Continuing on from the recap of the past actions from the World Cup, we now get to the final group matches of the first phase. Day 13 and a bickering French side were duly sent home. South Africa finally got their first win of the tournament but went out on goal difference. France were shambolic in many ways. Internal fighting and players looking like their heads were already thinking about holidays put paid to their campaign in 2010. The much reshuffled side that Raymond Domenech sent out against the host were really up against it and found the pace of the Africans hard to cope. Although it was defensive errors that gifted the two goals to the host nation, France can’t even blame the sending off of Yoann Gourcuff for their defeat as they showed very little going forward.
Uruguay defeated Mexico in the other game to secure top spot in Group A and thus avoided Argentina in the last 16. Luis Suarez opened his finals account with a header as the resilient South American side hold out till the final whistle. However, both teams must be complimented for the way they approached the game. Needing only a draw to both to qualify, they threw caution out of the window and went at each other right from the start. The prospect of facing Argentina in the next game that meant that both sides wanted to finish top which made for a very enjoyable game to watch.
In the later set of matches, Argentina completed their group fixtures with maximum points and are looking ever so solid. Despite resting a handful of their first choice starters, the quality on show was still too much for Greece to overcome. Even though the European side know that they have to better South Korea’s result to advance to the next round, they hardly showed any ambition in trying to gain maximum points, which would have secure their qualification. Late goals by Martins; Demichelis and Palermo, ensured that Maradona’s side kept their 100% record in the competition. Javier Pastore got some action late on and looks a very good player, one name to remember surely. Elsewhere, South Korea took the lead against Nigeria, only to be pegged back by a 69th minute Yakubu penalty but the draw was enough to sent them to their first last 16 on foreign soil.
Day 14, English and Americans shares the joy. Both countries advance to the next stage albeit in through the hard way. Both produced identical scores to ensure their participation in the tournament continues. Jermaine Defoe got what is only England’s second goal in these shores by getting ahead of a Slovenian defender in anticipation of James Milner’s cross. Wayne Rooney looked again a pale shadow of his wonderful Premiership form as he struggled to get going in the game and at times even struggled to control simple passes. Meanwhile, USA again suffered from poor call from the referee who liked the previous game, ruled out a perfectly legitimate goal. They had to wait until the 92nd minute for their talismanic captain, Landon Donovan to prod home the ball after Altidore’s effort was palmed away by the Algerian custodian. The Americans finished ahead of England having scored a goal more than their more illustrious opponent.
The final action of the saw Germany booking their last 16 game against England when Mezut Ozil’s volley secured a slim 1-0 victory over Ghana. Despite losing the game, Ghana remained the only African side to advance to the next round. Asamoah Gyan may have scored twice already in this tournament but both times, it has come from the penalty spot. His conversion rate from normal play remains very poor. Ghana had their chances but poor finishing like Gyan meant that they suffered their first defeat in the tournament. Tim Cahill’s return to help Australia to their only win in South Africa but it was not enough as they lose out to Ghana on goal difference. Going into the game, Serbia were tipped to beat Australia (at least I thought so) and advance while Germany and Ghana battle it out in the other winner takes all game, but like the other group, WC2010 is anything but predictable.
Half of the slots are filled now, in the next couple of days we will find out the matchup for the last 16. Football in WC2010 is improving day by day. Excitement builds. Till tomorrow, have a nice day.