Tag Archives: Slovenia

Technology debate rekindled in wake of questionable decisions

Two World Cup matches, two flashpoints. The widespread acclaim that greeted the referees at the outset of the 2010 World Cup has well and truly evaporated by now.

This World Cup has seen its share of controversial decisions. Having come back from a two goal deficit, the United States were wrongly denied a winner by referee Koman Coulibaly. The Malian official ruled out Michael Bradley’s late goal for a foul. Video technology would have revealed that no infringement took place in the Slovenian penalty area.

Kaká, one of the stars of world football, was dismissed for an apparent elbow against Côte d’Ivoire. Television replays revealed that Sebastien Lannoy was deceived by the Ivorian winger, Kader Keita. Kaká was suspended as a result of the incorrect decision.

The events of Sunday, June 27 will be impossible to forget for fans of England and Mexico. Frank Lampard’s legitimate goal against Germany, which may have had a profound effect on the outcome, was not given. A simple television replay would have given the referee the information required to make an informed decision. Goal-line technology has long been advocated by a large number of managers at both club and international level. A system similar to the famous Hawkeye technology  used in cricket and tennis matches could be utilised to great effect by FIFA. For some, the solutions are even simpler. Mark Ogden, The Daily Telegraph’s Northern Football Correspondent, shared a rudimentary, yet effective, idea via his Twitter page.

“Sandpit behind the line. If the ball is in, it will stop dead and won’t bounce. Simple.”

The suggestion initially seems laughable. On second look, it appears more sensible than ridiculous. In any case, it marks a marked improvement on incorrect or unfair decisions.

Sepp Blatter’s repeated rejection of calls for television replays are folly. Blatter, who once remarked that “we must never stop the match with videos or monitors to look at what has happened”, is clearly not a fan of other sports. Almost every other major sport has some form of “video referee”. In American football, coaches are given flags. In cases where a questionable decision is made by a the referees or umpires, the coach may throw one of his limited number of challenge flags onto the field and call for the referee’s decision to be ‘sent to the booth’. The match referee then consults the video replay and reevaluates his previous decision.

The apparent infallibility of referees in association football is misguided. As Carlos Tevez wheeled away in jubilation at having scored the opening goal in the Round of 16 match against Mexico, replays on the scoreboard at Soccer City showed how the Argentine was offside when Lionel Messi played the crucial assist to him. The fans, players, coaching staff and officials were instantly given access to a view at what had actually occurred. Mexico’s players were particularly incensed. They, rightly, angrily confronted Roberto Rosetti and his assistant. Having seen their mistake, the officials should have been given the authority to reverse the  decision. They were unable to do this. Mexico, demoralised by the goal, promptly conceded a second through a defensive error which may or may not have been the result of a lapse in concentration stemming from the earlier refereeing error.

The safety and welfare of referees is threatened by their inability to correct their mistakes. Referees have been targeted by tabloid campaigns and, far more worryingly, death threats. In the interest of fairness and in the interest of safety for their referees, FIFA must take positive action towards implementing corrective technology no matter what form that may take.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 13

Winners


England

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.

USA

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.

Germany

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.

Ghana

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

Losers


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.

Slovenia

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.

England qualify as runners up following defeat of Slovenia

England 1-0 Slovenia

England qualified for the Round of 16 with a 1-0 victory over Slovenia. However, the United States’ late goal against Algeria means that England finish as runners up and potentially face a difficult Second Round game against Germany in Bloemfontein.

England came into today’s game knowing that they needed to win to secure passage from a group which had been taken too lightly by England.

Both sides started edgily. There were some poor defensive clearances from Glen Johnson, Matthew Upson for England and Cesar for Slovenia.

England were looking very nervous in the opening minutes. John Terry’s backpass giving Matthew Upson a moment of distress.

Slovenia, despite the unprecedentedly high stakes, were the brighter side in the opening ten minutes. Valter Birsa, Slovenia’s standout performer in the tournament, embarked on a series of mazy runs into the England half while his teammates Jovanovic and Kirm were stringing passes together and causing problems for England’s fullbacks.

England eventually settled. Frank Lampard attempted a free-kick from all of 35 yards. The infamous Jabulani changed direction twice before being secured by Samir Handanovic.

Ljubijankic, of KAA Gent, had a great chance to heap further pressure on Fabio Capello’s unimpressive side but was denied by a terrific saving block by John Terry.

