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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup Quarter-Final Draw

The second round is now complete - and we can all fill in our "wallchart" and work out the fixtures for the quarter-finals and beyond.

If you don't have your wallchart handy - I'll run through the fixtures now :

Friday 2nd July :

- 4:00pm Netherlands v Brazil
- 8:30pm Uruguay v Ghana

Saturday 3rd July :

- 4:00pm Argentina v Germany
- 8:30pm Paraguay v Spain

(all times local South Africa, BST is -1, US ET -6, AUST +8 NZT +10)

There will then be a two day break before the semi-finals on the 6th and 7th of July, with the first two quarter-final winners meeting in the first semi-final.

Second Round : Spain 1-0 Portugal

European champions Spain beat Portugal 1-0 to book their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup thanks to David Villa's lone goal.

Spain displayed a slick brand of passing football, albeit at a measured pace, and during the first half Spain really did not make their possession count.

Portugal had limited use of the ball, but in the first half especially the Portuguese created some chances and might have stolen a half-time lead.

After the break however, Spain tightened their stranglehold on the game and eventually broke through via David Villa who was put through one-on-one - and after hitting his first shot at the keeper latched onto the rebound and dinked it over the sprawling keeper and into the net - via the underside of the crossbar.

The Spanish relief was obvious - and there was a mass pile-up of celebrating Spanish players over by the corner flag.

Portugal had Ricardo Costa sent off for an off-the-ball clash with Joan Capdevila before the end but by then their fate already looked sealed.

Second Round : Paraguay 0-0 Japan

Paraguay edged Japan in a penalty shoot-out at the 2010 World Cup to reach the last eight for the first time.

Paraguay and Japan were both striving to reach the quarter-final for the first time - and the occasion seemed to get to both sides who produced a sterile safety first approach to the game through-out.

This produced a game of few chances, the closest of which came in the first half when Daisuke Matsui smashed a long-range strike against the Paraguay crossbar in the first half.

Paraguay won the penalty shootout 5-3, with only one miss from the nine kicks, when Yuichi Komano's spot kick clipped the crossbar before flying over. Paraguay were ecstatic to win - Japan distraught. But the Asian side ultimately paid for their lack of ambition.

Paraguay now have a quarter-final game against Spain on July 3rd.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Second Round : Brazil 3-0 Chile

Brazil have shrugged off the challenge of Chile - winning 3-0 to set-up a quarter-final tie against the Netherlands on the 2nd July.

Chile, playing without the suspended trio Marco Estrada, Waldo Ponce and Gary Medel, were always up against it after conceding twice in four minutes shortly after the half-hour mark.

Juan opened the scoring with a header from a corner on 34 minutes, while Luis Fabiano finished off a quality break by slotting into an empty net just 4 minutes later as Brazil took another step towards a World Cup title.

Robinho scored from the edge of the penalty area on the hour mark to complete the scoring as Brazil eased up over the final 30 minutes.

Second Round : Netherlands 2-1 Slovakia

The Netherlands eased to a 2-1 second round win over Slovakia on Monday afternoon - and moved into the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

A superb strike from Arjen Robben and a late Wesley Sneijder goal gave Netherlands a deserved victory over Slovakia although the dutch wastefulness in front of goal almost cost the men on Oranje.

Robben marked his first start of the World Cup finals in South Africa by collecting a pass from Sneijder before running at the Slovakia defence and then firing a superb low drive into the net from 25 yards after 18 minutes.

The Netherlands then contrived to miss a series of good goalscoring opportunities, and escaped when Slovakia did the same late on in the second half.

Finally, Sneijder stroked home a pull-back from Dirk Kuyt in the 84th minute to essentially seal the game for the Dutch, before Robert Vittek score a consolation penalty with the very last kick of the match.

With a quarter-final tie against either Brazil or Chile to come, the Dutch will have to up their game if they are to fulfil their aim of finally winning the big prize.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Second Round : Argentina 3-1 Mexico

Argentina beat Mexico 3-1 to seal a quarter-final tie against Germany - on a day that saw plenty of goals and some refereeing controversy at the World Cup.

Mexico started the game well and rattled the Argentine crossbar early on, but found themselves a goal down after Carlos Tevez headed Argentina in front despite being a yard offside when the ball was played to him by Lionel Messi.

The situation was masked by a pair of quickly retreating Mexican defenders that gave the illusion that Tevez was onside when he made contact with the ball - but clearly with the benefit of a replay the Argentine striker was offside.

Mexico only had themselves to blame for the Argentina's second goal after centre-back Osorio scuffed a pass on the edge of his penalty area, allowing Higuain to snatch the ball, round goalkeeper Perez and slot home for a 2-0 lead.

Midway through the second half Tevez scored his side's 3rd goal, a thunderous drive from 25 metres out that was simply unstoppable, and that killed the game as a contest.

Mexico scored a consolation goal in the 71st minute when Javier Hernandez turned an Argentine defender on the edge of the area, and then shot powerfully inside the near post beyond Sergio Romero.

Second Round : Germany 4-1 England

Germany produced a performance of quality football movement to score four goals and beat England 4-1 in Bloemfontein.

Germany took an early a stranglehold on the game with goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski in the first half hour to lead 2-0.

Matthew Upson then powerfully headed a cross home on 37 minute to hand England a way back into the game and moments later Frank Lampard appeared to have equalised for England with his shot hitting the crossbar and bouncing over the line before coming out.

But the goal was not given by the referee / linesman combination - who could not see the bounce obscured by diving German keeper Manuel Neuera - a bizarre reverse image of the Geoff Hurst "goal" (that wasn't really) which had helped England to a 4-2 victory over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final.

Lampard struck the bar again in the second half - this time from a free-kick but Germany had the last word.

Germany won possession in their own penalty area, and swept to the other end for Thomas Mueller to fire past James from Bastian Schweinsteiger's pass.

