Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Aussies come of age, Koreans show their spirit.

Japan 0-0 Croatia

An entertaining game despite the scoreline (isn't a world cup game enjoyable by definition anyway?). Ultimately a point keeps both teams alive although does neither much good. Japan have the more difficult task of beating Brazil by a minimum of two goals and hoping that Australia do not beat Croatia to have any chance whatsoever.

Japan in the main were thankful to their goalkeeper Kawaguchi who had a stunning match keeping the Croatians at bay, including an impressive penalty save diving low to the right after a clumsy foul from Miyamoto had presented the Croatians with the opportunity. They created only one real chance of note in the first half and a handful in the second, perhaps instigated by the introduction of Inamoto. Yanagisawa had the best chance of the game after good work down the right from Kaji. A matter of only a few yards out, and only the keeper to beat, he shanked it with a miscue however. Nakamura again looked superb in midfield as he barely seemed to make an inaccurate pass.

Croatia were the more dangerous having a number of good opportunities but were denied in the main by the heroics of Kawaguchi. Kranjcar and Klasnic were quite busy in front of goal but ultimately they failed to deliver. Kranjcar's long range effort that slapped against the crossbar was perhaps the closest they came. People should not be too harsh on Srna whose penalty was well taken, only for it to be stopped in spectacular fashion. Croatia were physically strong, played some nice football and were unlucky not to win however it was Japan who finished the strongest and could have taken the three points in the end.

Brazil 2-0 Australia.

A slightly flattering scoreline as the Brazilians survived a difficult encounter.

Brazil still do not quite look like the team that oozes talent from every pore, despite their superstar personnel. Ronaldo was a disconsolate figure in attack, a shame what is happening to the one time world's best striker typified by a shot early in the game in which he completely missed the ball. He still has the class though and who knows if and when he will come back into his own. He did do some excellent footwork to set up Adriano for the first goal so his night was not an unparalleled failure. There were flashes of brilliance from the team through the likes of Kaka but they were also guilty of allowing Australia room to create good openings. Carlos, having difficulties with the nature of the football, is also yet to find his free kick shooting range. Perhaps rattled by the physicality and confidence of the Australians Brazil will be pleased to emerge unscathed without having set the world alight. They could though have opened the floodgates in the last few minutes after Fred gave them the second goal which would have been harsh on the Aussies.

Australia came of age in this game as they competed with Brazil in almost every department. Craig Moore marshalled the defence in excellent fashion and Australia worked hard, and could (perhaps should) have had one or two goals to show for their efforts. Examples include: substitute Kewell missed an open goal after Dida dropped the ball, Viduka's lob went on top of the net, Bresciano had a good volley well saved. Striving to find an equaliser they allowed Brazil a second goal that gave them a flattering 2-0 win. The Aussies were definitely not overawed and are well placed to progress to the last 16.

France 1-1 South Korea.

France scored their first goal in 5 world cup matches to avoid equalling Bolivia's unwelcome record for the longest time in the world cup without scoring. However it proved to be a frustrating day for the French as victory managed to elude them. France need victory by a 2 goal margin against Togo to avoid the embarassment of being knocked out at the group stages of a second successive world cup.

France: Looked good in the first half, perhaps settled by Henry's classic finish that gave them the lead on 8 minutes. They played with a good tempo and Malouda and Viera seemed particularly good. Zidane was disappointing and also picked up a booking that will leave him suspended for the crucial last game against Togo. France seemed to go to sleep towards the end of the match and were made to pay in conceding a sloppy equaliser, Barthez who had little to do throughout the game, flapped indecisively at the ball which squirmed into his goal. It was harsh on the French but they only have themselves to blame. They then managed to waste a couple of last opportunities to find themselves a winner.

Korea were second best for much of the game but the Koreans are a spirited bunch who never give in, and were rewarded with a late equaliser. The goal led to amazing scenes as their red army of fans made huge amounts of noise stamping their feet in delight as the stadium manufacturers breathed a sigh of relief that their engineering skills were up to speed! It was perhaps appropriate that it was the lynchpin Park Ji Sung who got the all important goal. They were also unlucky that Viera's header which clearly crossed the line was not awarded a goal. Had that been awarded as it should I doubt Korea could have come back from a 2 goal deficit. This defining moment revived calls for technology in football. A debate I shall no doubt return to at some stage!

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