Month: June 2010

England – Germany Preview

England went out for drinks to fix their issues before the Slovenia match; they turned up and showed the World that when backed into the corner that the Three Lions will come out swinging.

Germany comes into the match after an impressive game against Australia, a tough loss against Serbia, but was able to pull off a win against Ghana and book their place in the next round.

Here’s a breakdown of each side as they prepare for a classic show down.

England

Key Player – Wayne Rooney

Injuries – Ledley King (Knee)

England will have to push the tempo and keep a consistent effort for a full ninety minutes in order to get by a tough German squad. If they can get Rooney scoring and push wide, putting balls into the box, they should be able to score against a suspect back line.

Their experience should be invaluable and despite playing with three different defensive partners at the back, former captain John Terry has been the heart of this team.

It will be up to Jermaine Defoe and Wayne Rooney to pepper the German net, and expose a sluggish backline that has the same level of pace as England.

With Owen Hargreaves not named to the squad and Gareth Barry seen as England’s ‘defensive midfield specialist,” he will be given the task of keeping Mesut Ozil under control. If he is successful in shutting down one of the best players at this tournament thus far, well, England may in fact have a chance of getting past the German football machine.

Germany

Key Player – Mesut Ozil

Injuries – Cacau (Stomach), Bastian Schweinsteiger (hamstring), Jerome oateng (calf)

Germany looked unbeatable against Australia, but Serbia exposed them and their main area of concern is the back four. A lack of pace in defence and of leadership from their keeper, a hole that has been there since Oliver Kahn retired, will be the main problem for the Germans.

Mesut Ozil will continue to be their catalyst for offence and he will attempt to pick apart the English Midfield, while providing balls into the crafty veteran Miroslav Klose.

Klose will be returning from the suspension he was awarded, and will be looking to prove his skill once again against England. Dominant with his head, he will compete with the likes of John Terry in the box for supremacy in the air.

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World Cup: Day 16

Here it is folks! It’s time for knockout rounds and the fun, drama and excitement that comes with extra time and penalty shootouts!

Today’s matches feature dark horse Uruguay against South Korea, while in the other match we have the surprising USA facing off with the lone African side left, Ghana.

My predictions can be found right HERE, here are today’s results:

Uruguay 2 – 1 South Korea

The South Korean’s went in slightly ahead as favourites and dominated the opening flourish of play. South Korea’s speed and creativity were throwing off their opponents in the opening five minutes, but it was Uruguay who opened the scoring on the counter-attack in the 8th minute courtesy of a Luis Suarez strike.

The early goal settled Uruguay and the match remained even and both sides were unlucky not to score before halftime, as each side missed a number of chances. As strong as South Korea looked up front, their defence had been dreadful at times, keeping the game close for both teams.

Eventually, South Korea was able to break down the Uruguayan defence and in the 68th minute they tied up the match. From a free kick, Lee Chung-Yong jumped on a failed clearance and nodded the ball home.

With the sides trading chances, it was once again Suarez who would provide the difference, as he dashed in from the left and put a perfectly curled strike past a helpless Jung Sung-Ryong and into the back of the net.

With just ten minutes left, South Korea piled forward but Uruguay was able to see off the threat and booked their place in the Quarterfinals.

Man of the Match: Luis Suarez.

USA 0 – 1 Ghana

This game was a story of the American dream against Africa’s final hope at this World Cup, and boy did it deliver an exciting ninety-minute.

USA missed an early chance, but it was a Ricardo Clark give away at half that allowed Kevin-Prince Boateng to race in and open the scoring just five minutes in. Moments later Clarke picked up a yellow card and the USA seemed to be losing their composure.

Just a few minutes after, Steve Cherundolo picked up another yellow card for the USA, while Asamoah Gyan had another chance to add to Ghana’s opening score.

Coach Bradley shook things up early, replacing a woeful Clark with Maurice Edu and almost immediately it sparked a lacklustre American side. Robbie Findley had a shot on net and there it seemed that after the opening goal that the flow and pace had really opened up, but neither team were able to score before the half.

USA made their second change at halftime and brought on Benny Feilhaber for Findley, it almost paid off immediately when USA broke down the wing and Feilhaber poked a cross on net, but Richard Kingson stood tall and made a big save.

