This was billed as a clash of youth v experience with the seasoned pro’s of England expected to be too strong for the talented but inexperienced Germans. However this was not how it turned out as Germany produced one of their better performances to inflict England’s worst ever World Cup Finals Defeat.
In front of a vociferous crowd of 40,510 it was the Germans whom seemed to settle best and it was no surprise when the old man of their team Miroslav Klose opened the scoring on 20 minutes. The goal was more pub football than World Cup class and came from a long punt down field, which somehow eluded the whole England defense, and when Podolski added a second things looked bleak indeed.
However to their credit England rallied and Matthew Upson partially atoned for his poor defensive performance by heading England back into the game. Then in the 39th minute a moment of controversy struck as Frank Lampard drove a powerful shot against the Cross bar which bounced down over the goal line before bouncing back out. The Referee and his assistants were probably the only people in the stadium who didn’t see it and instead of going in level at half time England were forced to come out and chase the game in the second half.
Having to push forward looking for an equaliser inevitably left England vulnerable to the counter attack and germany took full advantage of this through Thomas Muller who struck twice in 3 minutes to end any lingering hopes England had of making the Quarter Finals. Watching how clinically he took them it was hard to believe he is only 20 years old and if this crop of younger players maintain this momentum then Germany will continue to be a major force in international football for many years.
England will now begin the inquests and Cappello will no doubt come under intense scrutiny as the possibly overblown expectations have failed to materialise. No doubt the manager will be the scape goat but to be fair this England squad far from being the much touted Golden Era Team have only a few World Class players, and these mostly play for or have played for Chelsea. Until the English Premier leagues top clubs start to develop home grown talent England will continue to disappoint on the big stage.
As for Germany they have sent a big warning message to the other teams not only for this tournament but for the 2012 European Championships and although this years world Cup will probably be beyond them it would be unwise to wager too much against them.
The Latin American sides are all doing well in this World Cup and this first pairing of South American teams should be an exciting game.
Chile have looked good so far, but unfortunately showed they have a perchance for rash tackling when things start to go wrong as it did against Spain. Unfortunately for them I fear that lack of discipline and incisiveness will be their undoing against Brazil, who have looked very compact in midfield and at the back but still have a bit of flair up front with Robinho showing his true skills finally.
Overall Brazil should progress with the minimum of fuss.
The first really big game of the last 16 kicks off this afternoon when Germanys young and somewhat inexperienced squad plays England who have been a little disapointing in the tournament so far, but on paper have a better starting 11.
The starting lineups will not be announced until close to kick off but England could name an unchanged squad for the first time under Capello’s reign and any change will probably be at centre back with Carragher possibly replacing Matthew Upson.
Germany will welcome back Klose who was suspended for the Ghana game following his sending off agains Serbia. This will put the Germans at near full strength and despite their relative youth they have had considerable experience at tournaments at unter 21 level.
The form line through Ghana probably gives Germany a slight edge in the game and from a purely pragmatic view England didn’t show enough to suggest they can beat them in their group showings. However the knockout stages are different and England are slowly finding their form which at their best would be good enough.
Overall the view is this will be a close one and extra time is a strong possibility and if it goes to penalties then surely by the law of averages it will be Englands day in Bloemfontein.
At the start of the tournament you would have got very good odds for these two countries to be meeting at the Quarter Final stage of the World Cup. However thet have battled through both winning 2-1 in their last 16 matches against South Korea and the USA respectively. So the 2010 World Cup will be remembered for having at least one of the more unfashionable teams in the semi finals.
This is good to see for any neutral fan and probably indicates that the standards in international football are improving across the board, possibly aided by the opportunities offered by the increasingly cosmopolitan leagues in Europe.
Ghana, despite losing to Germany qualified for the last 16 thanks to their early win against Serbia. With Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa having already been knocked out, and given the Ivory Coast will need a lot of help to edge out Portugal then it looks like the Black Stars will be the home continents only representatives in the latter stages.
The draw has been quite kind to them pairing them with the USA a winnable game and should they come through that then the winner of Uruguay – South Korea awaits. Although none of these teams will be push overs this is the best chance ever for an African team to reach the Semi Finals.
Both of the finalists in the 2006 World Cup, Winners Italy and France have crashed out of the 2010 finals ignominiously finishing bottom of their respective groups.
France who’s campaign has been marred by players who rather than pulling together conspired to undermine the coach Raymond Domenech. Their 2-1 defeat to South Africa ensured that they finished bottom of the group and will ensure Domenech’s reign is not remembered for his achievement in 2006 but rather for the miserable failures 2010 and of Euro 2008 where they also finished bottom of their group.
Italy by contrast didn’t play all that badly but Marcelo Lippi is guilty of botching his tactics against Paraguay and of taking the surprise team of the tournament New Zealand far too lightly. Their final game against Slovakia was probably the match of the competition so far and but for a mistake by the linesman who chalked off a good goal Italy would have qualified. They were also unlucky with an attempt which was cleared off the line and on the balance of play didn’t deserve to lose. Lippi unlike Domenech will retire with his reputation somewhat intact.
After a slightly lacklustre performance against the Swiss, Spain got back on track with a comfortable 2-0 win ofer Honduras. Two goals from David Villa were enough and he should have had a hat trick but he put a penalty wide.
Spain now need to beat Chile to be sure of top spot in the group – so avoiding Brazil in the last 16.
Venue: Ellis Park
A goal in the 75th minute was enough to give Chile all 3 points and move them a step closer to a potential last 16 clash with Brazil. Switzerland who had Behrami sent off can still qualify if they beat Honduras and either Spain or Chile win their match, and can at least take something from the game as they now hold the record for longest time without conceding a goal in the finals - 551 minutes replacing Italy the previous holders.
Chile 1-0 Switzerland
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
The re-run of one of the most noteworthy matches in World Cup history didn’t quite live up to its illustrious predecessor but still had 7 goals.
Back in 1966 North Korea who had knocked Italy out in the earlier stages led Portugal 3-0 before 4 second half Eusebio goals crowned a tremendous 5-3 win. This time North Korea came with a game plan to contain Portugal and up to half time when they only trailed 1-0 it looked like succeeding. However they fell apart in the second half and Portugal hit 6 more goals to rack up by far the biggest tournament win to date.
Portugal now look strong favourites to clinch the runners up place and join Brazil in the last 16. There they could meet Spain in an Iberian Derby match.
Portugal 7-0 North Korea
Venue: Green Point Stadium
It may not have been the pretty football we have been accustomed to from Brazil, but the marched into the last 16 last night with a competent performance which would indicate they still remain the team to beat in the World Cup.
A well taken goal by Luis Fabiano after 25 minutes put Brazil on course for the win and he added another in the second half, which shouldn’t have stood as he committed two hand balls in the build up to the shot. Then in the 62nd minute a rare flash of brilliance by Kaka saw his lovely cross tapped into the net by Elano.
At 3-0 down the Ivory Coast had little choice but to change their formation and push forwards and they got a deserved consolation goal when Drogba timed his run to perfection and headed home Yaya Toure’s cross.
Sadly the game was marred by some blatant cheating by Abdelkader Keita who after innocuously running into Kaka proceeded to roll around holding his face, convincing the referee that Kaka had struck him. This resulted in a second Yellow card for Kaka and the resulting Red card means he will be suspended for the final group game. The slow motion replay showed that no facial contact occurred and any contact at all was accidental. Abdelkader Keita should hang his head in shame for such a disgraceful display of gamesmanship and the hope is that FIFA see sense and ban the cheat from international football.