Saturday, June 24, 2006

Group F finished.

Brazil finish first as expected, Australia have a memorable day and book a second round date with the Italians.

Australia 2-2 Croatia.

Needing a draw to progress the Aussies showed their battling qualities to come from behind twice and gain a deserved draw. It was a thoroughly entertaining game, end to end stuff, worthy of a knockout clash.

Australia are making a habit of coming from behind in games as they famously did against Japan in their opening group F game. On the back foot within the first few minutes as captain Viduka pulled out a needless strikers challenge, only for Croatia to convert the resulting free kick. From this moment on the Aussies dominated although perhaps not creating enough clearcut goalshooting opportunities although Pletikosa had to be alert on a few occasions. Viduka was unlucky not to be given a penalty as he was rugby tackled to the ground but they were awarded later in the half as yet another world cup penalty was awarded for an inexplicable handball. Craig Moore was given the duty off converting (surprisingly chosen ahead of the likes of Viduka, Kewell, Cahill and Neill) and he duly obliged. The second half saw disaster strike. Kalac had been given the goalkeeping duties ahead of Schwarzer, the rationale being his height would be more imposing for a team that relied on crossing the ball for Prso to head home. However in this selection Hiddink was shown to have dropped a bit of a clanger as Kalac was unable to stop a tame shot from Nico Kovac. What Schwarzer was thinking as he looked on goodness only knows. Australia again streamed ahead looking for an equaliser, Hiddink brought on some very attacking substitutions. Kewell smashed a shot straight at Pletikosa who did well to turn it over. The goal eventually came as Kewell hit home from close range after subs Bresciano and Aloisi combined to set him up, although there were suspicions of Kewell and Viduka both being in offside positions. The Aussies then managed to hang on. Viduka worked manfully hard upfront, Kewell was crowned King Harry, Kalac's blushes were spared and the likes of Culina played very well. Emerton's red card one of the blemishes. It was a marvellous day for Aussie sport and the Aussies celebrations all over the world reflected that.

Croatia played their part in this pulsating match. Srna sweetly dispatched the early free kick and while the Aussies were progressing could have scored more on counter attacks, Prso blasting wastefully over. Once the Aussies had the equaliser the Croats pressed with menace and were on top for the early period of the second half before Kovac's lucky strike. Croatia couldn't hold their lead though. Tomas may have conceded one penalty for handball but he could so easily have conceded another late in the second half for the same offence. Croatia appeared rattled late on as they were desperate for a winner, losing their cool and ending up with 9 men by the end of the night.

Referee Poll had a bit of a shocker. He handed Simunic three yellow cards failing to send him off after his second, and missed a couple of good penalty appeals. Apparently his performance will be analysed thoroughly and thus his tournament may be over sooner than he expected.

Brazil 4-1 Japan.

Japan needed a big win, instead they were outclassed. On the back foot for much of the first half they took a lead against the run of play as Alex played a lovely ball for Tamada to finish with some class. Ronaldo levelled just before half time though as a lovely flighted header from Cicinho found his own head two yards out. The second half was pretty much all Brazil as they played the beautiful game the beautiful way. Robinho, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo and co all played some sumptuous football. The men who came in for the likes of the rested Adriano, Cafu and Carlos all had great games to demonstrate Brazil's depth. Ronaldo's second goal was perhaps the goal of the tournament as lovely interplay found it's way to Ronaldo who manoevred into some space and sidefooted artistically into the corner of the goal. Juninho's goal went straight through the previously excellent Kawaguchi who had perhaps made the save of the tournament earlier from the very same person, who had hit a thunderous 20 yard drive only for it to be magnificently tipped over. Gilberto also scored a great goal as he clinically found the bottom right hand corner. Brazil could have had more goals but they were quite outstanding on the night. And Ronaldo had a top game to silence his critics and equal Gerd Muller as the all time leading scorer at world cups with 14.

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