It is the first time in World Cup history that the two losing finalists from the previous tournament have failed to progress from the group stage having competed. ‘Nough said.
I don’t know if Slovakia deserved to qualify from that group, because they very sympathetic Kiwi’s didn’t lose, drawing all three matches, but I do know, despite my personal preferences, Italy didn’t.
The team looked dead for more than an hour, and only after Pirlo’s entrance did some sort of life sign come blinking from the Italian side.
Still, it wasn’t enough, and despite Quagliarella’s brilliant chip goal, Italy couldn’t score the one more goal they needed, with Pepe missing from close range four minutes into extra time.
A huge celebration for the Slovakians who played very well in the first half and nearly collapsed from fatigue in the closing minutes, making their first World Cup appearance one to remember.
Like Blanc with France, Italy’s next manager has his hands full with a very complicated and difficult rebuilding job, which might take quite some time considering the talent he has to work with.
Not a lot to write about New Zealand’s 0-0 draw with Paraguay – New Zealand had intent and passion, but the teams lacks the ability to create an organized offense, and with Paraguay ready and excelling in defending the long balls, the All-White’s didn’t stand a chance. Paraguay didn’t seem to be trying too hard, settling for a draw, which was enough for them to qualify from first. Paraguay were the best team in Group E and deserved to finish first, and will be favorites to make the Quarter Finals, . Ricky Herbert and his fellas deserve a lot of credit for their bravery and toughness, but a team like that isn’t what we want to see in the knockout rounds.
Japan produced a very impressing performance against Denmark, repeating their 2002 feat and making the second round of the World Cup Finals. Denmark, who settled for cross after cross and only scored from a penalty kick, missed the qualifying from the group stage for the first time in their World Cup History. Japan were efficient, making the most of their opportunities, with Honda giving one of the best individual performances of the World Cup, scoring a beautiful free kick to open things up and building up the third goal in their 3-1 victory in convincing fashion.
The Netherlands beat Cameroon 2-1, but the game didn’t really mean anything, besides two things – The Dutch clinched first, finishing with a perfect nine points in three matches record while not impressing too much, and Arjen Robben got his first minutes in the World Cup, setting up the winner with his shot at the African goal.
Paul Le Guen finished a miserable World Cup performance with Cameroon, zero points and only two goals in three matches.
1. Netherlands, 9 points (5-1)
2. Japan, 6 points (4-2)
3. Denmark, 3 points (3-6)
4. Cameroon, 0 points (2-5)
1. Paraguay, 5 points (3-1)
2. Slovakia, 4 points (4-5)
3. New Zealand, 3 points (2-2)
4. Italy, 2 points (4-5)
1. Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina), Robert Vittek (Slovakia) – 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), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Keisuke Honda (Japan) – 2 Goals
Picture of the Day – Crumbling Empire
Fan of the Day – The Netherlands
What We’ve Learned
Slovakia – Miroslav Stoch and Robert Vittek are great players. Or maybe it was Italy that made them great? Slovakia weren’t there in the first two matches, but suddenly looked brilliant both in possession and working the counter attacks during the second half against Italy. Weak rivals, or hidden potential? We’ll see against the Netherlands. On second thought, we probably won’t.
Netherlands – Nothing much. Got a comfortable rival in the second round, an finally Arjen Robben got some minutes. Robin Van Persie should be looking more confident after his goal today, muy importante.
Japan – A real wild card. Keisuke Honda looked like one of the more complete players in the world with his ball handling skills, set pieces and passing while Nakazawa and Tanaka formed a formidable Centre back duo. If they come to play, Japan have assets to offer. Interesting to see if Paraguay get lured into their trap.
Brazil vs Portugal, Ivory Coast vs North Korea – Seems like a done deal. The Ivory Coast need a mega win over North Korea and for Portugal to lose against Brazil, who have the first place set, as long as they don’t lose.
Spain – Chile, Honduras – Switzerland – Both Spain and Chile will be going after a win in what promises to be a high scoring affair, knowing that the chances of the Swiss not grabbing the full 3 points against one of the 3 weakest teams in the tournament are very slim.