Rabu, 30 Juni 2010

Schweinsteiger critical of Argentinians

Bastian Schweinsteiger has not only taken over the key role of Michael Ballack in Germany's midfield and is getting better with each passing match, but the Bayern Munich star has also grown in stature as a person whose words are listened to nowadays. The days of the young, playful Schweini seem to be gone and one best realises that when he talks not mincing his words and being straight to the point.

Schweinsteiger was yesterday one of the two players who came for the daily press briefing of the German national team at their Velmore Hotel camp outside Erasmia. And when asked about the teams opponents Argentina he said the team had not forgotten what had happened after the penalty shootout exactly four years ago at the 2006 FIFA World Cup at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on June 30. Germany had won in a tense penalty shootout, but the Argentinians weren't willing to accept the defeat peacefully so it resulted in a fracas on the field with players and officials from both sides involved. Germany were had hit as midfielder Thorsten Frings was banned from the semifinals against Italy and he was sorely missed on that day.

Schweinsteiger said, "The shootout is still in our memory but what really weighs heavily on our minds is what happened after that match. We have to remain calm and not get provoked and I hope the referee will be very alert."

Schweinsteiger then reminded the international media present on what had happened only last Sunday, "You could see their behaviour at half time of the game against Mexico. When you look at their body language and gesticulation, the way they try to influence the referees, they have no respect. It's their mentality and character, we'll have to adjust."

And one has to add that surprisingly not one player or official from both sides was cautioned by referee Roberto Rosetti after the chaos was sorted, while on other occasions players and officials had been banned and fined. This was a point that Schweinsteiger wanted to get across in his statements and he surely has touched a nerve with referee's already in for a lot of criticism due to their mistakes plus sometimes also not being able to detect play acting and provocations.

Surely tough statements from Schweinsteiger, some might see it as a verbal provocation, but he also wants to warn his younger team mates on what they could expect on Saturday. It sadly isn't all about fair play on and off the field. And Schweinsteiger has past experiences which have made him sceptical on these issues.

India start Asian Cup preparations

The whole world is looking towards South Africa with the 2010 FIFA World Cup entering its decisive phase. Who will inherit the title of world champions from Italy? But for the Indian national football team finally it's the start into its six month long preparations for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup to be played in Qatar in January 2011.

The squad leaves for Lisbon in Portugal tonight for a two month long preparatory camp which will set the physical basis for the team ahead of the tough assignments coming up early next year. India face South Korea, Australia and Bahrain in a the group of death; and South Korea and Australia have shown in the World Cup what they are capable off. But India can take heart from the performances of numerous minnows at the World Cup. The football world has moved closer, hopefully the same can be said in January about Asian football.

But not all the 30 probables will make the trip. Not part of the squad will be Sunil Chhetri, who will remain in the US to play for his club side Kansas City Wizards; while goalkeeper Subrata Pal and defender Gouramangi Singh part of the squad after failing in their North American and Australian trials respectively.
In some really good news Bob Houghton will remain coach of the team at least until the end of the Asian Cup. What happens thereafter will have to be seen.

Indian Probables

Subrata Pal, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Arindam Bhattacharya

Anwar, Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal, Nanjangud Shivananju Manju, Samir Naik, Nallappan Mohanraj, Irungbam Surkumar Singh, Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, Govin Moirangthem Singh

Steven Benedic Dias, Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda, Rakesh Masih, Syed Rahim Nabi, Anthony Pereira, Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep, Baldeep Singh, Jagpreet Singh, Lukram James Singh, Potsangbam Renedy Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo

Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, M. Mohammed Rafi, Sushil Kumar Singh, Baljit Singh Sahni, Abhishek Yadav

Selasa, 29 Juni 2010

PQF: Paraguay & Spain set-up quarterfinal date

Who will win the clash of Iberia? And can Japan or Paraguay continue their great run? Questions which will be answered tonight.

(to be updated after the second game)

Paraguay 5-3 [0-0] Japan (penalties)
Goals: none.

Paraguay needed penalties to get past Japan in a rather tame pre-quarterfinal match at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. Paraguay scored of all their five penalties, while Yuichi Komano was the devil for Japan as the defender's penalty hit the crossbar and went over.

Surprisingly Japan had the better start into the game with some chances coming their way before the match cooled down and both sides were more inclined to defend rather then try to score a goal. Paraguay had more of the ball, but Japan were cleverly denying the South Americans space to operate and their counters were finished off either.

After the break both sides looked even more nervous with loads of miss-passes and interceptions. Paraguay were the first to come out of their slumber, but a Cristian Riveros header was the only treath to the Japanese goal. Thereafter Japan did try to attack too, but both defences held sway with no major treath until the end of the 90 minutes.

In extra time Paraguay initially looked the better side with Lukas Barrios and Nelson Valdez having chances for their side both denied by Kawashima before Japan had a good chance through Keisuke Honda and Paraguay keeper Villar stretched to save the chance.

The match had to go into extra time and there Paraguay would score all their penalties with Oscar Cardozo the hero to score the fifth and last penalty, while Yuichi Komano would miss for Japan to end their campaign in the tournament.

Spain 1-0 (0-0) Portugal
Goals: 1-0 David Villa (63').

European champions Spain beat their neighbours Portugal 1-0 at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. But once more a refereeing blunder decided the game with the goal by Villa scored from an offside position.

Spain made swift start into the match with Fernando Torres having his first shot on goal cleared by Portuguese keeper Eduardo only after 58 seconds. David Villa would have two more chances before the match would be 10 minutes old, but once more Eduardo would be up to the task. Thereafter Portugal would better adjust to the Spanish game with their defensive play waiting for chances through counter attacks. One such attack would be see Tiago make a long range effort which just about is blocked by Iker Casillas. Spain had most of the ball, but Portugal didn't allow them to get near their goal while their rare attacks remained dangerous. Their fellow countryman Jose Mourinho would have been proud of the Portuguese defensive play.

Things didn't change initially after the break with Spain still looking for the opening, while Portugal waited for counter attacks. And one such attack nearly gave the Portuguese the lead when Hugo Almeida's shot from the left hit Carlos Puyol's thigh and just about missed the goal. Spain had to change something and coach Vicente del Bosque brought on Fernando Llorente for Fernando Torres. And the move could have paid off immediately as a Sergio Ramos' cross from the right was headed goalwards by Llorente on the hour mark. But suddenly Spain had the momentum as thereafter a David Villa shot just about missed the target. But Spain's target man would get on the score sheet in the 63rd minute as an Andres Iniesta pass is played on by Xavi to Villa, whose first shot is blocked by Eduardo, but he can't do anything against Villa's chip. Still the goal shouldn't have been given as Villa was just about offside. If one thought that Portugal would finally end their destructive game and play for the equaliser one would be shocked as they continued their play with Spain now more confident in their short passing game, which was far from perfection. Spain could have doubled the lead through Sergio Ramos and David Villa, but again Eduardo was there to deny Spain. Surprisingly there was also no Cristiano Ronaldo to be seen as he was not to be seen as the whole Portugal offence. The fair match ended on a soar note as Ricardo Costa received a straight red card in the 89th minute as he elbowed Juan Capdevila. Spain went on to win the battle of Iberia in a match which never rose to the heights expected from it.

Senin, 28 Juni 2010

Thomas Mueller: Germany's new No. 13

The 13 is for many an unlucky number, but for others it's the right opposite. The number 13 jersey of the German national football team has a lot of history, positive history to be precise for West Germany and the now united Germany. And the No. 13 has a history with a player called Mueller wearing the jersey. And young Thomas Mueller seems to be continuing this tradition having already scored three goals in his first FIFA World Cup.

The men of the past we are talking about are legendary German striker Gerd Mueller and up to his injury in the FA Cup in May 2010 midfielder Michael Ballack was supposed to wear the No. 13 in South Africa again for Germany.

Gerd Mueller is one of the best strikers of all times having scored a sensational 68 goals in 62 international matches. And 14 of those goals came in FIFA World Cup's with Gerd Mueller second only to Brazilian Ronaldo who has scored 15 goals.

And Michael Ballack will be known to most football fans having worn the No. 13 not only for Germany, but also at his clubs Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and FC Chelsea.

Now 20 year old Bayern Munich all-rounder Thomas Mueller is wearing the jersey in the tournament. Thomas Mueller knows the weight of expectations a Mueller in a German No. 13 jersey has amongst the German public. And it seems to have brought him and the whole team luck. Mueller is a utility player who can play anywhere upfront in an attacking position, be it on the wings, withdrawn or as a central striker. But coach Joachim Loew is using him as a winger on the right flank, a position which was vacant in the German national team since Bastian Schweinsteiger moved into the middle into a more defensive midfield position. And Thomas Mueller has been able to fill this position with near perfection as he continues to play like he has done all season for Bayern Munich. 100% commitment, moving into the open spaces, playing intelligent football and using his technical abilities which does sometimes look awkward, but he has shown again and again that this works for him.

Now on three goals in four matches and following the performance against England where he caused major problems to an internationally experienced left back in Ashley Cole expectations are rising. But Mueller stays focused and now has only one aim - win the cup for Germany. As he rightly said after the England game, "What's the value of this victory if we now don't continue to win."
And being the guy he is while signing off he greeted his grand parents whom he hadn't talked to in a while.

Mueller is an intelligent and down to earth guy. And at 20 years of age he knows what he wants. Already married, settled at such a young age, Mueller is a prime example of maturity can come early. The last year has often been a one way street for him which only knew one direction and that was up. But even if setbacks come, Thomas Mueller will master them. And whatever happens from now on, Mueller looks set to be a prime candidate for being FIFA's "Young Player of the Tournament" set to follow in the footsteps of team mate Lukas Podolski who won the award in 2006.

And also Thomas Mueller once more shows what excellent youth development work German giants Bayern Munich are doing. Mueller is one of six players who have come through the ranks of Bayern's youth Academy.

PQF: Brazil & Netherlands set-up clash

Will the favourites Brazil and Netherlands move on and beat the minnows or can Chile and Slovakia cause an upset.