James Milner and Jermain Defoe had been brought into the starting line up by Fabio Capello in place of Aaron Lennon and Emile Heskey. The pair justified their selection by combining to give England the lead. Milner, who had been dropped by Fabio Capello for the 0-0 draw with Algeria, supplying the cross for Jermain Defoe who shinned the ball towards goal. Samir Handanovic had been performing superbly for Slovenia but was unable to keep Defoe’s volley out.

The goal seemed to settle England appeared to settle England’s fragile nerves. As it stood England would progress at the head of the Group C table with the Slovenians scraping through as runners up ahead of the United States who were being held 0-0 by Algeria.

Another cross nearly brought England’s second. Handanovic came a long way to palm the swinging pass away but his parry fell only as far as Frank Lampard. The Chelsea midfielder, who had failed to reproduce his club form for his national side, failed to hit the target.

England were keen to press their advantage. Jermain Defoe’s low shot from just outside the penalty area was blocked by Handanovic. Wayne Rooney collected the loose ball and sent a delicate pass across the penalty area for Steven Gerrard. The England captain was unable to convert, as the Udinese goalkeeper managed to keep the ball from crossing the line.

It appeared that Slovenia were finally succumbing to the pressure of the occassion. The quick passing and movement from their earlier games against Algeria and the United States had deserted them as they struggled to control possession. England continued to threaten towards the end of the half but were unable to add to their tally.

Jermain Defoe had a glorious opportunity to score his second goal within forty seconds of the start of the second half. A quickly taken corner fell to the Tottenham Hotspur striker, but Defoe was only able to flick the ball wide with the outside of his boot.

Despite a dramatic deterioration in their form, Slovenia were still posing a threat to England. A terrific inswinging free-kick from Birsa was fisted away by David James. The slightest touch from the flailing right foot of Jovanovic would surely have leveled the game.

Another good delivery from Birsa was caught by David James as Slovenia began to edge back into the match.

John Terry, whose feeble attempt at instigating a squad revolt against Fabio Capello was rebuked by the former Real Madrid manager, came close from a corner. The Chelsea captain thumped a challenging header at Samir Handanovic from Steven Gerrard’s corner.

Wayne Rooney had yet to impress at the World Cup and was discouragingly out of form again this afternoon. The Manchester United striker, with ample time and space, was one-on-one with Handanovic but his poor control and scuffed shot allowed the goalkeeper to glance his shot onto the post. Rooney was later replaced by fan favourite Joe Cole. England’s talisman trudged off the field looking very much like a player short of confidence and the requisite match fitness to excel at a World Cup.

After Rooney’s dismal failure in front of goal England reverted to the same poor football that had shrouded their displays against the United States and Algeria. Long punts up the field from David James were England’s predominant attacking threat from the sixtieth minute onwards.

Slovenia themselves were relatively unthreatening, each foray into England territory was halted by a wayward pass or a poor control. As the scoreboard in Port Elizabeth ticked towards the ninetieth minute, England seemed desperate to cling on to their lead. Emile Heskey was introduced with the sole purpose of reproducing his lumbering attack-quashing form in the defensive third.

Slovenia sent more crosses into the England penalty area but were denied by Matthew Upson and David James, England hung on to secure safe passage to the last sixteen. The players and coaching staff stormed the pitch where excited celebrations followed a n unimpressive victory over a mediocre opponent.

If England are to reach the final, as their optimistic manager predicts, they will need drastic improvement in terms of ball retention and passing speed. As England’s players huddled on the pitch, news filtered through from Pretoria that Landon Donovan had rescued the United States with a stoppage time winner. The goal has severe implications for England’s ambitions. The United States now progress as group winners with the Three Lions facing a monumental task in the Second Round, should Germany beat Ghana tonight.

Fabio Capello expressed his pride in his players’ performances after the final whistle and  about how his side played with ‘freedom’. The gushing of a certain gushing member of the British media referred to the win as being ‘more like the England we know.’ If this is the England we can expect in the knockout stages then the quest to end the forty-four year wait for World Cup glory will soon become forty-eight.

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.

Winners

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.

Algeria

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.

Serbia

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.

Losers


England

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.

Germany

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.

Drawers

USA

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.

Slovenia

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.

England held to shock draw by Algeria

A dissapointing English side were held to a 0-0 draw by Algeria tonight in the Green Point stadium in Cape Town.

England had the majority of possession but weren’t able to find a goal, despite hurling players forward throughout the match.

A cagey opening ten minutes saw relatively few clear chances for either side.

David James was forced to punch away an Algerian cross, but his goal was never really threatened.

Algeria enjoyed large swathes of posession within the first twenty minutes as Karim Ziani and Hassan Yebda made dangerous incursions into the English third of the pitch.

