lane's world cup diary
Whistle Down The Windbag
The whole opening ceremony of the World
Cup is a misguided and overblown affair which frankly adds little to the
World Cup, other than giving the home country(ies) a chance to display
their ability to put on a big show. This tournament's exhibition
"From the East", was a completely incomprehensible display of
meaningful dancing and ceremony. Apparently.
By far the most entertaining part of the
proceedings had come before the show, when Josep Blatter got up to make
his World Cup speech. With so many whistles coming from the crowd,
one would have thought that the entire squad of match officials for the
tournament were getting in some practice. So disturbed by this was
the re-elected President of FIFA, that he paused mid-speech to say
"Fair Play please" !! And what sort of kettle were you
calling the pot there Sepp ?? I am sure that given the
opportunity, he would have rounded up the offending members of the crowd
and left them like the participants in the opening ceremony who had
metal bars seemingly sticking through their heads.
The TeleFaces (TVs for heads not bellies)
that starred in the dancing were surreal and allegedly showed the
technological excellence of Korea. There were also small children
dressed up in national costume took the pitch and they were as
stereotyped as you could imagine. I swear I saw a kid dressed up
as Dick van Dyke's sweep in "Mary Poppins", who must have been
representing England. I wonder if he had the same accent ??
Disney have a lot to answer for.
The whole shebang cost £5.5
million. Small change in relation to what FIFA have lost in th4e
last few years, but money that could surely be better spent trying to
save clubs and leagues from going out of existence. Or arranging
for the travel for some countries not so well off to fulfill their
international fixtures. But that wouldn't leave much profit for
any of the cronies surrounding FIFA would it ??
to the game. And where on Earth could you find a bigger surprise
than Senegal beating World and European champions France ?? The
arrogant, strutting collection of those you love to hate clearly missed
ZZ and were lacking the dynamic in their play. Chances did come at
both ends, with the woodwork being hit more often than that of the
Edgbaston boundary boards by the English cricket team on the same day.
But was the match a weird replay of the final of 1998, with France
playing Brazil and Senegal taking the World Cup holders role ??
seemed little to indicate that the holders were ready to step up another
gear and now that they have no points, they will need to beat both
Uruguay and Denmark. Not impossible, but with the clueless Lebeouf
in defence, sliding in at every opportunity, there were moments when
Senegal were clearly too quick for them. And what damage could
Liverpool bound Diouf have inflicted had he been able to stay onside
more often than our own Chris Armstrong ?
were good performances from Cisse in defence and Fandiga in attack too,
but it came as no surprise when Petit was the first player to receive a
yellow card in the tournament. The expected spate of bookings for
diving and time wasting did not arise, mainly because of the sensible
reffing of the UAE official. Let's hope many more follow his
common sense approach.
of the Senegal side showed that any naivety of African teams defending
might now have been consigned to the dustbin. The keeper Sylva
dealt with anything that came his way and while he relied on the post
and bar, there was little that looked like getting past him.
France seemed to lack ideas and their subs made little impact, so
Senegal could rely on the pace of Diouf hitting them on the break.
One such saw him skip away from Lebeouf and cross low into the
box. It was met by Petit, who kicked the ball against his own
keeper and it fell invitingly for Papa Bouba Dioup to kick it in, while
lying on the ground !!
following celebration of dancing around the scorers shirt (obviously an
alternative to the handbag which might catch on in Romford clubs) was
joyous. But it was nothing to that at the end of the game, when
the final whistle signalled a dancing frenzy that put the opening
ceremony to shame.
Senegal have set
the tone for the tournament. I hope they continue to show the
world that there is a joy about the game that we often forget. It
was almost as delicious as when Terry Venables and Des Lynam cracked a
funny and it was a full ten seconds before Paul Gascoigne laughed at
it. As the top players will tell you, it's all about ... ...
|RESULTS : -
Group A - France 0 Senegal 1
|INTERESTING FACT : - At the
end of the game there were two Cisses on the pitch ... one for each
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : - Why
were the French wearing some sort of string vest as a shirt ??
|INVENTED WORD OF THE DAY : -
Aggressivity (JF Hasselbaink)
On The Button
nice people at Telewest made a big difference in my World Cup viewing
when I woke up this morning to find that our cable digital service now
had the option of being interactive. This meant that I was able to
watch the Cameroon v Republic of Ireland match with the commentary
provided by Radio Five Live. It was good to have Andy Gray's
exuberant insights while watching the pictures and even if you don't
have this facility on your TV, I would suggest you try it with a
radio ... it's good.
the game and the vest style shirts had obviously been outlawed by FIFA,
as the Cameroon team came out with some short sleeve device that wrapped
around the back, but no further. I know this as there did not
appear to be any armpits to the shirt when the camera closed in (not a
special feature on the interactive facility). I wondered if
"Roy Keane ... are you watching on the box ?", but soon forgot
about him as players like Stephen Carr would love to have been playing,
but injury prevented them. What, we ask, prevented Keane apart
from his over-inflated opinion of himself and less that appreciative
opinion of anyone else. He wasn't going to be the difference
between the two sides, that was clearly the size of the
Cameroonians. When they played England they looked big, but
against the tiny leprechauns of Ireland it looked like they might be
side were quicker off the blocks than the Premiership team and rightly
took a lead, when they almost re-created Senegal's goal of
yesterday. Eto'o showed some magic in making Staunton look
bewildered and squared for Mbomba to slot home. It was interesting
to watch the Real Mallorca player, with news that he might be interested
in coming to Tottenham. Eto'o looked strong for a 21 year old and
chased back hard, when he was needed in defence. However, he did
have a couple of chances one-on-one with the keeper, one of which he had
saved and directed the other wide. One funny moment came when Foe
hit a screamer of a shot that managed to hit the moving camera on a
gantry behind the goal.
half started better for Ireland, with some more aggressive play and
better passing. Everyone thought they had not qualified, but
Holland's equaliser would have graced the orange shirt of his
namesake. He drilled a loose ball from 25 yards out past the
despairing dive of the keeper. A Song chest (or was it arm)
directed a long cross towards his own goal, but the keeper just
prevented it from going over the line, while Keane hit the post with a
rasping drive on the turn.
match ended with Cameroon trying to get back into it, but Ireland having
the best of the pressure. It was interesting to see Ireland
without Keane. I don't think they missed him and had the old Irish
spirit going, helped by a large presence among the crowd. Cameroon
looked organised and physically formidable, so they could give Germany a
surprise. Song looked a completely different player to the one who
haplessly stumbled his way through his time at Liverpool and West Ham.
Lineker had opened for the Beeb this morning and was joined by Jamie
Redknapp for the Germany game. In between David Pleat was
co-commentator for ITV on the Uruguay match. To be truthful, the
match was a little slow in parts and although the ball stayed on the
floor, it was bogged down in midfield, while the goal action was
When they did
come, they were spectacular. Gronkjaer roasted his marker down the
left wing and pulled the ball low into the six yard box, where it was
side-footed in by Tomasson. It was enough to give the Danes,
wearing Hummel (do you remember those shirts ?), a half-time lead.
