Thursday, June 15, 2006

Matchday 5

South Korea 2-1 Togo

A close game in which Togo put their pay disputes and coaching problems behind them to almost record a shock victory, unfortunately only to be undone in the end. The voodoo magic obviously didn't help them enough!

South Korea: A disappointing effort for much of the game from the Koreans. Having punched above their weight in the last world cup they have a weaker squad and no Guus Hiddink this time around. They also had a reasonably poor qualifying campaign to finish behind Saudi Arabia, and for the first half at least, it showed against the lowest ranking world cup team. Their play was disjointed and second best until Abalo was rightfully given a second yellow card and Lee Chun-Soo planted a very nice free kick to equalise. Korea then started to show some nice play, attacking with some real purpose, most of which was instigated by the impressive Ahn Jung-Hwan. Hwan fittingly scored the winning goal although the effort had an element of luck as the ball deviated wickedly after a deflection.

Togo: Played with some very good technical ability, employing some neat play, and were certainly not overawed by the occasion. Mohamed Kader was their best player expertly controlling the ball off his thigh between two defenders and finishing with aplomb for the opening goal. Kader created some other opportunities with his nifty footwork and generally did a good job. Adebayor didn't really live up to his billing as Togo's main player. Another to shine though was Senaya. Togo can consider themselves unlucky to not at least have a point from this fixture.

France 0-0 Switzerland

A reasonably dour match at times, having become familiar with each other during qualifying in which they recorded two draws in their two games it was perhaps unsurprising that they negated each other again. A point was a fair result.

France: Looked quite useful at times, Zidane showing he is still the ultimate master of the beautiful game with some of his play, deceptively simple and yet awe inspiring. Henry continued his trait of being bettter for club than country, Barthez toned down his eccentricities to have a solid game and Sagnol had a top match at fullback. France had limited opportunities due to limited creative spark, but what they did have were two clearcut chances that ended with disappointment.

Switzerland: Played effectively without really shining. Senderos and Magnini in particular did well in defence and they had one exceptional opportunity which was the best chance of the game. Barnetta's free kick may have got the faintest of touches although it appeared to evade everyone ending up hitting the post, Barthez stranded and left with no chance. In the ensuing melee Frei had the goal at his mercy but the ball never really sat up for him and the opportunity was lost.

Brazil 1-0 Croatia

Much has been made of the fact that Brazil did not blow away their opposition but they got the win and should improve as the tournament progresses.

Brazil showed off some of their samba with flashing efforts from the likes of Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho, and a reasonable amount of their traditional flair, however the good stuff came in patches rather than a consistent effort. Kaka's goal was both deserved and excellent, and will no doubt prove to be a major player in Brazil's cause. Dida was exceptional in goal, however he had to be as the Brazilian defence allowed too many chances to fall Croatia's way: Lucio and Juan finding themselves in poor positions regularly and being outmuscled too often. Ronaldo and Adriano had poor games upfront with the insertion of Robinho into the play resulting in greater fluidity.

Croatia played very well and were unlucky not to secure at least a point from the game. Prso was strong and effective, and on more than one occasion they threatened the Brazil goal with some neat interplay and sharp shooting. Defensively Croatia also looked quite sound, stymieing many of Brazil's forays forward, including good work from the keeper Pletikosa. A win over Japan is a must to keep pace with Australia.

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