2010 FIFA World Cup - Anthology by Dan Krier
2010 FIFA World Cup Final Recap

Day 31 - WORLD CONQUERORS
Spain fulfills its destiny, taking home the country’s first-ever World Cup Championship.

July 11, 2010
by Dan Krier

Spain win 2010 FIFA World Cup - 071110

Spain 1 - Netherlands 0

And so it happened. With an extremely late goal by midfielder Andres Iniesta in extra time, Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup, victorious for the fourth straight match by a result of 1-0.

By anyone’s account, it was a substandard affair Sunday night in Johannesburg, with each team taking dives on fouls in order to elicit yellow cards, which came in hordes as both sides were handed a record number of 13, the previous high being 6. And while it could be said that head referee Howard Webb was too quick to book players, a lot of the challenges were overexuberant and came across as dangerous sloppy play.

For the Netherlands, this day will forever go down as a game of missed opportunities. Twice during the second half - in the 62nd and 83rd minutes - Holland’s Arjen Robben was denied by the diving legs of Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas on clear-path 1-on-1 breakaways. Robben and the rest of the Netherlands will be replaying those moments in nightmares for the remainder of their lives.

Spain, as well, had multiple chances to score, though nothing as wide open as the runs made by Holland’s Robben. In the 70th minute, World Cup leading-scorer David Villa was given a sliver of space to shoot on a mishandled cross through the Dutch box, but he couldn’t solve the tight angle off the left side of the goal, keeper Maarten Stekelenburg making one of several great saves during the match.

Then in the 77th minute, Sergio Ramos was denied glory when he missed a wide-open header on a corner kick that caromed off his forehead before sailing high over the bar. The game stayed tied 0-0 until the 90th-minute whistle, forcing thirty minutes of extra time.

In the overtime period, things went back & forth, with the best chance to score by Spain’s Cesc Fabregas thwarted by the leg of Stekelenburg in the 95th minute to preserve the shutout. But shortly thereafter, things took a major turn for the worse for the Netherlands, because another rough tackle by Holland’s John Heitinga yielded his second yellow card for pulling Spain’s Iniesta down from behind, which translated to a RED CARD and a send-off, putting Spain in the position of having a one-man advantage.

Finally, then, in the 116th minute, the moment came.

With the prospects of another bland penalty-kick shootout just four or five minutes away, Spain was able to cash in on their power play before it was too late.

On the goal, substitute forward Fernando Torres took the ball on a pass up the left side, where he crossed it to the front of the box toward another reserve, teammate Fabregas, who then slid the ball right, where Andres Iniesta controlled the bouncer just enough to fire a right-foot volley into the net off the bottom of Stekelenburg’s right hand, giving Spain the lead 1-0 in the nick of time.

The goal marked the end of the road for Holland, who couldn’t create a last-gasp chance, falling in what is now their third World Cup Final defeat. Utter joy for Spain, who hoist the cup for the first time in history, this team taking its spot in the books as one of the best ever, having won the 2008 UEFA Euro Crown along with the 2010 World Cup.

Though they only won each of their knockout games by the score of 1-0, Spain is undoubtedly the best team in the entire world. Congratulations.

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 30 Recap

Day 30 - BRONZE METTLE
Germany outduels a memorable Uruguay team to finish in 3rd place at the 2010 World Cup.

July 10, 2010
by Dan Krier

Uruguay vs. Germany - 071010
Germany 3 - Uruguay 2

For the second straight World Cup tournament, Germany took home the 3rd place trophy, this time winning Saturday’s consolation game against Uruguay in comeback fashion by the score of 3-2.

Playing in constant rainfall in the southern city of Port Elizabeth, the contest featured wide-open football for the full 90 minutes with neither team having much to lose.

Absent from the match with flu-like symptoms was German forward Miroslav Klose, who fans were hoping to see break the record for all-time goals scored, something he would have done had he played and scored two. So without their 32 year-old star, the Germans featured a relatively-new lineup, one that performed exactly the same as the old formation did…successfully.