Sand should have given them that lead previously, but managed to get a
diving header from six yards out down into the ground and up, onto and
over the bar. Two minutes into the second half, Dario Rodriguez
hit a stunning volley with the outside of his left boot to give the
South Americans parity. Pablo Garcia had juggled the ball when it
was cleared from a corner, but managed to control his lobbed pass to
allow his colleague to smash home the ball. It was Tomasson who
had the last word, with a header from a left wing cross, that left the
Uruguay keeper standing. The forward has come a long way from
looking like a complete waste of money for Newcastle United !!
Silva could become one of the faces to hate over the next week or
so. His bleached blond hair is only the start of it, as he has all
the typical niggling ways of a striker from that part of the world and
his angelic look at the ref was one which might get very wearing.
As for his team-mate Recoba, he suffered being taken off near the end
and although he had done some good work, he did not influence the game
the way the Uruguayans hoped he would. He did produce perhaps the
world's all time slowest nutmeg on Laursen and he was (we were informed
by Pleat and Drury in the commentary box) one of the players who wears
"ballet shoes" !! The other rather unsavoury item of
fashion sense that was pushed down our throat was that Stig Tofting has
a tongue stud. It was at times like these that I wished the red
button worked on ITV too !!
last game of the day showed how big the gap is between some nations and
the big boys. And these big boys needed a play-off to
qualify. Germany strolled to an 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia, with
each goal coming without too much resistance from the Middle Eastern
side. Ziege, with his nationalistic Mohawk haircut, was bombing up
and down the left flank and made two of the goals. He also picked
up a yellow card for his troubles from the eccentric Paraguayan
referee. Playing under the Sapporo stadium with the roof closed,
must have brought Cardiff to mind for the Spurs man, but we all wish the
outcome could have been the same for him back then.
scored a hat-trick, in the old fashioned sense of the word, with all
three netted with his head. The others were queuing up to score,
but the final whistle beat most of them to it and they had to settle for
the third highest score in the World Cup finals history. Germany
have a head start at the top of the group now and it could be a question
of how many the other sides can stick past Al Daeyea.
pulling and the act of "simulation" went unpunished yet again
and it will be a feature of the tournament, that the TV cameras will
show both players grabbing handfuls of shirt without the ref seeing or
Of more concern is
the number of empty seats at the matches. All four so far have had
areas of empty seating, with the German match being the worst so
far. They can't all be down to the English ticket touts they keep
turning away at airports with 350 tickets each, can it ??
|RESULTS : -
Group A - Uruguay 1 Denmark 2
Group E - Republic of
Ireland 1 Cameroon 1
Germany 8 Saudi Arabia 0
|INTERESTING FACT : - Miroslav
Klose is Polish born. Patrick Vieira was born in Senegal.
Zinedine Zidane was born in Algeria. Owen Hargreaves was born in
Canada. It really is a World Cup isn't it ??
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -
Why does anyone say "Nil all" ?? Are they big tennis
fans covering the World Cup ??
|INVENTED WORD OF THE DAY : - Argentinia
dedication to the World Cup action did not quite stretch to getting up
to see the Argentina .v. Nigeria match kick off this morning. I
woke at 7.20 a.m., so managed to see the second half and by all
accounts, I hadn't missed much. On the Five Live commentary, Chris Waddle was reduced to
wondering if the franchise for the Mexican Wave had not been bought for
propensity for Nigeria to allow free headers from corners must have been
a godsend for Argentina. Unfortunately, England do not have anyone
tall enough in the forward line to capitalise on this failing.
From the way it was going, it didn't look like Argentina did
either. They missed the target on a regular basis, until Batistuta
made one count from a difficult angle on the far post. Batigol was
desperate to score, firing fierce free-kicks in, but mainly off
target. At the other end, keeper Cabellero showed that the South
American side do have a weak link.
must have the hairiest team at the World Cup. Their budget for
bootlaces must be sky-high !! But they do have good support.
Even to the extent of the bloke wearing a black and white cow hide print
Stetson and waving a Mexican flag !!
was an interlude before the main event in Group F. This involved a
match between South Africa and Paraguay in the "Group of
S". What Paraguay are doing in this group, when their name
doesn't start with S, I can't imagine. The first half saw the
South Americans take a deserved lead, but it really came alive in the
second half, when at 2-0 up, South Africa decided to get back into the
match. Paraguay's Arce hit a pearler of a free-kick for the second
to add to Santa Cruz's header, but they tended to sit back a bit on
They did go forward,
but it seemed that the Fevernova ball is not swerving as much as they
thought it might, but is lighter and thus, crosses were inevitably
over-hit. A deflected goal (a Paraguayan speciality) gave Bafana
Bafana a look-in, but the penalty they were awarded right at the end of
the game allowed Quentin Fortune to hit his first international goal for
the equaliser. He ran to the crowd and removed his shirt and
didn't even get booked !!
second half was perhaps the most exciting so far, but would England's
efforts surpass it ?? No. The match was boringly like a Premier
League game, perhaps not surprising with all the players on display who
regularly face each other in the English league. The fare that we
are accustomed to was evident ... the giving away of the ball, the poor
defending, the inaccurate crossing, the effort with no end
product. You know what it's like.
all Spurs fans' chagrin, England scored, but it was S. Cumball what did
it. Actually, it was the one thing he did right in the game.
His positioning (a long standing fault) was poor, as was his
distribution (a long ball every time), while he was dragged out of
position too often. Luckily, Sweden did not have the players to
capitalise. In the first half, England ran the game, but created
little to trouble Hedman. Seaman was a virtual spectator, but his
time was to come.
The second half
turned the match around, quite literally. Sweden worked to deny
space in the middle of the pitch and England looked bereft of
ideas. They were pushed back and looked like they were happy to
take what Sweden could throw forward. When they did have the
chance to break out, Emile Heskey showed that he is pedestrian - in pace
and in his mind. His effort came to nothing and I was surprised
that Vassell was taken off, as he at least asked some questions of the
Sweden defence, whereas the Liverpool Lummox gave the same old answers
we all knew.