(to be updated after the second game)

Netherlands 2-1 (1-0) Slovakia
Goals: 1-0 Arjen Robben (18'), 2-0 Wesley Sneijder (84'), 2-1 Robert Vittek (90+4').

The Netherlands moved on into the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup by beating Slovakia 2-1 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. But again it was a more pragmatic Dutch side which didn't show the flair which they possess in this squad.

The Oranjes were the better of the two sides in the first session as they mainly dominated against the Slovaks. But the Slovaks had the first chance of the match through Erik Jendrisek, but thereafter it were Oranje attacks. The Dutch took the lead through their star player Arjen Robben in the 18th minute. And it was a typical Robben goal as he sprinted up on the right flank, then moved in and in-between three defenders could get his shot through which landed in the net behind keeper Jan Mucha. But after taking the lead the Dutch became complacent, but the Slovaks couldn't utilise this in their favour.

Coach Bert van Marwijk seemed to have found the right words in the break as the Dutch came out in search of a second goal. First Robben's shot was just about cleared by Mucha, then Joris Mathijsen's shot hit Mucha's head. But the Dutch again became complacent with the Slovaks towards the middle of the half finally sensing that they had a chance in the game. First a Miroslav Stoch shot was just about cleared by Maarten Stekelenburg in the 67th minute and then Robert Vittek's shot was again cleared by Stekelenburg which the Slovak striker should have scored. And in the 78th minute again Vittek had a chance, but this time he shot the ball over. The Dutch realised that the match wasn't sealed upped the tempo and through a quickly taken free kick scored their second goal through Wesley Sneijder. The ball was played to Dirk Kuyt, who beat the onrushing keeper Mucha and played it back into the middle to Sneijder who pushed the ball in. In injury time the Slovaks got a penalty when Martin Jakubko went down, but the striker went down rather then keeper Stekelenburg bringing him down. Robert Vittek would score to reduce the deficit, but the referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco from Spain would blow the final whistle after the penalty.

Brazil 3-0 (2-0) Chile
Goals: 1-0 Juan (35'), 2-0 Luis Fabiano (38'), 3-0 Robinho (59').

The Brazilians weren't really tested by their South American rivals Chile as they beat them 3-0 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The Brazilians will now face the Netherlands in a game which will be high on expectations of the fans with both teams being more clinical in their finish then showing their potential flair.

It started as an open game as Chile once more tried to have a go at their opponents from the start, but the Brazilians were not really tested as Chile couldn't play the final pass, while Chile's defence also looked better organised not allowing the Brazilians too much space. But things changed in the 35th minute as Juan headed in a Maicon corner. And then only three minutes later Luis Fabiano would score of a counter attack in which Robinho, Kaka und Luis Fabiano combined with the striker going around the keeper to score. Chile looked shocked, became once more desperate as they had been against Spain a few days ago and they didn't really have a look at goal.

After the break Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa brought on two fresh players, but it didn't work as Chile still couldn't find a way through the Brazilian defence. Brazil allowed Chile to combine up to the 16 metre box and then looked for counter attacks. One such attack came in the 59th minute when Ramires intercepted a ball and went straight towards the Chile goal, he squared for Robinho and he curled a beauty into the net. The match was sealed as Chile were too harmless infront of the Brazilian goal. Brazil did get chances to score even more, while Chile got some chances goalwards and should have been rewarded with a goal.

Minggu, 27 Juni 2010

PQF: Germany trash England, to face Argentina

Today some championship contenders have to prove if they are worth winning the title.

(to be updated after the second game)

Germany 4-1 (2-1) England
Goals: 1-0 Miroslav Klose (20'), 2-0 Lukas Podolski (32'), 2-1 Matthew Upson (37'), 3-1,4-1 Thomas Mueller (67',70').

Germany trashed England 4-1 in comprehensive fashion at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. England were in the end humiliated by Germany and could blame the referee for not helping their cause with another blunder. Before the match the English media once more used war rhetoric in a match against Germany and it once again hit them hard as Germany demolished England.

Both sides showed a lot of respect for the other at the start, but Germany looked the better side though their initial trust was not rewarded with the best chance for Mesut Oezil in the 4th minute which was cleared by keeper David James. Germany took the lead in the 20th minute as Manuel Neuer's long goal-kick beat the English defenders John Terry and Matthew Upson with Miroslav Klose there and the striker would beat off Uspon and place the ball past David James for his overall 12th World Cup goal. England looked startled and tried to get back, but this gave the Germans space to combine. Klose would miss in the 31st minute, but only a minute later Lukas Podolski would finish off a great move with Thomas Mueller the provider as he chipped the ball over Glen Johnson and Podolski banged the ball in under David James. Germany then fell back a little and allowed England some space as a Steven Gerrard cross from the right was headed in by Matthew Upson in the 37th minute with the German defence not alert enough. Interesting to note Upson's second goal for England and once more it came against Germany. And only second later Germany were lucky not to concede the equaliser as a Frank Lampard long ranger hit the inside of the crossbar fell into the goal, hit the crossbar before being collected by Manuel Neuer. A clear goal, but referee Jorge Larrionda from Uruguay denied the Three Lions the goal. Germany were lucky to take the lead into the break.

The match continued after the break with England pushing for the equaliser. The best chance fell once more to Lampard whose 35 metre shot hit the crossbar. England where increasing the pressure, but their finishing left a lot to be desired, while Germany were looking to finish off the game on counter attacks. And they would do so in style. From an England free kick in the 67th minute Thomas Mueller would combine with Bastian Schweinsteiger, who would play back to the youngster and Mueller would give Germany their crucial third goal. Three minutes later Germany would seal the match and again it was off a counter attack. This time Oezil would get past Gareth Barry on the sidelines and move goalwards, he would square the ball where Thomas Mueller would score once more. England was defeated and they caused no more major problems for the Germans, who moved into the quarterfinals.

Argentina 3-1 (2-0) Mexico
Goals: 1-0,3-0 Carlos Tevez (26',52'), 2-0 Gonzalo Higuain (52'), 3-1 Javier Hernandez (71').

In a repeat of the 2006 World Cup pre-quarterfinals Argentina again beat Mexico, this time 3-1 at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg and again they will face Germany in the quarterfinals.

Mexico started aggressively against Argentina which didn't suit the Albiceleste. And Mexico had the first good chance in the 8th minute through Carlos Salcido which hit the crossbar and only a minute later Andres Guardado's shot just missed the target. Mexico's game was disturbing the game plan of the Argentinians, but that changed in the 26th minute with another refereeing blunder as the Gauchos took the lead. Lionel Messi for once was able to use his pace, found Tevez whose shot was blocked by Oscar Perez in the Mexico goal, but Messi chips the rebound over the keeper to Tevez who pushes in. Mexico protests, but to no avail and their concentration level goes down as Ricardo Osorio in the 33rd minute plays a square pass to Gonzalo Higuain and the Real Madrid striker doubles the lead. Mexico had lost their way and were lucky to get away with a 0-2 deficit. On the way into the break there would be an altercation between the two sides, but no cards were surprisingly flashed by the referee Roberto Rosetti.

The Mexicans hopes of a comeback died in the 52ns minute of a hammer strike by Carlos Tevez which left the keeper Perez with no chance whatsoever. But Mexico wouldn't go home like this as the team showed spirit to try and reduce the deficit and with a little bit more luck on the day could have challenged the Argentinians. Only Javier Hernandez would score for Mexico in the 71st minute as Argentina would move on with a 3-1 victory.

2010 World Cup: Indicast Podcast - Group Stage Analysis

Yesterday I was part of the Indicast Podcast's Sportsbench special on the ongoing 2010 FIFA World Cup analysing the group stage. Vikram Nanivadekar and myself discussed the group stage at the ongoing football World Cup.

It is titled "Football World Cup 2010 - Post League Stage Review" and it surely will make interesting hearing for you all. A nice discussion about what we all have seen over the last couple of weeks in South Africa. The highs and lows...

Listen Online (64 kbps) : ~ 26 mins

Here the direct link to the Indicast Podcast page: Sportsbench Podcast

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Sabtu, 26 Juni 2010

PQF: Uruguay win, to meet Ghana now

The outsiders meet on the first day of the quarterfinals.

(to be updated after the second game)

Uruguay 2-1 (1-0) South Korea
Goals: 1-0,2-1 Luis Suarez (8',80'), 1-1 Chung-Yong Lee (68').

Uruguay overcame a fighting South Korea 2-1 at the Port Elizabeth Stadium to qualify for their first quarterfinals since the 1970 World Cup.

South Korea had the first chance of the day through a Chu-Young Park free kick in the 5th minute, but it hit the post before Uruguay took the lead in the 8th minute through a Luis Suarez goal. Diego Forlan on the left played the ball across the face of the goal with no defender or keeper Sung-Ryong Jung able to intercept with Suarez there to push the ball in from the far post. But South Korea couldn't play their usual running game, often static in their play not able to break down the Uruguay defence which so far hadn't conceded any goals in the tournament.

After the break things changed. Uruguay did have the first chance through Suarez in the 50th minute, but thereafter in the rain South Korea took control of the match in their quest for the equaliser. Referee Wolfgang Stark denied South Korea a penalty in the 64th minute when Sung-Yong Ki was brought down in the box. But only four minutes later the Asians would equalise. And it came off another dead ball situation. A Chu-Young Park free kick was not cleared properly by Mauricio Victorino with Chung-Yong Lee heading in past Fernando Muslera. South Korea looked on fire thereafter and could have taken the lead, but Uruguay came out of its passive phase and took part again in the game with chances for Suarez and Forlan. After a corner in the 80th minute the ball travelled to Suarez on the other side, who moved inwards and curled a beauty into the goal. But the match wasn't over yet with South Korea getting a last chance in the 87th minute through Dong-Gook Lee, he beat keeper Muslera but captain Diego Lugano cleared for the Celeste.

USA 1-2 (1-2) [1-1 (0-1)] Ghana [in extra time]
Goals: 0-1 Kevin Prince Boateng (5'), 1-1 Landon Donovan (62', penalty), 1-2 Asamoah Gyan (93').