Thankfully, the match was anything but boring, with goals coming early and often. First it was Germany striking with a 19th minute rope of a shot from 35 yards away by Bastian Schweinsteiger, the ball thumping off the chest of Uruguay goalie Fernando Muslera for a wide-open rebound score by Thomas Mueller and a 1-0 Germany lead.

For the 20 year-old Mueller, it was his fifth goal of the 2010 World Cup, something that will surely bring him the honor of Best Young Player of the tournament.

Back came Uruguay in the 28th minute, when Edinson Cavani took a pass from Luis Suarez up the left side on a break-away and sent in a toe-poke grounder for his first goal of the 2010 World Cup and a 1-1 tie, where things stayed until halftime.

Not too far into the second half, the never-say-die Uruguayans found more wizardry from the foot of Diego Forlan, who cooked up a legendary sideways volley that bounced hard into the turf before skidding past helpless German goalie Hans-Jorg Butt for a 2-1 Uruguay lead and Forlan’s fifth goal of the World Cup.

But sadly for the lone South American team left standing, Germany’s best trait is scoring goals, and just five minutes later in the 56th minute, a long cross from right to left from Jerome Boateng swung through traffic and was headed in by Marcell Jansen for the 2-2 tie. It was a highly unlikely combination during open play being that both men are defenders.

From that point on, the Germans seemed to be in command, finally putting away their adversaries in the 83rd minute on a corner kick that bounced through the box before being headed into the top-right corner of the net by 23 year-old midfielder Sami Khedira for his first-ever goal for his country and the 3-2 lead.

As the match reached its final seconds, Diego Forlan had an opportunity to tie things up with a 20-yard free kick, but his shot on goal deflected off the top left of the crossbar, ending the game and a wondrous run for Uruguay, a team that far exceeded expectations in every way possible. Congrats to them, and also to the Germans, who proved once again that they are one of the best football-playing countries in the world year after year after year.

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2010 FIFA World Cup - All-World Team

1st Team All-World Cup
Better than All-Stars, these 11 men performed so well in this year’s tournament that their names will go down in football history forever.

July 9, 2010
by Dan Krier

Villa and Xavi - All-World

FORWARDS:

David Villa - Spain

Villa has had a remarkable World Cup, scoring a tourney-best 5 goals leading into the Final on July 11th. He was also a model of consistency for Spain, scoring in a crucial four games in a row to propel them towards what could be their first-ever World Cup crown. I won’t be shocked if he’s the one scoring the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win vs. Netherlands. We’ll see!

———

Thomas Mueller - Germany

At 20 years of age, Mueller is one of the youngest players on any team’s roster, so to tally 4 goals along with 3 assists is an even more remarkable feat. The tall German was forced to miss the match vs. Spain due to his second yellow card on a phantom call against Argentina. Otherwise we might be talking about Germany going for their 4th ever World Cup Championship.

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Luis Suarez - Uruguay

Another player whose absence from his team’s semifinal loss probably made the unfortunate difference, Suarez actually earned his suspension in the most noble of fashions when he deliberately used his hand to swat away a Ghanaian goal at the end of regulation time in the quarterfinal round (what?…should he have let the goal just go in?). The flashy forward had great games one after the other, scoring 3 goals with 1 assist going into Uruguay’s 3rd place match vs. Germany July 10th.

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MIDFIELDERS:

Wesley Sneijder - Netherlands

I’ll be honest and say I’d never heard of Wesley Sneijder before the World Cup began. But by the end of his team’s first game vs. Denmark, I knew very well that this was one of the best midfielders in the world. Sneijder proved to be the difference-maker for a very talented Netherlands team, giving his side a balance on both ends of the field while providing pivotal passing and skilled shooting on offense. With one more win by the Dutch, the man will go down as a National Hero, if he’s not one already. 5 goals and 1 assist so far with world-class finishes from his feet…and his head!