On twenty-three minutes, Algeria forced a corner after some sustained pressure. James was forced to claim the high ball awkwardly to prevent Halliche getting a shot on goal.

Despite all their endeavour, England failed to create chances on the scale required.

Wayne Rooney wasted a chance by tugging on the shirt of Halliche and was reprimanded by referee Ravshan Irmatov.

On twenty-nine minutes, Frank Lampard tested Algerian ‘keeper Rais Bolhi with a low shot but Bolhi was able to get down to make the save.

Lampard tested Bolhi again three minutes later, after an English cross fell to the Chelsea midfielder less than ten yards out.

Bolhi made another excellent stop to deny England an opening goal.

Karim Ziani shot agonisingly wide from long range on thirty-four minutes after an Algerian counter-attack left the striker with a clear shot on goal.

England were reduced to testing the Algerian goal from long range due to a well-organised defence. Steven Gerrard had another chance after thirty-nine minutes but Bolhi was again equal to it.

John Terry consistently used a direct approach; the Chelsea defender passed on numerous occasions straight to Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey but to no avail.

England went into half time the more disappointed side, as they had few chances and failed to put any sort of pressure on Algeria.

Another glorious chance was spurned by the English on fifty-five minutes- a fine move eventually led to Steven Gerrard feebly squaring a pass in the penalty area when Wayne Rooney was readying himself for a shot.

Wayne Rooney had his chance minutes later, but Aaron Lennon’s cross went just an inch too high to connect with Rooney’s head.

Chance after chance fell England’s way, but the attack was wasteful in its execution.

Emile Heskey went close again after an excellent passing move with Gareth Barry let him into a dangerous attacking position at the edge of the Algerian box.

Heskey’s shot deflected of an Algerian defender and went just over, and the resulting corner yielded another chance as Gerrard had a free header go straight to Bolhi in goal.

Jermain Defoe replaced Heskey after seventy-three minutes, and Defoe almost had an instant impact when his shot was cleared away after a skilful run into the box.

Defoe did liven up a dull England attack- forcing a number of corner kicks.

Algeria had few chances in the second half, with the ball being mired in their own third of the pitch for large parts of the half.

Jermain Defoe had a final long-distance shot from thirty yards on ninety minutes, but it sailed well over the crossbar.

Much will be made of the weight of ezpectation bearing down on the English team, but in truth this was an utterly dire performance from a team lacking in invention.

The move to 4-4-2 with Gerrard on the left seems to have led to a stagnant, toothless English team.

Algeria, on the other hand, will be more than happy with their performance, even if they lacked any real attacking threat.

United States recover to rescue a point

The United States recovered from a 2-0 deficit at half-time to draw 2-2 with group leaders Slovenia. Despite a result which potentially salvages their hopes of reaching the Round of 16 the United States will have every reason to bemoan the result as they were incorrectly denied a late winner by Malian referee Koman Coulibaly.

The 22nd match of this summer’s World Cup got off to a heated start. Clint Dempsey and Ljubjankic challenged for a header in the centre of the pitch just seconds after the referee’s whistle. Fulham’s Dempsey caught the Slovenian striker with his elbow and provoked an furious reaction Slovenia’s players.

The United States failed to mount a sustained attacking threat against England but a terrific pass from Michael Bradley showed a new ambition from the United States. Bradley found Robbie Findley in space on the left, who looked up in search of a target for his cross. Jozy Altidore was unmarked in the middle but Findley’s cross was blocked by the Slovenian right-back.

Auxerre’s Valter Birsa launched a brilliant cross towards Milivoje Novakovic who   moved in front of defender Jay DeMerit. Novakovic could not make the crucial touch as the game began to open up.

Birsa had impressed in the World Cup thus far and opened the scoring with a terrific goal from outside the area. His left footed, curling effort beat Tim Howard, who appeared to be unsighted by his defenders. It was a breathtaking goal and Slovenia appeared to be good value for their early advantage.

Landon Donovan threatened to bring the United States back into this game. His quick feet were causing the Slovenian central defence problems but he was unable to find a teammate when he needed to.

Donovan was involved against just minutes later as he sent a lofted cross towards the far post. Dempsey rose to head goalwards but unfortunately for the Fulham midfielder the ball just bounced off the top of his crown.

Jose Francisco Torres, who was brought into the starting line-up in place of the more defensive Ricardo Clark, whipped a fierce free kick in from the right. Handandovic , whose club form had seen him become an object of interest for Bayern München ,   palmed the shot away at full stretch. The resulting corner brought a chance for Jay DeMerit who attacked the ball well but saw his header land wide of the target.

