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.
Holland took a massive step towards qualifying for the last 16 when beating a plucky Denmark team 2-0 yesterday. Although the Dutch looked by far the better team Denmark had their chances and had they not conceded an unfortunate own goal just as the second half started then they could have possibly held out for a draw.Once they were behind Denmark looked a bit deflated and it was no surprise when Dirk Kuyt added a second in the 85th minute tapping in the rebound after the ball came back off of the post.
The good news for Denmark is that both Japan and Cameroon who played their opening game yesterday too both looked poor by comparison and the Danes will be strongly fancied to beat both of them and so take the second qualifying place. With a bit more luck they could prove quite a handful for their likely second phase opponents who will probably be Italy. On Italy’s showing last night the Danes could make the quarter finals.
- Venue: Soccer City Stadium
- Attendance: 83,465
Germany who’s chances many have dismissed due to their young and comparatively inexperienced team showed how dangerous it is to write them off with a very impressive display against a good Australia team.
Australia started quite brightly but were behind after 8 minutes when Lukas Podolski struck a vicious shot past Schwarzer who despite getting a hand on it couldn’t keep it out of the net. Then after 27 minutes Miroslav Klose got on the end of a tremendous Phillip Lahm cross to make it 2-0, effectively ending the match as a contest.
The second half saw the slightly harsh dismissal of Tim Cahill and two more goals for Germany who by then were in near total dominance. Australia were restricted to a few half chances and with Cahill probably going to be suspended for the next 2 games thanks to his straight Red Card they are now highly unlikely to make the second stages.
On this form Germany will be a major threat in the tournament and England will be hoping they win their group as Germany look set to plat the runners up in group C in the second stages.
- Venue: Moses Mabhida Stadium
- Attendance: 62,660
Two of Africas 6 representatives in the 2010 World Cup played today, Ghana managed a good win over Serbia while Algeria lost 1-0 to Slovenia who currently top group B.
Algeria 0-1 Slovenia
The goalkeeping errors continued in group B as Algeria’s Faouzi Chaouchi somehow managed to let Robert Koren’s shot slip past him to give Slovenia their victory. Algeria were already down to 10 men thanks to a moment of madness by second half substitute Ghezzal who received a second yellow for a spectacular diving hand ball. It looked a little harsh as he was never going to benefit from the offense and this probably contributed to the Slovenia victory. In truth neither side looked particularly potent and both the USA and England will fancy their chances of beating either of them.
Venue: Peter Mokaba Stadium
Serbia 0-1 Ghana
Ghana were worthy victors in what was one of the best matches so far in the competition, with some nice flowing football from Ghana and some solid defending from the Serbs as one would expect with a pairing of Vidic and Ivanovic two of the English Premier Leaguse top defenders.
In the Game Ghana dominated for long periods without really looking like making the breakthrough and despite hitting the woodwork twice in the game they had to rely on a late penalty which was confidently dispatched by Asamoah Gyanfor their victory. Serbia were down to 10 men after 74 minutes when Aleksandar Lukovic got his second yellow card. Both teams looked quite capable and although Serbia have a mountain to climb now they will still believe they can qualify in what could be a tight group.
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Day 2 promised some exciting games – however it didn’t quite live up to its billing.
Greece 0-2 South Korea
Can someone who speaks Greek let the squad know that the finals have started please. They were awful and apart from an early chance took fully 70 minutes to show any interest in the game at all. South Korea were lively and looked quite good, but against this Greece team anyone would have looked good. Their first goal came from some poor defensive play and the second from a typical piece of lackadaisical play. They wont get so many gifts against either Argentina or Nigeria. As for Greece their quest for a first World Cup Finals goal continues and on this showing it will be 2014 at the easliest before they get it.
Argentina 1-0 Nigeria
How this only ended 1-0 is anyones guess as Argentina produced some lovely attacking football, which on another day could have produced 5 or 6 goals. Veron seems to be improving with age and up front Messi looked lively and should have scored at least once. If argentina have a weakness its defensively and that will probably cost them latter in the tournament.
As for Nigeria well they played well enough to suggest they can beat both Greece and South Korea and should make the last 16.
England 1-1 USA
Sadly this game never lived up to its billing and both England and the USA looked quite ordinary. The Us in particular looked a bit tactically naive but did defend resolutely. To be fair England did look the better team and had it not been for a terrible blunder by goalie Robert Green they would have scraped a narrow win. Both will be watching the Slovenia – Algeria game with great interest today as neither will be able to aford a slip up against them now.
Group B kicks off today with an interesting if not the most attractive of fixtures in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth today. However this is an important fixture in a group which should be dominated by Argentina, but is otherwise wide open with any of the other three teams being more than capable of reaching the second stages.
In the game Greece could be missing central defender Vangelis Moras and may have to play midfielder Kostantinos Katsouranis in his place. Otherwise they should be at full strength.