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Diego Forlan - Uruguay

Though technically a forward, Forlan spent a vast majority of the World Cup patrolling the middle of the field, serving up perfect crosses to teammates like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani while leading Uruguay in goals with a total of 4. More than anything, though, Forlan will go down as the man who mastered the Jabulani soccer ball, getting the crazy thing to swerve and knuckle at will with his wicked left foot.

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Landon Donovan - USA

Like Diego Forlan, Landon Donovan is also officially listed as a forward, but served team USA in the role of field general, dishing out passes and scoring goals in the nick of time. Everyone knew Donovan to be a capable player coming into the 2010 World Cup, but there’s no doubting his greatness anymore, along with his grit & determination after scoring 3 goals, including a game-tying penalty kick vs. Ghana.

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Xavi - Spain

Xavi is the ultimate team player, period, and this can be summed up by the following statistic: In six games thus far, he has completed 570 passes at an 81% accuracy rate. I’m not sure if I even comprehend that. 570 passes. That’s nearly 100 per game. Put those numbers next to the fact that Spain is competing in their first-ever World Cup Final, and you’ve got a man whose 4-letter name will last for eternity.

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DEFENDERS:

Gerard Pique - Spain

It’s tough to choose the best defenders since usually you only learn their names if they’ve made a crucial mistake. But for Spain, Gerard Pique provided a lock-down defender that gave them just enough to win every game. His play was always consistent, clamping down on players like Cristiano Ronaldo and helping Spain to four different shutout victories.

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Per Mertesacker - Germany

I’m picking Per Mertesacker because the giant 6’5” German is impossible to miss, meaning the guy can head any ball out of danger at will. Mertesacker spent the World Cup running up and down the field, doing just enough to keep the Germans one step ahead of the competition. Any team would want a player like this on their back line.

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Gabriel Heinze - Argentina

Gabriel Heinze makes the All-World team for being all over the field at all times. Here is a defender that simply would not stop running. Up & down, back & forth, the feisty fullback was the first to celebrate goals, while at all times ready to scuffle with the competition (and camera men too!). Credit Heinze for getting Argentina going in the 2010 World Cup, scoring his team’s first goal in just the 5th minute of play on a blistering header vs. Nigeria that will go down as one of the best goals of the tournament. It’s enough to make you want to stick out your tongue and say Heinze!

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GOALIE:

Maarten Stekelenburg- Netherlands

Choosing Stekelenburg over Spain’s Iker Casillas for best goalie of the tournament came down to the "Save of the Century" that Stekelenburg made vs. Brazil on a curling shot by Kaka that would have put Holland down an insurmountable two goals. Instead, the save was made, and Netherlands are now getting the chance to go for it all. Casillas was wonderful as well, but didn’t have to face the competition that Stekelenburg did. We’ll see who wins out between the two on July 11th.

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2nd Team All-World Cup:

Robert Vittek - Slovakia, Mesut Oezil - Germany, Gonzalo Higuain - Argentina, Asamoah Gyan - Ghana, Dirk Kuyt - Netherlands, Luis Fabiano - Brazil, Miroslav Klose - Germany, Keisuke Honda - Japan, Arjen Robben - Netherlands, Iker Casillas - Spain, Bastian Schweinsteiger - Germany.

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 27 Recap

Day 27 - SPANISH LULL-A-BYE
Spain defeats Germany, punching a ticket to the World Cup Final for the first time in history.

July 7, 2010
by Dan Krier

Germany vs. Spain - 070710
Spain 1 - Germany 0

Spain’s national football team has made up its mind to systematically win the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the same exact way an explosives expert goes about diffusing a bomb: slow, deliberate, and surgeon-like. Call it a bore, but it’s a successful bore.

In a match that never saw the Spaniards lose their cool, the men of Germany were defeated 1-0 on a 2nd Half goal that propelled the 2008 UEFA Euro Champions to their first-ever World Cup Final, where they will take on the Netherlands.