With wave, after wave of pressure being turned aside by Kingson, the Ghana defence finally cracked in the 62nd minute, when Jonathan Mensah tripped up Clint Dempsey inside the box and USA were awarded a penalty. Landon Donovan stepped up and slotted home the penalty, sending Kingson the wrong way, and tying up the match at 1 – 1 apiece.

The game slowed down, and it appeared that both teams were content to play for extra time and settle down for penalties.

Extra time kicked off with an early push by USA, however, with both teams looking tired it was the keepers punting long balls and slowing down the game.

That is, until Asamoah Gyan decided to score.

He had looked dangerous all game and after beating the USA defender he blasted a strike home past Tim Howard and put Ghana ahead 2-1 in the 96th minute. The US were once again forced to go on attack and fired cross after cross into the box, but it was to no avail as the African side held on until halftime in extra time.

In the last fifteen minutes USA pushed forward, as they powered on forward they were allowing Ghana a lot of space to counter and use their pace to push the ball up the field.

It was now a game of cat and mouse, with both sides looking dangerous but the Ghana players seemed happy to fall down and stay down, as they attempted to slow down the game and waste time.

In the dying moments of added time, Tim Howard went up front for a corner but his team were just unable to find a much needed goal and it was Ghana that prevailed heading to the Quarter finals and the Americans who were sent crashing out of the tournament.

Man Of The Match: Asamoah Gyan

Round Of Sixteen Predos

With Sixteen teams knocked out, it’s time for the Round of Sixteen.

There are 5 South American Teams, 6 European Teams, 2 Asian Teams, 1 African Team, Mexico and the USA in the next round, while surprises Japan, Slovakia and Uruguay made it through.

Here are my predictions for the next round and who will go on to the Quarterfinals:

Uruguay 1 – 3 South Korea

This matchup gives us two surprise countries and should provide fans with an exciting game. Uruguay has played a high-octane, attacking style lead by Diego Forlan, while South Korea has been their usual speedy, counter-attacking selves.

As much as I am fully on board the Uruguay, this game will go South Korea’s way as their counter-attack will give them a 3 – 1 win.

USA 1 – 0 Ghana

The USA squeezed through into this round with a last gasp winner by Landon Donovan but have no doubts, they are a real threat to make it deep in this tournament. Ghana were unconvincing, but are the only African side to make it through and that gives them a continents support and should push them into a fantastic display.

This will be a tightly fought game but I’m giving the edge to the USA in a 1-nil win.


Germany 2 – 3 England

This is one of the marquee matchups in World Cup history and it’s unfortunate that the match isn’t a semi-final or final game.

I’m giving the edge to an experience and now unified England squad, over a young and inexperienced German team. My money is on Wayne Rooney hitting the back of the next twice and John Terry to get the winner from a set piece. The final score is going to be 3-2 for England.

Argentina 4 – 0 Mexico

The Hand of God still haunts me, but you can’t argue against the style of play that Diego Maradona has his team playing.

Argentina is a heavy favourite to win this tournament and Mexico just doesn’t have the quality to compete in this and will be heavily outplayed, with a final score of 4-nil in the South American’s favour.

Netherlands 2 – 0 Slovakia

The Dutch are perenial choke-artists much like England, but I am counting on them to go far in this tournament

They have far too much talent for an overmatched side like Slovakia, and I don’t see this as being much of a contest, Oranje will win easily 2-nil.

Brazil 4 – 2 Chile

This matchup will be one of the most exciting games to watch, with both sides playing beautiful passing football and going for a win. Brazil will just have too much class and easily open up the Chilean defence with their counterattack and constant pressure.

Paraguay 1 – 2 Japan

Japan were a shock team to make it into the second round but it is no fluke that they dominated Denmark in their final group game. Although Paraguay is a strong squad, Japan’s discipline style and quick counter-attack will provide too much trouble.

A 2-1 final for Japan is in the books.

Spain 1 – 3 Portugal

The last match of the Round Of Sixteen is another exciting matchup, with rivals Spain and Portugal squaring off in a match that I think favours Portugal.