And it was all over three minutes later, when Mesut Ozil raced clear of the the out-paced Gareth Barry to slide a cross to the far post and provide Mueller with a simple finish.

It had been a close match, and a pulsating event, but Germany's quality on attack combined with an officiating error, meant that Germany had opened out to a 4-1 lead and the game was over as a contest.

Second Round : Ghana 2-1 United States (AET)

Ghana kept African world cup hopes alive after Asamoah Gyan smashed home an extra-time winner to knock out the USA.

Ghana started extremely quickly and after Kevin-Prince Boateng gave them an early 6th minute lead in Rustenburg with a low strike that beat Tim Howard at the near post.

The African side dominated the first half hour, with some energetic running, but the Americans came back into the game after the break and equalised in the 62nd minute through a Landon Donovan penalty.

The United States seemed the most likely winners of the contest at that stage, but seemed reluctant to press forward and take that advantage and the 90 minutes ended all square.

Ghana grabbed the lead in the 3rd minute of extra-time when Gyan showed strength to control a long ball forward with his chest and volley a shot from the edge of the penalty area despite the close marking of two defenders.

The US side tried manfully to get back into the game, and created some half chances, but Ghana survived some nervous final moments to seal a famous win.

Ghana will play Uruguay on 2 July in the Quarter-finals.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Second Round : Uruguay 2-1 South Korea

Luis Suarez scored twice including a spectacular winner to hand Uruguay a place in the World Cup quarters-finals at the expense of South Korea.

It will be the first time since 1970 the two-time winners have reached the last eight, and it was done on the back of a determined performance against a lively South Korea side.

Uruguay took the lead as early as the eighth minute when Diego Forlan played a low ball across the six-yard area which was misjudged by keeper Jung Sung-Ryong and Suarez nipped in at the far post to drill the ball into the net.

South Koreans then presssed for an equaliser without really creating too much until Lee Chung-Yong pounced on Maurico Victorino's attempted headed clearance from a free-kick, to nod in from eight yards on 68 minutes.

With 10 minutes remaining, Suarez pciked up a half cleared corner, cut in from the left and curled a stunning strike which went in far the far post.

The South Koreans pressed and might have taken the game into extra-time, but although substitute Lee Dong-Gook's shot squirmed under the wet jersey of Muslera, it was cleared before crossing the line.

Uruguay will now play the winners of the match between Ghana and the United States in the last eight.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Second Round Draw in Full

The group stages are now complete - and we can all fill in our "wallchart" and work out who is facing who in the second round.

If you don't have your wallchart handy - I'll run through the fixtures now :

Saturday 26th June :

- 4:00pm Uruguay v South Korea
- 8:30pm United States v Ghana

Sunday 27th June :

- 4:00pm Germany v England
- 8:30pm Argentina v Mexico

Monday 28th June :

- 4:00pm Netherlands v Slovakia
- 8:30pm Brazil v Chile

Tuesday 29th June :

- 4:00pm Paraguay v Japan
- 8:30pm Spain V Portugal

(all times local South Africa, BST is -1, US ET -6, AUST +8 NZT +10)

There will then be a three day break before the first quarter-finals are played on Friday, 2nd July.

Ivory Coast 3-0 North Korea

Ivory Coast comfortably beat a defensively-frail North Korea 3-0 in Nelspruit but it was not enough to remain at the World Cup.

The Elephants needed to win and also make up a nine goal deficit on Portugal to have any hope and the goals never really looked likely to come.

Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson did score two first half goals through Yaya Toure and Romaric and Salamon Kalou came off the bench to add a third goal in the 82nd minute to complete the scoring.

However, it was Portugal who progressed in second spot thanks to a goalless draw with group winners Brazil.

Brazil 0-0 Portugal

Brazil and Portugal played out a tame goalless draw which saw both sides qualify for the last 16.

The situation ensured that this game failed to deliver on its promise with the draw a suitable result for both sides, and there was a lack of urgency on the pitch.

Unsurprisingly, Brazil were the more positive of the two sides but were only able to fashion a handful of chances, the best of which fell to striker Nilmar but was superbly saved by Portuguese goalkeeper Eduardo.

The draw means Brazil finish top of the group and will look forward to the second phase with confidence and sets up the possibility of a final between Brazil and Argentina - if both sides can progress that far.

World Cup Group H Final Standings

Group G        W D L  F A  GD Pts
 Brazil        2-1-0  5:2  +3  7
 Portugal      1-2-0  7:0  +7  5
 Côte d’Ivoire 1-1-1  4:3  +1  4
 North Korea   0-0-3  1:12 -11 0

Netherlands 2-1 Cameroon

Klaas Jan Huntelaar's late goal gave the Netherlands a 2-1 victory over Cameroon and ensured the Dutch a 100% winning record in Group E.

Robin van Persie finished off a neat move before halftime to give the Dutch the lead but Cameroon levelled ealry in the second half through Samuel Eto'o's penalty.

Huntelaar fired home winner in the 83rd minute, scoring fron a rebound after Arjen Robben hit the post with a 20-yard drive

The Netherlands will face Slovakia on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.

Group E Final Standings

Group E       W D L  F A GD Pts
 Netherlands  3-0-0  5:1 +4  9
 Japan        2-0-1  4:2 +2  6
 Denmark      1-0-2  3:6 -3  3
 Cameroon     0-0-3  2:5 -3  0

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Paraguay 0-0 New Zealand

Paraguay secured their place in the second round of the World Cup after an scoreless draw against New Zealand ensured they finished top of Group F.

The South American side will now face the runners-up of Group E, while Slovakia, who stunned world champions Italy 3-2 in the other group game will face the winners of that group - probably the Netherlands.

New Zealand, ranked 77 in the world, also had the chance of reaching the last 16 but never really troubled Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar during the match.

Shots on target could be counted one hand and the best of those came in the second half with Manchester City forward Roque Santa Cruz stinging the hands of All Whites keeper Mark Paston with a 25-yard free-kick.