Ghana remain the only African side in the tournament with an extra time 2-1 with against the USA at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

Ghana had the perfect start as they went ahead in the 5th minute. The US' Ricardo Clark lost the ball in midfield which was picked by Kevin Prince Boateng and the Ghanian midfielder went all the way with the ball before blasting it into the US net past keeper Tim Howard, who hadn't had the short corner covered. Ghana had more of the ball thereafter as the USA looked clueless on what to do to get the equaliser, but the Africans didn't push hard enough for a second goal though having chances through Boateng and Asamoah Gyan. The USA had their best chance of the half through Robbie Findley, but his shot couldn't beat Richard Kingson in the Ghana goal.

After the break the USA came to the party and started to play football looking for the equaliser while Ghana fell back under their pressure. And then the USA were awarded a penalty when Clint Dempsey was brought down by Jonathan Mensah. Landon Donovan scored of the resultant penalty in the 62nd minute to give the USA a deserving draw. And thereafter the Americans looked to be heading for a win, but the necessary goal didn't come their way. First Michael Bradley, then Jose Altidore missed good chances. It ended one-all and for the first time extra time was needed in this tournament to find a winner.

And at the start of extra time Ghana once more took an early lead. In the 93rd minute Asamoah Gyan was able to beat of the challenge from Carlos Bocanegra and Jay de Mit and shot the ball into the net over the head of Tim Howard. Once more the USA had to get an equaliser to take this game into penalties, but it wasn't to be as they looked tired towards the end and Ghana was able to defend their goal.

Jumat, 25 Juni 2010

Ballack returns to Bayer Leverkusen

German international midfielder Michael Ballack has decided to return to the German Bundesliga after four years in the English Premier League with FC Chelsea London and has decided to sign a two year contract with former club Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

"With my transfer a circle is complete. I had a beautiful and successful time here, which I like to look back on a lot," Ballack told Bayer04's website.

At 13:32 CET Bayer 04 Leverkusen Managing Director Wolfgang Holzhäuser said, "Michael is coming back to us! And he will be received with open arms."

This announcement by Bayer 04 yesterday ended weeks of speculation on where Ballack would play next season. Ballack is said to have had offers from VfL Wolfsburg and Hamburger SV from Germany, FC Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs from England plus Real Madrid and another unnamed Spanish club.

Ballack is set to earn 6 Million Euros per year for the next couple of seasons at Bayer Leverkusen and the offer was lower then those of rivals Wolfsburg and Hamburg, but knowing the club and its set-up helped the Germany star decide to return to the Rhineland. Ballack is said to have had talks with former coach Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, but when things did not work out he decided to accept the Leverkusen offer.

The 33 year old Ballack was born in Goerlitz. He had started his career with Chemnitzer FC and then joined 1.FC Kaiserslautern in 1997 with whom he went on to win his first Bundesliga title. Ballack had had his first stint with Bayer Leverkusen from 1999 to 2002 which ended in tragedy. In the 2001/02 season Leverkusen finished second in the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League. On the final match day against SpVgg Unterhaching Ballack would score an own goal in the 0-2 defeat, and then in Korea/Japan Germany would go on to finish runners-up with Ballack missing the final against Brazil.
He then when on to have four successful years at FC Bayern Munich before leaving the German giants for FC Chelsea in the summer 2006. He had another four very successful years in London, but once more he couldn't win an international title with the club.

Now he returns to Leverkusen which Ballack himself described as "a move from the heart". And after his rehabilitation a lot will be expected from Ballack at the BayArena.
Bayer Leverkusen under seasoned coach Jupp Heynckes have a talented squad, but they lose one of their best players in Toni Kroos who returns to Bayern Munich and Ballack will certainly add quality and experience to the team which it desperately needs. Bayer Leverkusen over the last two seasons have had great starts and at the halfway mark even had a chance to challenge for the title, but then after the winter break the club couldn't keep up its performance level and went down the table. Now with Ballack amongst them the club could aim for a UEFA Champions League place and maybe challenge for the title, which has always eluded them.

Group H: Spain beat Chile, but both move on

The last match day leaves all options open with all sides having a chance to move on though Chile have the best chance and Honduras the least.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Chile 1-2 (0-2) Spain
Goals: 0-1 David Villa (24'), 0-2 Andres Iniesta (37'), 1-2 Rodrigo Millar (47').

Spain beat a fighting ten men Chile 2-1 in an entertaining match at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. But still both sides moved on into the knockout stage.

If one thought that Chile would mostly defend to get the necessary point to ensure their passage to the pre-quarterfinals, then one would be surprised as coach Marcelo Bielsa's side would play an open game against the European champions. Fernando Torres would miss the first chance for Spain in the 4th minute, while Mark Gonzalez did the same for Chile six minutes later. It was an open game, but Spain was forced to often play counter attacks as Chile were going at them full throttle. And one such situation came in the 24th minute when a Spain long was cleared by the Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo, but the ball only went as far as David Villa on the left and with an open goal he chipped the ball into the net. A brilliant strike which gave Spain the needed lead. The match gained even more pace with chances on both sides before Spain had a perfect build-up Villa with the final pass into the middle to Andres Iniesta and the Barca player nicely pushed the ball into the net past the keeper. In the same move Torres is brought down by Marco Estrada and the defender who had earlier gotten away with a rough tackle did get his second booking and had to leave the field. An efficient Spain were leading 2-0 at the break against a Chile which seemed to be playing for their lives.

After the match restarted Chile went all out to reduce the deficit as they knew if Switzerland would score in the other match, then could be out. And Chile did reduce the score in the 47th minute when substitute Rodrigo Millar's shot was deflected into the Spanish goal by Pique. Chile thereafter were all over the Spanish who seemed to loose their way, but the substitution of Cesc Fabregas for Torres brought stability and new organisation into the Spanish game. And the Spaniards started to combine like only they can, only not moving goalwards but trying to keep possession against the agile Chileans. But the Chileans tired towards the end and in the last 15 minutes it was more of Spanish combination with no interference as both sides looked content with the result. In the end Spain won 2-1 and both sides made their way into the pre-quarterfinals.

Switzerland 0-0 Honduras
Goals: none.

Switzerland were held to a goalless draw by Honduras at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. Both teams bowed out of the tournament.

Honduras once more played their style of football, standing deep in defence and waiting for counter attacks, while the Swiss just couldn't up the tempo as the Spaniards and Chileans had done to beat the Central American nation.

Switzerland did have the better chances in the first session. First stand-in captain Inler's shot just went wide then Eren Derdiyok's header just missed the mark. It stayed goalless up to the break.

Swiss coach took off Gelson Fernandes and brought on the experienced Hakan Yakin, but even this substitution didn't change things as the Swiss couldn't up the tempo and their final pass didn't find their man. And after the break Honduras became more adventurous and had chances to actually win the match. First striker David Suazo's headed the ball wide, then Adgar Alvarez's shot was excellently saved by Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal. Both sides had their chances towards the end of the game, but it ended goalless.

Group G: Brazil & Portugal draw, both teams move on

In Group G Brazil were through, but who would join them in the knockout stage. Portugal or Ivory Coast.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Portugal 0-0 Brazil
Goals: none.

Brazil and Portugal played out a boring goalless draw at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. It helped both sides as they moved into the pre-quarterfinals.

A lot was expected from these two teams, but the constellation in the group allowed them to sit back rather then being forced to play football. Brazil initially looked the better of the two sides, but there wasn't much of a difference. Still there was a lot of honour in play as seven cards were dished out, some more could have been given and some even red, but overall the referee Benito Armando Archundia Tellez from Mexico had a good game.

Portugal had more of the game after the break and they could have gone ahead on the hour mark as Cristiano Ronaldo played the ball square to Raul Meireles and he lobed the ball over keeper Julio Cesar, but the ball went wide of the ball. And Brazil could have won the match in the 90th minute as a Ramirez shot was deflected of a Portuguese defender, but keeper Eduardo was there to get the ball out of danger.

North Korea 0-3 (0-2) Ivory Coast
Goals: 0-1 Yaya Toure (14'), 0-2 Romaric (20'), 0-3 Salomon Kalou (82').

Ivory Coast beat the North Koreans 3-0 at the Mbombela Stadium in Nespruit. Ivory Coast did win their first game of the tournament but it wasn't enough to move from the group of death, while North Korea didn't look the same team they were against Brazil after their 7-0 trashing against Portugal.

The Ivorians were in control from the start and their midfielder Yaya Toure gave them the lead in the 14th minute. Captain Didier Drogba should have doubled their lead in the 20th minute, but after his miss Romaric is their to slot the ball home. Thereafter Ivory Coast should have taken a three, four goal lead but they wasted too many chances against North Korea.

The Ivorians continued their attacks against the North Koreans after the breather. And they had the chances to score more goals, but only Chelsea star Salomon Kalou was able to add another goal in the 82nd minute for the final score of 3-0 which meant both sides go home after the group stage.

Kamis, 24 Juni 2010

Group E: Netherlands win again, Japan move on

The Netherlands are through, but Japan and Denmark face each other to decide to joins the Oranje's in the knockout stages.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Denmark 1-3 (0-2) Japan
Goals: 0-1 Keisuke Honda (17'), 0-2 Yasuhito Endo (30'), 1-2 Jon Dahl Tomasson (81'), 1-3 Shinji Okazaki (87').

Japan scored a surprise 3-1 win against Denmark at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg to move on from Group E into the pre-quarterfinals.

Denmark had the better start into the game, but the Japanese took the lead in the 17th minute through a Keisuke Honda free kick as the Danish keeper Thomas Soerensen speculated and let the ball in. Again Denmark had the chance to equalise, but Japan doubled the lead through another free kick. This time Yasuhito Endo scored of the dead ball situation in the 30th minute. And Japan took a surprise 2-0 lead into the break.

After the break Endo could have scored Japan's third through another free kick, but Denmark got away and slowly build pressure on the Japanese defence which did withstand the pressure. But Denmark was only able to reduce the margin through Jon Dahl Tomasson's rebound of his own penalty, but Japan sealed the historic win the 87th minute through a goal from substitute Shinji Okazaki off a Honda pass.

Cameroon 1-2 (0-1) Netherlands
Goals: 0-1 Robin van Persie (36'), 1-1 Samuel Eto'o (65'), 1-2 Klaas Jan Huntelaar (84').

The Netherlands kept their 100% record intact with a 2-1 victory against Cameroon at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.

There was nothing really to play for as Netherlands had ensured their passage to the quarterfinals and Cameroon were out of the tournament. So an open and direct game evolved in the first 15 minutes, but thereafter the game lost its speed. The Dutch took the lead in the 36th minute when Rafael van der Vaart played the ball to Robin van Persie, whose shot tunnelled the Cameroon keeper Hamidou Youleymanou.

After the break the Netherlands had more of the ball, but they couldn't double their lead. Around the hour mark Cameroon seemed to get back into the game and in the 65th minute they got a penalty after van der Vaart handled a Geremi free kick. Samuel Eto'o scored it for the Lions. But the Netherlands would win the game with a goal in the 84th minute after an Arjen Robben shot hit the post and striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar was able to score of the rebound.

Group F: Champions Italy out as Paraguay & Slovakia move on

Surprisingly Group F is still open with defending champions Italy potentially facing a shock exit.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Slovakia - (1-0) Italy
Goals: 1-0,2-0 Robert Vittek (24',73'), 2-1 Antonio di Natale (81'), 3-1 Kamil Kopunek (89'), 3-2 Fabio Quagliarella (90+2').

Slovakia caused one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history by beating Italy 3-2 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. And with this defeat Italy finished bottom of their Group F.

The underdogs Slovakia took the initiative from the start, while Italy took a more wait and watch approach. The Slovaks took a deserving lead in the 24th minute through striker Robert Vittek as Juraj Kucka intercepted a Daniele de Rossi pass, played it on to Vittek who put the ball into the net past keeper Feredico Marchetti. And things didn't change before the break as Slovakia had more of the game.

After the break Italy had more of the game as the defending champions increased their efforts and their best chance came in the 67th minute as Martin Skrtel cleared the ball of the line of a Fabio Quagliarella effort. But after a square pass into the box Robert Vittek scored Slovakia's second in the 73rd minute. And in the last 10 minutes plus injury time it would be a clif hanger. First Italy reduced the deficit in the 81st minute through Antonio di Natale, then Italy had a goal disallowed by Fabio Quagliarella due to offside. Italy was pressing for the equaliser, but Slovakia then scored their third goal through an opportunistic Kamil Kopunek a minute from time. If you thought the game was over then one would have missed Fabio Quagliarella's long range effort two minutes into injury time over an advanced keeper Jan Mucha. And then came the long whistle and it was over for Italy while Slovakia was celebrating.

Paraguay 0-0 New Zealand
Goals: none.

Paraguay held underdogs New Zealand to a goalless draw at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane. For Paraguay the draw was enough to finish top of the group, while New Zealand played out their third draw and finished the tournament without a defeat. A great achievement for the Kiwis, who finished ahead of defending champions Italy.

Paraguay was the better of the two sides on display today. And captain Denis Caniza could have won the match for the South Americans in the first session missing numerous chances. After the break New Zealand did have a chance, but it wasn't enough from both sides to end the goal drought.

Mesut Oezil - the new Zidane?

Germany's new midfield sensation Mesut Oezil has been the pick of the German youngsters at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa so far. The 21 year old attacking midfielder is of Turkish descent and was born in Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr valley of western Germany.

And I remember something a good friend of mine told me last winter after a great performance from Oezil for his club SV Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga, Oezil reminds him of the young Zinedine Zidane in his playing days for Girondins de Bordeaux. I then thought a comparison to big for such a young player, but having watched more and more of Oezil over the last few months for his club and country I have to agree more and more.

Surely players shouldn't be compared, even less when they are from different generations but there are things which does remind one of the great Zizou when one sees Oezil play these days. But Oezil is at the start of a career which can go a long way.

The similarities between Oezil and Zidane starts with their background. Both players are from immigrant communities, born and brought up in cities with large immigrant populations and are both also practising Muslims.
Both these players are rather calm and quiet, but can explode on the field. They both are creative players in midfield who can do something special, especially on days when things don't always seem to work for them and their team. The best example is Oezil's brilliant goal against Ghana last night. Oezil tried his best to create chances for his team, look for the open spaces and in the first half should have given his team the lead when he only had the keeper Richard Kingson to beat. He didn't score then, but got his team the win later on at the hour mark.
Zidane went on to become one of the best players of all times, Oezil has a long journey ahead of him in the coming years.
But there is one difference. Zidane was a hot-headed player, while Oezil so far in his career has been known as a cool headed player.

After the World Cup Oezil will have to decide where his future lies. He still has a contract with Werder Bremen, but he has interesting offers from Premier League clubs FC Arsenal, Manchester City and now also FC Chelsea; while clubs in Spain and Italy will also look at him if he is on the market. But maybe it would most make sense if he proves himself another year in the Bundesliga before moving on to bigger clubs with better pay packages.

And with Germany still in the World Cup, one will have to see if Oezil is one of the young stars of the tournament or maybe even more if Germany can reach far in South Africa.

Rabu, 23 Juni 2010

Group D: Germany & Ghana progress, Aussies stun Serbia

Group D awaited an interesting evening with all sides with chances to qualify for the Round of 16.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Ghana 0-1 (0-0) Germany
Goals: 0-1 Mesut Özil (60').

Germany defeated Ghana 1-0 at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg to finish their Group D engagements top of the group, while Ghana also join them in the pre-quarterfinals.

As tight and tactical match was expected and it came that way as both sides knew that a lot was at stake tonight. Germany looked the more organised of the two sides, but Ghana standing deep and their first line of defence attacking the Germans, forced the Europeans to often play the ball around at the back rather then going for the move forward. Germany's best chance of the half came in the 25th minute when Mesut Özil was found free, but he couldn't place the ball past keeper Richard Kingson. Only a minute Ghana had their best chance of the half as following a corner Asamoah Gyan's corner was cleared of the line by captain Philipp Lahm.

After the break Germany continued to control the game, but long pass sessions didn't get the desired results as often the last pass was missing or they were intercepted by Ghana. Ghana now often relied on the long ball and one such ball reached Asamoah Gyan, but his shot was blocked by Manuel Neuer in the German goal in the 51st minute. Then came the 60th minute as Thomas Mueller played the ball to Özil who from 20 metres out shot the ball with his left foot into the goal past the outstretched hands of Kingson. After the lead Germany got more surety into their game, while Ghana had to risk more to ensure that they reach the pre-quarterfinals. Germany were now out to seal the game on counter attacks, but they somehow couldn't finish of their attacks, while Ghana just didn't bother the German goal too much as a defender or midfielder was always there to stop their attacks. In the end Germany won 1-0 still both sides made it to the Round of 16.

Australia 2-1 (0-0) Serbia
Goals: 1-0 Tim Cahill (69'), 2-0 Brett Holman (73'), 2-1 Marko Pantelic (84').

Australia overcame Serbia 2-1 at the Mbombela Stadium in Nespruit, but it wasn't enough to qualify for the knockout stages, while Serbia finished bottom of the group. It was a match of two halves with Serbia having more of the game in the first session, while Australia were the better side after the breather.

Serbia had their first chances through Milos Krasic and Zdravko Kuzmanovic with Australian goalkeeper Marc Schwarzer keeping his side in the game. After the break Australia were part of the game, but Serbia could have once more gone ahead through Nikola Zigic in the 53rd minute. Thereafter the Aussies had their chances and then in the 69th minute Tim Cahill headed in a Luke Wilkshire cross to give them the lead. Only four minutes later Brett Holman shocked Serbia with a long-range effort to give the Aussies a 2-0 lead. Serbia hit back when a Zoran Tosic shot couldn't be collected by Mark Schwarzer and Marko Pantelic was there in the 84th minute to reduce the margin. Serbia tried everything to get the equaliser which would have meant moving on, but Australia held on to their 2-1 lead.

Group C: USA top group, England join them

In Group C still all three teams can make it into the semifinals.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Slovenia 0-1 (0-1) England
Goals: 0-1 Jermaine Defoe (23').

England finally showed in phases what they are capable off as they beat Slovenia 1-0 at the Port Elizabeth Stadium to move into the Round of 16, while Slovenia couldn't play what had taken them to the top of the group in earlier matches.

The first 15 minutes of the match were scrappy, but thereafter England took control of the game and took a deserving lead in the 23rd minute. After a James Milnar cross Jermaine Defoe was there to score beating Slovenian defender Marko Suler and putting the ball past Samit Handanovic. England thereafter had chances to double their lead but it remained 1-0 until the breather.

After the break England stayed in control, but they were too wasteful with their numerous chances. The best one fell for Wayne Rooney in the 58th minute, but Handanovic was able to divert his shot onto the post. But thereafter it became a more open game with Slovenia looking for their options. They had a triple chance in the 68th minute, but Milivoje Novakovic, Zlatko Dedic and Valter Birsa couldn't put the ball into the England net. Thereafter both sides looked nervous and the match became scrappy again. The Slovenians could have equalised a minute from time through Zlatko Dedic, but the English defence denied him and kept England in the tournament.

USA 1-0 (0-0) Algeria
Goals: 1-0 Landon Donovan (90+1').

The USA needed an injury time goal to beat Algeria 1-0 at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria and now go into the pre-quarterfinals as top of Group C.

Both sides had chances to make it to the pre-quarterfinals, but Algeria needed a win to keep their slim chances alive and the Africans made a quick start with striker Rafik Djebbour hitting the crossbar in the 6th minute. The USA thereafter slowly got into the game and had their first chance through Herculez Gomez and then went on to score through Clint Dempsey, but the referee Frank de Bleeckere called an offside which wasn't one. Another denied goal for the USA. Thereafter both sides had their chances, but it ended goalless after 45 minutes.

