Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The day of Australia.

June 12th. Match Day 4. The day of the midfielder: each game was won thanks to goal or goals usually of a top quality by a certain midfielder. It was also a day when referee's came a little more under the spotlight.

Australia 3-1 Japan.

The Aussies made a lot of noise in the crowd, the game was a good one, but largely frustrating at times. As someone hoping for an Aussie win, I certainly made a lot of noise when they achieved their remarkable turnaround.

Australia played with purpose, determination, and a fairly direct type of game. The early exchanges favoured them and they had a few good opportunities. Mark Viduka showed the kind of form that helped Leeds United make the semifinals of the Champions League back in 2001. He had a good double effort saved, and set up Bresciano with a delightful, perfectly weighted flick, Bresciano's finish typified much of his efforts throughout the game: harmless and lacking power. His general game was ok but his finishing was disappointing. Throughout the game Viduka looked to put in a tremendous amount of effort in comparison with the lazy way he often comes across. Australia were unlucky to be behind given how well they had been playing, and the goal itself arrived in a controversial fashion. Nakamura's floated ball evaded everyone, however Schwarzer appeared to have been impeded. Nothing was given, and it appeared a bit of injustice had been done. Most of the match was evenly contested. As Australia went searching desperately for the equaliser they also left quite a few holes at the back. The comeback was the most exciting few moments of the world cup thus far. With about 5 mins remaining midfielder Cahill slammed home in a goalmouth scramble only to pull off a 20 yard screamer a couple of minutes later to send the Aussies into dreamland. A clinical 3rd from another substitute Aloisi wrapped up the points. Cahill had been introduced to the game with less than 40 minutes to go and now would sit atop the standings of most goals per minute on the pitch, if anyone bothered to create one. The commentator had noted at the start that he wasn't playing due to injury but other sources indicate the choice to have him on the bench had been partly tactical. Hiddink had been rewarded for some brave substitutions, some may have been critical at his decision to leave Kewell on for the whole 90 despite him appearing jaded however I agreed with him, he is the kind of guy who can turn a match even when not fully fit. As for other players Wilkshire is not really good enough to be at the world cup (hence why he plys his trade for Bristol City!), and Schwarzer made a hash at one point coming out to make a header, only for it to fall in the path of the oncoming striker. Luckily a goal did not eventuate. Cahill was obviously inspirational when he came on, and Kewell looked good on the infrequent times he got involved.

Japan played with a patient build up, enjoying keeping the ball on the ground and passing well. Nakamura was particularly impressive. Kawaguchi the keeper made several fine stops but in the end had three put past him. Brazilian left back Alex had a good game, as most of the team did. They were however guilty of missing a reasonable number of good chances to put the result beyond doubt. This stuffed them up in the end. Zico will have to get their confidence back up ready for the next game.

Czech Republic 3-0 US.

A game whose likely result quickly became apparent.

Czech Republic were at times sublime. Rosicky was the undoubted star of the show, Arsenal fans will certainly be happy to have signed him! A blistering goal to put the Czechs two up could be the goal of the tournament, and his finish for the third also magnificent. Apart from slamming the crossbar once he also passed with precision and flair, and gave a real masterclass. Koller finished nicely for the first goal, however he came off shortly before halftime amid fears he may have done his hamstring and be out for the rest of the tournament. Czech was solid in goal, Nedved was impressive and all in all the Czech Republic demonstrated that they could be a real force at the world cup. They had less possession but what they did have they made count.

The US by contrast were largely pedestrian and predictable. The main problem was that their crosses were inaccurate and incomplete, and their play in the final third rather lacking at times. They had no answer to the Czech machine. However as we all know - goals change games, and had Reyna's outstanding shot sneaked in off the post instead of rebounding from it, a different game may have ensued. Johnson made a few inroads when he came on off the bench, and there were a few positives, but generally a must do better will be resounding round their ears.

Italy 2-0 Ghana.

A slightly flattering scoreline but probably the right result.

Italy were solid if not spectacular. They created a number of opportunities but often found it quite difficult to cope with the speed of Ghana in attack. Luca Toni was desperately unlucky to see a shot smash into the underside of the crossbar. The goal when it came was delightful. Pirlo produced a low drive into the bottom right hand corner after receiving the ball from a short corner. The renowned defence of Italy stood up to the task but not without a few nervy moments.

Ghana played well attacking with great verve, however many of the shots were from outside the area, and all of them had seemed to leave their shooting boots behind. Essien had a number of shots, none of them troubling Buffon. However their general build up play was good. Kingston in goal seemed incapable of dealing with the high ball often coming out to meet it and missing completely, however he was on real form in the one on one's. And Pappoe, presented with a marvellous opportunity, squandered it. Kuffour made a crucial mistake in the dying stages leaving Iaquinta to finish with ease. However Ghana should be encouraged by some of their play. Essien and Appiah were strong in the middle of the park, but no-one seemed to know how to score.

It seems that many of the unfancied teams are a little like Ghana: play well, shoot averagely, and have the tendency to make costly defensive errors. Perhaps this is a lack of experience.

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