New Zealand finish with three draws from three matches and finishing one place above 2006 tournament winners Italy means the All Whites bow out with pride intact and reputation enhanced.

FIFA World CUP 2010 - Group F standings

Group F      W D L  F A GD Pts 
 Paraguay    1 2 0  3 1 +2  5 
 Slovakia    1 1 1  4 5 -1  4 
 New Zealand 0 3 0  2 2  0  3 
 Italy       0 2 1  4 5 -1  2

Slovakia 3-2 Italy - World Cup holders eliminated

Reigning champions Italy have been knocked out of the World Cup by Slovakia who claimed a famous 3-2 victory at Ellis Park.

Robert Vittel scored twice for SLovakia, once in each half, to seemingly give Slovakia a winning 2-0 lead, but Antonio Di Natale pulled it back to 2-1 with 81 minutes gone.

The Italians needed another goal to claim the point that would be enough to scrape through from Group F and thought they had it through substitute Fabio Quagliarella, only for the offside flag to agonisingly deny them.

Slovakia substitute Kamil Kopunek exploited hesitation in the Italy defence, running on to a throw-in and lifting the ball brilliantly beyond the advancing Federico Marchetti with one minute of normal time remaining to give Slovakia a 3-1 lead.

But there was still time for Quagliarella to score with a superb injury-time strike to bring the score back to 3-2 and then Simone Pepe scuffed a far-post volley in a last-ditch attempt by Italy to remain in the tournament.

The final whistle resulted in mass celebrations from the Slovakia players and fans - and Italy are out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Australia 2-1 Serbia

Australia got a much needed win in Group D, but could not overturn a negative goal difference as the Socceroos were eliminated on goal difference from Group D behind Ghana.

Tim Cahill scored the opening goal of the match on 69 minutes, while substitute Brett Holman doubled the lead just four minutes later before Marko Pantelic pulled one back late-on for Serbia to set up a dramatic finish.

The Serbians could have gone through with another goal, but Australia held firm to claim a victory for the Asian confederation - even though both teams were eliminated.

FIFA World Cup 2010 - Group D Standings

Group D    W D L  F A GD Pts 
 Germany   2-0-1  5:1 +4  6 
 Ghana     1-1-1  2:2  0  4 
 Australia 1-1-1  3:6 -3  4 
 Serbia    1-0-2  2:3 -1  3

Germany 1-0 Ghana

A second-half Mesut Ozil volley proved enough for Germany to edge Ghana 1-0 in an active Group D match - which saw both teams qualify for the second round.

Germany finished as Group D winners and will now meet with arch-rivals England, while Ghana will face the United States.

Both teams were intent on chasing the win and played adventurous football, and the chances were being created at both ends, but half-time came and went with the match still scoreless.

Ozil received th ball just outside the penalty area, and set it up for a powerful shot the sped past Kingson and just inside the right-hand post.

The Europeans played more conservatively thereafter, and their ball retention kept Ghanaian opportunities at a minimum. Sulley Muntari had a half-chance for the west Africans, but his speculative shot from 25 yards flew over the bar.

United States 1-0 Algeria

USA scored a dramatic injury-time winner in Pretoria to secure a 1-0 victory that sees them qualify for the Round of 16 as winners of Group C.

For much of the game it looked as if the USA would be going home early after they missed a number of openings with Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi in stubborn form.

USA were sitting in third place as the 90 minute-mark ticked by but everything changed in the blink of an eye as Landon Donovan led one last attack.

Jozy Altidore squared the ball into the danger zone, where M'Bolhi beat it away, but Donovan was able to latch onto the loose ball and passed it into an empty net, before being submerged among a sea of white shirts.

England 1-0 Slovenia

England edged into the knockout phase of the World Cup thanks to a first half Jermaine Defoe goal earning a 1-0 win in Port Elizabeth.

England's campaign up to this point had been played out against a backdrop of negative media headlines but they delivered a result when it mattered in their final group game.

In the 23rd minute James Milner swung in a ball from the right and Defoe got there ahead of Marko Suler to fire in a volley that found the roof of the net via the palms of Samir Handanovic.

Slovenia had barely troubled England’s defence but they provided a scare after 68 minutes when Novakovic and substitute Zlatko Dedic both got in shots blocked by Terry and Glen Johnson, before Birsa dragged a third attempt past the post.

Matjaz Kek’s men came close again in the dying moments only for Upson to deny Tim Matavz with a last-ditch challenge and the USA's late winner up in Pretoria sealed the Slovenia's elimination.

For England, by contrast, the show goes on.

World Cup 2010 - Final Group C Standings

Group C        W D L  F A GD Pts 
 United States 1-2-0  4:3 +1  5 
 England       1-2-0  2:1 +1  5 
 Slovenia      1-1-1  3:3  0  4 
 Algeria       0-1-2  0:2 -2  1

Uruguay 1-0 Mexico

Luis Suarez's first-half header saw Uruguay seal top spot in Group A with a 1-0 win over Mexico in Rustenburg.

Pre-match predictions suggested that the two teams would be content to play out the draw which would guarantee them both a place in the knockout stages - and eliminate South Africa and France.

But Suarez headed home Edinson Cavani's right-wing cross on the stroke of half-time to settle the match.

The result meant that Mexico progressed on goal difference, while unbeaten Uruguay qualified top with seven points having still to concede.

Group A Standings

Group A       W D L  F A GD Pts 
 Uruguay      2-1-0  4:0 +4  7 
 Mexico       1-1-1  3:2 +1  4 
 South Africa 1-1-1  3:5 -2  4 
 France       0-1-2  1:4 -3  1 

Nigeria 2-2 South Korea

South Korea battled to a hard-fought draw with Nigeria, and it was enough to secure second place in Group B will face Uruguay in the last 16 of the World Cup.

South Korea had to fight to the last minute for the point which put them through after Greece were beaten 2-0 by Argentina.

