wyart lane's world cup diary

    1.6.2002 - 9.6.2002

10.6.2002     Skate, sleet and sunshine

The day's football didn't look too enticing.  Political tension in one game and sporting tension in the other two as big teams try and stay in the competition.  However, the showing was better than expected.

Being back to work, I had to make do with hurried updates on the scores from people returning from hearing the latest on their radios.  Not the most reliable means of keeping in touch with what was going on, as I was confidently informed by one colleague that Belgium had played out a 1-1 draw with Uruguay.  That was a good result I thought, until it dawned on me that it would be ... they are in different groups.

Seeing brief highlights, the USA v South Korea match passed off with little to concern the waiting riot police.  Keeping out Kasey Keller as well as the home side was Brad Friedel.  His saves with all parts of his body denied South Korea a famous victory and his right sided guess for the penalty was the first saved in normal play for 12 years.

Mohican headed Clint Mathis gave the Americans the lead when he latched onto a chip over the Asian defence and shot past the keeper's right hand and just inside the post.  The top knot that was put on Hwang-Sun Hong, left his hair sticking up more than usual above the swathe of bandage on his bonce.  The star sub Ahn entered the play in his place eventually and it was he who levelled the scores.

Getting on the end of a cross from a free kick out on the right, he guided the ball past Friedel with his head and the red hordes in the stadium went wild.  Especially when they saw his celeb.  Acting like an extra from a 1920's film doing the Charleston, he was actually emulating the action of a speed skater and this was a (not so) veiled reference to the demotion of a South Korean speed skater in the recent Winter Olympics, who had the gold medal taken away from him and given to an American.  A chilling reminder that the East-West sporting political agenda still exists in a Cold War of it's own.  The joy at this display was only matched by the home fans jeering of the visitors when they warmed up, although their two minutes of contempt (back turning and silence) of the "Star Spangled Banner" was a repeat of Tottenham's fans plans back in November.  It didn't happen.

The warmth that would have drifted down from the terraces should Lee Eul-Young's thoughtful lay back had been steered in by Choi Yong-Soo instead of him hitting the ball higher than two goals in the final minute of the match.  It leaves both sides with a chance of moving into the Second round, but with USA playing Poland, they have a slightly easier task than South Korea, who face Portugal.

Belgium - Tunisia.  Pulses racing ??  Thought not, but this did turn out to be a decent enough match.  It opened with a flourish and Simons was denied by a slight deflection that took the ball over and from the corner, Tunisia never really convincingly cleared the ball past the halfway line, leaving Belgium to press their goal.  A free kick was headed into the six yard box by Derby's Strupar and captain Marc Wilmots was there to prod the ball home from close range and give his side a 13th minute lead.

Having been denied by the ref's whistle, when a Bouazizi shot from 20 yards flew past de Vlieger was ruled out as a free-kick had already been given, they were redeemed by Bouzaine's bending shot from the dead ball, which was the best free-kick seen so far this World Cup.  It's curve and pace left the keeper grasping at fresh air.  And that was what the Africans brought to this match, as they launched an all out attack on the Belgian goal.

Jaziri dragged a chance across the goal, while Melki was brought down in the box, which wasn't given as a penalty.  There was a patchy spell for fifteen minutes before half time, but it was Ghodhbane who lit things up with a technically superb volley from the edge of the box.  The only thing wrong was that it curved away from the goal instead of into it !!  On the hour, Goor as denied by the keeper rushing out to block at his feet, then later a low cross evaded every one as Belgium attacked.  Ghodhbane nearly won it at the end, forcing a punching save from de Vlieger.

Another draw in the group of draws, but then what else can you expect from Belgium, who make this a life's work !!  Tunisia must win their last game against Japan, while a draw will put Belgium out.  Looks like the other two sides will be the ones to progress.

Back to group D, as Poland tried to salvage something in the rain at Jeungu.  Portugal were having none of it though and Pauleta made up for his poor showing in the first group match by grabbing a hat-trick against a poor and unthinking defence.  A simple run wide left Hajto all at sea on the sodden turf and the Benfica man with plant of space to step inside and plant a low shot past Dudek.  It was an astute pass form Joao Pinto, but the defending was abyssmal.

The second had to wait until the second half when Figo slid (quite literally) a cross low into the six yard box and Pauleta did what all good forwards do and got in front of his marker and met the ball before Dudek could change his dive.  The third was similar to the first, with the  XXX man cutting inside the marker Waldoch and hitting a shot past the Liverpool goalie.  His chance for his fourth was the easiest, but like many beofre him in this World Cup, having rounded the keeper, he could not hit the net.  Rui Costa also had the same problem near the end, but his shot, having left Dudek for dead, was cleared off the line.

By that time, Rui Costa had got his name on the scoresheet and it was another right wing return ball in to him, that he took one touch on and then poked home his shot.  With Figo curling a shot form 18 yards onto the post and other chances going begging, it could have been a hatful for Portugal against a hollow Polish side.

Kaluzny looked their liveliest player in the early stages, but when he went off after a quarter of an hour, there was little spark.  Olisdebe has been a major disappointment after scoring a lot in the qualifiers, but he only had one weak effort today and played a part in the disallowed goal when the keeper Baia was fouled.  Even having the Zelakow twins on the pitch for fifteen minutes failed to cause any confusion in the Portuguese side.

It was a better display by the Poles, but the axe will surely fall on the manager, who has taken a team with hopes of going to the quarter finals out at the first attempt.  They are a big string side, but failed to put that strength to any good use and the chances they did create were not on target either.  Kryszalowicz had their best effort that at least forced Baia to a save.

They will have a lot of rebuilding to do, while Portugal look to have saved face with this win.  One point from the next game will be enough now and on this showing, they could be a side that builds as they go through the competition.  Figo looked batter and the defence which was all at sea against the USA looked more together although they did not have much to face up to.


Group  D  -  USA  1   South Korea  1
                          Poland   0    Portugal   4

Group H   -    Belgium  1   Tunisia  1

INTERESTING FACT : -  It is monsoon season in Asia.  The Poland Portugal game proved that !!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -   Why do the Belgian shirts look orange from a distance and red when in a close up TV shot ??


11.6.2002     Bon Voyage

So, Arsenal are out of the World Cup.  Oh, sorry, that should have been France are out of the World Cup.  On the radio phone-ins, presenters were intimating that it is sad that the French would not be taking part in the later stages of the competition.  Sorry, they will not be missed.  Their arrogance in expecting to be able to waltz through shows that they were not willing to knuckle down and get through the group.  Also, why should we be sad to see them knocked out ?  They plainly do not deserve to be through, as they have finished bottom of their group (the Group of inversion) without scoring a goal or winning a game.  That is a losers record in any language.

True, they were missing Zidane, a player whose absence would affect any team, but they should have had enough quality to cover that.  His performance today showed glimpses that he is the top player in the world.  The robbing of the Danish defender and instant curling shot that just went wide was the prime example.

Too many players failed to live up to their reputation to often over the three games.  Too many club games and not enough competitive international matches have been cited as reasons for their exit.  As has bad luck ... the French hit the woodwork twice in this game and the second Danish goal featured a blatant pull on Desailly's shirt before Tomasson hit past Barthez.  The first goal, was just rank bad defending with Vieira failing to clear and Rommedahl left unmarked at the far post.  

Frankly, they were just not up to it when the World Cup came around and Lemerre's contention that he has nothing to be blamed for, is another example of their belief that they are above the criticism usually reserved for other country's failures.  Perhaps it will make them a bit humbler in future.

In the other game in Group A, Senegal raced to a 3-0 half-time lead.  A penalty converted confidently by Fadiga was brought about by Montero's poor back pass made Cabrini bring down Diouf.  It looked like a penalty first off, but then from another angle it looked as though there was no contact ... but more of that later.  Perhaps that was why the keeper only got a yellow card.

Six minutes later, a break on the left by Camara was rounded off when he dragged the ball back and was forced in by Papa Bouba Diop.  The same player increased the lead to 3-0 on 38 minutes, when looking suspiciously offside, he volleyed a shot that rasped down off the bar and over the line.

Things started to go awry in the second half (and only just), when Morales came on a substitute after the break.  It took 20 seconds for him to knock off one goal, prodding home from close in after the keeper Sylva could not hold the shot from Silva.  It was a precious goal for Uruguay and meant that they would test the mettle of Senegal.

With 70 minutes gone the ball came out to Diego Forlan outside the box and he controlled the ball on his chest and then hit a dipping volley that beat the goalie all ends up.  Opportunities were exchanged until the 88th min., when Morales went down under challenge from two Senegal players, but he looked as though he was anticipating the tackle and started to go down before they got near him.  The penalty was given and Recoba, who had failed to live up to expectations, hit home.

The action was not over as the South Americans failed to take the chance to go through when a shot was blocked by a header from Diatta while laying on the floor and the ball flew high into the air with Sylva scrambling on the floor.  With the goal just a yard or two away, the Uruguayan striker managed to head the ball wide, with the goal open in front of him.  The incredible miss by Morales was perhaps payback for diving for the pen.  It was a sad way to sign off for the light blues who so much was expected from, but for the African side, there was joy and a possible match up with England in the next round depending on results from tomorrow's Groups F games.

Group E (surely the Group of ease) was settled by two goals, 14 yellow and two red cards and a knockout in one match and a dodgy keeper in the other.

Germany looked rattled when Samuel Eto'o's pace took him near the penalty area and Carsten Ramelow tripped him to see red for a second yellow card offence.  I hope to see that pace in a Spurs shirt next season and now that Cameroon are out, perhaps the news will come a bit quicker !!

The early pressure came from Germany, and the guilty men were Jancker, Ballack and Song (who headed just off target from a cross !) who failed to capitalise on the supply.  Chances came Cameroon's way with Song heading a cross wide when in front of goal and with no challenge on him.  Olembe missed a chance to go round Kahn and then when pushed wide, stuck in a weak cross that the keeper nearly pushed into his own net.  

Schneider's lob and Klose's blocked shot were as close as they came to getting Germany back into the match, while Wome hit a screamer of a free-kick just past the post.

It all kicked off just before half-time, when a melee on the edge of the box set the game alight.  The fact that this became the dirtiest match played in World Cup finals (in terms of cards) was no surprise.  Then Ziege curled in a free kick from the sideline that nearly caught Alioum unawares.

After the break, Jancker went off to be replaced by Bode, who five minutes later took the ball from Klose and steered the ball past the keeper.  In an attempt to get back into the game, the Cameroon boss brought on Suffo for a defender and shortly after Lauren hit the post with a header, but there were more worries for the Africans when Suffo rapidly collected two yellow cards and went off with a red.  That created more space for Germany to work in and it was no surprise when Ballack made a right wing run and paid the ball across into the six yard box for Klose to add to his burgeoning tally.

The Germans as ever, were not in any real danger of going out, but the Cameroon players showed enough to indicate that there are frailties in their side, especially now they will be without the suspended Linke, Ziege and Ramelow in the Second round.  Their likely opponents are South Africa and you feel that they might not need those suspended players to get through that match.

And so to Ireland, who faced the might of Saudi Arabia needing a two goal win to get through.  They achieved this feat for the first time in finals and even went one further and ended up 3-0 winners.  The early goal by Robbie Keane, volleying home from eight yards in six minutes, gave them a dream start, but the keeper went right over the top of the shot and proved all match to be the worst in the competition.

After scoring, the Irish sat back a bit and failed to press home their advantage, letting the Saudi's back into the match.  Given had to make a couple of save s and a good block at the base of his post to prevent them getting into a situation where they would concede a goal.  

The entry of Niall Quinn at half-time would have been the announcement of the long ball into the box, but they did not play like that and the build-up tended to be up the line.  Quinn did put one shot wide when he should have hit the target, while the threats of a goal were still coming at the other end, where Given was agile enough to prevent anything slipping past him in the rainy conditions.  

When a free-kick was swung in from the left wing, it was not Quinn who got there, but Breen, who adeptly turned his volley past Al Daeyea.  The keeper was totally at fault for the final Irish goal, when a smart ball inside the full back from Holland found Duff and he let rip with a powerful drive.  The keeper failed to get his body behind it and it went off his weak wrists and into the net with three minutes remaining.  Any fears of the result of the other game in the group going against them were now washed away as the rain eased off.

It was a result that they needed and one they got.  Not pretty, but then I bet the French would have given anything for being in their position.  With Spain the most likely opponents next up, they will be tested and will have to take the chances that come their way, as it is unlikely that Casillas will be as helpful to their cause as Al Daeyea.  Also the Spaniards are more than capable of going all the way in this tournament.

The all green kit of Ireland was almost indistinguishable against the pitch in some occasions when the light was right.  The same could be said for the faces of the French !!


Group  A  -  Senegal  3   Uruguay  3
                          France   0    Denmark   2

Group E   -    Germany  2   Cameroon  0
                      Saudi Arabia  0   Republic of Ireland  3

INTERESTING FACT : -  France went out of the competition with the worst record of any defending World Cup holder.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -    Are the refs too involved in the game these days ??  Two have played one-twos with the players in the last two days.
INVENTED WORD OF THE DAY : - Cezanne (Barry Davies) - instead of Zidane, who we knew was an artist on the ball but ... 


12.6.2002     Boys Don't Cry

Having watched the England game at breakfast time in an Enfield pub with only one mate in a crowd full of strangers, it was a bewildering experience.  Some people were so wound up by England's performance, John Motson's commentary and Trevor Brooking's expert comments that I thought a fight was going to break out !!  Apparently, that did happen after the Argentina match and the Town centre had to be closed for an hour !!

It is nice that the team do stir such passions in people, but there is a desperate need to put things into perspective.  England are a good side.  Good, but inconsistent.  The team are able to perform at a high level of play, but there is still the progression to do so on a regular basis that needs to come.

Today was not a good day for them.  Only in terms of the way they played, as they got the result they needed to go through, although the lack of joyousness at the final whistle probably told more about how they felt.  Playing in 94 degree heat and great humidity, the conditions affected the way they went about the game.  Such considerations did not come into the calculation for those who were boozing from 7.00 in the morning back home !!

Nigeria started well and for the first 15 minutes had England under pressure.  Some poor positional play by Cole and Campbell contributed to Nigeria getting round the back on the right wing, but they could not find the finish they required.

Seaman had to snuff out some efforts that came his way, but few threatened directly.  Rio Ferdinand had another good game, mopping up behind the others and showing a growing maturity, which I hope continues for another couple of weeks.  In midfield Scholes did OK and Butt stuck at his task, but there was little supply to Owen and Heskey.  The two occasions they did get in Owen had to use his pace to get into the box, but shot wide and Mills' low cross was hit towards goal by Heskey, but the keeper smothered it at the near post.

Scholes' break from midfield to force the keeper (Enema was his name I think, that was why someone in the pub said he don't like it up him) to tip his drive onto the post.

The second half was dreary as the heat took it's toll.  One shot hit Beckham on the top of his head and he made sure that his cock's comb was in place before carrying on.  And then Motty came out with one of the comments of the tournament when he said " ... and Seaman's coming out" !!  He had only to add " ... behind Campbell" and no-one could have been surprised.

England's best efforts came from a Beckham free-kick that skimmed the top of the net and Sheringham's surprise shot from 30 yards that missed the post, but only just, with the keeper nowhere (no that wasn't the substitute goalie's name).

So gaining the draw was enough, but as news broke from the other game that Argentina had a penalty near the end, which was scored on the rebound, the last few minutes were beamed across the world to the pub.  As chances went away and the ball was up in the air when the whistle blew, the pub erupted in cheers.  Argentina had drawn and were out of the World Cup.  The images of Batistuta crying and their fans looking downcast will stick in the memory for a long time.  In the final shakedown, they will be viewed as not having done enough.  For all the talent they had in the side, it means nothing unless it produces something.  As France well know.

In the other group to be decided today, there was another turn up.  A Spurs player scored !!  Yes, our new midfielder Acimovic hit Slovenia's second goal in the tournament in injury time at the end of the first half.  He was on the right wing and near the dead ball line, when he hit s hot at Chilavert, but the ball went between him and the post and flew off his arm and into the net.

Milenko had shown a few nice touches, as well as the "collapsing" side of his game.  Into the second half, his left footed shot from the edge of the area had Chilavert beaten all ends up before crashing back off the bar.  His departure in the 62nd minute, blowing kisses to the crowd, was the beginning of the end for his country.  They proceeded to concede three goals in the last 25 minutes to leave them pointless and with only Acimovic's plus one other goal to show for their three games.

Paraguay had battled since the 20th minute with ten men after Paredes had been dismissed with two yellow cards.  However, they had a good spell about ten minutes before the break and could have grabbed a goal, but Acimovic gave the Slovenians a half time lead.  After his departure, it was the Paraguayan substitutes who came to life and Cuevas got two cracking goals, cutting inside onto his left foot each time and beating the keeper, while Campos hit a low drive from the left side of the box that the keeper should have done better with.  Only Dabanovic's hand stopped opposing keeper Chilavert getting on the scoresheet from a 30 yard free-kick.  The bar did the rest.

Nastja Ceh got sent off for a nasty challenge with studs up to round off the Slovenians misery.  But they were not the only ones to leave the competition disappointed.

In the other Group B (Group of turn-ups) match, South Africa gifted Spain an opening goal in the first five minutes.  Mendieta hit a hopeful ball forward into the box and Arendse managed to let the ball go right through him, leaving Raul the simplest task in walking the ball in.  Four minutes gone and 0-1 down, South Africa started to battle back.  Sibaya hit a screamer from 20 yards and Castillas had to lunch it away, while Zuma went close to a post with another long range effort.  Mendieta got in a shot that was cleared off the line and Arendse palmed away a Morientes header, before Bafana Bafana equalised.  Novomethe nodded down a cross into the six yard box and McCarthy finally got a World Cup goal with a sweeping shot into the net.

Having been denied already, a free kick was too good to turn down just before the break and Mendieta curled it past the keeper.  The lead only lasted until six minutes after the break, when Radebe headed a corner in at the far post.  That score changed after another few minutes as Joaquin's long cross was met by Raul's head and the lead was restored for Spain.

The game finished with Luque forcing a save from the South African keeper and Enrique missing from close range, as the other side failed to make the second round by one goal.  If only they hadn't given Spain the lead and then they would have got through, but then that is the World Cup.  Who would have thought Paraguay would have pulled their game around ??

Tomorrow it is Italy's turn to try and stay in the World Cup.  How many more twists and turns can there be ?


Group  A  -  South Africa  2   Spain  3
                          Slovenia  1   Paraguay  3

Group F   -    Sweden  1   Argentina  1
                      England  0   Nigeria  0

INTERESTING FACT : -  The French team played "cat and mouse" with the public on their return to a Paris airport, as a rotten egg toting crowd awaited their arrival.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -    Why can't the Argentinians make a dignified exit, seeing as how they make such a fuss when they win ??


13.6.2002     Easy and lucky

With two of the favourites taking part in the final group games today, there were contrasting fortunes for them.  Brazil went through in style scoring almost at will against a stylish Costa Rica side, while Italy struggled to get the result they needed with Mexico.

The Brazil match was one of the most entertaining so far in the tournament.  Goals, goalmouth action and only one card in added time at the end of the game, all added up to a glittering display by both sides of all that is good about the game ... except defending !!  From the tenth minute, when Ronaldo made a classic striker's move to get across his markers and nudge the ball in via a Costa Rican foot, the die was cast for a feast of attacking delights.  The returning forward found the ball at his feet from a cleared corner, but only at the near post, where he wriggled past two defenders and struck a shot past the narrow gap between the keeper and the post.  It is a real boost for his country to see him back. Not quite the same player, but four years older in age, but not in playing years, having been out for almost the whole of the intervening period since the last World Cup.

Costa Rica failed to get anything out of this game or progress in the competition because they failed to do what Brazil did.  That was to make the most of their chances and to play the game simply.  For all their fancy flicks and touches, Brazil pass and move.  They choose the easy pass (most of the time) and although they might play that pass in an outrageous way, if you watch their play, it is not anything extraordinary when taken to basics.  The central American side often tried to over egg the pudding and lost out because of that.  Even the chances that fell to Centeno (7 yards out unmarked), Wright (free header) and Wanchope (twice round the keeper - one off line, on off bar), were not taken.  The one they did get in the first half was a really good move.  Wanchope flicked the ball around the corner to Wright, who laid the ball into his path in the box to shoot and it beat Marcus off the underside of Lucio's thigh.

Unfortunately for them, it was making the score 3-1, as Edmilson had marauded forward and got on the end of a move he began, with a spectacular overhead kick that left Lonnis clutching air.  Something he had done earlier, when grasping Juninho's free kick, but letting it go straight through and luckily wide.  He didn't get anywhere near Rivaldo's free kick that bounced back off a post and Rivaldo didn't get a volley anywhere near Lonnis, after good work on the left by Ronaldo set him up.

While Brazil play beautiful football, Anderson Polga must have one of the most ugly names in the game. Not that it matters as he was one of the players who came in to give rests to some of their regulars.  The second half started with Castro hitting a shot that Marcus put over the bar.  It looked like he had suffered a bite from a vampire on his neck, as he wore two plasters there, and that might explain his (old joke) fear of crosses !!  Costa Rica didn't have to wait long for another goal, as Bryce broke down the right wing and crossed for Gomez to head home at the far post.

But then Brazil took charge and Rivaldo copied his strike partner in scoring from a low left wing cross and then the provider scored tow minutes later, with a deft touch and a powerful drive past the keeper.  Costa Rica battled to get back into it, but apart form a flowing move with back-heels and flicks to set up Castro and Junior hitting his own post with an attempted clearance, they could not force the goal that might have helped their cause.  Fonseca shot across Marcus, but past the post too and when Wanchope's Shot came off the bar, you knew is wasn't going to be their day.

That became even more evident when Turkey turned over China 3-0 to go through to the second round.  They started early with Sas driving past Jiang Jin in the sixth minute and then after nine Bulent rose highest to head a corner over the keeper and in at the far post.  It was a lead that the Chinese found it hard to come back from.  Li Weifing hit a shot well wide and Hao Heidong had s hot saved comfortably by Rustu.  Yang Chen came closest, when he hit a powerful volley that crashed back off the post.

The China side had been holding their own but that all changed in the 59th minute, when substitute Shao Jiayi was dismissed 13 minutes after coming on, for raking his studs down the back of Emre's calf.  Sukur had two opportunities to score; one from a header that the keeper did well to palm round and another when on the floor, that he could only hook over his shoulder into the goalie's hands.  Irhan was also having loads of trouble scoring.  he found the right hand of the keeper to turn aside one of his low shots and then he missed sitter from the resulting corner, managing to get the ball over the bar from about a yard out !!  

However, the third goal that made qualification certain did come when Sas crossed deep and Umir Devala hit a low, skidding volley into the net.  I can't see the Turkish side progressing too far, as they have failed to live up to their recent past reputation, but on their day they can be formidable opponents.

Not something that could be aimed at Croatia, even though they did manage to beat Italy with the help of a linesman.  Here they had no such assistance from the assistant referee and went out courtesy of a 1-0 win for Ecuador, their first in World Cup finals.  Delgado's header back from a cross from De La Cruz found Mendez, who hit his shot first time and true, low past Pletikosa's dive.  The lead was protected by Aguinaga's clearance off the line and it is thanks to his thigh, which had threatened to rule him out, that they go home with three points and it is Croatia that are out.

Juts before half time, Croatia had their best spell with Boksic involved each time.  He dinked a shot onto the outside of a post, had a shot well blocked by the stretching Hurtado and then was denied for a third time, as Porozo cleared the ball lobbed over the keeper as it headed for goal.

Croatia showed again that the flop against Mexico in their first game was no fluke.  they were impotent against the South Americans and even though they brought on the sluggish Mario Stanic, who had three headers (all weak ones), they could not find the inspiration to get a goal, which would have been enough to take them into the next round.  It would not have been a justified progression, as they have been poor this time around and even the "old head" Aguinaga (as he was described on TV), man, made more impact on the game than more illustrious names on the other side.

While this was going on, Italy were showing that they are more than capable of living with France and Argentina, when playing Mexico.  The Central American side showed some marvellous football that pegged Italy back for long periods.

Inzaghi looked unlucky to have a goal chalked off for offside (not an uncommon feature of Italy's games so far), but Totti had the opportunity to settle nerves when he was left with only the keeper to beat by Inzaghi and he failed.  With the ball slightly behind him, he bent it around the goalie and the goal too !!  Another Italian attack lead to the Mexico goal.  A sliding tackle by Carmona started a passing movement that went up the left wing, then switched to the other side and finally Blanco played a straight ball into the box and Borgetti nodded across Buffon and gave the Mexicans the lead.  It was a well worked passing move that saw no opposition player touch the ball from the moment the tackle in their own box was made until it ended up in the Italy net.

Zambrotta and Carmona both had volleys wide at either end, while it was only Cannavaro's intervention that stopped Borgetti's shot from 12 yards hitting the net.  It hit the Italian defender's leg instead.

After the break, Perez did well to deny both Inzaghi and Vieri as they bore down on goal and at the other end, Arellano played a nice one-two with Blanco, but could force the ball past a defender on the line, even though he had forced it past Buffon.  Borgetti just failed to reach the ball first, but it was cleared.  Mexico started to push on and Rodriguez blasted a shot two feet wide and Blanco one over the bar, but Italy were also trying to get back into it.  Montella had a goal disallowed for offside, blazed another shot over the bar and then sub Coco hit a corner off for a throw-in halfway towards the halfway line in a bizarre incident !!  

It was left to the old wonder boy of Italian football to settle the nerves.  Coming on for Totti, who had failed to shine, Alessandro Del Piero found a run from beyond two defenders to meet Montella's hooked cross and head it past Perez with five minutes remaining.

As the game came to the 90 minute mark, both sides must have been informed of the result in the other match, which meant they were both through.  This left a strange ending to a whole-hearted affair, with Mexico passing the ball amongst themselves for four minutes of added time, without Italy touching the ball ... or indeed trying to.  It was out of keeping with the previous ninety and although it didn't matter, there was the chance that Italy could have finished top of the group.  As it is, they could now face Portugal.

A fine day's matches, with two really good ones, one good one and one poor game.  With the last group games tomorrow, the knock out stages will begin on Saturday.  They might be more cagey, but there will be a winner one way or another and the only passing around at the end will be a sign that one side is inestimably better than the other.  Let's hope there are some exciting games tomorrow first though.


Group  C  -  Brazil  5   Costa Rica  2
Turkey   3   China  0

Group G   -    Italy  1  Mexico  1
                       Ecuador  1  Croatia  0

INTERESTING FACT : -  Mexico strung together 54 passes in injury time in their match against Italy.
INVENTED WORD FOR THE DAY : -    "Error" ... as in "the ball was played into the danger error" quoted by Trevor Brooking in the Italy-Mexico match.


14.6.2002     Any Port in a Storming finish

The last four places for the Second round were up for grabs and seven of the eight teams taking part could have qualified.  Only four could and it was surprising that the results turned out how they did and how the top two teams of the groups ended up there.

Group H (the group of fans) was settled first.  But it went to the wire.  Japan's progress was fairly straight forward with a 2-0 win over Tunisia, who had to settle for their one point against Russia.  I didn't see this game, but caught the highlights and the two goals from Morishima and Nakata were both worthy of taking the home side through.  They were smartly taken and even though the Africans hit the bar near the end, there was no doubting that Troussier's inventive approach has given the Japanese some status in the competition and the world game too.  Taking on Turkey might be a game they think they can win in the next phase.

That left one place to be decided by the other group game featuring Belgium and Russia.  They had both stumbled through their first two games, but the Russians were in pole position, although they were to be undone by some bad defending here.  Waleme's free kick from 20 yards left Nigmatullin nowhere near the ball as it went in near the post and Belgium had the important lead in the match. 

The chances that Belgium then proceeded to miss looked like they might cost them, when Russia scrambled an equaliser on 52 minutes.  Sychev hit a shot that was well stopped by de Vlieger, but the ball bounced away from him to Bestchastnykh, who shot past the man on the line to bring them level and put them in the qualifying place in the group.  Wilmots effort in missing the goal from Mbo Mpenza's cross was astounding and then Waleme hit the side netting instead of the target.

Just when it looked like things were going badly, Wesley Sonck came on for Mpenza and headed in a corner, then Wilmots made amends by collecting Goor's through ball and turning infield, found space to hit a shot past the Russian keeper.  Panic stations were activated when with two minutes left, Sychev slipped a goal past the Belgian goalie and then in the final minute late sub Kerzhakov had a perfect opportunity to put them into a second round place, but lifted his header well over and with it their hopes were sunk.

Belgium are one of those sides, who never seem to stand out, but get through to a decent stage of the tournament.  How they do that, I don't know.  Perhaps someone will analyse their players and tactics, but I reckon they won't find anything there apart from resolute play and a slice of luck.

Group D was a different story.  With the poor Poles hardly getting started, it would be a formality for USA to beat them to go through and then Portugal would push aside their welcoming hosts to progress too.  That was the script, which got ripped up somewhere along the way.

USA, in fact, got off to an awful start, conceding two goals in little more than four and a half minutes and having one of their own from Donovan written off for a deliberate push on a defender.  So, a quiet little opening to the match then !!  It was Nigerian born Olisadebe who hit the opener.  From a corner, his first shot was blocked and his second ripped into the roof of the net.  Kryszalowicz got on the end of a left wing cross, put low into the box.  The Yanks could have been more goals down and the reason they stayed at 0-2 was luck.  Kryszalowicz was unlucky to see Friedel save his firm shot form 8 yards and the ball broke to Krzynowek and his shot was deflected onto a post, out and away.

After the break, the Poles were peppering the American goal, with the result that they were getting caught on the break.  They were hoist by their own petard and as Poland pressed forward, Sanneh brought down Kryszalowicz, who was more than a handful, being a huge presence and physique too.  Zurawski strode up to take the kick, but it was unconvincingly hit and Friedel had no problems diving to his left to collect his second penalty save of the tournament.  

Mathis was the one who had most chances for the States, but he headed one onto the roof of the net and hit a post too, but finally, he did the decent thing and set up someone else, instead of try and score himself.  Nodding the ball sideways, he found Donovan to the left of the penalty spot and he hit a right footed volley sure and true into the bottom corner of the net past Majdan, who had been preferred to Liverpool keeper Dudek.

So, the Americans were left sweating, quite literally, on the result of the other game.  Initially, it had been thought that this would be a walk in the park for Portugal, but it ended with them being walked over by Park to send South Korea through the group stage for the first time in World Cups.

Having made the decision to go down the pub to watch the game, the request to the barman to put the football on, might have looked an unpopular one at half-time.  The first 45 minutes had little to commend it.  A couple of tame efforts on goal, Pauleta blasting over and wide when through and the sending off of Joao Pinto. This half-pint is a temperamental soul and his two footed lunge at Park Si Jung was lucky not to break his leg.  One of the Portuguese's leg knocked the Korean's shin pad around his leg, while the other snaked around and under the standing leg, thus bringing him down and landing with his weight on it.  Doing this was bad enough, but perpetrating the foul just two yards for the ref was daft.  A red was the only option.

But not according to the Portuguese, who thought this was harsh.  They surrounded the official, much like they had done in Euro 2000, and they jostled him to try and get him to change his mind, which he was never going to do.  What Couto thought he was doing laying his hands on the refs cheeks, I don't know.  Perhaps it was his Morecombe and Wise impersonation !!  Hiddink was not impressed, as he was taking his jacket off on the touchline, ready to see Pinto outside !!

After this, Korea seemed content to hold the ball and not press home their one man advantage, but half-time came and went and the second half started a little livelier.  Two headers from Seol and Yoo both narrowly missed the goal and the Dutch coach's half time team talk must have shaken them up a bit.  Even Portugal realised that they might have to do something in this game and from a corner, Pauleta stooped to conquer,  but was denied by a leap from the Korean keeper Lee Woon Jae.  Then came the moment that turned the match.

Beto had already been booked earlier in the game and as Lee Young Pyo broke down the left, he rashly dived in and caught the player late.  It could only be another yellow and that spelled red.  Like Pinto, he didn't want to go and Figo remonstrated with the ref this time, but more serious consequences were to occur four minutes later.  With a corner won on the left wing, due to some slow reaction from the Portuguese defence, it was headed out to the taker, who's second attempt was chested down by Park at the far post.  He tricked Conceicao with a dink around him and then blasted the half volley low through Baia's legs to give Korea the lead.

The joy from the fans and bench was almost short lived as Portugal then realised they would be going out.  With nine men it was hard to get back into it, but Figo flashed a free kick inches wide, then Nuno Gomes failed to get a decent contact with a through ball with only the keeper to beat.  Baia earned some respect after a poor World Cup with some good late saves to prevent his side going further behind and it was left to Conceicao to have the last word as he cut in from the left, went outside again and got a left foot shot in that the keeper pushed away, before he had a later effort that crashed back off the post.  At the end he sunk to his knees in tears, but they could have been tears of joy if the ability of the players had been channeled in the right direction, rather than the shame of being reduced by two men to a team who were rightly shown the exit door.

Like their leaving of the European Championships, it left a bitter memory rather than the one that they could have posted in people's minds.  For that reason alone, teams like South Korea and USA are worthy participants in the latter stages this time around.  Win in style and lose with pride.  Not many teams have been able to do either so far, but let's hope that knock out part of the competition has some good moments to savour.


Group  D  -  South Korea  1   Portugal  0
Poland   3    USA  1

Group H   -    Japan  2   Tunisia  0
                      Belgium  3   Russia  2

INTERESTING FACT : -  The host nation has never failed to go through to the second stage of the World Cup.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -    Why do Portugal play like that when they have some of the most skilful players in the world ??


15.6.2002     Dull, but not downcast

How boring was the Germany-Paraguay game ??  The word mind-numbing might have been designed for this very occasion.  Perhaps the heat might have had something to do with it, but other early morning (UK time) games had not been so uninteresting.  

In the first half of the first half, the German forwards (playing in a 4-4-2 formation) lacked support and the Paraguayans forwards lacked belief.  Cardoza is one of the worst players in the competition and Santa Cruz, obviously felt that playing for Bayern Munich, he would be found out by his Bundesliga colleagues.  Hid departure with an injury virtually waved goodbye to any chance they had of progressing.

Birthday boy Oliver Kahn punched away an Arce free-kick, while at the other end Bode and Klose both were too high with their efforts on goal.  Paraguay came strong at the end of the half with Ayala missing a golden opportunity by mis-hitting a volley and then Campos, on as a substitute, cut inside to force Kahn into action.

The break came as a blessed relief to all and Germany regrouped in a more familiar 3-4-3 line-up, which saw them press forward for the first time with any conviction.  Schnedier brought a save out of Chilavert as the half started and then had a free-kick slip past the post by a couple of feet.  Campos' pace was a threat and his unexpected shot made Kahn save sharply.  With just over a quarter of an hour left, a free kick conceded on the edge of the German box brought the Paraguay keeper trundling forward to take it and he got it over the wall, but over the bar too.

As the game was all but heading for extra time, when a cross from the left ended up on the foot of Neuville, cutting in at the near post, to guide it into the net and guide his side into the quarter-finals.  It spared the watching world the spectre of another thirty minutes of this dreary excuse for football.  It was only then that the game livened up, when in injury time, Ballack pushed Acuna after the ball had gone and the Paraguayan midfielder swung an elbow into the German's face. A yellow for Ballack, but a red for Acuna rounded off a totally unsatisfactory day's work for those involved and for the audience in their armchairs.

Thank goodness England salvaged some of the reputation of the beautiful game ... and how often could you say that ??  A fiery first half performance wrapped up their place in fine style against a lethargic and unimaginative Danish side.  How they ever beat France I will never know ... or perhaps France were worse than we thought.

Ferdinand's fifth minute far post header from a corner caught Sorensen grabbing it as he dived back towards his own goal and that was what he got.  Fumbling the ball he could only claw it out once it was over the line, but even then Heskey raced it to hammer it into the roof of the net to make sure there was no doubt about the goal ... only the scorer.  It was a dream start, but then another early goal against Scandinavian opponents earlier in the tournament had ended in a draw.

Owen missed a volley as Beckham's dinked cross over the defender caught him slightly stretching, while Heskey could not get in front of his marker enough to divert the ball towards goal with pace.  On another break, he out-muscled the defender and with Sorensen bearing down on him, tried to chip over the keeper and failed, when Owen was standing unmarked just five yards away.

With 22 minutes gone, the lead was doubled.  Sinclair played a low ball into the box to Butt, who flicked the ball around the corner and it was controlled by Owen, who steered it past Sorenson with his left foot and into the inside of the side netting.  It preserved his record of scoring against the Sunderland keeper in the each of the last three seasons.  The marking was lax and England can rarely have believed that they had the space to play the ball around like that.

Four minutes later, Gravesen broke from midfield and played the ball to Sand.  The forward came inside both Campbell and Ferdinand to the centre of the area and hit a shot that just went a ball's width wide of the post.  At this stage, England were giving plenty of space for Denmark to come onto them, to the extent that the red shirts enjoyed 60% of possession in the first half.  Tomasson mugged up Rio on the left and put in a cross to no-one in a Denmark shirt and that was their problem.  Having to catch up a two goal deficit meant that they had to chase the game, but there was little understanding and the England wing backs marshalled the flying Danish wingers so well that they were hardly seen.

This all became academic on 44 minutes, when an England throw was headed against Beckham by Niclas Jensen and the Man U man's ball in front of Heskey was to tempting to pass up this time and he hit it with great power past Sorensen, who might have done better with it.

The greatest threat to the England goal came shortly after, in added time, as Gravesen won the ball from Owen and marauded forward to hit a screamer that was dipping on Seaman, but he got his gloves to it and pushed it over the bar.

The second half was a bit of a more subdued affair as Denmark did not have the wit to break down the English defence, while England were willing to wait for the chance to hit their opponents on the break.  In fact, the liveliest Denmark got was when they believed it was OK to kick a man when he is down.  Gronkjaer decided to aim a couple of swift boots to the back of Danny Mills after a challenge that got the Leeds man booked, but was due to the Chelsea winger trying to bring him down in the first place.  This little cameo will no doubt be resolved when the two sides meet in the Premiership and equally as sure a bet is that Graeme Le Saux will be there or thereabouts.

England were more refined than to do the same to the Danish side and threatened only fleetingly in the second period.  Beckham had two shots and Sinclair dived in to head a Fowler shot over the bar.  Meanwhile Tomasson replicated this feat when he did the same to a Bogelund shot.  The only joy they had was at the end, when Claus Jensen almost repeated his chip past a Gooner keeper, when Seaman just got fingers to the effort to get it up and over.

Even the commentators on BBC were lost for things to talk about.  Teddy winning his 50th cap brought Motty out in full statto flow saying that Brooking (his expert analyser) had not made that target, but what a career he had had anyway !!  Then he came out with one of the comments of the World Cup, when he stated that "Butt should have had it away, as should Ferdinand" !!  Just as well he didn't include Kieron Dyer in that one !!

A convincing win and looking much better than the stuttering Germans, England will move on to the quarters with confidence to meet Belgium or Brazil.  They will find either a tougher proposition than this Danish team who threatened to sizzle, but are best back in their home country.


Second round : -

Germany  1    Paraguay  0
England   3   Denmark  0

INTERESTING FACT : -  The Seogwipo stadium saw it's last match in this confrontation and will be dismantled ... at the cost of $100 million per game !!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -   Who thought that building stadia for this World Cup and then ripping them apart was a good use of money ??  Aren't there countries who have grounds there already and which can be used afterwards out there ??


16.6.2002     Play to a finish

When teams say they want to go all the way, some do really take that literally.  Some seem to want to take the result after about 65 minutes of the game, but these two matches kept us on the edge of our collective seats ay home.

Having woke up late, I missed the first half hour, but saw the repeat of Larsson's goal; a well taken header from a corner. I was more impressed by Senegal, who scored a well worked equaliser.

Receiving the ball on the edge of the "D", Henri Camara pushed the ball out of his feet and past two Swedish defenders, then hit a crisp shot across Hedman that went in near the post.  It wasn't long before he was striking fear into the European's defence, when he got on the end of a left wing cross and headed wide, when free in front of goal.

The only effort I saw from Sweden in the last quarter of an hour of the first half was a free kick from Anders Svensson ,which was acrobatically caught by Tony Sylva, who appears to be one of the few keepers who believe in catching the ball.

The second half started more entertainingly, with Svensson drilling a shot straight at Sylva, when freed down the middle and Allback volleyed into the ground from 10 yards out, taking all the pace off the ball.  The latter set up a good opportunity for the former, with a knocked back header, but Svensson blazed his volley wide.

Senegal started to edge back into the match when striker Thiaw couldn't get a proper hit on the ball as it dropped from a corner and Diouf forced Hedman into action to tip over a free kick, but there was little coming from the midfield of either side, as moves tended to be from long balls out of defence.  Thiaw got on the end of a corner again and his strike was deflected away for a corner by a defender's leg.

Bringing on Ibrahimovic, a big strong forward, gave Sweden a physical advantage, but his selfishness cost them, because he could have set up Larsson, who was in space, but chose to try and hit the target ... and failed.  He had done well to muscle past two defenders, but having taken them out of the play, he should have made better use of the space made for his colleague.

So, with no more ado about nothing in the remainder of the game, it went into Golden goal extra time.  In the 104th minute, Camara clicked and it took the Africans through to the quarter finals.  Before that Ibrahimovic brought a brave stop out of Sylva and Anders Svensson produced a smart double drag back and a shot on the turn against the post, that bounced out.  His side had no such luck, when a back heel set up Camara to reel through the Swedish back four and produced a snapshot off the upright and it bounced into the net. As Senegal began their dance of joy, the bashed Swedes flopped to the turf to hide their embarrassment.

Despite the experience of playing at this level and the size of the team, Sweden lacked sufficient movement to seriously trouble the Senegal team, who showed exciting skill and off the ball work.  They may not win the World Cup, but they have won lots of admirers and friends for their refreshing play.

The same cannot be said of Spain, who tournament after tournament disappoint despite all the talent at their disposal.  Having taken an eighth minute lead from the head of Morientes, who got in front of Breen to nod Puyol's cross in across Given at the near post.

Their attack posed problems for the Irish defence, but they were too often off-side to make their movement between the two forwards pay.  On the other hand, Ireland never got their attacking game going and only created one chance from a Holland chip into the box, which bounced too high for Robbie Keane to do anything else than hook it goalwards, but over.

Quinn's arrival after half-time and Spain's injuries turned around the second half in which both keepers had more to do.  Raul dragged a ball back for Morientes to run onto, but Given was out smartly to block and Casillas came out for a long ball and bumped into Puyol, leaving Kilbane with the ball at his feet with a shot on goal.  Unfortunately, it was blocked on the line.  Keane, Duff and Quinn all had opportunities as Spain went into their shell after Morientes and Raul had gone off.  It cost them in the 63rd minute a penalty for Ireland was awarded, when Juanfran tripped Duff.  Harte, the scourge of the Premiership from free-kicks and penalties, stepped up.  And hit his shot straight into Casillas diving hands at a nice height for him to save.  Not only that, but Kilbane hit the rebound wide, when all he had to do was kick the ball in a straight line into the net !!

With time running out, it looked like another valiant effort, but a losing one by the Irish ... until at a free-kick, Hierro (the experienced Spanish captain, although you would be surprised), tried to rip Quinn's shirt off him with both hands.  In the last minute of the encounter, the Danish ref pointed to the spot, much to the disgust of the red shirted players.  Can't think why.

With Harte off having been substituted, it was left to Robbie Keane and this time, he dispatched the pen. coolly into the corner of the net.  You could see the Spanish heads drop.  Instead of going for the win, they sat back during golden goal extra time, they looked as if they would settle for penalties (maybe because they had only ten men on the pitch because of injury to Abelda) and it was nearly Keane twice and Connolly who made them pay for it by going close twice.  Baraja also had one opportunity to score, but Given saved well coming out of his goal.

So no golden goal, but would one be scored in the penalty shoot out ??  Well, it proved to be a false dawn for Ireland when Keane stuck the first one away, because Holland hit the bar, while Kilbane and Connolly were thwarted by Casillas.  Valeron hit a post and Juanfran blazed his spot-kick well over, but the deciding fifth Spanish penalty taker was Mendieta.  His usual accuracy from corners and free-kicks had been lacking in the time he was on the pitch after leaving the bench, but his precise shot left Ireland out and the Spanish limped on to the quarter final against either South Korea or Italy.

You don't always get what you deserve in the game, but the Irish got more praise in losing than the Spanish did in victory.  Not only that, but they did it the hard way and they are the archetypal underdogs who always make it hard for the big boys, but that undermines the ability in their team, with some hard work piled on top of some skilled players.  They always give it a crack and are there for the craic, but when it comes down it, they are a hard nut to crack.  It is a shame that they will not be remembered for what they did in this tournament, but for who missed the boat.


Second round : -

Sweden   1   Senegal  2  (after extra time- Golden goal)
Republic of Ireland  1    Spain  1  (Spain win 3-2 on penalties after extra time)

INTERESTING FACT : -  Ireland in 65 games under Mick McCarthy, have never lost by more than a single goal.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -   Why couldn't Hierro wait until the end of the game to swap shirts with Niall Quinn ??


17.6.2002     The big kick off

With two teams who had impressed in qualifying for this stage and two who had got through despite themselves, the two ties made for an interesting viewing.  Or that was what we thought !!

Being stuck on the M25 in a traffic gridlock for an hour allowed me to follow the USA-Mexico match on the radio.  Watching the pictures later on, I must say that Danny Baker, Jonathan Pearce and Craig Brown did manage to convey the action quite well and their surprise at the way Mexico played was clear to be seen, when I saw the match on BBC Interactive later.

For a team who had played such entertaining football to be reduced to this was sad to see and the Mexican side psyched themselves out of the competition.  Having gone a goal down to a good move by the US and then been denied a penalty for hands against O'Brien, when he clearly fisted the ball out, they went to pieces in the second half, taking most of their anger out on Cobi Jones.  Perhaps because he was small or as Hawksbee and Jacobs suggested, he looked too much like Sideshow Bob, only they will know.

The kung-fu kick up his arse, quickly followed by a  cracking head-butt into the side of his face earned Marquez a sending off, which ended the tournament for him.  He had been a real star, but his implosion meant that the straight red for the attack on the dwarf left his side chasing the game (and Jones) even further and they nearly paid for it when he escaped down the left and crossed for Donovan to volley over from right in front of the goal.  It was the place he had headed his goal from, when Lewis crossed from the left in a goal that reminded me of Lineker's v Argentina in 1986.

It followed this goal that Fernandez put in what Danny baker rated the worst dive of the World Cup and talk about going down in stages !!  The yellow was well earned.  But the damage had been done to the Central American side's progress.  A goal in the seventh minute saw a move develop on the right from a quickly taken free kick.  McBride started it and then got on the end of a lay-back from Wolff to shoot home.  

The USA were a side who had overcome their defeat by Poland and were confident enough to control the match against a Mexican team, who failed to show any of the flair they had in their first three matches.  Only twice did they threaten Friedel's goal and that was in the same move. The Blackburn keeper flapped at a cross and then had to scoop the ball out from under the bar, as Fernandez moved in.  Conversely, Wolff could have settled the tie after 36 minutes, when Perez moved out sharply to block the shot with his body.

The lack of ambition by Mexico as they played well within themselves was a strange approach. The US side is an athletic one and they keep going to the end, closing down the channels of supply, but here, most notably, the danger man Borgetti was marked out of the match.  With coach Bruce Arena grinning maniacally on the touchline, like some poor impression of Chevy Chase in the "National Lampoon Vacation" films, they worked out what needed to be done to stop Mexico.  In the end, it didn't take too much.

As for England, the wait for their quarter final opponents has been agonising.  Everyone thought that the second round match for Brazil would be a formality against Belgium, but things don't always turn out how you think.  Watching some of the game in a pub to the soundtrack supplied by the CD of Barbara Streisand that played in the background was quite surreal.  This was made even more so, when Moby's "Play" took it's place, but got stuck !!  It really makes you appreciate Ron Atkinson.

The first half was pretty poor.  Belgium should have had a goal when Wilmots headed in, but the shirt pulling was well spotted by the official.  Brazil had the statutory Roberto Carlos free kick go close, Rivaldo scissors kick go over and Ronaldo did his best to poke a goal in, when he made a timely run to meet his strike partner's cross at the near post.

Marcus was my weak link in the Brazil side, but in this game he pout that to rest with a number of decent saves.  He is far too dramatic and keen to require attention from the physios, but he denied Wilmots, Mpenza, Vanderheyen and Goor.  In fact, his first minute save from a speculative Mpenza cross was perhaps the best, as he furiously back-pedalled to tip it over.

As Brazil stuttered to get going, their goal came with a  slice of luck too.  Ronaldinho's cross was chested down on the edge of the box and with one touch, Rivaldo set himself for a shot that flicked off "little" Timmy Simons and in.  While there were more chances, they had to wait until the end for Ronaldo to break away and slip home the second and decisive goal.  If only Goor had been so clinical with a headed opportunity he was presented with, but he missed the ball completely and the chance was gone.

Belgium showed themselves as a well organised outfit, who closed down the Brazilians on the ball and marked them off it, forcing them to work to pass the ball around. It was a plan that worked for the European side, but Brazil did show willing to work to fond a way around it.  The Belgians even found out the yellow shirted defence, so there is hope for England.  Unfortunately, they didn't have a goal-taker to punish them and allow Waseige to show off his "hair-combing" goal celeb !!

 In the moments before the game, as the two sides warmed up, all eyes switched from the pitch to the stands as David Beckham arrived.  Sheringham and Scholes were with him, but if the England captain can be the centre of attention on Friday, instead of the free scoring Brazil side, then we will all be happy.


Second round : -

Mexico   0   USA   2
Belgium  0   Brazil  2

INTERESTING FACT : -  USA's last clean sheet in the World Cup was in 1950 ... against England.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -    How do teams think that changing their style in the knock out stage will get them further, when they have done well up to now ??


18.6.2002     Koreans Keen as Mustard

Turkey's involvement in the World Cup brought about a sea of tears in Japan, as they voted for Christmas, while the home nation could not find the presence to go through another stage of the competition.

The Turkish had little trouble in disposing of their compact hosts, who started vibrantly, but faded into the setting sun as their legs finally gave out, along with any ideas they had to grab an equaliser.  It was the shaven head of Umit Davala that put the Japanese out after a 12th minute header that was easy without a marker on him.

Japan created little and it was only the naturalised Brazilian Alex's free kick that rebounded back off the bar that gave Rustu any worries.  A save from a late header and that was about it.  It left coach Troussier at times looking like he was doing a rendition of "I'm A Little Teapot" as he got more exasperated with their failing efforts.

In return, Turkey did make some assaults on the Japanese goal as Basturk had a 20 yard shot fly wide and Sukur's chip almost foxed Japanese keeper Narazaki, but he managed to get back and hold the ball.

The home nation had given us a good account of their play and they were worth their place in the Second round, but they met their match in a Turkish side that was well drilled and finally got their game together.

Which is more than can be said of Italy after their game in Daejon against South Korea.  Despite being given a  flying start by Vieri's header form a corner (similar to Davala's), they stuttered and could not get the defensive frame of mind out of their head.

Coming home from work, I heard on the radio from an Italian-American on TalkSport, that Italy had been hard done by because of some absurd refereeing decisions in this match.  On reaching home and watching the replayed match on BBC Interactive, that proved to be nothing like what happened.  The referee was the one who had an excellent game earlier in the tournament, taking time to watch the action on the video screen before booking players.  Although he perhaps should have taken stronger action against the Korean who elbowed Del Piero and should not have given Totti the second yellow card, the other decisions he made were sound.

His brave award of a penalty against Italy in the fourth minute was a good spot.  Panucci ripped the shirt off the Seoloto's back from a corner and another defender was doing the same behind him.  Ahn stepped up to shoot the spot kick goalwards, but Buffon made a very good diving save to his right to push the ball away.

This did not stop the Korean side from pressing forward with the support of a huge red swathe of fans in the stadium behind them.  They continued to go on the attack, while Italy slipped into national stereotype and were happy to defend and hit on the break.  The tactic nearly paid off, with Vieri on the break, hitting a right footed shot wide of the target.

This was to prove costly, as a cross from the left saw Panucci fail to get a decent contact on the ball and it fell for Seol Ki-Hyeon to swing his left foot at the ball and take it past Buffon and into the net.  Three minutes were left on the clock and the Koreans had salvaged something.

But wait !!  Italy broke straight down the other end and a low cross in from the left found Vieri coming in at the far post.  With his weaker foot, he managed to sky the ball over the bar from a couple of yards out !!

So, to extra time and the Golden goal.  But Italy's Golden Boy didn't make it to the end, being tackled in the area, he went down and was adjudged to have simulated.  Having been booked already, he was off.

As the Korean boss - Gus Hiddink - threw on more forwards, Trappatoni had replaced attackers with defensive midfielders.  Playing for penalties, as we saw with Spain, is not always the best policy and so it proved.  A free-kick went under the wall and Buffon stretched to save, but it was only when goalscorer Seol tried a back-heel on the edge of his won box that they were in danger of conceding and then Gattuso's shot was saved by Lee in goal.

With four minutes of extra time remaining, Ahn got in ahead of Maldini to glance his header past a static Buffon for the Golden goal by the Golden Boy of Korean football.  The stadium went berserk, as did the whole of the country, as they progress to meet Spain in the next round.  They were fully deserving of their win, as they went out to try and win the game and didn't sit back like Italy.  Their energy has been a welcome style addition to the tournament and the old Danny Blanchflower comment about "not going out there to bore the other team to death" was never more apt.

Perhaps Italy lost the match because they had David Schwimmer in goal and Badly Drawn Boy playing at right back.  Coco's head injury necessitating that he played the bulk of the match with a tea cosy on his head.

While they might not win it, Korea are where they are on merit.  They will be followed by their red-shirted supporters to the end of their campaign, while the red faced Italians will return home to face their red fruit chucking fans ... just like in 1966 !!  Maybe that will be true for other sides in the tournament.


Second round : -

South Korea   2   Italy   1  (After extra time - Golden Goal)
Japan   0    Turkey   1

INTERESTING FACT : -  South Korea emulated the achievement of their Northern counterparts by being the only Asian sides to reach the quarter finals of the World Cup.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -   Don't commentators talk a load of rubbish sometimes ??
INVENTED NAME FOR THE DAY : -    "Puccini was pulling the Korean's shirt."  (Peter Reid on the Italian defender Panucci).


21.6.2002     One Flew Over ...

Couldn't be arsed to watch the England game.  Fed up with watching football in pubs where know-nothings shout abuse at a screen and wear their colours once every four years.  Not interested in sharing the experience with those who take no interest in football for four years and then have to watch "the boys'" progress and are heartbroken when they get knocked out.  Sick of the fake passion that people adopt just because the media have hyped them up to fever pitch.

I left the car and started walking down the road to work.  It wasn't totally quiet ... more like Sunday morning quiet, but that was shattered as shouts came from houses and the people inside (no doubt wearing their plastic England shirts and wearing novelty St. George Cross bowler hats) let their emotions show.  It's something that the English are not naturally good at and should really only do so in the privacy of their own homes.

Eventually found out the score when everyone rolled in to work.  Not surprised.  Didn't find out until 18.05 that Owen scored for England and on seeing the highlights later on, discovered how embarrassing the goal that won the match was.  Nayim, you are not alone !!

With the heat and the humidity, perhaps it was not surprising that England could not maintain the sort of display they put up against Argentina in the air conditioned Sapporo Dome.  The end of the game saw some ragged passing and lack of invention to open up the yellow shirted defence.  In fact, when Owen did score, it was courtesy of a Lucio mistake.  He seized on it and finished well, but Marcos helped by going to ground quicker than a boxer taking a dive.

Seaman probably done more to lose England the game in colliding with S.Cumball than letting the second in.  It was Beckham's wussy jump that allowed the Brazilians to get possession of the ball in their own half, but it was quickly transferred to Ronaldinho, who ran at the England back line.  His pass out to Rivaldo gave him the opportunity to hit it first time past Seaman, with Cumball nowhere.

The second five minutes after half time came from the boot of the maker of the first.  His free-kick curled over Seaman and into the net, with the Gooner keeper struggling to back pedal fast enough and then not be able to get off the ground.

If England had been able to pull out  atop draw performance, they might have pushed Brazil all the way, but even with ten men, after Ronaldinho was sent off for an over the top challenge on Mills, they could not break them down and the South Americans found it easy to play against.  The lack of defence opening passes from midfield and the fragility at the back were England's downfall.  Yes, Ferdinand had a good tournament, but Campbell was positionally naive and Cole too attack minded.  The midfield was too workmanlike in the end and it was difficult for them to change their mode of operation.  Beckham is a very good player, but you wouldn't put him in the same class as some of the Brazilians.  Conversely, players like Rivaldo could learn something about playing the game fairly from the English.

So, Teddy's participation came to an end, but Christian Ziege's goes on.  It was his cross that was nodded in by Michael Ballack to give the Germans a fortunate win over the impressive Americans.  In fact, it was only Kahn who stopped the Yanks taking the semi-final place with a string of saves.  In the first half alone, he denied Donovan twice, Lewis and O'Brien.  His second half stop from McBride went onto a post and Frings looked like he used his arm to stop it going over the line.  His last ditch save of Sanneh's header broke the American dream of progressing further than they had ever done before.

Joint top scorer (with Ronaldo and Rivaldo) in the competition, Miroslav Klose, hit the post with a header (surprise, surprise) and Neuville had an overhead kick blocked by Eddie Lewis' face !!  When Reyna lobbed over from near the halfway line as Kahn had tried to recover his ground after racing out of his area to clear, you had the notion that his narrow miss would be a prelude to other chances that went begging.


Quarter Finals : -

England   1    Brazil   2
USA   0   Germany   1

INTERESTING FACT : -  The last time Brazil beat England in the World Cup Elvis Presley was number one in the Top Ten.  He is number one again now !!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : -    Why does David Seaman have his name on his gloves and does his Mum sew them in so he doesn't lose them ??

    22.6.2002 - 30.6.2002

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