond the forthcoming showdown with Serbia, who were outplayed and beaten by Ghana in the group’s earlier fixture.

The 4-0 margin was little more than Germany deserved. The warm feelings generated in the Bundesrepublik by their passage to the Semi-Finals in 2006 may be replicated if they can continue to present further exhibitions of glorious teamwork and one-touch passing. For a side that was so ravaged by injury in the weeks preceding the tournament this performance was an impressive reminder that once a World Cup has started, die Nationalmannschaft will always rank amongst the chief protagonists.


Michael Ballack ruled out of World Cup

German captain Michael Ballack will miss the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Chelsea midfielder sustained a tear of the medial collateral ligament of his right ankle in Saturday’s FA Cup Final. The news was broken by the DFB (German Football Association) in a statement released to their website. The results of the MRI scan in Munich on Monday will gravely impact Germany’s preparations for the World Cup.

Die Mannschaft‘s coach Joachim Löw has criticised the challenge that led to the injury. Kevin Prince Boateng, of Ghana, lunged at Ballack with, in Löw’s opinion, “no chance of getting the ball”. The news will boost the chances of Germany’s challengers in Group D; Australia, Serbia and Boateng’s Ghana.

There has been no announcement of a new German captain for the tournament. Fullback Philipp Lahm has acted as a stand-in captain for Germany in the past, while talismanic figures like Bastian Schweinsteiger will also be seen as contenders for the honour.