Nigeria created chances throughout and took the lead when Chidi Odiah squared for Kalu Uche to tap in after just 12 minutes. But South Korea hit back through Lee Jung-Soo, who scrambled the ball past Vincent Enyeama from Ki Sung-Yeung's free-kick to equalise before half time.

Park Chu-Young's curled free-kick restored South Korea's lead four minutes into the second half but Yakubu coolly slotted in a penalty after Kim Nam-Il fouled Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke to level the game.

A frantic final 20 minutes ensued as both sides missed chances but the draw was enough for South Korea to progress.

Group B Final Standings

Group B      W D L  F A GD Pts 
 Argentina   3-0-0  7:1 +6  9 
 South Korea 1-1-1  5:6 -1  4 
 Greece      1-0-2  2:5 -3  3 
 Nigeria     0-1-2  3:5 -2  1

Argentina 2-0 Greece

Argentina completed a 100% win record in Group B to top the group and eliminate Greece.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel tactical plan of keeping it tight against Argentina and striking on the counter-attack held for 77 minutes before Martin Demichelis smashed home the opening goal for Argentina from the edge of the six-yard box.

Lionel Messi, skippering his side in the absence of the rested Javier Mascherano, had a frustrating evening as he received close attention from his opponents but he almost struck a second after a jinking run ended with a thunderous strike that crashed against the post.

But the second goal did come when another Messi strike was palmed into the path of substitute striker Martin Palermo, who slotted home with his right foot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spain 2-0 Honduras

David Villa struck twice as Spain got their World Cup campaign back on track with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Honduras.

Villa opened the scoring in the first half with a stunning finish into the top corner and doubled the lead with a deflected drive from distance, before he missed a chance to complete his hat-trick by firing a penalty wide.

After the much-fancied Spanish had slipped to a shock defeat in their opening game against Switzerland on Wednesday, they needed to produce a better performance and Spain commanded the game at Ellis Park.

With the game won Vicente del Bosque made changes and the introduction of Cesc Fabregas almost lifted the roof off Ellis Park when, 16 seconds after being introduced, he beat the offside trap and rounded the keeper only to see his shot hacked off the line by Chavez.

Villa saw another hat-trick opportunity go begging when Sergio Mendoza's brilliant last-ditch block prevented him from tapping in, but Spain probably already had one eye on Friday's crunch tie against Chile in Pretoria - where another win will be required.

Chile 1-0 Switzerland

Mark Gonzalez's late header was enough for Chile to overcome a stubborn defensive display from 10-man Switzerland and leave the South Americans on the verge of qualification for the last 16.

Gonzalez rose to head home an Estaban Paredas cross in the 75th minute to reward Chile's persistence, after the sOuth American side had wasted numerous chances.

Switzerland surpassed the record for the longest run without conceding a goal at the World Cup finals, but the Swiss were always under pressure after Valon Behrami was sent off for raising an arm to Arturo Vidal.

The result gives Chile their second successive victory following an opening 1-0 win over Honduras and leaves them top of Group H on six points ahead of a final game against Spain on Friday.

Switzerland, who beat the Spanish in their first game, can still qualify if they beat Honduras by two clear goals, or by a single goal and the other result goes their way.

GROUP H STANDINGS

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Group H      W D L  F A GD Pts 
 Chile       2-0-0  2:0 +2  6 
 Spain       1-0-1  2:1 +1  3 
 Switzerland 1-0-1  1:1  0  3 
 Honduras    0-0-2  0:3 -3  0

Monday, June 21, 2010

Portugal 7-0 North Korea

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first international goal for two years as his side ripped North Korea apart 7-0 to secure their first win of this World Cup.

The two sides were only separated by Raul Meireles' goal at half-time, but Portugal produced a scintillating attacking display after the break to score six goals and spark their tournament into life, while ending North Korea's hopes of progressing.

Simao, Hugo Almeida and Tiago found the net in the space of seven minutes to end any hopes of a North Korean comeback, before Liedson, Ronaldo and a second from Tiago completed a similar quick-fire salvo at the end of the game.

Portugal face Brazil in their final match, and even if they were to lose and Ivory Coast win it is likely Portugal would go through, owing to a much better goal difference.

Scoring Action :

RAUL MEIRELES (29')
SIMAO (53')
HUGO ALMEIDA (56')
TIAGO (60', 89')
LIEDSON (81')
CRISTIANO RONALDO (87')

Brazil 3-1 Ivory Coast

Brazil progressed to the knockout stages of the World Cup with an efficient 3-1 victory against a over-matched Ivory Coast side.

Brazil played a measured possession game - mixed with a handful of moments of skill as the South Americans slowy overwhelmed Africa's best.

Luis Fabiano scored twice, the first goal a fine strike after 25 minutes, then a second goal with a hint of handball, before Elano slotted home after 62 minutes finishing off good work from Kaka.

Didier Drogba's scored a headed consolation goal in the 79th minute, but the last 10 minutes were marred by a petulant display of petty fouls and blatant acting by the Elephants.

Kaka saw yellow in the 85th minute for pushing Yaya Toure and a minute later was sent from the field when Abdelkader Keita suddenly collapsed holding his face after an innocuous collision between himself and Kaka.

Paraguay 2-0 Slovakia

Paraguay took a big step towards a place in the last 16 with a stylish 2-0 victory over a poor Slovakia side that lifted them to the top of Group F.

A fine goal by Enrique Vera, curled in with the outside of his boot, gave the South Americans the lead and Carlos Riveros made the game safe with a brilliant late strike.

For Slovakia, their inability to raise their game has left them facing an early exit - particularly as they end their group fixtures against reigning champions Italy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Italy 1-1 New Zealand

2000-1 outsiders New Zealand pulled off one of the biggest World Cup shocks of recent tournaments by holding defending champions Italy to a memorable 1-1 draw in Nelspruit.

New Zealand took the lead within seven minutes after Simon Elliott whipped over a curling free-kick from the left and with tall defender Winston Reid flicked the ball on, and Shane Smeltz prodded the ball past Federico Marchetti.

