England produced another inept performance tonight against Algeria and now must beat Slovenia in their final group match to progress to the last 16.
The game was poor at best and dismal in parts and neither side produced a clear cut chance of note. Algeria deserve plenty of credit for their hard running and occasional nice touches, and England can be thankful for their naivety around the box,often choosing to take wild shots rather than play through balls which could have caused problems.
The few bright spots for England were competent performances by Heskey and Barry and the steady goal keeping by David James – elevated to starter after Robert Greens howler against the USA.
Less positive was Capello’s inability to change his game plan when things were obviously not going well, and the sub standard performance from Wayne Rooney who looks a shadow of the player who starred for Manchester United last season.
Now everything hinges on the final game a draw will send Slovenia through and probably send England out and if Cappello’s men perform anything like they did tonight then they will be flying home on Thursday.
England 0-0 Algeria
Venue: Green Point Stadium
In what epitomises the cliche of football being a game of two half’s, the USA came back from 2-0 down to force a 2-2 draw, and really should have won it but for a poor decision from the eccentric referee Koman Coulibaly.
Slovenia looked to be cruising at the interval 2-0 up and pretty much in control thanks to goals by Birsa, who hit the tournaments best long range goal so far and one from Ljubijankic.
The second half saw Bob Bradley change things around a bit bringing on Feilhaber and Edu, and this soon paid off as the USA pulled a goal back through Landon Donovan. Although both sides continued to create chances it looked like Slovenia were going to hold on and make the last 16. However with 10 minutes to play the USA manager took the bold decision to pull off a defender and throw on another striker and 2 minures latter it paid dividends as his son Michael Bradley hit the equlaiser.
The USA probably should have won the game but had what looked like a perfectly good goal ruled out for a foul that only the referee saw. A draw kept both teams hopes alive but FIFa really needs to review the quality of the refereeing as Koman Coulibaly looked way out of his depth in this game.
Germany’s demolition of Australia in their opening game had elevated the expectations for this young team, however they were brought crashing back down by Serbia who snatched a 1-0 win. The refereeing in this game was probably the worst in the finals so far and the sending of of Klose for two innocuous looking fouls pretty much summed up the Spanish Referee’s day. However this is no excuse and this now means that Germany will have to beat Ghana to be in with a chance of maintaining their excellent record of having reached the last 8 of every World Cup Finals since 1938. Serbia can qualify, possibly at Germany’s expense if they beat Australia comfortably in their final match and Ghana hold Germany to a draw. Things will become a bit clearer in this group once Ghana play Australia tomorrow.
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain)
Mexico dispatched a disapointing France Team 2-0 last night to all but book their place in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup.
France reeling from the heavy criticism which followed their drab 0-0 draw with Uruguay recalled Florent Malouda for the match and to be fair they looked a whole lot better. Ribery in particular looked lively early on, however Mexico also seemed to be in better shape than when drawing agaoinst South Africa in their opener and they looked just the better team at the end of an entertaining first half which ended 0-0.
In the second half started slowly but as it wore on Mexico started to assert their authority on the game and folowing what was to prove two inspired substitutions, first bringing on Hernandez and then Blanco a few minutes latter they finally took the lead when Hernandez beat the French offside trap to calmly round the keeper and tap the ball into an empty net.
France seemed to be shell shocked by this and never really mounted any attempt at a comeback. It was no surprise when Barrera was brought down in the box and Blanco calmly smashed the penalty into the roof of the net to sew the game up.
Mexico were good value for their win and despite looking somewhat lighweight up front they could be one of the surprise teams of the finals. As for France they will need a lot of luck to avoid another ignominiuos early exit to add to their Euro 2008 woes.
Mexico 2-0 France
Venue: Peter Mokaba Stadium
Chile & Uruguay both took big steps towards reaching the last 16 with wins over Honduras and South Africa respectively.
Uruguay all but booked their place in the second stages with an emphatic 3-0 win over host nation South Africa , who looked a shadow of the team who played so well against Mexico. Manchester United reject Diego Forlan looked awesome and on this form is on course to be one of the players of the tournament. He opened the scoring with a lovely long range shot, and effectively killed off the game when smashing home a second half penalty awarded after the South African Goal Keeper Khune committed a foul which earned him a red card. With the home fans already leaving the stadium Uruguay rubbed it in with a third goal in the last minute of injury time. South Africa are now effectively out and a draw for Uruguay against Mexico in their final game should be enough to see them through.
South Africa 0-3 Uruguay
- Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium
- Attendance: 42,658
Chile won with considerably more ease than the 1-0 scoreline would suggest and with Spain losing to the Swiss are now in a great position to qualify providing they can avoid defeat against Spain and the Swiss. Suddenly Group H which looked one of the more predictable has become the group of death.
Chile 1-0 Honduras
- Venue: Mbombela Stadium
- Attendance: 32,664
Despite having most of the possession and loads of chances Spain crashed to a surprise 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in their opening group H match. With Chile looking good in their opener the Spanish will now know that nothing short of a comfortable win over Honduras will keep them in in contention for group winners and with Brazil most likely waiting for the runners up one of the top two could be going home in the last 16.