Robbie Findley was constantly finding himself in dangerous positions but had yet to  take advantage of his unrivalled pace. Findley played a terrible pass towards Jozy Altidore around the penalty spot where a chipped pass towards Donovan or Dempsey at the back post would have been the better option. From the corner, the ball struck Robbie Findley in the face and he was wrongly awarded a yellow card. The card ruling him out of the United States’ final group match with Algeria.

The United States nearly had an equaliser in the 39th minute. Clint Dempsey dribbled deep into the Slovenian penalty before rolling a pass across goal. Miso Brecko swiftly cleared the ball off the line as Donovan prepared to apply the easiest of finishes.

Slovenia scored a second goal just moments later against the run of play. USA caught on the break. Zlatan Ljubijankic taking advantage of terrible positioning by Oguchi Onyewu to beat the offside trap and slot the ball under Tim Howard, who had perhaps tried to close down the Gent striker too quickly.

Slovenia were on the threshold of a truly remarkable achievement. They are the fifth-smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup and just forty-five minutes stood between them and a place in the last sixteen.

Bob Bradley wasted no time in changing his side. Benny Feilhaber and Maurice Edu were introduced at half-time in place of Francisco Torres and Robbie Findley respectively.

The United States were boosted immediately almost immediately. Record goalscorer Landon Donovan beat the offside trap and approached the goal from the byline, he thought about laying it off before lashing it high just inside the far post with Samir Handandovic unable to react.

The United States got a free kick minutes later as the vocal US support in Ellis Park sparked to life. Donovan’s delivery was perfect once again. Dempsey missed his header and Oguchi Onyewu, hungry to reprieve himself for his earlier mistake, slid towards the ball but it proved to be just out of his reach.

The match was poised, as the cliché goes, on a knife-edge.

The Americans would need to maintain their intensity if they were to mount a successful comeback. It was surprising to see the USMNT players increasingly look to wards Tim Howard to punt the ball aimlessly down the field as their predominant form of creating chances.

The defensive set-up of Slovenia threatened to confound the United States. They were awarded a free-kick following a handball by substitute Maurice Edu. Birsa, whose delivery had been so effective in the first half, continued to offer challenges for the Tim Howard and the American defence to deal with.

The Americans’ play did not seem urgent enough considering the situation they were in. A rare move of short passing saw Benny Feilhaber in possession just outside the Slovenian penalty area. His weak shot dribbled wide with just 25 minutes to go.

Marko Suler was fortunate not to be on the receiving end of a red card after he grappled Jozy Altidore to the ground as the Hull City striker chased down a Landon Donovan pass just outside the penalty area. Altidore appeared to be through on goal and the ever feisty Donovan was infumed by the decision.

Slovenia had begun to lose their discipline, perhaps burdened by a sense of anxiety as they drew ever nearer to the Round of 16.

The United States’ lack of urgency was proving to be their undoing. They needed to find Dempsey and Donovan to increase the tempo and really threaten Slovenia.

However, the Americans would find an equaliser with just seven minutes remaining of normal time.  Landon Donovan fired a searching long ball towards the penalty area. The imposing frame of Jozy Altidore rose above Brecko to head into the path of Michael Bradley’s late run into the box. The Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder slid  forward and poked the ball into the goal with Handandovic in no position to save it. Bradley’s goal sparked joyous scenes from the thousands of American fans in attendance at Ellis Park and an even more ecstatic celebration from his father, the coach, Bob Bradley.

The goal gave rise to an interesting dynamic. Would the United States continue to search for an unlikely winning goal, would Slovenia collapse under the pressure?

Perhaps the most contentious refereeing decision yet seen at this World Cup arrived in the 88th minute. Altidore was awarded a free kick after being held back by Jokic.. Donovan stepped forward purposefully to take. The MLS star delivered another excellent free-kick across the six-yard box. Maurice Edu was the first to react and prodded into the unguarded left of the net. Referee Koman Coulibaly, who was erratic throughout, disallowed the goal and awarded a free kick to a grateful Slovenia. Replays failed to show any wrongdoing on the part of the United States’ players and perhaps even suggested that a penalty should have been awarded as Brecko and Jovic wrestled Altidore and Bradley.

Nevertheless, the United States’ recovery gives them 2 points and presents them with a terrific chance to qualify for the next round against Algeria. Slovenia will rue allowing the United States to come back but will also be thankful that Malian referee wrongly disallowed Edu’s goal. Matjaz Kek’s side still sit atop Group C at least until England play the Algerians in Cape Town this evening.

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.