So we have our first mega match of the second round, as Germany beat Ghana 1-0, while England’s 1-0 win over Slovenia was only good enough for second place in Group C – Landon Donovan lifted the USA with an injury time goal against Algeria, with Ghana coming up next. Serbia lost to Australia 2-1, a result meaning both teams end their World Cup campaign.
Like Capello said, in his very bad English – No Fear, their mind was free. It not that England’s performance was pure class and lacked things to complain about and try to fix, but it was undoubtedly their best match of the World Cup, with Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, James Milner and Jermain Defoe causing problem for the Slovenian defence time after time, with Samir Handanovic stopping almost everything, everything but Deofe’s long reach for the ball, enough to put England through, despite it being only from second place after Donovan’s late winner for the Americans. It was Defoe’s first goal for England since September 2009, which also came against Slovenia.
Still, England, as the game progressed, instead of pushing the pedal and continue the search for a second goal hung back, inviting Slovenian pressure. James was confident and stable, never making any mistakes, a rarity for a keeper in this World Cup, as Joe Cole and Milner let the final minutes run down close to the corner flag. Capello still needs to find a way and get Frank Lampard and Barry to be much more effective.
I saw a tweet just now, saying – Batman, Superman and Captain America welcome Landon Donovan into the pantheon of American Superheros. It’ll be interesting to see what will be the long range effect this thing has if any, but for now, it means that the United States got the win they deserved after again having to watch another goal, this time by Clint Dempsey, wrongly disallowed for offside.
The United States created tons of chances, hitting the post, stopped by Rais M’Bolhi and another bad refereeing decision, this time by De Bleeker of Belgium. I was actually starting to think conspiracy, but Donovan, the leader of this fun to watch team wanted it too much, and the US, who were the best team in the group during the last 11 days, deserved their first place finish. It was also the USA’s only second World Cup clean sheet since 1950, yes, that 1-0 against England.
Germany bounced back from their 1-0 loss to Serbia with a good game against Ghana, and a splendid Mesut Ozil strike in the 60th minute to send them straight with a blockbuster clash with old rivals England.
Ghana had their fair share of chances, but every time Ayew and Gyan got close, it was either Friedrich or Neuer in the right place to stop them. On the other side, when Ozil got free, Germany got their chances, but fewer and fewer as the game progressed. Ghana had most of the possession, but maybe preferring to meet the USA rather than England in the next round, they didn’t really seem urgent on finding an equalizer.
Serbia needed a draw, knowing Germany will probably come out as winners against Ghana. The Germans held their part of the deal, Serbia didn’t, completing a very disappointing campaign after being regarded as potential dark horse this time.
They looked good in the first half, but slowed down in the second. The minute Brett Holman entered the match, things turned around for the Aussies, with Cahill and Holman scoring a quick two in four minutes.
Pantelic enjoyed another keeper mistake, against Schwarzer, making it 2-1. Australia didn’t make it through, but had another decent showing at the World Cup finals, with a win, draw and one heavy defeat to Germay.
1. United States, 5 points (4-3)
2. England, 5 points (2-1)
3. Slovenia, 4 points (3-3)
4. Algeria, 1 points (0-2)
1. Germany, 6 points (5-1)
2. Ghana, 4 points (2-2)
3. Australia, 4 points (3-6)
4. Serbia, 3 points (2-3)
1. Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina) – 3 Goals
2. Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Elano & Luis Fabiano (Brazil), Tiago (Portugal), David Villa (Spain), Lee Jung-Soo (South Korea), Kalu Uche (Nigeria), Landon Donovan (United States), Brett Holman (Australia) – 2 Goals
3. 58 Players with one goal, 2 own goals
Picture of the Day – Donovan in Tears
Fan of the Day – United States
What We’ve Learned
England – Finally came to play. The last time we saw this group excited and actually passionate while playing was during the first four minutes against the USA. Rooney was involved, Gerrard seemed to be in the right places while Milner won his place back after not even finishing the first half in the first game. Lampard is still not himself, and Germany are a better side according to the group stage. But as Capello said – They have no fear, their mind is free. Who knows, maybe they’re just improving.
United States – Got what they deserved, as Donovan came up big time while another American (John Isner) went into Sports’ history books. They play Ghana next, and for the first time in ages, their defense looked good. If Michael Bradley keeps improving while Donovan, Dempsey and Altidore continue to impress, the USA might have another 2002.
Germany – Klose will be back but Germany had good stretches of play against a good Ghana side without him. Ozil, Muller and Schweinsteiger seem to be the key, the engine and the spark to make everything work. If all three of them will be on their good side, Germany should have enough to get by England.
Ghana – Seemed satisfied with a second place finish. Ayew and Gyan are always dangerous, Boateng has seem to upgrade himself in the World Cup, but Ghana are facing a United States team that has scored in all three matches and like playing attacking soccer, while their defense finally looked good against Algeria. Very tough match for Ghana who need more concentration up front and purpose all around to make a historic Quarter Finals appearance.
Slovakia vs Italy, Paraguay vs New Zealand – Will Italy follow the French or re-group and find themselves again, like England? I’m tending towards the England way – Lippi is too good of a coach and Italy, although not the most talented side in the Azzuri’s history, still have enough to beat the very unimpressive Slovakians. Paraguay? No nonsense type of team&players who I don’t believe will fall for the New Zealand trap like the previous two teams.
Denmark vs Japan, Cameroon vs Netherlands – Denmark and Japan will battle for the right to join the Dutch in the last 16. Denmark’s defense didn’t look too bright in both the win and loss, but it remains to be seen if Japan will play cautiously with their better goal difference to take them through in case of a draw. Cameroon, without any aspirations, don’t look like the kind of side that will cause Holland to drop their first points in the tournament.