Seaman had to be sharp
to save three efforts from the Swedes as they pushed on, but he had no
chance as Mills hooked the ball away from him, straight to
Alexandersson, who rifled it back past him. Mills and Cole both
showed they are a long way from being proficient at this level, and that
could be England's downfall. Mills is brawn over brain (witness
his crossing ... behind the goal) and Cole cannot defend at a standard
required in such a competition. It is not just the left side that
is the country's Achilles Heel.
impossibly high bounce from the turf was an oddity. It brought
back the memories of the artificial turf at Loftus Road and made life
very interesting for goalkeepers dealing with back-passes. Perhaps
they should have trained with super-balls on tarmac !!
being as patriotically biased as some reporters, I managed to move on to
the next match without needing to sit through a dissection of the
England performance. In fact, ITV even managed to ignore the
second half of the SA .v. Paraguay game, putting it on ITV2, while they
built up to the England match. While not everyone has that channel, I
was lucky enough to add another Tottenham appearance, with Clive Allen
doing in studio analysis to complement David Pleat on the match
Slovenia took to the
field without our new midfielder Milenko Acimovic. Having nursed
his thigh muscle injury, he wasn't fit for the 90 minutes and sat on the
bench as the Spanish faced his national team.
match started with Slovenia pushing forward and Casillas having to make
a good save from his own defender Puyol. However, the first half
was pretty slow and was only enlivened by Raul's predatory finish just
before half-time. I really appreciate the way Raul plays the game
and always have. He reminds me greatly of Emilio Butragueno and
has the same knack for scoring, being in the right place at the right
When a sublime move in the
second half saw Morientes denied by the keeper's foot, it looked like
Spain would stroll through. Even more so when the delightful move
that produced a second goal was engineered. De Pedro's ball from
the left, between defence and keeper found Valeron at the far side of
the box and he swept the ball home. It was the best team goal of
the tournament so far.
Spain is sometimes like watching Spurs. They suddenly turn off and
then the other side is back in it. This time, a Spurs player had something
to do with it. Acimovic came on in the 63rd minute and had two
shots over the bar (from just outside the box and another from 25
yards). He also seemed to go down under challenge in the area, but the
ref waved play on. Acimovic stayed down and had to be stretchered
off holding his shoulder. Oh, no. Here we go, I thought, but
he was back to play a 1-2 with Cimirotic, who slid the ball home to make
that the score too.
like he went to ground quite easily and he only came alive when he had
the ball, but then hopefully, that is because he's not 100% fit at the
moment. Just when it looked like the game might be turning the
Slovenians way, the ref saw to it that Spain put it out of reach.
Going down under an innocuous challenge, the ref pointed to the spot to
award a penalty to the Spanish. When his country were looking for
a hero, when the captain strode up to the spot kick, you knew it would
end up in the back of the net. Hierro had seen his side through
their first test and that was the first "first game" they had
won for about 70 years in the finals.
was a bit of a close shave. Not as close as the after shave got to
Canizares' foot pre-tournament that kept him out, but manager Camacho's
armpits told the tale of a sweaty second half for the favourites.
Hopefully, he can get some ventilated inserts added before the next
|RESULTS : -
Group B - Spain 3 Slovenia 1
Paraguay 2 South Africa 2
Group F - England 1
1 Nigeria 0
|INTERESTING FACT : -
Chris Waddle said that 98% of people who talk to him about his penalty
miss in the 1990 World Cup semi-final are sympathetic. The other
two percent were morons.
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -
What possesses people to do the Mexican Wave ??
With the players and refs being so
sensible, it had to come to an end didn't it ? So in a flurry of
red cards, the sending off total started and increased.
The first came in the first half of the
Croatia .v. Mexico match with Zivkovic becoming the first recipient of
the dreaded red, after pulling down Blanco as he went through. The
Mexican showed that he was in agony, but his face and raised hand showed
that he felt that the Croat should get a card. The ref was
persuaded, the white booted South American got up to take the penalty
and score and it was virtually game over. Two strange things
occurred to me when the spot kick was taken. Firstly, why did
Pletikosa lean so far to one side of the goal ? The second was
that Cuauhtemoc Blanco looks a bit like Gus Poyet ... who someone has
hit on the head with a large hammer !!
Mexico seemed to be sporting shirts
designed by Slazenger (unless my eyes deceived me ... which they might
have done at that time of the morning) and had a player called Paul
Getty according to the commentary. The pre-requisite of any Mexico
match is to show shots of the crowd wearing sombreros, especially when a
couple of them catch the producer's eye ... when they are covering a
young ladies breasts worn as a bra !!
The appearance of Chelsea's Mario Stanic
as a substitute brought about the worst performance of the tournament so
far (even the Saudi keeper had some redeeming moments) and made me
wonder what people see in him.
With that match out of the way, it was
left for the big boys to take the grand stage.
entered the competition and with Ronaldo leading the line, the world
waited with expectation as to the level of his performance. He
answered it by creating chances, scoring and although not 100% his old
self, he showed he could be a handful for any defence.
run down the left wing to cross for Rivaldo to head down and produce a
save from the keeper displayed a trick and his goal after half-time was
perfectly executed; wrapping his boot around the ball while he was off
the ground just enough to guide it in. This was the equaliser
though, as Hasan Sas found space on the left when put in by Basturk and
his injury time shot showed that who dares wins. Well, at the
break anyway. The goal showed that space can be found behind Cafu
on the right, as he is usually marauding upfield rather than paying attention
to any defensive duties he is assigned.
the second half, Brazil decided to show their true face and their
players, who look on the big side, passed the ball around nicely.
Like the Mexican sombrero, the Brazilian micro-bikini is a TV producer's
favourite. The other small thing associated with that country is
Juninho, who has his chance thanks to Emerson's goalkeeping nightmare
that saw him suffer a dislocated shoulder in a training muck-about
match. The former Boro man put in a lot of effort, but he appears
too lightweight sometimes to make his true mark on the game. A bit
like Ossie Ardiles, but without the ability to hold players off.
played to the limits of the laws and then decided to go beyond them.
Someone, who on the commentary sounded like Farti, got booked because he
was asking the ref to show a yellow card to a Brazilian, while his
team-mates managed to conjure up the world's worst free-kick, which
nearly went in !! There were three Turks over the ball, but
managed to cock it up and when the ball came to Tugay, his shot got a
deflection that went up and brushed the bar on the way over.
got a lot worse towards the end, when Rivaldo was dragged down by
Villa's Alpay and he got a red card and Brazil got a penalty, even
though he was initially fouled outside the box. The Barcelona
player made no mistake from the spot, giving the keeper the eyes as he
prepared to take the penalty. Alpay was lucky to be on the pitch
anyway, as he blatantly tripped Ronaldo in the first half, when he would
have been away from him. Only the prospect of a covering defender
allowed the ref to give yellow instead.
a corner was awarded to Brazil in the dying moments of the match, Hakan
Unsal (who will play for Blackburn Rovers next season) returned the ball
to Rivaldo standing by the corner flag. The ball was hit at him at
pace and got him on the leg, but he went down as though he had been
punched in the face !! The ref brought out a second yellow for
Unsal and Turkey defended the dead ball with nine players, just before
the whistle blew for the end.
showed brief flashes of skill, including one shot from distance from a
poor clearance by the keeper and another good run, but he couldn't
finish past Rustu. Other than that, you got what you usually get
from the yellow and blue stars. Plenty going forward, none too
reliable defending, but everything done with a flourish. They will
have an easier task in their other two group games and will look to
progress in terms of their play, before meeting more difficult foes.
