Saturday, June 26, 2010

Group A final set of games

Uruguay 1-0 Mexico

Some people had predicted a damp squib of a game as both sides only required a draw to guarantee progression to the second round of the World Cup. However with the 2nd placed team likely to play Argentina both would surely have decided that they wanted to avoid that. To do so Mexico (in 2nd on goal difference) would need to win but Uruguay would only need to draw.

At any rate it was an entertaining game with both sides having a number of chances, and no-one could possibly accuse them of doing a 1982 Germany Algeria (when a Germany 1-0 win would be enough to take them both through Germany scored in the first 10 minutes and the last 80 were a farce).

Suarez scored the only goal of the game with a simple header at the back post but there were a number of missed opportunities from both sides. Guardado smashed a thunderous long-range shot against the underside of the bar, Suarez uncharacteristically shot wide of the target when in a good position, Rodriguez somehow put a header wide when it seemed easier to score and Perez pulled off a magnificent save from a Lugano header - to describe the best few.

Both sides looked good going forward, Mexico a bit shaky at the back, and ultimately Uruguay perhaps deserved the one goal victory that was enough to take both sides into the second round.

South Africa 2-1 France

Both sides went into the game knowing they needed a big win (or a small win and relying on a big win in the game being played simultaneously). South Africa broke the deadlock after only 20 minues (against the run of play) - Khumalo heading home a Tshabalala corner that Lloris got nowhere near to. Their cause was aided further when Gourcuff was red carded for use of the elbow - it was a harsh decision as replays showed that whilst there was more than a hint of elbow there was no malicious intent. South Africa even managed a second before half-time. A comedy of errors in the French defence resulted in Mphela bundling the ball home.

The second half started with South Africa, tails up and in the ascendancy. Tshabalala released Mphela and in a one-on-one he lifted it above the goalkeeper but against the crossbar. A third goal would have left them requiring only a fourth, should the other game remain at 1-0. Lloris also made a couple of fantastic saves to keep France in it. Then it was France's turn to score against the run of play - Malouda finishing off a nice, simple and effective move by stroking the ball into the empty net. South Africa had a couple more big chances but they didn't manage to score again. Despite being the first hosts to be knocked out in the group stage, South Africa played with a huge amount of heart.

The match finished 2-1: the South Africans were happy to finally have a win at this World Cup and to miss out on the second round only on goal difference. The French went home with only 1 point and plenty of questions about the squad and manager. A couple of days before the game Anelka had been sent home for something he'd said and players had refused to train as a result, some had considered boycotting the match. In France they will feel the aftermath of the World Cup for a while as they try to pick up the pieces. The South African supporters will enjoy the rest of the tournament, despite the absence of the hosts.

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