Spain rather had things in control from the opening kick-off, consuming a large portion of ball possession, probing just outside the German penalty box almost at a constant clip. But the score remained tied 0-0 at the half, despite a great running attempt by Spanish striker David Villa and a missed header on a corner kick by Carles Puyol that flew over the crossbar.

Germany had its share of chances as well, but nothing that could considered a missed opportunity. Really, the Germans found themselves without much offense at all, most likely due to the loss of Thomas Mueller, who was serving a suspension for his second yellow-card of the tournament during the team’s win over Argentina. Without Mueller around to attract attention, Miroslav Klose became the lone focus of the Spanish efforts on the back-end, and consequently he was shut down all game long. I’ll be the first to say I was shocked by how much Klose was kept away from the action.

So the game moved along, and Spain kept pressing forward in waves when finally, in the 73rd minute, the first goal came at long last. The score occurred on a fantastic out-bending corner kick by Xavi that was hammered home off the head of fullback Puyol, who made the most of his second chance, giving his country the 1-0 lead.

After the goal, the Spanish were able to eat up clock on skilled ball-handling and back & forth passing, displaying a presence that now makes you think this 1-0 trend is exactly what they wanted all along.

Perhaps we’ll have one more of these games to endure on July 11th, or perhaps it will be the Netherlands who score early and force Spain to play with some pizazz. Either way it will be a monumental moment, as both teams get the chance to compete for their first-ever World Cup Championship.

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 26 Recap

Day 26 - ORANJE CRUSH
Holland appears marked for glory in reaching their third-ever World Cup Final.

July 6, 2010
by Dan Krier

Netherlands vs. Uruguay - 070610
Netherlands 3 - Uruguay 2

Sometimes the path to greatness is riddled with its share of ups & downs. Other times, it’s smooth sailing from square one.

The latter case represents the way in which the Netherlands national football team have reached the 2010 World Cup Final, this last step completed with a rather dominant 3-2 victory over a never-say-die Uruguay side that overachieved from the moment they got to South Africa.

And truly, this game was par for the course for the Dutch, who entered the World Cup rolling on the heels of a perfect 8 wins out of 8 in 2010 UEFA World Cup Qualifying, scoring a total of 17 goals in those games while yielding only 2. They then strode through the 2010 preliminary round with a perfect three wins and nine points, winning Group E after just two matches were completed.

Next came a 2-1 triumph over a crafty Slovakian squad that had upset Italy just days before, followed by an astounding comeback victory over world #1 Brazil in the quarterfinal round. Clearly stated, the Netherlands’ success is no accident.

So the Men of Oranje took their show to Cape Town on Tuesday night, facing off against a Uruguay team depleted of two of its stars, one due to injury (for Diego Lugano) and the other for suspension because of a Red Card (for Luis Suarez). In many ways this game should have been a rout, but Uruguay were too tough to get pushed around, and made one hell of an effort from start to finish.

The game began with Holland on the attack right away, and just as things started to settle in, Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst unleashed a pulsing sonic boom of a shot that rang true in the 18th minute for a 1-0 Netherlands lead. It was just the sixth-ever goal for the defensive back in 105 career games for his country.

With the goal, Uruguay had no choice. They had to push forward to equalize, and so they tried. But the feel of the game was in hand, and everyone knew this was going to be a Dutch victory. Except Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan striker, who had spent the last month of the World Cup bending shots like a knuckleball from a Major League pitcher, put his left foot to a liner in the 41st minute that beat goalie Maarten Stekelenburg for the 1-1 tie. Relief for Uruguay, fear for the Netherlands.

So back and forth it went for the next half hour of play, no one quite sure of the outcome. But the Dutch began to build, coming close on several occasions when finally, in the 70th minute, secret agent Wesley Sneijder got a shot to glance off a defenders shin, pinballing past goalie Fernando Muslera for the 2-1 regained lead. It was Sneijder’s fifth goal of the tournament, the most by any player thus far (along with David Villa of Spain). Relief for everyone in Holland. It was surely going to be an All-European Final.