Italy, sorely lacking the creativity of injured AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo, equalised from the penalty spot with Vincenzo Iaquinta scoring after Daniele De Rossi seemed to tumble easily.

The Azzurri pressed hard for three points in a pulsating second half, but the All Whites stood firm and could have snatched a remarkable victory had 18-year-old West Brom forward Chris Wood not guided a late left-foot shot just wide of the post.

It still represents the best result in the history of a nation which still does not have a professional football league and is far better known for its daunting rugby exploits.

New Zealand will probably need a victory over Paraguay in their final Group F match in order to qualify for the seciond round.

FIFA World Cup 2010 - Group F Standings

Group F      W D L  F A GD Pts 
 Paraguay    1-1-0  3:1 +2  4 
 Italy       0-2-0  2:2  0  2 
 New Zealand 0-2-0  2:2  0  2 
 Slovakia    0-1-1  1:3 -2  1

Denmark 2-1 Cameroon

Denmark came from behind to defeat 2-1 Cameroon in a pulsating match at the 2010 World Cup.

The African side took an early lead through Samuel Eto'o, who later hit the post, after a horrific error from Christian Poulsen.

But Nicklas Bendtner equalised from close range before veteran Dennis Rommedahl ghosted beyond substitute Jean Makoun after the break to leave Cameroon pointless after two games.

The result means that Cameroon are eliminated, and also ensured that the Netherlands will qualify from Group E.

STANDINGS

TEAM        W-D-L F:A Pts
Netherlands 2-0-0 3:0  6
Japan       1-0-1 1:1  3
Denmark     1-0-1 2:3  3
Cameroon    0-0-2 1:3  0

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ghana 1-1 Australia

Australia overcame the first-half dismissal of Harry Kewell to battle to a 1-1 draw against Ghana that keeps alive slim hopes of reaching the World Cup second round.

The Socceroos took an early lead through Brett Holman before Harry Kewell was shown a straight red for a handball on the goal-line and Asamoah Gyan slotted home his second penalty of the tournament.

But Ghana side struggled against Australia's 10 men, showing limited creativity and resorting to shot after shot from long range.

And it was Australia who came closest to winning the match when Luke Wilkshire failed to beat Black Stars goalkeeper Richard Kingston when clean through on goal.

It was a better display from the Australians who had been lambasted by their national press after a meek opening performance in losing 0-4 to Germany.

GROUP D STANDINGS

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TEAM      W-D-L F:A Pts
Ghana     1-1-0 2:1  4
Germany   1-0-1 4:1  3
Serbia    1-0-1 1:1  3
Australia 0-1-1 1:5  1

Netherlands 1-0 Japan

The Netherlands moved closer to qualification for the last 16 with a 1-0 victory over a defensively stubborn Japan.

Netherlands played like a team full of confidence as they kept possession well and did not panic even as Japan held out to the half-time whistle.

Wesley Sneijder's powerful 52nd-minute winner from just outside the box proved to be the difference between two teams whose styles provided a fascinating contrast.

The Dutch goal opened up the game as Japan were forced to do more than just sit back and play for the 0-0 draw, with chances falling to both sides just before the final whistle.

But the Netherlands held firm to win - and go top of Group E with six points.

Friday, June 18, 2010

United States 2-2 Slovenia

Michael Bradley struck a dramatic late equaliser as the United States came from two goals down to draw with Slovenia in a pulsating Group C encounter in Johannesburg.

It seemed Slovenia were heading through to the last 16 when Valter Birsa put them ahead with a curling effort and Zlatan Ljubijankic drilled in to double the lead shortly before half-time.

But US coach Bob Bradley made a double change at the interval and the move paid immediate dividends, Landon Donovon racing clear on the right and firing high into the roof of the net.

Slovenia were now firmly on the back foot and the US pressure finally told as Michael Bradley, poked the ball past Samir Handanovic on 82 minutes.

The Americans thought they had won it through substitute Maurice Edu's volley but the strike was harshly ruled out by referee Koman Coulibaly for an alleged pull.

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Serbia 1-0 Germany

Serbia brought 10-man Germany crashing back down to earth with a narrow 1-0 win in Port Elizabeth that blows qualification from Group D wide open.

An opening-game rout of Australia had German fans and critics predicting great things but Serbia were always likely to prove a different proposition.

Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco of Spain produced a series of baffling decisions and yellow cards, anf FIFA should ensure that he does not get a chance to spoli any further action in this World Cup.

Miroslav Klose was harshly dismissed for two bookings in the first half, and Liverpool-bound Milan Jovanovic scored the match-winner for Serbia with a volley just a minute later.

Germany still had chances to equalise - the best of all was a penalty for hand-ball that was missed by Lukas Podolski who missed also wasted a hatful of other chances.

It means Germany, Serbia and Ghana all stand on three points ahead of the Africans' second group match against the Aussies on Saturday.

England 0-0 Algeria

England's World Cup hopes hang in the balance as they were held to a disappointing draw by Algeria in Cape Town.

Fabio Capello's side now need to beat Slovenia on Wednesday to ensure qualification to the knockout stages.

England felt the full force of the fury of the thousands of fans who flooded Cape Town in the vain hope of seeing a performance that moved on to a different level from their first draw against the United States in Rustenburg.

Instead, they were rewarded with a performance that was the least effective of manager Fabio Capello's reign, England looked jaded and lacking inspiration, with Algeria goalkeeper Rais M Bolhi barely troubled apart from one first-half save from Frank Lampard.

Algeria fully deserved the point they celebrated with such elation at the final whistle while the angry reaction of England's fans at the final whistle delivered their verdict on this tired showing.

Greece 2-1 Nigeria

Greece came from behind to defeat Nigeria 2-1 in a pulsating match that kept alive Greek hopes of qualifying from Group B.

It was the first victory for Greece at a World Cup and came after a contest that was completely transformed by the dismissal of Nigeria's Sani Kaita after 33 minutes.