Italy got past Ecuador in first gear,
settling for Vieri's brace of first half goals. They tried to get
more, but without much conviction and Ecuador huffed and puffed, but
were out-classed by Italy without them trying.
power and strength of the Inter man put Ecuador in the shade and his
strikes were a stark reminder that there is still Del Piero to come in
on a regular basis. He did enter the play near the end, but didn't
get a chance to show what he is capable of. Totti made on great
pull back from the right to allow Vieri to slam home a side footed shot
that nearly ripped the net open. Like all great strikers (and
Ronaldo a few hours before him), he missed a great chance just before
sticking his first away without letting it prey on his mind. His
second was a result of the play being switched from his own end to the
other in a blink of an eye.
Italians showed that movement is essential whoever you are
playing. That allows you options to keep hold of the ball ...
something England failed to do. Clearly Ecuador were chasing
shadows most of the game and although they did have a chance or two,
they were only there to make up the numbers. One of whom, Carlos
Tenorio, marked his appearance as a sub with a white mark on his
forehead. It was the nearest he got to the spot all match.
SCBC's Chana had a chance to shoot from the edge of the box, but tried
to be too clever and the opportunity was spurned. One of their
defenders really packed a punch ... straight into Cannavaro's eye.
part of the global Kappa family, we should support Italy, as they are
more likely than England to get near to the end of the month and still
be in the Far East. Let's hope any success they have in the World
Cup rubs off on Tottenham too !!
|RESULTS : -
C - Brazil 2 Turkey 1
G - Italy 2 Ecuador 0
Croatia 0 Mexico 1
|INTERESTING FACT : -
The Sapporro Dome can only sustain four J-League matches a year, because
of the cost of stewarding. The rest of the time it is used as a
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -
Why are there so many players at this tournament who used to play for
Newcastle United and were crap, but are doing OK here ??
|INVENTED WORD OF THE DAY : - Poll-oxed
(John Champion, describing Cannavaro being hit in the stomach with the
The matches today were flavoured with an
Eastern blend of the home countries and China taking the field.
opening match of the day was a dire one for the majority of the 90
minutes. The added five minutes were not required, as the first
half was one of the worst you could wish to see. Without a shot on
target and with much of the play bogged down in midfield, where the ball
changed feet quicker than the camera shots of the crowd. It's
always a dead giveaway that the action isn't that gripping.
was one moment of magic in the first half, when Haidong gave the ref a
thumbs up after a foul and produced a moth from his closed fingers
!! That and Weifeng's kung-fu kick to Fonseca's head, were the
only high points of the half. One of the low points was Manchester
City's Sun Jahai's reaction to a foul on him by laying on the floor and
mouthing "F*** O**" !!
second half picked up the pace, but we had to wait until later for some
quality improvement. And it was not the customization of the Costa
Rican shirt by Martinez, who manufactured cap sleeves to take it back to
the retro days of the late 70's !! One real moment of class came
when Gomez crossed for Wright to head home for the second. It was
also Gomez, who scored and instigated the first, with a clever back-heel
and then a smart finish.
Chinese showed good skill on the ball, but lacked confidence and
movement off the ball when going forward, while Costa Rica were fluid,
but they may regret the yellow cards picked up for shirt pulling in this
match, as even though they are now top of the group, they might not be
there for long.
Japan made their
bow against Belgium in the next match, which had much more pace and
urgency about it. Both teams were playing offensively (as our
soccer loving chums would call it) and although the first half failed to
produce a decent effort on goal apart form Verheyen's header, there was
at least so to and fro to the play. The red head of Toda lit up
the Japanese midfield, but his tackles were lucky not to receive a
The home crowd
were producing the best atmosphere at the World Cup so far, with their
array of football head hats and every fan carrying a megaphone (not a
really terrific mobile, you understand). They went deathly quiet
though, when Wilmots performed an overhead kick to give Belgium the
lead. But two minutes later, they were elated as Suzuki got on his
bike to nip in before the keeper and steer it past him.
joy was ensured when Arsenal reserve Inamoto ran through and stuck his
shot past the goalie. Unconfined celebrations greeted the goal and
it looked as though Japan would get their first win in a World Cup
finals. They hadn't banked on a dodgy offside trap and a lob from
van der Heyden that put Belgium back on level terms past Narazaki, who
looked like a Manga baddie, with his sallow cheeks.
very good game and Japan a little unlucky to only have a point, but it
was their first gained in the finals ever and they will want to build on
that in the forthcoming games.
both sides searched for a winner, Belgium went through a sticky patch
where they gave the ball away far too often and Japan went through a
spell where they picked up a lot of unnecessary yellow cards. It
could spell Peril for them if they continue to do so. Miyamoto
came on as a sub with a black mask on, looking like a bad movie's bank
robber. Perhaps he was trying to hide his identity as he nearly
signed for West Ham last season !!
atmosphere was matched if not exceeded, by the South Koreans, who had
more to celebrate in the end. Perhaps having a full ground helped
in that respect, as well as the Korean being more vocal than the
Japanese. The Poles were the first European qualifier from the
groups, but how, on the evidence of this display, I can't tell
you. A solid team with the naturalised Nigerian Olisidebe up
front, they have been winning with ease. It was rumoured that they
played deliberately badly in their warm-up game against Romania, because
opponents scouts were watching. Perhaps they didn't play worse
South Korea did not
let their "underdog" status eat away at them. Their
constant energy and enterprise reflects the characteristics of their
nation and they paid off against the supposedly better and bigger
team. The Koreans, with great support behind them, shocked Poland
with a well taken goal in the first half, when Hwang Sun-hong swept home
a volley at the near post, having been left unmarked. This was no
fluke, as they kept Poland away from their goal and on 54 minutes
extended their lead with a fine strike from Yoo Sand-chul, which Dudek
couldn't keep out.
reckon that Poland thought they could out-muscle the Koreans, but
are small, but strong on the ball. The yellow card count was the one
thing that went in Poland's favour - winning 3-2. The banner that
hung over the balcony of one tier of seating said "Korea Team
Fighting". Well, they didn't need to do too much of that
today and left it to the manager to realise the aspirations of another
banner that read "Hiddink - Make Our Dream Come True".
|RESULTS : -
Group C - China 0 Costa Rica 2
Group D - South
Korea 2 Poland 0
Group H - Japan 2 Belgium 2
|INTERESTING FACT : -
Apparently, programmes on Korean TV had been shown to get the fans to
learn the songs for supporting their country at the match !!
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -
Why are there so many empty seats for a China match ?? I thought
they had the biggest population in the world ??
The match of the day was surely going to
be the Germany - Republic clash, but the first two opened up in grand
Russia began by testing the Tunisia
keeper with some long shots and he had a good shot back at one of the
forwards, by smacking him in the back of the head. All this done
in front of the goal that had a large George Cross hung behind it
bearing the word "TOTTENHAM" emblazoned across it.
Russia were guilty of over-doing it on the ball a bit, when in defence,
much like Poland and Belgium yesterday and it was from one such instance
that Tunisia had their best chance. With a swift incision through
the middle, two Russian defenders almost contrived to knock the ball
past Nigmatullin (the Russian Nig Martyn). They all went about two
inches wide of the post.