After the break the match lost pace, but the USA could have gone ahead in the 57th minute when Clint Dempsey put the ball onto the post twice. Algeria was tiring but the USA seemed unable to use this to their advantage. The match seemed to be heading for a goalless draw when the USA scored the crucial winner which kept their World Cup campaign alive. In the first minute of injury time seasoned Landon Donovan was there to pound on the lose ball in the area with Algeria keeper Rais M'Bohli beaten.

Selasa, 22 Juni 2010

Group B: Argentina top, South Korea move on

Argentina are somewhat through from Group B, but who would join them in the knockout stages, will it be South Korea, Greece or can Nigeria spring a surprise.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Nigeria 2-2 (1-1) South Korea
Goals: 1:0 Kalu Uche (12'), 1-1 Jung-Soo Lee (38'), 1-2 Chu-Young Park (49'), 2-2 Yakubu Ayegbeni (69', penalty).

In a thrilling game at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban South Korea and Nigeria played out a two-all draw which resulted in the Asians moving on into the knockout stage as Greece was beaten in the other match.

But until the end anything was possible in an open game. After some exchanges Nigeria took the lead through a Kalu Uche goal in the 12th minute. Nigeria could have doubled their lead in the 36th minute when Uche's shot hit the post, but only two minutes later South Korea equalised. Once more defender Jung-Soo Lee scored of a free kick to give the Koreans a deserving draw at half time.

After the break South Korea took the lead through another dead ball situation. Chu-Young Park's free kick in the 49th minute beat the wall and surprised keeper Vincent Enyemea who had moved a step into the middle. Nigeria seemed shocked after losing their lead, but came back strong towards the end of the game. First Yakubu Ayegbeni missed a chance to score into an empty net, but he made amends a few minutes later by scoring of a penalty. Towards the end it was an even more open game with both sides looking for the winner. Nigeria had the best chance through Obafemi Martins, but the striker put the ball wide. In the end the South Koreans would celebrate their second place in the group, which earns them a pre-quarterfinal match against Uruguay.

Greece 0-2 (0-0) Argentina
Goals: 0-1 Martin Demichelis (77'), 0-2 Martin Palermo (89').

Argentina ended their Group B campaign with a 2-0 win against Greece at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane. It meant Argentina have won all their three group matches, while the Greeks travel home.

Argentina coach Diego Armando Maradona left out some of his regular first eleven players to give some of the bench players playing time ahead of likelier tougher assignments in the knockout stages. Greece meanwhile new that they had to better South Korea's result to have any chance of moving on, but their defensive tactics wouldn't help in their quest.

Argentina were in control from the start with Greece having the odd chance in-between. The Greeks were able to hold the Argentinians to a goalless draw until the 77th minute when defender Martin Demichelis on his second attempt blasted the ball in. Greece was beaten and substitute Martin Palermo would be there to double the score a minute from time after Lionel Messi's attempt it blocked by the Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas.

Group A: Uruguay top group, South Africa & France out

Its decision time. Will Uruguay & Mexico go through or do South Africa and France still have a chance.

(matches to kick off simultaneously)

Mexico 0-1 (0-1) Uruguay
Goals: 0-1 Hugo Suarez (43').

Former world champions Uruguay beat Mexico 1-0 to finish top of Group A. There had been fears that the match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg could end in a tame draw as it would mean both sides would move on, but that wasn't going to happen. Especially with Uruguay continuing where they had left off against South Africa. The South Americans scored the golden goal in the 43th minute through a Hugo Suarez header.

After the break Uruguay could have doubled the lead, but it stayed the same way and Mexico also had chances to equalise knowing that South Africa was closing in on them on goal difference. But in the end it didn't matter as the match ended 1-0 for Uruguay.

France 1-2 (0-2) South Africa

Hosts South Africa beat a disjointed France 2-1, but it just wasn't enough to qualify for the knockout stages. As the first ever hosts South Africa did not make it to the next round. But at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein the hosts played a heartening game against a French side which was happy once the match and the tournament was over. France might have been better off not qualifying for the World Cup the way they did against Ireland.

It initially was an open game but no real chances. Then the hosts went ahead in the 20th minute through a Bongani Khumalo header after French keeper Hugo Lloris couldn't get to the ball off a corner. France were reduced to ten men when Yoann Gourcuff was send off in the 26th minute for clashing in the air with MacBeth Sibaya having rammed his elbow into the South African player. Surprisingly referee Oscar Julian Ruiz Acosta from Columbia showed the Bordeaux player the red card and once more the game was over for one of the teams. France thereafter just didn't show the spirit needed to fight back as South Africa doubled the lead in the 37th minute through Katlego Mphela.

With Uruguay going ahead against Mexico, South Africa came out of the break with some hope that they could pull it off. But Mphela would be the main culprit as South Africa couldn't score any more goals though the chances were there. France where actually able to reduce the deficit in the 70th minute through a Florent Malouda goal off a square pass from Franck Ribery. This goal ended all hopes of South Africa sneaking into the pre-quarterfinals.

IMG-Reliance take over Indian Basketball, lessons for Football

I am not an expert on basketball, still what I read yesterday was not only a good news for basketball but for Indian sports in general. And it could be something for Indian football to follow.

The Indian Basketball Federation and IMG-Reliance yesterday announced a long term partnership to develop the game of basketball from the grassroots up to the professional level. The contract has a duration of 30 years. An unbelievable contract length, but it gives the surety to both the federation and the sports management company that they are here in this together for the long-term to develop the sports.

India isn't know as a giant in basketball, but these two partners together want to take the sport forward on the subcontinent. India should become a force to reckon with in Asian basketball over the next decade and maybe by then an Indian player will be playing the North American NBA like Chinese Yao Ming, who has given the game a massive boost in China.

As per the deal IMG-Reliance will assist the BFI on financial, promotional and technical aspects. As part of the agreement, the BFI has granted IMG-Reliance commercial rights relating to basketball in India - sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, film, video and data, intellectual property, franchising and new league rights.

At the top level the big project is the creation of the Indian Pro Basketball League where India's top players will be seen in action alongside international players. It will be modelled on the successful Chinese Basketball League. And a key component currently missing is necessary infrastructure. So the focus will be to develop world class infrastructure in India including the construction of new arenas and training facilities.

At the grassroot level IMG-Reliance will help the BFI to develop school and college leagues and competitions across the country to develop young talent who can go on to represent the country.
The above all sounds very promising and comes on the back of the Mahindra Group tying up with the NBA to develop the Mahindra NBA Challenge, a community programme.

This all comes after earlier this year IMG Worldwide and Reliance Industries announced a partnership to form a jointly sports management company called IMG-Reliance into which IMG would bring their decades of experience in sports management while Reliance would look into the infrastructure and funding side of things.

The signs for basketball in India look really promising, but will it be able to challenge a sport like football which is in India No. 2 behind cricket. One will have to wait and see. But the deal is something which the AIFF needs to look at and look for a similar partner as the aim of the two sporting bodies are similar, but only a private partner with the experience and funding can make it possible.
Maybe IMG-Reliance will look to develop football in India like it is doing with basketball...

Senin, 21 Juni 2010

2010 World Cup: Referees

It was a topic which I didn't want to touch as being a referee is the toughest job in football. And a job which does not get the credit it deserves, then a football match without a referee is just not possible. But what has now been happening for days at the 2010 FIFA World Cup is a disgrace for football.

It seems not the quality of a team or their own efforts will decide who will win the title at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but decisions rightly or wrongly taken by the men in the middle with the whistle. And some seem to want to take this international stage to show and highlight themselves. As if referee's can leave their own country and get transferred like players.

I would always say a good referee is a referee who doesn't interfere with the match, allows the game to take its own path and intervenes only whenever necessary. We have seen such performances in the World Cup, but often you have referee's who blow the whistle too early and start handing out cards before the game has really started. And we are not only taking about referee's from smaller footballing nations, but also those from Europe who regularly officiate in top level competitions.

Some countries have been lucky with decisions, while others face elimination because of mistakes which destroyed their game.
Ask the USA who had a genuine goal against Slovenia disallowed or Germany and Switzerland who lost players due to cards which could have stayed in the referee's pocket. And then there are the others who benefited from the referee's decisions. I loved New Zealand's performance on Sunday, but Shane Smeltz's goal was offside. In that game I found even worse the decision for Italy's penalty that Danielle de Rossi got. A paper in New Zealand asked if de Rossi had been shot the way he went down.

Then there are teams like Argentina, Brazil and Chile; who are being praised for their performances but no one questions them as crucial goals shouldn't have been given. Argentina's second and third goals against South Korea were both offside. Would the game have ended 4-1 without these goals or could have South Korea gotten a better result.

The worst offence so far is Luis Fabiano's second goal against Ivory Coast. The Brazilian clearly touched the ball twice with his hand, his movement is such that it can only be interpreted as intentional and French referee Stéphane Lannoy afterwards asks him if it was handball and Fabiano says no. Once a referee has the guts to ask a player for his honest opinion as he didn't clearly see a situation and the player fails. So will referee's ask again, I doubt it as they will question the players honesty.
But Stéphane Lannoy didn't have the game under his control as he from the start didn't stop the play acting by the Brazilians, which in the end led to Ivory Coast losing their heads and going for harsh tackles. I don't know what they there thinking, but maybe they thought as the Brazilians would lie on the ground anyway lets have a go at them. Not a good approach at all, but this is provoked by wrong decisions and things not going their way. The Kaka sending off was right, but it should have happened in the earlier instance and a straight red card was the only decision. The referee looked to lenient as it was a star. Here you see how a referee with his line can destroy a good match of football.

Even Chile's goal yesterday against Switzerland was offside. So the Swiss were beaten by the referee more then the Chileans, then both key decisions went against them. Was it necessary for Arturo Vidal to go down like this? Chile deserved to win, but would the match have gone the same way if Switzerland had played with eleven men. A question which Germany also asked itself, though they had chances to equalise in their match against Serbia.