Nigeria had taken an early lead after Kalu Uche's free-kick from a wide area eluded everybody and slipped past keeper Tzorvas.

And the Super Eagles had a firm grip on the game until Kaita foolishly kicked out at Vasileios Torosidis after both players had briefly tangled as they tried to win the ball.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel quickly grasped the opportunity by adopting a more attacking formation and was rewarded with a crucial victory.

A deflected strike from Dimitrios Salpingidis drew his side level before Torosidis struck the winner after the break to severely dent Nigeria's hopes of progressing beyond the group stage.

Argentina 4-1 South Korea

Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick as Argentina beat South Korea 4-1 at Soccer City to all but book their place in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Higuain struck once in the first half and twice in quick succession after the break as Diego Maradona's side made it two wins out of two in Group B and fired another warning that they are one of the teams to beat in South Africa.

An own goal from Park Chu-Young got Argentina off to the perfect start before Higuain nodded in, and after Martin Dimichelis' error allowed Lee Chung-Yong to pull a goal back, Maradona's side got the goals their dominance perhaps deserved.

Argentina grabbed a 3rd goal after Messi's shot hit the post Higuain tapped in and then warpped up the scoring when Messi's stunning chip enabled Sergio Aguero to cross for Higuain to head home to complete his treble.

It was the first World Cup hat-trick since Portugal's Pauleta in 2002 and the first from an Argentine since Gabriel Batistuta in 1998.

Mexico 2-0 France

Two second-half goals gave Mexico their first ever victory over France to leave El Tri well-placed to make the last 16 and the 2006 runners-up on the verge of elimination.

Mexico were the brighter of the two sides throughout the game but were unable to take any of their chances until just after the hour, when substitute Javier Hernandez broke the offside trap and rounded keeper Hugo Lloris before slotting home.

Another Mexican substitute, the 37-year-old Cuauhtemoc Blanco, sealed the victory from the penalty spot after a third replacement, Pablo Barrera, had been felled in the box.

It leaves Mexico level at the top of Group A with Uruguay with four points and a draw between those two sides in their final game in Rustenburg would send France out of the tournament.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Uruguay 3-0 South Africa

Uruguay produced an assured performance to beat hosts South Africa 3-0 in Pretoria and take a big step towards qualification for the second round.

The South Americans were g a constant threat to Bafana Bafana's goal while also nullifying the tentative attacking threat provided by the hosts who looked out-matched and out-thought.

Diego Forlan scored twice - the first a 30-yard deflected strike and the second a well-taken penalty after Luis Suarez had been fouled by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune - and Alvaro Pereira added a third goal in injury time.

Uruguay now has four points and sit on top of the table ahead of their final group game with Mexico, where a draw would be enough to qualify.

In contrast, this defeat is South Africa's facing an uphill task to secure a place in the last 16, and a victory over France in the last group fixture is imperative if the hosts are to progress.

Switzerland 1-0 Spain

World Cup favourites Spain suffered a shock 0-1 defeat by Switzerland as South Africa 2010 served up a major upset.

The European champions from Spain enjoyed almost total control of the game in Durban but were held at arms length for long periods and wasteful in front of goal when chances did appear.

Switzerland grabbed the only goal of the match after 52 minutes when A long goal-kick was flicked through to Eren Derdiyok, who bundled it past goalkeeper Iker Casillas and the falling Pique to leave former midfielder Gelsen Fernandes with a simple finish.

With Barcelona trio David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Xavi unable to conjure a breakthrough, coach Vicente Del Bosque threw on Fernando Torres, Jesus Navas and Pedro, but to no avail as the Spanish slumped to only their second defeat in 49 games.

The result piles pressure on Spain, who could now be forced to face Brazil in the second round if they finish Group H as runners-up.

For the unfancied Swiss, it was a historic first victory over the Spanish and another triumph in the glittering career of their German coach Ottmar Hitzveld.

Chile 1-0 Honduras

Jean Beausejour's goal earned Chile a first World Cup victory for 48 years as Marcelo Bielsa's side got their 2010 campaign off to a winning start with victory over Honduras.

Chile came into the match well tipped to emerge from Group H alongside favourites Spain, and Bielsa's men ended a 13-match winless streak in World Cup Finals in comfortable fashion with Honduras grateful to goalkeeper Noel Valladares for keeping the score down.

Chile's ambitious approach was full of one-touch passing, movement and pace and provided a refreshing change, and it was helped by a Honduras side that also looked to break at pace.

Such was Chile's dominance against a poor Honduras side, that the only surprise was that it took until the 34th minute for them to break the deadlock.

There was an element of fortune about it, Beausejour's finish coming courtesy of a ricochet off a Honduras defender, but some fine build-up play between Sanchez and Mauricio Isla deserved its reward.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Brazil 2-1 North Korea

Maicon produced a moment of pure Brazilian magic to set the five-time champions on their way to a 2-1 victory against North Korea in Johannesburg.

Brazil deserved the victory for their dominance in possession, especially in the second half, but North Korea's previously unknown players can hold their heads high after a display full of effort and endevour.

Maicon produced a swerving screamer from the byeline that bent in with goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk standing a fraction too far off his post.

Elano added a second goal in the 72nd minute after receiving an inch-prefect through ball from Robinho and cool slotting past the Korean keeper.

Brazil still had a scare when Ji Yun-nam's clever first touch controlled a high ball and took him into space in the Brazil box and he made no mistake with an accurate finish past Julio Cesar.

Ivory Coast 0-0 Portugal

Ivory Coast and Portugal contested a scoreless draw in a cagey opening game to the World Cup's so-called "group of death".

With Brazil also in Group G, it was obvious that both sides were desperate to avoid defeat and there was an extent to which both teams cancelled each other out.

Portugal, third in the Fifa rankings but who only made it to South Africa after a play-off victory over Bosnia-Hercegovina, did come closest to scoring when Cristiano Ronaldo struck a post, but there was little to suggest an upsurge from their patchy form during qualifying.