Tunisia's Jaziri was nippy and liked a
dive, but he was a bit indecisive when in good positions
sometimes. The best of the Tunisian play came through midfielder
Benachour, whose delightful touch and quick feet made him a tricky
customer for the Russians to deal with. The youngster (only 20)
hit a screamer just past the post in the second half, but his side would
soon be a goal down.
Keeper Boumnijel (the Tunisian Nijel
Martin) gathered a cross and threw the ball out, straight to a man under
pressure. He was robbed and the ball fell in the box to Titov, who
struck it firmly across the goal and into the far corner. The
player who had been linked with Spurs is apparently on his way to Bayern
Munich and although he was sometimes guilty of giving the ball away too
often, he is a tall, imposing presence in midfield and had a very good
Within five minutes it was two, when
Karpin stuck away a penalty and that was it. Tunisia looked like
their failing to hit the target with sufficient force might cost them
dear, as well as their naivety in defence. However, they were
determined to go forward and it was a good match to watch. Russia
look to have enough talent to go to the second stage, but there they
could meet the unpredictable Turkey or Costa Rica. Easier half of
the draw, but still ... you never know.
The second match took the honours of the
best today. Who would ever have expected USA to race into a 3-0
lead over a sadly out of touch Portugal side ? And who would have
thought the European side could have come back in it too ?
With Kasey Keller being displaced by
Friedel, there was little Spurs interest in this match, but it turned
out to be the game of the tournament so far. A third minute goal
that came about as the Portugal defence was sleeping at a corner saw
O'Brien smash the ball in at the far post, after Baia saved McBride's
free header. Shortly after, the keeper chose to punch away a low
free-kick into the box and it hit Donovan, before just going too wide to
allow Pope to turn it back in. They didn't have to wait too long
though, as Charlton's Jorge Costa played the ball out, but his colleague
was tackled and the ball fell to Landon Donovan on the right wing.
His early cross hit Costa's head and went towards goal, where Baia had
come out and it slipped between him and the post.
At 2-0, you expected some response from
Portugal, but the weary Figo (who was obviously not fit, as he passed up
the chance to take a free-kick !) and his uncoordinated team-mates
failed to put moves together and were reduced to throwing themselves
around to get free-kicks. In fact, it was the States who went
further ahead with a peach of a goal. Sanneh's rundown the right
wing produced a very good cross and it was met by McBride, who had lost
his marker too easily and thumped his header home to make it 3-0 after
36 minutes. And we thought England had played badly !!
There was no doubt that the scoreline was
a true reflection of the play and when Portugal hit home a corner from
10 yards just before half-time, you wondered if USA would suffer for
their lapse. They could have done, had Pauleta (a reputed Spurs
target, who couldn't hit it) taken his opportunities and the one good
chance that came their way fallen to a forward rather than Jorge
Costa, as he tried inelegantly to flick the ball into the net from one
yard out while standing with his back to goal ... and failing miserably.
They closed the gap further, when Jeff
Agoos shinned a cross past Friedel in the second half, which was a shame
for a man who has been waiting four tournaments for his World Cup finals
debut. But he was solid at the back, ably supported by Pope and
Mastroeni, never looking in great trouble against a side that has been
one of the best in Europe. They never got to grips with the
energetic style of America and they could not even pass their way out of
it, as every time they tried, they found a white shirt in the way.
Baia showed he was perhaps better with
his feet than with his hands, while players who have done it at the top
level before such as Nuno Gomes, Figo, Couto, Rui Costa and Joao Pinto
all let themselves and their country down with lacklustre
performances. In stark contrast, all the Americans did themselves
proud, with special mention for Donovan and Beasley who ran non-stop to
terrorise the Portuguese defence. The USA now have a real good
chance to top the group, as the other games are against South Korea,
which might provide their toughest opposition and the route one
The Ecuadorian ref for this game had his
whistle taped to his finger and was quick to blow it, but it wasn't the
only thing he had taped, because he got all the decisions correct and
even took time out to review some of the challenges on the big screen in
the stadium. Top marks to him for a good performance.
And so onto the final fare for
Wednesday. Our very own Christian Ziege had changed the colour of
his Mohawk haircut to match the German kit and his black and white
stripe featured more early on than it did later. He was less
involved as the game went on, but that might have been because Ireland
were pushing on and he was pushed back.
When Germany took a 18th minute lead, it
looked like there would be no way back for Ireland, but in their
typically dogged and determined manner, they managed a draw at the death
with a late, late Robbie Keane goal. Klose had risen above Harte
to nod home the German goal, adding to his hat-trick in the Saudi Arabia
game, but he was unable to repeat the feat although he had other
chances. While Klose looks a good goalscorer, he does go to ground
easier than an 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia !! The best other
opportunity fell to Jancker, who ran through and lobbed the ball over
Given as he came out, but it went just wide.
Holland had driven in a shot that went a
shade past the post and nearly replicated his goal against Cameroon and
that was the closest they came to scoring apart form Keane's overhead
kick that was muffed. They then had to wait until the second half,
when Duff was defied by a brave block by Kahn, who proved he can by
repeating it as Keane raced through the middle. Unfortunately, the
ball fell to a German foot and was cleared. Robbie Keane didn't
give up though and in the end showed Kahn can't save them all, by
squeezing one off his hand and the post for a 90th minute
equaliser. It was all the Irish deserved for not admitting defeat.
There was a funny moment just prior to
the goal, when desperate to get the ball back into play, an Irishman
(Gary Breen perhaps ?) rushed to retrieve the ball and crashed into the
dug out !!
Keane's goal looked to me like Lineker's
against Germany in the 1990 World Cup semi and I can't help think that
he would be a good buy for Tottenham. He's obviously not the same
type of player that Lineker was, but will score and make goals
too. Holland also had a good game in midfield, prompting and
getting stuck in.
Germany seemingly lacked the ambition to
go on from their one goal lead and in the end paid the price. Few
outfield players were worth mentioning, while Kahn will vent his spleen
on the defenders in front of him for allowing the breach in the last
|RESULTS : -
Group D - USA 3
Group E - Germany
1 Republic of Ireland 1
Group H - Russia 2 Tunisia 0
|INTERESTING FACT : -
With every team having played at least one match, there is yet to be a
|THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY : -
1) What did Ron Atkinson mean when he said that Gary Breen had seen a few
"Carsten Janckers " ?? Is it some sort of rhyming slang
2) What was the
paperback at Bobby Robson's feet during ITV's coverage today ??
Back to work after a few days off either
side of the Bank Holidays and I was missing the action very early on and
missing a good kicking match. Listening to the radio on the way in
to work, they were extolling the virtues of a new style of kick and
rush, where you try to maim a player with your feet and then dash off !!
Only to be replaced by a number of your colleagues who then face off
with the opposition. A bit like Ice Hockey on grass !!