In the game its self Spain looked comfortable and lively with Villa in particular creating problems for the Swiss defense, however despite the pressure the teams went in 0-0 at the half.
The second half began in a similar vein until the Swiss took the lead with the first real attack of the game in the 52nd minute when an innocuous looking long goal-kick was flicked through to Eren Derdiyok, who in a tangle of bodies somehow got the ball to Fernandes who tapped the ball home.
This forced Spain to push forward and in doing so gaps began to appear and Switzerland nearly made it a 2-0 lead when Derdiyok cut inside both Pique and Puyol before flicking a shot against the post. Spain continued to press forward but looked bereft of ideas as the Swiss piled men behind the ball. Even a generous 5 minutes of injury time couldn’t come to Spain’s rescue and they looked somewhat dejected at full time.
On this form The Swiss will be very hard to beat and could be the surprise team of the tournament, while Spain mus now seriously face the real prospect of not even making it out of the group stages. The Spain Chile game now looks like being a real cracker.
- Venue: Moses Mabhida Stadium
- Attendance: 62,453
What looked like the biggest mismatch of the tournament didn’t quite turn out as expected as North Korea showed themselves to be a far better team than their world ranking of 105th would suggest. Playing in only their second ever World Cup Finals North Korea defended resolutely and showed odd glimpses of flair in their attacking play. They went in at 0-0 at half time and were good value for this.
The second half saw Brazil change their tactics slightly as they started to attack more down the wings and this led to the breakthrough when Maicon’s cross come shot took a vicious swerve and beat the keeper at the near post. This somewhat fortunate goal should have opened the floodgates, but the Korean’s remained composed and it took the pass of the tournament so far from Robinho to effectively settle the match, his through ball being delicately side footed into the net by Elano.
Still the North Koreans never gave up and in the 89th minute the impressive Yun-Nam Ji showed great control and composure to first bring down a high ball and then fire home over the advancing Cesar.
North Korea were a breath of fresh air in a tournament so far littered with theatrical diving and over reaction to fouls, seeing the game played firmly but fairly was nice and most neutral fans will now be hoping that they can put in similar performances against both Portugal and the Ivory Coast. If they do there is a good chance that they could join Brazil in the last 16. In their only previous appearance in 1966 they lost their opening game 3-0 but then went on to reach the quarter finals, leading Eusebio’s Portugal 3-0 in that game before finally bowing out 5-3. Although a Quarter Final Place looks well out of the question it would be great for the tournament if they made the last 16.
- Venue: Ellis Park
- Attendance: 54,331
This was billed as the match where the World Cup finally took off but alas it continued the theme of tight defensive games. Apart from a flash of brilliance by the theatrical diver Cristiano Ronaldo there was not a whole lot to write about in this game.
Even the second half introduction of African talisman Diddier Drogba failed to ignite the tie and it was a relief when referee Larrionda blew the final whistle to put this tie out of its misery. The final qualifying place will now come down to the results against Brazil and North Korea and this could back fire badly on them as North Korea actually look quite a good team. The ultimate irony will be if they qualify ahead of these two.
Final Score Portugal 0-0 Ivory Coast
- Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
- Attendance: 37,034
A never say die attitude by world football minnows New Zealand saw them snatch their first ever point at the World Cup Finals thanks to an injury time equaliser from 21 year old defender Winston Reid who currently plays for FC Midtjylland in Denmark.
The game its self was not one to stick in the memory and the first half was largely devoid of chances. However in the second half Slovakia began to take charge and it was not a surprise when they opened the scoring thanks to a Robert Vittek header in the 50th minute. Thereafter Slovakia looked comfortable but seemed content to sit back on their lead rather than push forward for a second goal. This looked like paying off until the last few minutes when New Zealand finally produced some attacking flair, first Shane Smeltz ex of Mansfield Town & AFC Wimbledon headed wide when he probably should have scored and them 3 minutes into injury time redeemed himself by setting up Reid to grab the equaliser.
Slovakia, appearing themselves at their first World Cup Finals as an independent nation only have themselves to blame and have probably blown any chance they had of making the second stages, as it is hard to see either Paraguay or Italy not beating New Zealand.
Final Score New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia
- Venue: Royal Bafokeng Stadium
- Attendance: 23,871
Italy looked far from impressive in their opening game against Paraguay, having to comeback from a goal down to snatch a draw. The Italians will take some consolation from the fact they are notoriously slow starters in tournaments but they will have to improve dramatically if they are to reach the quarter finals.
Given they share a group with New Zealand & Slovakia they should make it through to the last 16, but will probably face Denmark there who will be much sterner opposition that Paraguay who after being pegged back resorted to 5 across the back obviously pleased with the draw. Had Paraguay shown a bit more ambition they could have pulled off a surprise here and with easier games coming up they will be quietly confident of making the second stages too and could still sneak the group if they can rack up a good win against New Zealand.
Italy will have Andrea Pirlo fit again for the second stages but despite this Marcello Lippi will know that he could easily lose his job after this World Cup as nothing short of the semi finals will be regarded as good enough by the fickle Italian press.