Both sides ended with just one shot on target each - as another potentially exciting match turned into a static stalemate.

New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia

Winston Reid headed a dramatic injury-time equaliser for New Zealand against Slovakia to earn the Kiwis their first ever World Cup point.

Slovakia were on course for a perfect start in their debut World Cup as an independent nation after Robert Vittek's 50th-minute header grabbed the lead.

But Slovakia paid for sitting back on their lead when, in the third minute of injury time, Reid rose to head home Shane Smeltz's left-wing cross.

The result in Rustenburg leaves all four teams in Group F on a point each after Italy's draw with Paraguay on Monday.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Italy 1-1 Paraguay

Italy had to fight back from a goal down to earn a point against Paraguay as they began the defence of their crown with a hard-fought 1-1 draw.

Italy looked like they would be on the wrong end of the first major shock of the 2010 World Cup when they fell behind to Antolin Alcaraz's first-half header but an error from the Paraguay's goalkeeper Justo Villa gifted Daniele de Rossi an equaliser.

The Azzurri, who featured five of their 2006 winning team in their starting line-up, looked short of ideas going forward and also have a concern over the fitness of legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was forced off at half-time with an apparent back injury.

Italy dominated possession but Paraguay's disciplined and regimented approach held firm. Italy looked a lot sharper after equalising and ended the stronger side but they were still finding things frustrating in the final third and had to settle for shots from distance.

Italy did avoid defeat but this was not a performance to reassure their army of travelling fans that they are in any sort of shape to defend their title.

Japan 1-0 Cameroon

Japan edged out Cameroon 1-0 in a low quality game at Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium which produced little in the way of goalmouth action.

A half full stadium witnessed two out-of-form teams struggle to find any inspiration in another tepid World Cup encounter.

After a dire opening half-hour the Japan took the lead against the run of play when Dalsuke Matsui's cross looped over Stephane Mbia and was met by Keisuke Honda, who sloted home from six yards out at the back post.

Cameroon almost earned a point with two late efforts when Mbia hammered a stunning effort towards goal from 25 yards which crashed off the crossbar in the 85th minute and following that Kawashima saved from Pierre Webo in injury time.

Based on the opening round games, we will see the Netherlands and Denmark qualifying from this group.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark

An own goal from Denmark defender Daniel Agger in the opening minute of the second half helped Netherlands on their way to victory in the World Cup Group E match.

After a tight first half, the crucial breakthrough came moments after the break as Simon Poulsen tried to head a Robin van Persie cross clear only for the ball to strike Agger on the back and fly past a wrong-footed Thomas Sorensen.

The Dutch wrapped the match up with five minutes left when lively substitute Eljero Elia raced on to a through ball and after his shot struck the post, Dirk Kuyt tapped in the rebound to add gloss to the scoreline.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Germany 4-0 Australia

Germany provided a real signal of intent with a comprehensive 4-0 demolition of Australia to get their 2010 World Cup campaign off to a flying start.

Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose continued their remarkable scoring record at international level with a goal apiece to take their joint tally to 88, Thomas Mueller and Cacau added the gloss, while in playmaker Mesut Ozil the Germans appear to have found a real superstar.

Australia had a couple of half-chances, Jason Culina heading a Brett Emerton cross over and Richard Garcia sending a snap-shot past the post - while a second-half appeal for handball against Per Mertesacker in the box might have warranted closer inspection.

There was a harsh dismissal of Australia's key man Tim Cahill, who was given a straight red card for a very clumsy challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger on 55 minutes.

But Germany had pace, power and technique up front and with four unanswered goals - Germany has made a big statement on the World stage.

Serbia 0-1 Ghana

An 85th-minute penalty from Asamoah Gyan ensured Ghana began their Group D campaign with a 1-0 victory against 10-man Serbia.

Serbia had struggled to contain Ghana's dominance in midfield and their task was made even more difficult when defender Aleksandar Lukovic was red carded for his second bookable offence in the 74th minute.

Gyan converted emphatically from the spot when Serbia substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic was penalised for handball attempting to clear a dangerous cross.

The Rennes striker almost added a second in injury time when his curling shot struck the post with Stokjovic beaten.

The four-time African champions had dominated possession of the game, creating sufficient opportunities to win by a greater margin than the scoreline suggested.

Serbia were not without their chances - a Marko Pantelic cross was well blocked by Isaac Vorsah with Zigic lurking - Antic's side showed little attacking threat in the final third.

Algeria 0-1 Slovenia

Robert Koren's 79th minute goal gave Slovenia victory over 10-man Algeria in their opening World Cup game in Polokwane to send them top of Group C.

The midfielder's dipping 20-yard drive slipped through the grasp of Algeria keeper Faouzi Chaouchi and into the corner of the net to give the European side their first ever World Cup finals win.

The goal came just seven minutes after Desert Foxes substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal had seen red for two bookable offences as the mediocre encounter came briefly to life.

The two sides were only able to create a limited number of chances between them, the best of which Algeria defender Rafik Halliche headed wide from a corner.

England 1-1 United States

Goalkeeper Robert Green suffered a World Cup nightmare as England were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in the opening game of their campaign against the United States.

Steven Gerrard gave coach Fabio Capello the perfect start to this South African mission when he ran onto Emile Heskey's pass to slide the ball beyond Tim Howard after only four minutes.

Thereafter England rarely hit the heights, maintaining an advantage in relative comfort until five minutes before half-time when goalkeeper Green suffered the lapse that will haunt him.

Clint Dempsey offered a hopeful effort that was aimed straight at Green from 25 yards, but as Green knelt to collect the ball he allowed the ball to squeeze around him and roll agonisingly over the line as he tried to recover.

England had some opportunities to repair the damage, but Heskey shot straight at Howard with only the keeper to beat.

