Saturday, June 24, 2006

Group G

Going into the last games of group G these were the requirements:

France: Nothing less than a victory would do. Any kind of victory would be enough if either Korea or Switzerland won. A 2 goal margin would be required if the other match was a draw.

Switzerland: A win or a draw was enough to progress as they had a better goal difference than Korea. A loss would be sufficient if France failed to beat Togo.

Korea: Realistically needed to win to progress, a draw would be enough if France failed to beat Togo by at least 2 goals. Even a loss could have seen them through if France had failed to beat Togo.

Togo: already eliminated.

Switzerland 2-0 Korea.

A dingdong battle, but the right result in the end.

Switzerland looked very good. Barnetta looked menacing and all of Frei, Senderos, Degen, Yakin and Cabanas played particularly well. Yakin had been unlucky to miss out on the original 23 man squad but sneaked his way in due to an injury to one of the original party. He is an experienced and wily campaigner who always seems to attack with promise. It was Hakin Yakin's perfectly flighted free kick in the first half that found the head of Senderos who headed home with perfect precision only to bloody his nose in the process. Switzerland defended adroitly on the whole as a desperate Korean side surged forward with regularity in the second half, and on the few occasions in which they let off admittedly decent efforts Zuberbuhler was equal to it. Losing Senderos to an arm injury on 53 minutes could have been a big blow but Djourou stepped effortlessly into the breach. Frei missed a couple of good chances in the attacking third (including one that rattled the crossbar) but finally got the second goal in controversial circumstances - the referee rightfully overruling the linesman's flag. Switzerland were also happy to avoid picking up any suspensions as about 5 of the team went into the game on yellows, and they finished the group stages as the only team not to concede a goal, although they have had 2 circumstances in which the opposing team have had reasonable penalty shouts for handball only to be turned down for the probably correct interpretation that they were accidental.

Korea did not go down without a fight. They are an amazingly fit team who run and run and never seem to get tired. Chun-Soo Lee was probably their man of the match as he had some good shots and ran himself into the ground in both defence and attack. Korea just lacked a little in quality to find any goals in their game but they can at least reflect that they gave their all. Woon-Jae Lee did a pretty good job in goal as well. Overall though the Koreans looked vulnerable at set pieces as Yakin made some telling crosses from these positions. For Korea the luck that they had in abundance in 02 had finally run out, and it's back to the drawing board for them as a dangerous Swiss march on to a meeting with Shevchenko and his boys.

France 2-0 Togo.

France were desperate for the win, and despite a goal-less first half got the 2-0 scoreline they were after.

France: attacked, attacked, attacked but a combination of committed Togolese and French profligacy kept the scoresheet untouched during the first period. Trezeguet, finally getting a start, being the one making the least use of his chances. Ribery also unable to make hay as the sun shone. France were also guilty of too many misplaced passes. 2 goals from the unlikely source of Viera and then Henry were enough to settle the affair in two nicely worked moves. It was perhaps an irony though that France looked the most dangerous in this game without their influential playmaker, Zidane, although perhaps the nature of their opposition had something to do with this. A very tricky encounter with Spain now looms large on the horizon.

Togo, already eliminated, were playing for pride and they certainly gave a pretty good showing of themselves. They repelled most of the French attacks and had a few good moves themselves. Again Mohammad Kader was probably the best of the bunch and Agassi was inspired in goal. Togo go home with 0 points but will learn from the world cup and come back stronger for it.

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