And then Cristiano Ronaldo against Ivory Coast. In the instance he was fouled he receives a yellow card as he clashed with Guy Demel, a clear mistake by the referee but on other occasions he dives to gain advantage. And if the referee had seen these actions properly then Ronaldo wouldn't have ended the game on the pitch. And Ronaldo being the star that he is others seem to want to copy him, the positives and the negatives.

One of the questions that world football governing body FIFA has to answer is why not the best referee's from around the world are in South Africa, but only one referee by nation and divided by a coefficient per confederation. Surely also refereeing should be spread around the world, but at the World Cup only the best should officiate and if there are three, four good referee's from a nation they then should be there..
And what makes things even worse is that FIFA are saying that they are happy with the performances of their referee's. No real mistakes committed. Have I been watching different matches???

This all above also shows that football is big business these days, honesty is something unwanted as long as you are successful and keep on winning. Dangerous signs and terrible role models other follow.

Group H: Chile go top, Spain return to winning ways

Group H after the opening day shock is wide open and there are chances for all sides.

(to be updated after the second game)

Chile 1-0 (0-0) Switzerland
Goals: 1-0 Mark Gonzalez (75').

Chile overcame ten men Switzerland with a lone goal victory at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. And once more there was a questionable expulsion had its influence on the game.

Both sides in the first half played like sides who knew that a win today could be a big step towards a pre-quarterfinal place, but it didn't result in good football as it meant loads of midfield action and numerous fouls which didn't allow the game to gain any pace. And in the 31st minute Switzerland's Valon Behrami was send off by referee Khalil Ibrahim Al-Ghamdi from Saudi Arabia for hitting out at Chile's Arturo Vidal, who goes down as if he had been terribly hit. One of numerous cards the referee handed out without need. But Chile couldn't utilise their one man more in the first session as it ended goalless.

After the break Chile upped their tempo and it would cause problems for the Swiss. Chile scored in the 49th minute through Alexis Sanchez, but he was offside and the goal was disallowed. A few minutes later Sanchez should have given Chile the lead, but Diego Benaglio and Steve von Bergen deny them the lead once more. But Chile score the winner in the 75th minute as Estaban Paredas send the ball across to Mark Gonzalez who headed home the ball, but it was earlier offside so the goal should have never been given. Chile thereafter could have sealed their win, but they couldn't seal the match and Switzerland nearly got the equaliser at the end, but substitute Eren Derdiyok's shot went just wide of the goal.

Spain 2-0 (1-0) Honduras
Goals: 1-0,2-0 David Villa (17',51').

Spain returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win against a weak Honduras at the Ellis Park in Johannesburg. David Villa was hero and villain in one as he scored both the goals, missed a penalty and hit out at an Honduran defender which should have resulted in a red card.

Spain control the game from the beginning, but after the loss against Switzerland the team looks nervous and isn't able to play its free flowing football. Honduras is ultra-defensive and are never in the situation that they could bother the Spanish defence, while Spain test the Honduran goal before David Villa scores in the 17th minute with a beauty of a goal. Villa himself moves with the ball into the centre from the left and lets fly a shot which Honduran keeper Noel Valladares can get his finger tips to, but the ball flies into the goal. Spain thereafter could double the lead but Xavi and especially Fernando Torres can't score of their chances. Then David Villa is lucky not to be send off. The Valencia striker before a corner has his hand in the face of a Honduran defender, who goes down but the incidence is not seen by the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura.

Things don't really change after the break though Honduras are more attacking minded after their substitutions, but this gives more space for Spain who double their lead once more through David Villa in the 51st minute. In the 62nd minute Emilio Izaguirre brought down Jesus Navas, but David Villa puts the ball wide from the resultant penalty. Thereafter Spain were to playful, trying to play the ball into the goal, but this would not happen tonight. Maybe this will haunt the Spaniards as they could have demolished Honduras and strengthened their case with a better goal difference to move on from their group.

Minggu, 20 Juni 2010

Group G: Brazil win, Portugal trash North Korea

The Group of Death enters a decisive phase

(to be updated after the second game)

Brazil 3-1 (1-0) Ivory Coast
Goals: 1-0,2-0 Luis Fabiano (25',50'), 3-0 Elano (62'), 3-1 Didier Drogba (79').

Brazil overcame Ivory Coast 3-1 in a hard fought match at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. And once more the referee had a role to play in a teams victory.

Initially the match was confined to the midfield with both defences not giving the strikers any space. The Ivorians had initially more of the ball, but they couldn't do anything worthwhile with it. And suddenly in the 25th minute Brazil took the lead. Kaka and Luis Fabiano combined nicely with Fabiano taking a strong shot on target which goes in past keeper Boubacar Barry. But the Ivorians weren't shocked as they tried to get the equaliser, but they had to few attempts only through Aruna Dindane and then Emmanuel Eboué.

After the break Brazil doubled their lead through another goal from Luis Fabiano in the 50th minute. And this has to be the highlight of referee mistakes in this World Cup. Fabiano twice on the way to score the goal handles the ball, but referee Stéphane Lannoy from France is unsure so he goes on to ask the Brazilian, who lies to the referee showing him he chested the ball. An unforgivable blunder by the referee and even Fabiano should be penalised for lying. But Ivory Coast was not yet beaten. Only three minutes later Dindane's cross was headed goalwards by an unmarked Drogba, but it misses the target by a whisker. But then Brazil seal the game in the 62nd minute with their third goal. Kaka nicely builds-up on the left and squares the ball with Elano there in the box to push the ball in. The Ivorians thereafter looked beaten, but the Brazilians didn't keep the tempo high and the match returned to its sluggishness. Then Drogba finally reduced the deficit in the 79th minute through a header from a Yaya Toura cross as he once more was left free in the danger zone. The match late on became rough, especially as the Ivorians complained with the referee that the Brazilians were play acting and provoking the referee to call fouls where there were none. This resulted in Kaka twice overreacting and on both occasions he deserved a red card, but was lucky as the referee on both occasions only showed him yellow cards and he will only miss a match. In the second instance the situation got out of hand as many players got involved, but the referee only carded the instigator. Once more Brazil didn't convince but got away with it as Ivory Coast were too harmless.

Portugal 7-0 (1-0) North Korea
Goals: 1-0 Raul Meireles (29'), 2-0 Simao (53'), 3-0 Hugo Almeida (56'), 4-0,7-0 Tiago (60',89'), 5-0 Liedson (81'), 6-0 Cristiano Ronaldo (87').

Portugal demolished North Korea 7-0 in a demonstration of attacking football in the second session at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. The Asian once more had a strong first session, but then fell apart after the break. North Korea once more showed promise, but they just aren't on the level of the three other sides in their group.

The first session saw an open game as the North Koreans were not willing to give in to their more famed rivals and wanted to keep their chances open to progress from the group. Portugal initially looked startled by this fact though it left them with space which they initially could utilise. Chances on both sides, but no goals at the start, but as the match progressed the higher class of Portugal came through as Raul Meireles gave the Europeans the lead in the 29th minute.

And after the break Portugal in a seven minute blitz would seal the match as North Korea just fell apart. Three goals from Simao (53'), Hugo Almeida (56') and Tiago (60') where enough to seal the win against the Koreans who had no answer to what hit them. And thereafter the risk was it would be a one-sided affair, more goals scored and it did come that way. In the last ten minutes Liedson (81'), Cristiano Ronaldo (87') and Tiago (89') would finish off the 7-0 trashing of the East Asians.

2010 World Cup: France in tatters

If you thought things couldn't get any worse for the Equipe Tricolore at the 2010 FIFA World Cup after their opening draw against Uruguay and the loss to Mexico then you were wrong. Last time around in Germany France reached the finals and only lost the title in a penalty shootout against Italy. This time they are very far away from it. And now the World Cup has its first real scandal and as a result of it FC Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has been send home by the French Football Federation.

What has happened? According to French paper L'Equipe Anelka had said to coach Raymond Domenech at half time of the match against Mexico, "go f*** yourself, you dirty son of a whore."
Now sometimes in the heat of the action things are said which shouldn't be said or which people would not say otherwise. The next day Domenech actually offered Anelka the chance to say sorry, but the striker declined.
The whole issue was an internal matter of the French national team, but the abuse and the exact wording appeared in L'Equipe the next morning, and suddenly the whole issue was out in the open. A quick and tough decision by the FFF was needed as it otherwise would have send a wrong signal to the team.

Yesterday the French FF had to call an official press conference in South Africa to announce the departure of Anelka with FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes and captain Patrice Evra addressing the media. A big embarrassment for the French as even president Nicolas Sarkozy said that this was not acceptable. A person of authority could not be verbally abused in such a way.

At the press conference captain Patrice Evra said, "The problem of France is not Anelka, but the traitor among us. We must eliminate the traitor from the group, because he wants to hurt the team. There is no little mouse in the locker room, this comes from someone who is on the team and wants to hurt the team."

And this actually means the French have an even bigger problem. France just about made it to South Africa due to the controversial Thierry Henry handball against Ireland. And the team isn't a team with many players looking only after their own interests. The coach Raymond Domenech is gone after the World Cup and he is one of the most hated men in France, but the FFF over the last few years always renewed his contract though unpopular amongst his team and in public.

If you look at the French squad you will read names of top players who play for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but when they come together for France they just do not work together as a team. And that has also been heavily criticised by the great Zinedine Zidane.

France now face hosts South Africa in their last match and they would hope to finish the tournament on a positive note after all these negative events. And who nows, wonders are possible in football if France beat South Africa and in the other game Uruguay or Mexico score a win.

Group F: Strong Paraguay win, Kiwis hold Italy

Group F is wide open as both opening matches had ended one-all.

(to be updated after the second game)

Slovakia 0-2 (0-1) Paraguay
Goals: 0-1 Enrique Vera (27'), 0-2 Cistian Riveros (86').

Paraguay have strengthened their case for a pre-quarterfinal place with a 2-0 win against Slovakia at the Free State Stadium in in Bloemfontein. And it was deserving win for the Paraguayans.