After their 7-0 win over North Korea, Portugal is on a high and have their talismanic captain feeling relaxed and focused on football, instead of diving and parading around town.

Spain still hasn’t looked their best and their injury worries will hurt them, with Portugal taking an early 2-0 lead, and holding on for a spot in the quarterfinals.

With those predictions done, here are the teams going through: South Korea, USA, England, Argentina, Netherlands, Brazil, Japan and Portugal.

Let me know what you think and if you agree, disagree or just think I’m crazy!

Group Predictions Recap

The Group Stage is over and it’s now time for some knockout action, complete with freedom from Italy and France who have been the two top dogs to go home early.

Argentina looked impressive, while Brazil showed a keen defensive nature. England stumbled into the second round, while Japan made a shock progression into the knockout round.

With the first round complete, here’s a wrap up of how the groups ended and what my original predictions were:

Group A

My Prediction – Mexico (W), France (R), Uruguay, South Africa

Actual Result – Uruguay (W), Mexico (R), France, South Africa

–          France had an epic self destruct and Uruguay stole top spot over an unconvincing Mexico.

Group B

My Prediction – Argentina (W), Nigeria (R), South Korea, Greece

Actual Result – Argentina (W), South Korea (R), Nigeria, Greece

–          Argentina won all three, while South Korea came out and impressed and sent Nigeria home

Group C

My Prediction – England (W), Slovenia (R), USA, Algeria

Actual Result – USA (W), England (R), Slovenia, Algeria

–          Took faith in England and they almost didn’t make it through, USA snuck through with a 92nd minute goal in their final game to take first place

Group D

My Prediction – Germany (W), Australia (R), Ghana, Serbia

Actual Result – Germany (W), Ghana (R), Serbia, Australia

–          Germany came out strong and dominated Australia, stuttered against Serbia but still took top spot.

Group E

My Prediction – Netherlands (W), Cameroon (R), Denmark, Japan

Actual Result – Netherlands (W), Japan (R), Cameroon, Denmark

–          The Netherlands were dominant, while a crafty Japan side snuck in after an impressive win over Denmark in their final group game

Group F

My Prediction – Paraguay (W), Italy (R), New Zealand, Slovakia

Actual Result – Paraguay (W), Slovakia (R), New Zealand, Italy

–          Paraguay easily won this group, Italy showed they’re old and need to rebuild, allowing Slovakia into the next round

Group G

My Prediction – Brazil (W), Ivory Coast (R), Portugal, North Korea

Actual Result – Brazil (W), Portugal (R), Ivory Coast, North Korea

–           Brazil easily won this group, but an unlucky and unfocused Ivory Coast slipped up against Portugal and allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to take his team to the next round.

Group H

My Prediction – Spain (W), Chile (R), Switzerland, Honduras

Actual Result – Spain (W), Chile (R), Switzerland, Honduras

–          Spain took the group after an opening loss to Switzerland, while Chile showed why they’re one of the darkhorse’s of the tournament

I correctly predicted the winner of 6/8 groups, while only going 18/32 for a correct average of 57%. Not too shabby indeed.

Check back soon for my Round Of Sixteen predictions.

World Cup: Day 13

It’s so long France and nice try South Africa after yesterday’s results and Mexico going on with Uruguay to the next round.

South Korea and Argentina will begoing through from Group B, with a disappointing Greek side going home and Nigeria not far behind.

Up today Group C has England against Slovenia and feisty Algeria up against the wall with USA their opponents. All four teams have a chance at going through, but it’s England and the USA being favorites to advance.

In Group D action, the Socceroos take on Serbia and the faltering German football machine faces a Ghana side that has real hopes of progressing in the tournament.

Slovenia 0 – 1 England

With reports of rifts in the camp, rumours of Fabio Capello leaving and John Terry calling out his manager for omiting Joe Cole in their first two matches, the Three Lions had alot to prove against group leading Slovenia.

The Italian Maestro made three lineup changes and introduced Jermaine Defoe upfront in place of Emile Heskey, Mathew Upson in for Jamie Carragher at centerback and James Milner on the wing for a lacklustre Aaron Lennon.