Jozy Altidore almost gave the USA the lead in the 64th minute when he outpaced Jamie Carragher, but this time Green made amends for his earlier mistake by turning the angled shot on to the post and it rebounded to safety.

Both teams then ran out of ideas as they tired - the draw leaving Bob Bradley's US side to celebrate a hard-earned point.

Argentina 1-0 Nigeria

Argentina got their 2010 World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a dominant performance against Nigeria in Johannesburg.

Diego Maradona's side were able to capitalise on the space fatally afforded them by their opponents to register a well-deserved victory, secured through an early headed goal from Gabriel Heinze.

Juan Sebastian Veron delivered a corner to the penalty spot in the 6th minutes for Heinze to run in unmarked and powerfully head the ball into the top left hand corner of the net.

The South Americans remained the more likely to score, but they were either wasteful or unable to beat Enyeama, who kept his side as a credible threat in the match with further impressive saves from Higuain and Messi.

Nigeria had their chances, primarily down the left where makeshift Argentine right-back Jonas Gutierrez was often exposed, but forward Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi was wasteful.

South Korea 2-0 Greece

South Korea began their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Greece in Port Elizabeth.

South Korea impressed with plenty of endevour and earned their reward with goals in either half from Lee Jung-soo and Park Ji-sung.

Korea took the lead when Ki Sung-yueng's free-kick from close to the right corner flag was inadvertently flicked on by Kostantinos Katsouranis at the near post into the path of an onrushing centre-back Lee Jung-soo, who volleyed home from a mertre out with the Greek defence nowhere in sight.

South Korea doubled their lead when Loukas Vyntra displayed an awful first touch and Park Ji-sung to stole the ball and charged into the box before sliding a well-placed left-footed strike past the onrushing Tzoras.

Greece produced only two genuine attempts on goal while, in contrast, Huh Jung-moo's team could have won by a larger margin had Monaco striker Park Chu-young been more clinical in front of goal.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

South Africa 1-1 Mexico

Mexico and hosts South Africa battled to an entertaining 1-1 draw to open the World Cup at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

In a charged atmosphere bordering in Johannesburg, Siphiwe Tshabalala grabbed a thunderous opening goal for South Africa threatened to provide the 19th World Cup with the fairytale beginning.

But with 11 minutes to go Rafael Marquez controlled Andres Guardado's cross at the back post and rifled past Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune to ensure the spoils were shared after a breathless opening to the tournament.

The Mexicans were the better team throughout, but could have lost the match in the 90th minute when Katlego Mphela shot against the post with keeper Oscar Perez beaten.

Uruguay 0-0 France

France and Uruguay contested a lacklustre goalless draw in the second match of the 2010 World Cup at the Cape Town Stadium.

The result ensured that both of the opening day Group A fixtures ended in draws - but this match in Cape Town never really got going.

It was a largely forgettable contest only briefly illuminated by the occasional moment of trickery and skill.

In a game of few chances, Uruguay came closest to scoring through a Diego Forlan shot that was saved in the opening half, while they finished the contest with 10 men after substitute Nicolas Lodeiro picked up two bookings.

France were arguably the better team around the pitch but were too ponderous in possession against La Celeste, with a lack of understanding undermining their efforts.

Both teams had laboured through qualification, requiring play-offs to reach South Africa, and their lack of fluency was clear to see.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rafael Benitez agrees to become Inter Milan coach

Inter Milan have announced that former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has agreed to become the club's new coach.

"We've got an agreement, we finalised the last details that in any case weren't important," Inter president Massimo Moratti told ANSA news agency.

Benitez, 50, left Liverpool last week after six years at Anfield and will succeed Jose Mourinho at the San Siro.

Moratti revealed negotiations with Benitez had not taken place in person and said the Spaniard was due to arrive in Milan this week ahead of finalising his move to the European champions.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Arsenal turn down Barcelonaa offer for Fabregas

Arsenal Football Club have today released the following statement about Cesc Fabregas :

(source : Arsenal statement on Arsenal.com)

"Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is under contract with the Club until the summer of 2015. He is a highly-valued member of the team and part of our future plans.

"We have followed recent speculation linking Cesc with a move away from the Club but as there has never been any official approach for him, only two informal exchanges, in which we made it abundantly clear that we have no interest in transferring Cesc, we have refrained from publicly passing comment."

"However, yesterday evening we received an offer from Barcelona for Cesc and in response, we immediately and resolutely told them once again that we have no intention of selling our captain.

"To be clear, we will not make any kind of counterproposal or enter into any discussion. Barcelona have publicly stated that they will respect our position and we expect that they will keep their word."

---- ---- ----

GOONER ADDS :

Of course - Barcelona's previously stated "word of honour" about respecting Arsenal's position will now prove to be worth absolutely nothing - as Barcelona's President Joan Laporte is in a desperate election fight to maintain his position at the Catalan club.

With Real Madrid flexing their muscles under Jose Mourinho and Barcelona fearful of being overtaken domestically - I expect to see many more Cesc Fabregas stories and statements from Barcelona players and officials now - as they show disrespect for their own clubs "word of honour" and now attempt to "tap-up" the player.

But Arsenal have made a statement now - NO DEAL. It should be a closed book.

Are you watching Mr Platini? Will UEFA continue to sit idle while a player is illegally persued - simply because Barca are a glamour club ?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Manager Rafa Benitez leaves Liverpool - by mutual consent

Liverpool have announced manager Rafael Benitez has left the club by mutual consent after six years in charge.

Benitez, 50, joined as Liverpool manager in June 2004 and guided the Reds to Champions League and FA Cup success the following two seasons. But last season they made an early exit from the Champions League and finished only seventh in the Premier League.

Managing director Christian Purslow and former manager Kenny Dalglish are to begin the search for a replacement. The club said there is no timeframe for an appointment and they will make no further comment until a new manager has been installed.

Benitez, who had four years of his five-year contract to run, finalised his departure after agreeing a severance payment and said he was "extremely sad" to be leaving the club.