The South Americans were the better of the two sides in the first forty-five minutes, but they were wasteful with their good chances. The Slovaks had no real chance in the first session as they were often running after their Paraguayan opponents. Paraguay took a deserving lead in the 27th minute and it was a quality goal. Paraguay build-up on the left, the ball comes to Lucas Barrios who plays a through ball into the middle, tunnelling a Slovak defender and Enrique Vera is there to score with the outside of his boot past the Slovak keeper Jan Mucha into the net. Roque Santa Cruz could have doubled the lead in the 39th minute but his shot is blocked by keeper Mucha.

After the break it was a more open game, but still Slovakia could not finish off their build-ups which were often stopped or blocked by Paraguay, who were not pushing to hard for a second goal. The Slovaks are unable to create any chances as Paraguay pick-up again late in the game. In the 73rd minute Santa Cruz on the left plays the ball cleverly back to Vera, whose header just goes wide with the Slovak keeper Mucha beaten. In the end Paraguay doubled their lead in the 86th minute when Cristian Riveros scored with a nice placed shot inside the box.

Italy - (1-1) New Zealand
Goals: 0-1 Shane Smeltz (7'), 1-1 Vincenzo Iaquinta (29', penalty).

The world champions Italy were held to a surprise one-all draw by minnows New Zealand at the Mbombela Stadium in Nespruit. Italy had more from the match, but the fighting Kiwis got a deserving draw.

The Kiwis took a shock 7th minute lead when striker Shane Smeltz scored off a free kick from Simon Elliott. Fabio Cannavaro tried to clear to ball, but it goes to Smeltz, who just puts the ball in past Federico Marchetti into the Italian goal. Thereafter it was mainly one way traffic towards the New Zealand goal, but the Italians once more played unimaginative football, having their chances but rather not being able to build on the pressure. Then in the 28th minute Ricardo Montolivo takes a shot on goal wish swerves onto the post with the keeper beaten. Only a minute later Tommy Smith grabs hold of Daniele de Rossi in the box and the referee Carlos Alberto Batres Gonzalez from Guatemala shows to the dreaded spot. Vincenzo Iaquinta takes the penalty and shots it to the right with the keeper going the other way. The favourites equalise.

After the break Italy come back with two substitutions Mauro Camoranesi and Antonio di Natale coming on to bring new life into the Italian attack. It remains mainly one way traffic, but the Italians find it difficult to break the Kiwi defence. And then suddenly New Zealand with a chance as Ivan Vicelich's effort from around 20 metres out just misses the goal. On the other side Ricardo Montolivo's shot is saved brilliantly by Mark Paston in the 71st minute. And once more a good chance for the Kiwis as teenager Chris Wood takes a shot on goal, but it just goes wide. That could have sealed one of the biggest upsets in a World Cup. On the other side just a minute from time Camoramesi takes a shot on goal, which Paston clears for a corner. In the end it stayed one-all and a historic draw for the Kiwis.

2010 World Cup: Lessons for India

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is now over a week old and there are numerous lessons for the Indian national football team ahead of their tough assignments in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup next January. India will be facing Australia, South Korea and Bahrain in Group B, which is the Asian Cup's group of death.

Two of these sides - South Korea and Australia - are currently playing in the World Cup and they are in a somewhat similar situation to that which India will face in the Asian Cup, only they are in our shoes on the global stage. And this is an interesting fact which our boys need to keep in mind.

The biggest of all lessons is there are no big or small teams any more. With the right tactics, proper attitude and discipline even smaller football nations can cause problems for some of the biggest in the business. Take e.g. North Korea. Would anyone have seriously considered the East Asians to cause any problems to the mighty Brazilians? With a little bit of luck they could have earned a point against Brazil, another upset like their 1-0 win against Italy in 1966.

And what level of football does North Korea play? Not much better then India I would say, surely they have improved a lot over the last few years, but the same can be said about India but it is not tested on the bigger stage as like North Korea we are lacking the big tournament experience. But as said right tactics, proper attitude and discipline can make up for a lot of that. One should not go into a match or tournament thinking how can I avoid heavy defeats, then doing so is the first defeat. A positive mindset is crucial and that is one of the biggest strengths of our coach Bob Houghton. Know your limitations and still play with them to the best of your abilities.

Another key point is picking the right opponents for international friendly games. You need to play sides who are similar to those one faces in a tournament. So who should we play who are similar to Australia, South Korea and Bahrain? My suggestion after watching the World Cup would be to play New Zealand and North Korea, who are very similar to the Aussies and the South Koreans; while also playing Gulf nations like the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, who play a similar football to Bahrain. We might lose the one or the other game, but this will be crucial experience our boys need to gain ahead of the Asian Cup. They would get a feel about what competition awaits them in Qatar.

Tactically the World Cup has also thrown out a new system which many sides seem to prefer. The 4-2-3-1 system with only one striker seems to be the new system of the future as the days of out and out strikers seem to be numbered.
India and Bob Houghton have over the last few years have preferred a simple 4-4-2 system and he is likely to stick with it, but maybe if Bob is thinking about a more controlled system then this could be answer for him. But to play this system he needs the right players.

Sabtu, 19 Juni 2010

World Cup 2010: Goalkeeping blunders

One of the things that the 2010 FIFA World Cup will sadly be remembered for will be the goalkeeping blunders and mistakes across the board. Some keepers have not made it to the list but remain potential candidates as the tournament progresses and some are a threat to their own teams. One never knows.

Here a list of the blunders so far

Robert Green (England) - The keeper from West Ham United committed the biggest blunder of the tournament so far. The tragedy was that Green tried to collect the ball from a weak long range effort from Clint Dempsey of the USA, but he allowed the ball to cross the line. And then Green was further humiliated by his coach Fabio Capello as he changed his keeper bringing back David James for the second game against Algeria.

Fawzi Chaouchi (Algeria) - The Algerian keeper Fawzi Chaouchi, who plays at home for ES Setif, allowed a weak shot from Slovenian captain Robert Koren to drop infront of him and then the ball move past him into the goal which sealed Slovenia's win. Chaouchi was dropped by his coach for Rais M'Bohli, who had a great game against England.

Justo Villar (Paraguay) - Justo Villar, who plays for Spanish second Division outfit Real Valladolid, had a good game against Italy, but one mistake would gift the defending champions a goal for a draw. After a corner Villar ran through under Pepe's corner with Daniele de Rossi putting the ball in from close range.

Myong-Guk Ri (North Korea) - The keeper from North Korea made a solid performance against Brazil, but was once caught off guard. In the 52nd minute Maicon overlapped and took an attempt which went into the goal between the keeper and post as the keeper had moved into a more central position expecting a cross. A small, but decisive mistake.

Alexandros Tsorvas (Greece) - The Panathinaikos Athens keeper misjudged a free kick from Nigerian midfielder Kalu Uche expecting one of the players inside the box to make contact and saw the ball fly past him into his own goal.

Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria) - Enyeama had a solid performance against Argentina and Greece, but one mistake allowed Greece to win the game. The keeper who plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel could only block a Alexandros Tziolis shot and Vassilis Torosidis is there to score of the rebound. After the game Enyeama was seen crying, not willing to accept his own mistake with team mates trying to console him.

Eiji Kawashima (Japan) - The Kawasaki Frontale keeper gifted the Netherlands their win against the Samurai Warriors. In the 53rd minute of the match Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder took a shot goalwards and Kawashima is flying to parry the shot, but he deflects the ball into his own net. The goalkeepers action looks weird and it seems like the ball swerves in such a way that it surprises the Japanese keeper.

Richard Kingston (Ghana) - The Ghanian keeper who was this season keeper number three or four at Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League was not able to hold on to a free kick of Australian midfielder Marco Bresciano allowing the ball to fall for Brett Holman and he hits it past the keeper. Thereafter Kingston would make an exceptional save to deny Australia victory.

2010 World Cup: Indicast Podcast

Earlier today I was part of the Indicast Podcast's Sportsbench special on the ongoing 2010 FIFA World Cup. Under the moderation of Vikram Nanivadekar, Jan Roskott and myself discussed the first week of football at the ongoing football World Cup.

It is titled "Fifa World Cup 2010 Week 1 - Vuvuzela & Jabulani" and it surely will make interesting hearing for you all. A nice discussion about what we all have seen over the last week in South Africa. The highs and lows...

Listen Online (64 kbps) : ~ 27 mins

Here the direct link to the Indicast Podcast page: Sportsbench Podcast

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Group E: Dutch win once more; the Danes are back

In Group E the winners and losers face each other.

(to be updated after the second game)

Netherlands 1-0 (0-0) Japan
Goals: 1-0 Wesley Sneijder (53').

The Netherlands overcame Japan with a lone goal win at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban to record their second win in their Group E to nearly ensure their progress from the group.

The Netherlands started fresh into their game with a free kick chance to Wesley Sneijder in the 9th minute and a Dirk Kuyt bicycle kick a minute later. But that was it for the Oranjes who thereafter found it hard to penetrate the Japanese defence. The Dutch had over 70% of ball possession, but still Japan did have their moments where they combined nicely and the trio upfront of Honda, Matsui and Okobu caused some problems for the Dutch defence though their finishing was weak.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk seemed to have found the right words at half time as the Oranjes were much more active at the beginning of the second half. The Dutch would take the lead in the 53rd minute when a Wesley Sneijder shot could not be cleared by Eiji Kawashima in the Japan goal, he actually allowed the ball to go in. The Dutch now pulled back and allowed the Asians to combine, but their finishing let them down as only one real chance really threatened the Dutch. Towards the end Japan opened their defence to get the elusive equaliser, which gave the Oranjes the chance to enhance their lead through counter attacks, but their finishing wasn't to the mark either.

Cameroon 1-1 (1-2) Denmark
Goals: 1-0 Samuel Eto'o (10'), 1-1 Nicklas Bendtner (33'), 1-2 Dennis Rommedahl (61').