From the very fist kick of the ball, England showed a passion and intensity that had been lacking in their first two matches. Slovenia looked hardpressed to find an answer for the pinpoint passing and hardly touched the ball in the first half.

The changes paid early dividends, with Jermaine Defoe finding the back of the net in the 22nd minute and he could have had his hat-trick before halftime, but narrowly missed a number of chances.

England continued just a strong after the half and once again Defoe missed a chance up close, in the second half Capello took off Wayne Rooney for Joe Cole and although the Manchester United striker did not hit the back of the net, he played a great game.

The only complaint for England fans will be Emile Heskey coming onto the pitch for Defoe in the 86th minute, leaving many wondering what Heskey would do without Rooney on the pitch.

Although they showed complete supremacy over their opponents, the team will be most happy over their dominant defensive display. John Terry had a number of impressive tackles and coupled that with some daring blocked shots.

Man of the Match: John Terry

USA 1 – 0 Algeria

The underdog story has paid off for the USA and a win against Algeria would allow them to go through to the next round in first place and avoid a possible matchup with Germany.

The Americans started well and carried much of the play, while Algeria looked dangerous on the counter-attack and had a few near misses. In what it appears is now USA tradition, they had a clearly legal goal called back and this seemed to boost the Algerian players.

However, at the exact moment that the final whistle blew in Port Elizabeth, it was Landon Donovan who took the ball and slotted it home to give them the goal they needed to advance. The final scoreline stood at 1-nil and it meant that they’d end up top of the table, with England finishing second in Group C.

Man Of The Match: Landon Donovan

Australia 2 – 1 Serbia

The Socceroos were the underdogs in Group D, but after a strong performance against Ghana, they were a much different side against Serbia.

The game was slow and chess-like in the first half, but in the second half Tim Cahill sparked his team and the entire Australian squad seemed to play with a passion that had been lacking for the first forty-five minutes. Returning from a red-card suspension, Cahill put the Aussies ahead with a trademark header in the 69th minute and when Brett Holman added another four minutes later it was jubilation for the underdogs.

Serbia pulled a goal back in the 84th minute, but the Australians got the win they deserved and will be more than happy with their display in the World Cup.

Man Of The Match: Tim Cahill

Ghana 0 – 1 Germany

After a lacklustre performance in their loss against Serbia, Germany had a lot to prove against the upstart Ghana side that had put in strong performances in their first two matches.

Germany played as their usual dominant self and were unlucky to not be ahead going into the second half, but a resilient Ghana knew they needed one point to progress and seemed intent on keeping the scoreline at nil-nil apiece.

However, knowing that a nil-nil draw and a Serbia win would send them home, Germany came out with authority and after a number of near misses by Mesut Ozil, he finally hit the back of the net in the 60th minute and sealed his teams progression to the Round of 16.

Man Of the Match: Mesut Ozil

World Cup: Day 12

Here it is folks, time for teams to start heading for the exits and others to punch their tickets to a spot in the coveted Round of Sixteen. Today’s matches will finalize standings in both Group A and Group B, giving us our first two matches in the next round.

It’s  judgement day for France when they take on home favourites South Africa, a must win for both sides:  One team is playing to save its national football program from disarray and the other to save face and not become the first host nation to not make it out of their group.

The other match in the group is between the two top sides in Group A, Mexico faces high-flying a Uruguayan side lead by the infallible Diego Forlan.

Group B leaders Argentina face an inspired Greece and in the other match a tattered Nigeria side will take on dark horse South Korea.

Mexico 0 – 1 Uruguay

These two teams sit atop Group A and both would be content to play out to a draw, knowing that they were each guaranteed a spot in the final sixteen if they picked up a single point. However, a second place finish in their group meant a near certain matchup with Argentina in the second round and both sides were hoping to avoid that clash.

Both sides came out swinging and after an exciting first interval, it was Uruguay that opened with scoring through a goal by Luis Suarez in the 43rd minute. For Mexico it was unfortunate to go into the half behind by a goal, but it also gave them a full forty-five minutes to claw back a point.

Although Mexico had all the possession and powered towards the net in the final moments of the match, they just couldn’t find a way through the Uruguayan defence and the game finished in a 1-nil victory for Uruguay.