Still, there was some football played and
the movement of the Senegal side in the second half showed that there is
more to their game than beating France. Going behind to a reckless
challenge that conceded a penalty that conceded a goal made Denmark hot
favourites to take the points, but the African side battled back and
their goal was a fine team goal. Starting at the back, they passed
the ball through midfield (please take note England) and then Diao made
a good run to finish the move off.
It is no doubt this sort of action that
has attracted Liverpool to bring him to England, but not the foul that
gave away the penalty nor the potentially leg-breaking challenge he
perpetrated and earned him a red card. With a point needed from
their last game, it will now have to be earned without him.
Denmark looked hard done by, when a good
Tomasson goal was ruled out for handball. Only on the behind the
goal camera angle did it show that there was no hand used. By all
accounts, the game suited Denmark, but they did play on Diao, by trying
to wind him up. "Niggly" was one word used to describe
it; "The most violent game of the World Cup" was a phrase that
Whatever the pros and cons of that match,
Cameroon's encounter with Saudi Arabia failed to live up to
expectations. The rout that Germany inflicted was not going to be
repeated, with the Middle Eastern side shutting up shop and making it
hard for the Indomitable Lions to break through. It took 65
minutes for Samuel Eto'o to breach their defence and he took the goal
well, unlike a previous effort that went sky high from the edge of the
The result knocked the Saudis out of the
World Cup and their ageing side was never going to progress, but they
had pride to play for and some was restored today.
Finally today, came Uruguay's match with
France (minus Zidane). They certainly missed their play-maker and
the game did see chances created, but none taken in the first 0-0 of the
tournament. Petit hit the woodwork and Cabrini denied the French
when they did get forward, but these forays were curtailed after 26
minutes. That was when Thierry Henry decided to go in late and
studs up on a Uruguay defender. The red card should have been no
surprise to him, as he's seen it all before (even if Wenger
Abreu, Recoba and Magallanes all had
chances for the South American side, but either Barthez was equal to
them or they missed the target. They perhaps should have been
playing the second half against nine men, when Petit elbowed a
light-blue shirted player in the head, but escaped with a booking, but
that will make him miss the next match along with his Arsenal colleague.
A scoreless match left France needing to
beat Denmark by two clear goals in their final group game. On this
showing they couldn't manage it, but there will no doubt be a renewed
sense of purpose when they turn out next week. It would be nice to
see them get knocked out at the first hurdle, if for nothing more than
to wipe the smug smiles off the faces of Lebeouf and Petit that we have
had to put up with for four years. ("Because I won the World
Cup" indeed !!).
Tomorrow, I'm taking the day off work to
see the day's action. That usually results in a dreadful England
performance, but surely they cannot sink any lower ? Or are they
famous last words ??
|RESULTS : -
Group A - Senegal
1 Denmark 1
France 0 Uruguay 0
Group E - Saudi Arabia 0 Cameroon 1
|INTERESTING FACT : -
Hernan Crespo was born in Florida, USA.
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : - What
will be the point of taking Teddy Sheringham to the World Cup, if SGE
doesn't use him ??
The first game up was a very entertaining
affair. A bit slow to start, but then once it got going, there was
a lot of action.
Sweden started quick off the mark and
then had the blow of going a goal behind to Agahowa's header slanted
across Hedman as he came, but didn't make it, for the cross. There
was a bit of toing and froing, but Sweden hit back when Larsson slipped
a toe-punt past the keeper after a neat run through the middle of three
defenders. The came one of the most farcical moments of the
World Cup so far. Okocha went on a mazy run across the face
of the Sweden box, played a one-two and got it back on the left side of
the area. He pulled his shot across the goalie and it was going in
at the far post, but Lucic was there to clear away.
Unfortunately, he didn't see the giant Mjallby standing next to him and
the ball cannoned off him onto the post and luckily for Sweden away from
goal. It looked like Nigeria's luck was out.
That was true even more so in the second
half, when they hit the post, had another cleared off the line and had
to play for about ten minutes without Taribo West, who underwent M*A*S*H
style surgery behind the goal for a cut above his eye. Even when
he was ready to come back on, the referee demanded he had his head
swathed in bandage. Weirdly, as soon as he re-entered play a poor
goal-kick left Sweden in on goal, Larsson being set up and he was pulled
back about 7 yards out. He got up to slot the penalty home and
then West had to change his shirt, as the ref objected to the blood
splattered all over it.
Nigeria pressed forward and Yobo came
closest when his 20 yard shot bounced back off the post, but the Swedes
stood firm and the Super Eagles could not break them down. One
last delicate chip from Kanu was not high enough to beat Hedman, so
Nigeria went out. They did show some neat play in this match after
their disappointing opener, but there was too much sloppy passing and
they were weak in the centre of defence, where they were opened up
Sweden were no great shakes.
Larsson missed the easiest chance that came his way when he was clean
through on goal and dallied, losing the chance to shoot. Their
defence looks vulnerable, as Hedman is iffy on crosses and there seems
to be a lack of cohesion in the back four's play. Their midfield
is run by Ljungberg and upfront, Larsson is their best hope of a
goal. They will probably progress from this group, but their
action after that will be limited (depending on their opponents).
Spain have always flattered to deceive in
the World Cup, but would this be their year after winning their first
match ? There seemed little chance of that when the shot by Arce
was fisted out by Casillas, hitting the defender Puyol on his way back
to his own goal and the ball beat him to it. Spain struggled to
get back into the game, but Paraguay's closing down kept them at
bay. Raul's movement off the ball is a delight and he really is a
top class striker. Another player who took Graham Taylor's eye was
Rowell, who he mentioned a lot during his expert analysis.
In their peach colour kit, it looked like
Paraguay were not going to be squeezed, especially when Cardoso gave a
marvellous display of whistling ... better even than the referee, who
kept his to a minimum. Chilavert was keen to make his prophecies
of two goal-scoring free-kicks come true and moved up to take one from
30 yards, which made Casillas dive to save and Santa Cruz baulk him to
stop a break before Chilavert had recovered his ground.
The Spanish looked a bit unhappy, but
Morientes coming on and Helguera firming up the deep lying midfield
area, things started to look up. Morientes headed home De Pedro's
52nd minute corner and left the Paraguay's defence standing. On 68
minutes, a cross in from the left by the same provider saw Morientes
knock the ball in as it evaded the defence. Chilavert indicated to
the ref that the Spaniard had used his hand, which is more than he did
!! The size of him, I am surprised that Chilavert can get off the
As Spain took the game to Paraguay, the
third goal looked inevitable. It came when Raul was bundled over
and Hierro stepped up to put the spot kick wide of Chilavert (some
feat), but find the net.
The Spanish seem to lack confidence in
their own ability, but this side has lots of talent and could go a long
way. Their movement is excellent and although they faced a
technically proficient side in Paraguay, who took the lead, they can
still out-play most teams on their day. Always good to watch, I
hope they can fulfill some of their promise.
So to the main course and it was another
of these Word Cup surprises that have been happening this tournament.
With a battling performance, it wasn't always pretty, but the result was
all in the end today.
A penalty for a foul on Owen a minute
before half-time (similar to last time the two teams met in the World
Cup) saw England take the points with Beckham smacking the ball right
down the middle of the goal. Despite Batistuta and Pochettino both
trying to take lumps out of England's players, the team managed to keep
their tempers, except Ashley Cole, who got booked.
The England defence was being pulled
around and Ferdinand and Campbell were often out of position, but they
managed to rectify this after the break. The best chance came when
Michael Owen ran at the Argie defence and hit a shot between Samuel's
legs, but was shocked to see it bounce back into play from the
post. The side also lacked pace going forward in the first half
and were forced to turn and wait for players to catch up. This was
not helped when Owen fell on Hargreaves' leg and pout him out of the
game after about 15 minutes. However, the second half started with
England creating more chances. Owen twice went close, while
volleys from Scholes and Sheringham (on as a sub), forced Cavellero to
punch away their dangerous shots. Teddy's effort came after a long
series of passes from the defence to the front without Argentina getting
near the ball.
John Motson was getting so carried away,
he thought Andy Cole was playing at left back and the whole of the
defence had to be on their toes, as Argentina pushed forward and England
had their backs to the wall (at least they could be hacked down in that
position). Drafted in for Vassell, Nicky Butt played a very good
game and Rio Ferdinand showed why Leeds United paid so much for him (up
until now I couldn't see the fuss about him).
Every player put in the effort that was
needed to keep Argentina from scoring. Seaman only had to make one
save of note, but that was from a Pochettino header and it was well
made. Aimar tried to get some shots in, but they were mostly over
the bar and his aimer was obviously off target. There was too much
stress on trying to wind up the English players rather than
concentrating on their own game. The gamesmanship of trying to
shake Beckham's hand before the penalty and the keeper giving him the
verbals, only showed that England was capable of winning without
cheating. May the world see Argentina for the side they are.
Having to beat Sweden now to get through, they might resort to even more
The win keeps England's hopes alive for
another five days, when they meet Nigeria. Another performance of
this nature would see them through.
|RESULTS : -
Group B - Spain 3 Paraguay 1
Group F - England
|INTERESTING FACT : -
Prior to today, England had not beaten Argentina in the World Cup since
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -
Why don't more teams have shirts in pastel colours like Paraguay ??
Maybe they are too fruity for some sides.
Robbery, Slaughter and Boredom
With the game of the day being the Brazil
v China encounter, it was a shock that Croatia beat Italy. What
wasn't a shock was that Graham Poll was the ref who disallowed two
legitimate goals for the Italians !!
Getting up early to watch the World Cup
is not a chore. Especially when you are treated to a snooze fest
like South Africa v Slovenia. It was surprising that Zlatko
Zahovic didn't want to be here for this match that induced so many Z's
that he would have felt more at home than back in Slovenia !!
Our man in Slovenia started well and
plonked a free-kick form the right straight onto his centre half's head,
but he managed to put it over. Immediately, SA broke and another
Spurs man, former youth star Quentin Fortune, crossed for Novmethe to
try and head home. Try because he actually missed with his head, but got
his thigh to it. His luck turned though, as he was hit
"amidships" (as the commentators said, by a ball rising up off
a tackle (and into his).
There was a graphic illustration of what
hard work can achieve over the last two days. England didn't stop
running and got a deserved victory over Argentina. These two sides
didn't start and got what they deserved too, although South Africa
nearly lost it at the end when sub Ceh had a header well saved by
Adrense. Agreed it was very hot, but neither side looked like they
were going to put in anything more than the minimum effort they had to.
One man who did, Slovenia manager Srecko
Katanec got banished to the stands for abusing the fourth official,
something which Graham Taylor said he could see coming. No
surprise after his "Do I not like that" tirade in Rotterdam
!! Having lost the star player Zahovic and then to lose their
manager was careless. The defenders caught the mood by being very
slow on the ball and carried on giving the ball away.
With Acimovic coming to WHL next season,
my interest the match revolved around what he did. He hit a 25
yard shot just over the angle; slipped a nice reverse ball down the line
for an over-lapping colleague and had a little run that ended with him
going down under challenge. It is something that he does a little
too readily and that will not be popular if he does it in the
Premiership. He doesn't so much simulate as exaggerate. He
didn't seem to relish the side of the game and looked back as players
ran away from him.
The ref must be a bit of a busy boy back
in Argentina, as he booked a Slovenian for staying down when
injured. He was also keen to book Pavlin, who looked like an
There was a little excitement when
McCarthy hit the bar with a header, while Buckley hit a shot wide when
well placed in injury time at the end. Neither side will be proud,
but South Africa's first ever win in the finals looks like it might take
them through, but they will need to play above themselves if they are to
go any further.
So, Italy were expected to stroll past
Croatia, who had been so disappointing in their first game. And to
start off with, it looked like the Italy team were thinking the
same. The Croats started very well and with a flowing move from 25
yards out, saw Rapaic and Vujovic combine to provide a chance in the box
and then Boksic nearly got to the ball before Materazzi on the
line. At the same end in the second half, Vieri had a goal chalked
off for offside, when he was behind the ball when it was played and a
later effort by sub Inghazi in injury tine at the end disallowed for a
tug on the defender, when everyone thought it had been given as
offside. But by then the scoring had been done. Vieri had
risen to produce a towering header past Pletikosa, who later reacted
well to save from a shot by Zambrotta.
Croatia had been dominating for long
periods, but had not produced a decent finish until Jarni broke down the
left and put his cross low into the corridor of uncertainty.
However, Olic was certain that the ball would arrive there and dinked it
over the diving Buffon for the equaliser. That was nearly added to
when Boksic took advantage of a collision between two defenders and
crossed, but Rapaic just missed the waist high ball. He didn't
have to wait long, as he latched onto a header into the area and with
Matarazzi challenging, spun a shot away that looped slowly over the
Italy had two subs warming up for an
eternity, but neither of them came on ... they must have been knackered
!! Inzaghi did, but it was Totti who came closest to restoring
parity with a free kick from 25 yards that hit the inside of the post
and went across the face of goal and away to the touchline.
Luckily, Pletikosa's reflexes were not so sharp, as he threw up a hand
as the ball went behind him and any quicker and he might have knocked it
in !! The win throws the group wide open and Mexico can go through
if they beat Ecuador tomorrow, leaving Croatia and Italy to win their
last games to get second place.
Sadly, China's first World Cup finals
does not have that hope left going into their last match. Brazil's
easy 4-0 win ended the progress of the newcomers, but it was a stroll
for the yellow and blues. In fact, they took their foot off the
pedal, sparing their opponents the humiliation that they could have
Roberto Carlos pulled out a trademark
free-kick to start the rout, which nearly ripped a hole in the
net. Ronaldo crossed for Rivaldo to score from close in and was
then pulled down by the defender for a penalty a minute before the
break. He was a real handful for the Chinese back line and that
was particularly true of his shirt for the penalty. Ronaldinho
slotted it away comfortably.
After the break, Cafu chested a cross
field pass down, went past his man and crossed low for Ronaldo to get
his goal before going off for a rest. his pace over the last ten
yards to get to the ball was electrifying and the Chinese just hadn't
read his move.
The Brazilians brought on Denilson to
perform his tricks. Others did step-overs and juggling, while the
Chinese did perpetrate a few nice turns of their own. When Junzhe
hit the post, the nation held it's breath and you could feel the breeze
caused by that. Marcus was also called upon to turn a shot around
the post, so he did well to keep his concentration up. Most
entertaining was the comedy trombone that someone kept playing in the
crowd. Every time something happened there would be a
pheewr-phew-whup, like a sound effect from a 1970's comedy show !!
There was a real gap in the ability of
the two sides and although China are an emerging nation in terms of
football, there is a long way to go. Their last match against
Turkey will be one with only pride to play for and they might go home
without a point, but they should take the experience and build on it for
four years time. And David Pleat said he liked the look of the
China right back. Coming to a ground near you ??
|RESULTS : -
Group B - Slovenia 0 South Africa 1
Group C - Brazil
Group G - Italy
|INTERESTING FACT : - 12
of the 20 stadia used for this competition will not be specifically
designated for teams to use in the national J and K leagues.
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -
How comes the Chinese have got the tallest player in the competition at
First things first
Am I dedicated or just plain daft to
get up at 7.30 a.m. to watch Ecuador v Mexico ? The game was poor
and it only dawned on Ecuador that they might get something out of the
game in the last twenty minutes or so. That was after taking a
four minute lead with their country's first ever goal in the finals of
the tournament. SCBC's striker Delgado rose to head home a cross
and showed the world what he can do. Sadly, SCBC fans won't see it any
more, because he says he will never return to the New Dell to play for
them. Perhaps they will see the ability he has when they get into
Europe and face him at some time in the future ?
Mexico responded with a good move between
Arellano and a couple of one-twos, but he shot wide at the end of
it. They got their equaliser in the 28th minute, when Moreno's
left wing cross was volleyed home across the keeper by Borgetti.
It had been coming as Ecuador had sat back hoping to hold onto their
lead, while Mexico's moves broke down on the edge of the box.
More of the same followed in the second
half, but Torrado played a one-two with Rodriguez and hit a screamer
from 30 yards that the goalie should have done better with. They
pushed on to try and increase their goal difference, but had four or
five opportunities that all missed the target. Meanwhile, their
opponents had brought on Tenorio, who was a pacy winger, but they failed
to use him enough after he had showed how quick he was by leaving three
Mexicans in his wake in a run from the halfway line. Only Ayori's
shot near the end, when his bent shot narrowly missed the target,
threatened to gain the South Americans a point, but Mexico now lead the
group with six points and are favourites to go through, while Ecuador
will have to put it down to experience. Having got to the finals,
it is a shame they have not shown the world what they are capable of.
Suspension hit Turkey had to face a Costa
Rica side who were at the top of their group table with Brazil.
Very little of note occurred in the first half, apart form a Wanchope
shot on the turn over the bar and a break into the box by Centeno, who
should have made the keeper work rather than batter his shot well
over. Costa Rica had the better of the play with Turkey looking
out of sorts and not threatening at all.
The second half was more lively with
chances at both ends. Gomez manufactured himself some space on the
edge of the box and then proceeded to hit his shot over the crossbar,
something replicated by a Sukur shot at the other end. When it
looked like Turkey were losing their imagination, Emre broke into the
box and followed up his own blocked shot, sliding the ball slowly home
at the second attempt.
As time seemed to be running out for CR,
a long free-kick five minutes from time was nodded down by Wanchope,
Medford dragged it back and the ball ran across the six-yard box to the
unmarked Winston Parks, who drove home from close range. The Turks
were more interested in dragging players to the ground to mark the man
at the far post and he had time to smash the ball in.
But then the action really started.
Emre ran to get the ball from a Costa Rica coach and pushed him into the
dug out structure, causing a mass brawl in front of the fourth official
and the situation was resolved with a yellow card for the Turkish
instigator. In the final minute, both countries could have won
it. Arif was fed a high ball in the box and sliced the dropping
ball into the keeper's arms, before play switched straight to the other
end, where Parks rounded the keeper when through, but then, with the
goal gaping, missed the target.
The game only livened up in the second
period, but there was some good flowing football from Costa Rica, who
play in a languid style and although they might not have the experience
or physical attributes needed to go al the way, they do like to get the
ball down and knock it around. Turkey on the other hand showed off
their nasty side here. Hasan Sas aside, they looked out of sorts
and brought out their temperamental face when the win seemed to be
denied them. Shame as they could have been a dark horse, but look
more like a dark cloud over the competition now.
The atmosphere in the biggest crowd of
the tournament so far, was electric with Japanese fans creating as much
of noise energy as the players put in on it. They ran themselves
into the ground from first to final whistle and that threw Russia out of
their stride. No time to settle on the ball and every time they
looked up there was a blue shirt in front of them, the Europeans found
it difficult to string any moves together. They had the first
opportunity with Izmailov shooting just wide of the angle, with an
effort on the turn, but there were few shots on target during the first
Hidetoshi Nakata hit a chance over
instead of getting the keeper to make a save, while he struck another
free-kick over too. Arsenal reserve Inamoto had a clear header,
but it went sideways instead of forwards. Russia did put a good move in
just before half-time, when Titov and Solamtin linked on the right,
putting in a low cross, which was cleared by Toda for a corner. The home
nation were fortunate that the wrestling foul on a Russian forward by
Toda was missed by the officials.
During the break, David O'Deary told the
BBC audience that he thought that the Japanese side was young and
vibrant and he liked them for that. Yeah, those Japanese are just
babies aren't they David ? His comments were only superceded by
Barry Davies' commentary where he kept referring to Russian striker
Sytchev as "Sytchkov". Maybe he is missing the
Bulgarians in this World Cup.
The second half saw Russia struggling to
play passes to each other and Titov, who had run their first match was
way off the pace here and looked to have lost his passing ability in the
intervening four days. Inamoto gave his country their first win in
the finals of the competition, by breaking through, taking a neat
lay-off from Yanagisawa and hitting his shot high into the net past
Nigamatullin. Parma's Nakata hit a 30 yarder against the bar and
that was the closest to another goal in the match. Russia could
have come closer, but having rounded the keeper, sub Beschastnykh copied
the shot of Parks earlier and missed the target, hitting the side
Japan's approach was refreshing and their
energy and verve was good to see, but you have to ask how that will see
them through against a class side. The manager Troussier enjoyed
his moment of history, but he might have to firm up their midfield if
they are to repel their second round opponents.
|RESULTS : -
Group C - Turkey 1 Costa Rica 1
Group G - Ecuador
1 Mexico 2
Group H - Japan
|INTERESTING FACT : -
Turkey have scored in every game they have played in World Cup finals
|THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -
Why is that players who appear in ads, always have a poor World Cup
(c.f. Henry in Renault ad) ??