South Korea have no worries as captain Park Ji-Sung has recovered from his hamstring injury.
Overall this should be a close game but we expect Greece to finally break their World Cup hoodoo and get their first goal and win in the finals.
France looked disinterested and uninspired in this their opening game of the 2010 World Cup. There are rumours of conflict in the French camp and on this showing they will be on their way home much sooner than expected.
The game its self will not remain long in the memory with few real scoring opportunities being created by either side. The best ones fell to Uruguay who as expected look like being hard to beat, and with a bit of luck could sneak into the second stages of what looks like being a tight group.
There were 6 yellow cards and one red card in the game and if they both continue to play such niggley football then suspensions could cost them both dear.
The 2010 World Cup kicked off in style with an impressive opening ceremony followed by an entertaining opener in which a draw was just about fair.
Mexico dominated early and could easily have ran up a comfortable lead in the first half had they been a bit sharper in front of goal. Mexico did have the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for offside. It looked a strange decision at first but the replay showed it to be correct and any fears of home bias creeping in were unfounded.
South Africa looked a lot brighter in the second half and in the 55th minute the very impressive Tshabalala struck a lovely goal to send the home nations fans ecstatic.
Mexico’s reaction was to bring on Guardado in an attempt to freshen things up, however it was not until they brought on veteran star Blanco that they started to look more threatening.
Finally with time ticking away Mexico got the goal their inventive play deserved when Marquez found himself unmarked at the far post and he calmly shot home to level the scores. This silenced some of the vuvuzelas in the crowd which had made the game sound more like an apiary than a football stadium. However there was still time for some late drama when Mphela went agonisingly close to snatching the winner for South Africa when hitting the post in the last minute. Overall a draw was just about the right result , ensuring that the record of no host nation losing their opening game continued and offering some hope for both in the tournament.
South Africa Tshabalala, 55
Mexico Marquez, 79
Attendance - 84,490
The second game of the World Cup Finals tonight will be France v Uruguay and this one could be close as both will want to keep their chances alive, knowing a defeat will stack the odds heavily against them qualifying. France still have a team full of star names, but have looked pretty ordinary in their build up and only just scraped into the finals thanks to the infamous “hand of Henry” incident. It is really difficult to gague just how good or bad France are and this game will answer a lot of questions.
Uruguay also had to qualify through the playoffs and just squeaked past Costa Rica 2-1 on aggregate. However since then they have looked a half decent team and good wins against Switzerland and Israel in their last two games will send them into the game with some confidence. One worry is that they have conceded in both these games and if they let France score first then they will find it very hard to come back.
In their last four meetings it has been a win each and 2 draws so overall given the stakes here this could be a tight game and a draw would probably suit both teams.
Probably starting line ups
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Sagna, Escude, Gallas, Evra; Toulalan, Alou Diarra; Ribery, Gourcuff, Malouda; Anelka.
Uruguay (3-4-1-2): Muslera; Lugano, Godin, Victorino; Perez, Alvaro Pereira, Arevalo Rios, Gonzalez; Maxi Pereira; Forlan, Suarez.
Henry will probably be a second half substitute for France.
Finally the waiting is over and the action begins with hosts South Africa playing the opening game against Mexico at 15.00. The opening ceremony begins at 13.00 UK time and should be something to see so if you get the chance tune in to ITV to watch.
South Africa v Mexico looks an interesting game with both coming into the finals in good form, and being the home nation the South Africans will have a tremendous level of support. Back in 2002 this home support coupled with some home biased refereeing decisions allowed South Korea to progress all the way to the semi finals, but can Bafana Bafana repeat the feat or will they become the 1st home nation ever to fall at the 1st stages.
The draw has not been too kind to them placing them with France who were beaten finalists four years ago Mexico who look to have one of their best international squads ever, and the unpredictable but talented South Americans Uruguay. It could have been worse, but not a whole lot.
France have not looked the team of old recently and although they cant be written off they could be vulnerable and I wouldn’t dismiss the chance of a major 2002 style flop. Like that year they have Uruguay to play and Mexico look technically better than the Denmark team which ultimately knocked them out. If there is tobe a shock inthis group this could be it.
Uruguay have Diego Forlan who despite not making the grade at Old Trafford has proved to be a deadly finisher and given they are defensively sound they could always pull off a shock 1-0 win against one of their opponents.
Mexico look very good and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for them to reach the quarter finals. They will expect to take one of the qualifying places and could sneak the group.
Unfortunately for the hosts despite them being on a 12 match unbeaten run I really cant see how they can progress from this group and expect it to be unlucky 13 today as they lose to Mexico. A defeat will mean they will have to get something from Uruguay in their second game, then hope for a miracle against France.
As for a result prediction Its 2-1 to Mexico in the opener for me.