Man of The Match: Diego Forlan

France 1 – 2 South Africa

It’s tough to not feel bad for the France fans out there, I mean, after their last World Cup fiasco it was hard to imagine ever having a worse turnout in a major tournament. Unfortunately, it appears that not only will this World Cup go down in history for France as their most embarrassing yet, the team mentality appears to be in ruins and there are major rifts between fans and their players at this point. Did I forget to mention French Captain Patrice Evra was dropped for this match? Oh France, you really do know how to make headlines.

This match was dominated from start to finish by Bafana Bafana, and two quick goals by Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela gave the hosts a 2-nil lead going into the second half.  Between two goals, France had Yohann Gourcuff harshly sent off and the writing was on the wall for France.

Florent Malouda pulled a goal back in the 70th minute but the celebrations in South Africa were in full effect as they pulled off their first win in the tournament and showed the type of football they’d been missing in their first two matches.

Man of The Match: Katlego Mphela

Greece 0 – 2 Argentina

Even though Greece needed a win to progress, they stuck to their usual defence first tactics and surprise, surprise they failed to beat clear favourites Argentina, who in turn won their third straight match and look poised for a deep run in this tournament.

The match was on the 24th anniversary of the infamous Hand of God and Diego Maradona’s lack of jumping ability was highlighted as he celebrated when Martin Demichelis scored in the 77th minute to give his team the lead. Martin Palermo added a goal and the South Americans took an easy 2-0 decision, which sees them matched up with Mexico in the second round.

Man Of The Match: Lionel Messi

Nigeria 2 – 2 South Korea

Not an exciting matchup but this game provided enough entertainment to keep the fans happy, with the leading changing a number of times and some fantastic goal scoring chances.

Kalu Uche opened the scoring early in the 12th minute to give Nigeria the lead, before Lee Jung-Soo answered back in the 38th minute to take the teams into the half in a 1-1 draw. Starting the second half, Nigeria showed great intent and carried the play, but a goal on the counter attack gave South Korea a lead courtesy of Park Chu-Young in the 49th minute.

Kim Nam-Il gave Nigeria hope when he tripped up Ogbasi Ogbuke in the box and Yakubu convered the spot kick to give the Nigerians a well deserved draw in their final match.

Both teams tried to pull out a win and the match ended at a frantic pace, South Korea progresses to the next round.

Man of The Match: Kalu Uche

World Cup: Day 9 to 11 (Recap)

First off, an apology goes out to all of you for a lack of updates over the last few days, this was due to an issue with my computer, but all is fixed and we’re ready for more football.

Here’s a quick recap of the big stories from Day’s 9 to 11 of the World Cup:

–          Italy continued their slow start in this World Cup and played to a 1 – 1 draw with New Zealand. The brave All Whites had a 1-nil lead and could have easily won the match, but the Italians clawed back a goal and kept their dreams of progression alive.

–          In a match that had been highly touted, Brazil easily outclassed a determined Cote D’Ivoire side led by injured Didier Drogba and the final score finished 3-1.

–          It pains me to say, but on Day 11 Portugal produced one of the most brilliant displays of football I have ever seen. They took a 1-nil lead into the second half over the North Korea but exploded with a six goal effort, led by Princess Cristiano Ronaldo. It was brilliant to see Ronaldo play maturely and stay on his feet, and if the 7-0 result is any indication of how ruthless they can be in front of net, the Portuguese have a real chance to go far in this tournament.

–          In fantastic news, it seems that the French National side may be the first team in the World Cup history to actually surrender from a tournament. Embroiled in in-team fighting and battles with the Manager, the team appears in disarray and has refused to train. Thanks goes out to France, proving once and for all that if you put your mind to it, you can indeed give up on your childhood dreams.


Former England Captain John Terry seems to be in some hot water with England manager Fabio Capello, after he came out and publically criticised the manager’s tactical decisions in their first two matches. Rightly so, in my opinion, how can you justify playing Shaun Wright-Phillips over Joe Cole? Much more of a crime indeed.

That’s the quick update!

Will be posting Days 12, 13 and 14 within an hour or so!

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.