Saturday, June 24, 2006

Group E decided.

So Italy finish first and Ghana second. The Czech Republic become probably the biggest name to fall at the group stage hurdle and go home with a whimper.

Italy 2-0 Czech Republic.

Hardly the blood and thunder classic one might have expected.

Italy were not exactly impressive but they certainly did enough to claim what was in the end a straightforward victory. Italy did their usual trick of taking the lead after being under the cosh before holding out for the rest of the game, scoring the decisive second when another in vain Czech attack created enough space for the Italians to punish. In some ways it paralleled their 2-0 win over Ghana earlier in the competition. Nesta came off with an injury but the blow was lessened as substitute defender Materazzi made an immediate impact with a precision header from a Totti corner midway through the first half. This spurred Italy on to a comfortable victory, helped by a numerical advantage in players in the second half. Inzaghi was profligate in front of goal but was confident enough to score the second goal as he calmly rounded Cech to sidefoot home. Cannavaro had a top class game in defence and Buffon had a stupendous game in goal. Totti started to look more comfortable as he continued his quest for full fitness and had one fizzing shot from range that came close.

Czech Republic, I would argue, left the tournament with a bit of a whimper. Nedved had a brilliant game, instrumental in all their attacks and having a number of shots parried by Buffon but he was a bit of a one man band. Baros's rustiness in managing to shrug off his injury for the game showed as he was continually isolated upfront. Rosicky was unfortunately rather anonymous during the game but the Czechs weren't helped by Polak's red card at the end of the first half. Cech also did well in goal but in the end the Czechs were eliminated. After a fantastic opening match against the US, one of the pre-tournament favourites failed to fire in a tough group and left the world cup early. I would have expected more desperation from the Czechs as their world cup dream came to an anti climactic end.

Ghana 2-1 US

Ghana became the first (and possibly the only depending on Tunisia's game with the Ukraine) African side to make the last 16.

Ghana: Opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when Draman dispossessed Reyna before cooly and adeptly slotting home. They conceded an equaliser unable to cope with the direct US approach play but were soon back in front as Appiah dispatched a controversially awarded penalty moments later. Some consider Pimpong's fall as worthy of an oscar. The Ghanaians were a little bit naive in becoming too defensive in the second half as they had to cope with wave after wave of US attack looking rather nervy at times. Appiah had a brilliant display in the midfield. He provided an impetus going forward and distributed the ball wonderfully. Essien did likewise, and will be a huge loss in the round of 16 as he will be suspended for the Brazil clash, picking up a second yellow card. Ghana were useful on the break in the second half, Amoah crashing a shot that Keller did well to parry. Ghana probably deserved their win and move triumphantly forward to a meeting with the world champs.

US: showed a lot of guts and passion knowing a minimum of a win was in order, and probably a big one needed. Reyna did poorly in losing the ball immediately preceeding the opening goal, it was tough on the midfielder who has regularly featured as the US rock and crucial performer. The direct approach worked best and this came off for their goal as Beasley's delicious cross allowed Dempsey to volley home. McBride had a good game as the target man upfront, consistently flicking balls on with his head, and had a header come unluckily off the post during the second period. The US were unlucky not to manage a draw and cried foul over the penalty decision, but even had they come away with a draw they would still have been going home. Bruce Arena unable to live up to the heroics of 02.

No comments: