Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Group G's second set of games

Portugal 7-0 North Korea

North Korea approached this match with far more positive attacking intent than they did against Brazil. The first half featured some good attacks from Portugal but it also featured some sustained pressure from North Korea, and arguably were creative enough to be worthy of a goal. Portugal probably had the better of the first half chances but no-one would have argued if Jong Tae-Se had managed to get onto the end of a delightful through ball instead of just missing out as it skidded through.

It was Portugal who broke the deadlock though, scoring the only goal of the first half as Tiago put through a measured clever pass, splitting the North Korean defence for Meireles to complete a tidy finish.

In the second half Portugal ran riot. Better sides than North Korea may not have been able to thwart what was a half of real attacking intent and some stunning play. They were partly able to do so however because North Korea did not look the solid defensive unit they did against Brazil. And that in itself was partly due to their own attacking intent. Instead of focusing on defending they were looking for goals, and it became their undoing as they were exposed at the back.

It's amusing to think that this was the first game North Korea had televised live since a qualifier against Iran maybe a year ago - and here they were getting thrashed. I wonder what a certain dictator thought of the game and if transmission suddenly failed part way through the second half lol.

Portugal scored their six second half goals through Simao, Almeida, Tiago (2), Liedson and Ronaldo - Ri Myong-Guk in goal could have probably done better with a couple of them.

Brazil 3-1 Ivory Coast

The first thing that struck me was that Drogba had come into the team at the expense of Gervinho. I exclaimed frustratedly that it should have been Dindane to be consigned to the subs bench, I really couldn't believe it.

The Ivory Coast had some good early pressure but failed to capitalise. Just before the half hour mark however Brazil struck. Robinho and Kaka combined well with Fabiano to allow him an opportunity to score - which he took emphatically. From that moment on Brazil took control of the game. Melo seemed to foil every attack, Brazil dominated possession and Ivory Coast were limited to long range efforts.

The sucker punch came in the form of a controversial second goal. Fabiano finished delightfully, but twice in the build up to scoring he used part of his arm for control of the ball. The goal should quite simply have been disallowed. The odd thing was there seemed to be pictures of the referee asking Fabiano afterwards if he had handled, and the two of them engaged in laughter. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it and the media hasn't really put this into the spotlight. A couple of minutes after Drogba had an excellent headed opportunity that he would normally bury, but he put it disappointingly wide.

Early in the second half Gervinho had finally replaced Dindane and it was easy to see why I had been so disturbed initially. Dindane had been ineffective, but Gervinho made a huge difference. He was involved in some quality moves, but still Ivory Coast failed to score.

After about 60 mins or so Brazil effectively ended the game as a contest when Elano coolly slotted home after timing his run to perfection. Almost immediately after this though he was stretchered off, barely able to stand on his right leg after a horrible studs up tackle from Tiote which arguably should have produced a red card.

Drogba headed a consolation, Ivory Coast started putting in some harsh, overly physical unfair tackles and then Keita engaged in some extra-ordinary play acting. Nudged in the chest by Kaka he dropped to the ground clutching his face. It was despicable behaviour reminiscent of Rivaldo's appalling dive (in 2002 against Turkey), clutching his face, after being hit in the knee by a ball kicked in his direction. FIFA have not done anything to prevent this kind of behaviour happening again - indeed they never even suspended him for it, just fining him 5,000 pounds. Kaka, unfairly got a red card. It was also ridiculous from Keita as the result of this is a suspension for Kaka against Portugal, when Ivory Coast would no doubt have been wanting Brazil to win to help them in their quest to qualify for the second round.

So, three bad decisions from the officials - 2 against Brazil and 1 against Ivory Coast. Plenty of talking points, including some quality football.

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