Monday, June 14, 2010

Italy and Paraguay battle out 1-1 draw

Italy's Gianluca Zambrotta (C) battles for the ball with Paraguay's Antolin Alcaraz, near Aureliano Torres, during a 2010 World Cup Group F soccer match at Green Point stadium in Cape Town June 14, 2010. REUTERS/Oleg Popov (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
Probably one of the most exciting matches of this World Cup so far, both teams went for it, looking for goals as they both attacked providing an unseen spectacle so far.

Italy - Paraguay

The match started with a bit of apprehension from both sides, but they eventually started to create chances, Paraguay had one of the best in the first half, working their way with Torres right outside the 18 with the ball on his foot and Buffon out of position, but his shot was disappointing. Then in the 39th minute, Paraguay strike first from a free kick, the ball swung in and Alcaraz jumps the highest to head Paraguay into the lead before the second half.

Italy's Fabio Cannavaro fights for the ball with Paraguay's Nelson Haedo Valdez (R) during a 2010 World Cup Group F soccer match at Green Point stadium in Cape Town June 14, 2010.   REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
While Italy weren't as dominant as we've seen them, they grew with time, retaining the ball and getting close to goal often with an inspired Pepe. Buffon was taken off for an unknown reason and replaced by Marchetti in goal, as Camoranesi and Di Natale came on later in the half. But Paraguay scared Italy before their goal with Vera almost hitting the post from close range, but in the 63rd, Italy's De Rossi scores from a corner after Paraguay's keeper Villar completely misses it, leaving the goal wide open for the equalizer.

Italy then went on to dominate the possession and chances, Montolivo grew more into his playmaker role with long strikes on target and great passes which often led to crosses for Di Natale or Iaquinta. While Italy could have a penalty claim, Paraguay played very well. Now it's very possible that New Zealand or Slovakia sneak into first place in front of the defending World Cup champions.

Netherlands unconvincingly win and Japan squeeze out victory

Two relatively disappointing matches which both end with wins, and that leaves the group with the Netherlands on top, and Denmark at the bottom.

Netherlands     (3)
Japan               (3)
Cameroon       (0)
Denmark         (0)

Japan's Keisuke Honda fights for the ball with Cameroon's Sebastien Bassong (C) as Enoh Eyong looks on during their 2010 World Cup Group E soccer match at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein June 14, 2010. REUTERS/Jorge Silva (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
Japan - Cameroon

While this match could've provided so much more, it still wasn't as bad as some will make it out to be. The only goal was grabbed in the first half (which was probably as bleak as the Netherlands - Denmark game's first half), a great cross the the far post for an unmarked Kaisuke Honda led to the Japanese striker poking in the goal. It was bad defending which led to this, Honda was completely unmarked, giving him plenty of space.

In the second half Cameroon began to fight for the equalizer, Eto'o's dribbling created a great chance in the 49th minute which was sent sailing just above the left corner. Cameroon pressed incessantly, just like the vuvuzelas that people want banned, Cameroon were constantly pressing and annoying the Japanese defence. In the 86th minute, Enoh from long distance lashed a rocket which thundered onto the crossbar, and in the dying minutes of the match Webotaps in a cross which Kawashima somehow saves, giving Japan their first victory in the World Cup finals outside of their country.

Denmark's goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen and Netherland's Eljero Elia look at the ball rebound from the sidebar before Dirk Kuyt scored during the 2010 World Cup Group E soccer match agasint Denmark at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 14, 2010.  REUTERS/Michael Kooren (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)
Netherlands - Denmark

After Germany's 4-0 whacking of Australia, many expected the Netherlands to match the feat, or at least win convincingly, but it was a much different story for the Dutch as they met a resolute Danish side. The first half was probably one of the most perplexing halves of football I've seen, the Netherlands were without inspiration, they were sluggish and slow, unable to find any options or create any chances. That's about how it can be summed up, a terrible half by the Dutch. Denmark on the other hand were about as good as I expected, resolute and organized in defense, and the attack wasn't that bad either. In fact, Denmark had double the shots on goal than the disappointing Netherlands who were only able to manage one.

It was the second half that things changed a bit, right at the beginning in the 46th minute the Netherlands are able to squeeze a cross in the area which Simon Poulsen somehow headed into his own net. The ball bounced off of Aggers back as it tantalizingly hit the post and went into the goal, impossible for Sorensen to save.

The game continued at it's relatively disappointing pace even with the first goal scored, it was only the introduction of Elia which provided spark and speed to a depressing side. The young winger was running around, scaring the Danish defence as he carved open spaces and chances for teammates. Eventually Elia was releaseed 1 on 1 with Sorensen as his finish clipped the post, Dirk Kuyt followed up to grab the second goal.

This clinched the victory for the Netherlands but many will be disappointed, maybe they were just missing Robben, or maybe it was this powerful denmark team which caused them more trouble than they thought.


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