The final last 16 game in the 2010 World Cup pits the Iberian neighbours Spain & Portugal against each other for the right to play Paraguay in the Quarter Finals. Given the winner will be strong favourites to progress to the semi finals, this game might be a lot tighter than expected and a low scoring match is probable.
Spain played well against Chile to snatch their group after a spluttering start but with Torres looking a shadow of his Liverpool self, goals have not come easy.
Portugal have also struggled to get goals against the better teams and their entire haul to date has came against North Korea, who capitulated in the second half of their match. However they will take great heart from their battling draw with Brazil and the form line through Chile indicates this will be very close.
Overall I dont expect a thriller and a 1-0 scoreline, possibly needing extra time looks the probable result. Who gets the one is too close to call but if pushed one would expect Spain to just edge it.
History doesn’t favour a Japan win today and in the 12 previous Asia v South America World Cup Finals meetings only North Korea in 1966 and South Korea in 1994 have avoided defeat, both managing draws.
Japan are one of the surprises of the tournament having come through a fairly tough group thanks to wins over Cameroon and Denmark. However neither of these opponents looked anywhere like their best and it is hard to gague what Japan are capable of. Paraguay on the other hand have looked good in qualifying and although you can point to Italy’s below par performance in the finals it would be harsh to take too much away from the South Americans who have played neat, compact football. They brushed Slovakia aside with considerable ease and although they only drew with New Zealand they new what they needed that day and duly got it.
A repeat of their Slovakia performance should see them ease into the last eight for the 1st time in the countries history.
Holland eased into the last eight of the World Cup beating Slovakia somewhat easier than the score would suggest.
Arjen Robben opened the scoring with a well taken goal in the 18th minute and Wesley Sneijder added their second in the 84th, ensuring that Slovakia’s last minute penalty was academic to th result. However it was more of a workman like performance that would have been expected from the Dutch and many of their fans seem a little unhappy at their lack of flair. Still a win is a win and Holland have won all their matches in South Africa without leaving second gear. The problem now is can they up their game or is this all they have. A performance of this standard against Brazil won’t be anywhere near good enough and they will no doubt be aware of that. On Friday 2nd July in Port Elizabeth we will find out just how good the Dutch really are.
Holland 2-1 Slovakia
Be afraid – be very afraid the boys from Brazil have come to South Africa with the intention of lifting the World Cup.
In what should have been a tricky tie against a very good Chile side, Brazil proceeded to show that they have come to win, even if it means sacrificing some of their trademark flair filled football. In doing so they might not win the hearts of their home fans but collecting the trophy should act as compensation.
The game was quite open in the early stages and Chile started brightly playing some nice passing football, but as they had shown in their group games seemed to lack both composure and incisiveness in the final third of the field. A shock never really looked on the cards though and it was Brazil who took the lead with an untypical goal for them when central defender Juan found himself poorly marked in the penalty box and he duly headed home Maicon’s corner.
Four Minutes later the game was all but over thanks to some lovely flowing football, starting with Robinho who cut inside and squared ball to Kaka, who played an inch perfect first time pass to Luis Fabiano who virtually passed the ball into an empty net. This was Brazilian football at its best and when Robinho added their third just before the hour mark it was definitely game over.
To their credit Chile never stopped trying but their nice accurate passing was not enough to break through a determined Brazil defence and on the only occasion they manage a shot on target Cezar was more than equal to it. So despite having less possession and being out passed (Chile had an 82% passing accuracy compared to Brazils 77%) Brazil eased through to the last 8 with considerable ease. There they will meet Holland who have proven worthy opponents in several previous World Cup tournaments, however on this performance it will take something special to beat them and it looks increasingly likely that if any team beats Brazil they will be World Champions.
As a final foot note I would just like to acknowledge the excellent refereeing performance by England’s Howard Webb and his team. With several controversies already surrounding the refereeing it was great to see the game being handled so well.
Brazil 3-0 Chile
- Venue: Ellis Park
- Referee: Howard Webb
- Attendance: 54,096
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.