Sunday, June 20, 2010

Group G opening games

Ivory Coast 0-0 Portugal

This was a match I had been really looking forward to. Two teams stocked full of talent, in what some describe as the Group of Death, playing an opening game that is potentially crucial for determining who will go through. The match did not live up to its billing. Both teams played a structured, disciplined game that at times lacked the spark and creativity that I had been expecting. The moment of the game came in the first half when Ronaldo thundered a 30 yard drive against the post. Apart from that both sides lacked penetration, partly as a result of strong defences. Gervinho was the most impressive Ivory Coast player but even he failed to produce many clearcut opportunities. The injured Drogba came on as a substitute midway through the second half - but even he was unable to galvanise the game, or indeed score with his last minute opportunity. Don't get me wrong - it wasn't a terrible game, there was still quality shown on both sides, but it was surely disappointing.

Brazil 2-1 North Korea

The first observation I would like to make is regarding a passionate, emotional and stirring performance from Jong Tae-Se during the national anthem. He was visibly in a constant stream of tears, quite a moving performance from the man who is a citizen of South Korea, resident of Japan but educated at North Korean schools and universities in Japan! This was a very engaging game. North Korea battled valiantly in defence. They defended in numbers and it appeared any time a Brazilian had the ball there were around 8 North Koreans in close proximity preventing any real penetration. Brazil were restricted to a number of long range shots and really found the going tough.

The breakthrough finally came on around 55 minutes when Maicon, the marauding right-back smashed the ball in between the goalkeeper (who was anticipating a cross) and the near post. It has been speculated that this was an attempted cross but I believe it was purposeful, and wasn't it smashed home beautifully. The Brazilians were visibly relieved and later scored a beautifully crafted second goal. Robinho played an inch perfect angled through ball to Elano who hit a precise low shot into the bottom right hand corner.

North Korea, whilst defending for much of the match, had managed some moments in attack. Incredibly they scored a late consolation goal. Ji Yung-Nam powered into the box and smashed home from close range. It was an encouraging performance from the North Koreans, who if they continue in this vein, will be difficult for Portugal and the Ivory Coast to break down.

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