Denmark beat Cameroon 2-1 in a thrilling game at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria which could have ended with four, five goals on both sides. With the win Denmark kept their chances to move on alive, while Cameroon are out of the tournament.

Cameroon's coach Paul le Guen made some changes to his starting eleven after criticism of using too many young players in the first game. The French coach brought on some of the more experienced players and it seemed to work for the Lions as they put pressure on Denmark initially who seemed to be not on the pitch. And then Christian Poulsen played a square pass to Cameroon's Webo under no pressure and he finds his captain Samuel Eto'o and the Inter Milan striker makes no mistake to put Cameroon ahead in the 11th minute. Cameroon push for a second goal, but the longer the match lasts the more Denmark fight their way back into the game. And in the 33rd minute Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner finishes a great Danish move. It starts with a 50 metre long diagonal cross from Simon Kaejr which Dennis Rommedahl takes forward and he plays a square pass into the middle which Bendtner pushes in. Thereafter it is an open game with chances on both sides. First Tomasson for Denmark, then Eto'o and Emana for Cameroon could have given their sides a 2-1 half time lead.

Cameroon again have the better start into the half but Denmark was more alert now though both sides still committed too many defensive mistakes enabling the other side to have chances. In the 61st minute first Cameroon miss a golden opportunity, while Denmark score of the counter attack. A strong Dennis Rommedahl beats Makoun and places the ball into the Cameroon net past Souleymanou. Thereafter the open game continued as Cameroon were on the lookout for the equaliser to stay in the tournament, while Denmark had chances to seal the game. But chances on both sides were wasted as the game ended 2-1 for Denmark, who now have a final against Japan as the Danes would have to win to move on.

Jumat, 18 Juni 2010

2010 World Cup: Footw(e)ar

Have you been watching what colour boots the players have been wearing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup? Have you seen the brand of their boots? If not do try it the next time you are watching a match from South Africa or footage from the tournament. Then a footwear war is on in South Africa, a massive marketing campaign between the biggest sporting brands in the world - Nike vs Adidas and to some extent Puma.

Footwear war

The days of black football boots are long gone and nowadays you will see most players in boots in all possible colours which often does not match with the rest of their kit. The players ensure their hair is set, often with gel but their boots don't match the rest. Not a good fashion statement. I find that terrible, but who am I to say so...

The trend has been over the last few years that boots would be individual like football players themselves. But at this World Cup the trend has been turned upside down by one company. If you have noticed the boots of the players, you will most likely have seen that many players are wearing the same set of boots in a colour combination of violet and orange. This is the latest football boot from Nike and they seem to have won the footwear war so far as numerous players in every team seem to wearing this pair of boots, in some smaller teams nearly all player are doing so. Adidas has their own boots which are available in black/yellow and white/black, but they are not seen too often plus such a colour combination doesn't remain in the minds of potential consumers.

It seems the number one sports brand Nike has beaten their traditional rivals from Germany. While Adidas is the official FIFA partner, so the tournament is played in a Adidas ball and Adidas branding is seen around the stadium, the American sports giants are using the boots rather then the jersey's to get their promotion going. Somewhat of a new concept, but it seems to be working...

How the boot business started

For this we have to go back a little in history. At the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland a certain Adi Dassler created studs for football boots with which the German football team would go on to win their first ever World Cup title against the invincible Hungary. It was early days for Adidas, but Nike wasn't around in those days.

This Adolf 'Adi' Dassler was the man who had created Adidas in 1924 under the name of Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) along with his brother Rudolf 'Rudi' Dassler. The brothers drifted away over the years and Rudolf Dassler went on to form his own company called Ruda which was later renamed to Puma, another big global player these day's. And both these global sportswear giants have their headquarters in the small German village town of Herzogenaurach, close to Nuremberg.

Group C: Entertaining draw, England disappoint

Group C looks wide open with chances for all sides.

(to be updated after the second game)

Slovenia 2-2 (2-0) USA
Goals: 1-0 Valter Birsa (13'), 2-0 Zlatan Ljubijankic (42'), 2-1 Landon Donovan (48'), 2-2 Michael Bradley (82').

Slovenia held the USA to an entertaining two-all draw at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The first half belonged to the Slovenians, while the second session was most of the time USA.

Slovenia started off where they left off against Algeria and shocked the USA when a beautiful Valter Birsa left footer went into the USA goal with keeper Tim Howard not able to react. The team from the Balkans continued to control the match and doubled their lead in the 42nd minute when Milivoje Novakovic found his strike partner Zlatan Ljubijankic, who placed the ball past Tim Howard. It looked like the Slovenians were on their way to the knockout stages. After going two goals down the Americans finally woke-up and started to pressure the Slovenian goal before the break, but they didn't get the desired result.

After the breather the USA continued to push forward and Landon Donovan reduced the deficit in the 48th minute when he got past Bostjan Cesar and hammered the ball past keeper Samir Handanovic into the Slovenian goal in the 48th minute. Thereafter it was end to end football as the USA were looking for the equaliser, while Slovenia were looking to seal the match. The USA increased the pressure towards the end of the game and get a deserving equaliser in the 82nd minute when Michael Bradley scored past Handanovic off a Josie Altidore pass. And then came the climax in the 85th minute. The USA score a goal through Maurice Edu, but referee Koman Coulibaly from Mali calls a foul on a Slovenian defender. But there wasn't any foul anywhere near the ball, the USA are denied a genuine comeback win. On The other side Slovenia have two late chances through Novakovic and Radosavljevic, but it remains two-all.

England 0-0 Algeria
Goals: none.

England were held to a goalless draw by a fighting Algeria at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. The big topic before this game where the goalkeepers as both the English and Algerian keepers had gifted goals to opponents due to blunders. And both coaches decided to change their keepers, which we now know was a wise decision.

England were nowhere their best in the first half against Algeria. And the North African surprised the English with their free flowing and attacking game. Algeria weren't as defensive and scarred as they looked the other day against Slovenia. And England seemed to have no real self-belief in their capabilities.

Algeria were the better side for the first half hour, but they didn't really threaten the England goal, while the Three Lions had their first real chance in the 30th minute through a Steven Gerrard shot which the Algerian keeper Rais MBohli cleared like a chance from Frank Lampard a few minutes later.

Things didn't change after the break as Algeria kept on fighting and clearing often before England could get a chance goalwards, while England often continued to lose the ball in their build-ups. Surprisingly Wayne Rooney was the biggest culprit often giving the ball away against Algerians who were alert in their defensive game. But after the 70th minute England had more of the game as Algeria seemed to be tiring still they didn't create chances which could have won them the match.

Group D: Serbia shock Germany, Aussies hold Ghana

Group D enters an interesting stage

(to be updated after the second game)

Germany 0-1 (0-1) Serbia
Goals: 0-1 Milan Jovanovic (38').

Serbia shocked Germany with a 1-0 win at the Port Elizabeth Stadium to bring the Germans back crashing down to earth. Germany played for over 50 minutes with ten men as striker Miroslav Klose given marching orders early and just thereafter Jovanovic scored the winner for the Serbs.

The Germans had expected that this match would be much tougher then their opening game against Australia. And it came that way as the Serbs tried to block all German efforts to move forward blocking all potential open space. But Germany had their first chance through Lukas Podolski whose shot went wide today unlike in the opening game where he had scored from a similar chance, while the Serbs had their first chance through a Ninkovic volley in the 11th minute. Thereafter it was mainly midfield action, a number of yellow cards on both sides and it looked evident that this match couldn't finish with 22 players at the rate the referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco was pulling out cards. After the half hour mark the match gained some pace, but Germany would be down to ten men when Klose received his second yellow card for a foul from behind in the middle, a card which would need not be shown. And a disaster often doesn't come alone, only a minute later Milan Jovanovic would scored the winner off a Zigic header. But Germany wasn't beaten yet as in the first half injury time a Sami Khedira shot would hit the crossbar.

After the break the match would mainly be played in the Serbian half who pulled back a little allowing Germany more space to build-up and they were able to use this space. First Bastian Schweinsteiger and then Podolksi twice failed in a short span of time. Then Serbia star Nemanja Vidic would handle the ball in the area, penalty for Germany but Podolski's rather weak shot would be saved by the Serbian keeper Vladimir Stojkovic. It just wasn't Germany's day as they thereafter looked shocked as Serbia got back into the match as Jovanovic hit the post in the 67th minute and Zigic's header landed on the crossbar a little while later. Germany brought on Cacau, Marko Marin and Mario Gomez; but it wouldn't help as once more the luckless Podolski would have the last chance for Germany. Serbia looked tired towards the end, but they didn't give the Germans the necessary space.

Ghana 1-1 (1-1) Australia
Goals: 0-1 Brett Holman (11'), 1-1 Asamoah Gyan (25', penalty).

Ghana and Australia played out an entertaining one-all draw at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg which leaves Group D wide open.

Australia took a surprise lead in the 11th minute. Ghana keeper Richard Kingston couldn't push the ball away properly from a Marco Bresciano free kick and Brett Holman is there to put the ball in. Australia after taking the lead pull back and that would haunt them. In the 25th minute Andrè Ayew gets past two defenders on the right plays the ball back, where Jonathan Mensah fires the ball goalwards. The ball is cleared off the line by Harry Kewell by his chest and arm. Italian referee Roberto Rosetti points to the dreaded spot and shows Kewell the red card, another debatable decision. Like against Serbia Asamoah Gyan took the penalty and blasted another one into the Aussie goal. Thereafter Ghana was in control as the Aussies looked shocked, while the Africans pressure on them but couldn't use their advantage.

The match continued after the break in the same way with Ghana in control, but keeper Mark Schwarzer denied Ghana on a couple of occasions. Australia then brought on Scott Chipperfield and Joshua Kennedy in the middle of the second session and suddenly the complexion of the game changed with suddenly Australia the team pushing for the lead. And Ghana looked impressed by the 10 Australians, who had their best chance through Luke Wilshire in the 72nd minute who has only keeper Richard Kingston to beat, but the Ghanian keeper deflects the ball away. Towards end both sides looked tired and didn't really have chances to win the match.