And sure enough, just 3 minutes later, a wonderful left-to-right cross from Dirk Kuyt connected perfectly with Arjen Robben, who put the game away with a world-class header, making the score 3-1 Netherlands.

Uruguay’s Maxi Periera netted a very late left-foot goal two minutes into final stoppage time to pull Uruguay within one at 3-2, but even with a couple tense final moments it was too little and too late, so Netherlands move on to their first World Cup Final since 1978. Very very deserved for the players from Holland, who have exhibited fantastic teamwork for over a dozen games in a row. They’re going to be hard to beat on Sunday.

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Semifinal Round Predictions

Netherlands - Sneijder scores vs. Brazil

Uruguay vs. Netherlands

What can you say about this one? Nobody in the world outside of these two countries would have picked either of these teams to reach the 2010 World Cup semifinals, yet here they both are. I’m shocked, but it’s a pleasant surprise since both squads have earned the right to be exactly where they are.

Who has the advantage? Really, I’m not so sure. It could go either way. Or could it?

Advantage-wise, it’s almost comical to bring up the fact that Uruguay is a 2-time Champ, being that their last Cup title came 60 years ago. Netherlands, on the same sad side of the coin, come in off very little recent success as well, having made the finals in both 1974 and 1978, losing both in pretty ugly fashion.

And truthfully, with full rosters on both sides, I would be predicting a 1-1 regulation tie with PKs to decide things. But this match will be far from even due to the two monumental losses that Uruguay will be forced to endure.

One huge void will be star striker Luis Suarez, whose hand ball on the goal line versus Ghana is the reason they’re still alive, but the RED CARD assessed for the do-or-die infraction is accompanied by a mandatory suspension for Tuesday’s game, so no Suarez, who has scored 3 goals in the 2010 World Cup. The other loss is on the opposite side of the field, where anchoring defensive back Diego Lugano is out with a knee injury. As those two go, so go Uruguay, even with rock star Diego Forlan around to cause havoc for Holland.

Therefore, on the back of newly-minted world superstar Wesley Sneijder (who scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Brazil), I look for Netherlands to roll to a victory and their 3rd ever finals appearance on July 11th. Uruguay will still be pleased to reach the third-place game on July 10th.

DK Pick: Netherlands 2 - Uruguay 0

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Germany - Klose scores vs. Argentina

Germany vs. Spain

Frankly, Spain have been a bore all tournament.

They began things by losing to Switzerland, went on to get a rather narrow 2-goal victory over a massively overmatched Honduras, then finished group play with a sleepwalking 2-1 win over a Chile team that didn’t need a victory to move on out of group play.

Then the Spaniards knocked off the perennially-anemic Portuguese by the thrilling (no!) tally of 1-0, a riotous score that was recreated four days later against puttering Paraguay. ZZZzzzzzzzz!!!

Germany has been the polar opposite of this in every way. Creative, inventive, exhilarating team play has rocketed the young side to the semifinals in the most dominant way possible. Consider this: The Germans’ combined scores in their last wins over England & Argentina add up to 8-1. Immmmmpressive.

Yes, Germany will be without young gun Thomas Mueller, who will be prohibited from playing in Wednesday’s match due to a 1-game suspension for two tournament-accrued yellow cards, but that doesn’t mean Miroslav Klose won’t be racking up more goals in his absence. Look for Klose to break the all-time goals scored record with two against Spain, then watch him add even more in the 2010 World Cup Final, pitting Netherlands vs. Germany on July 11th.

DK Pick: Germany 3 - Spain 1

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 23 Recap

Day 23 - CONTINENTAL DRIFT
Europe’s best are rising to the top as Germany & Spain defeat their South American foes on Saturday.

July 3, 2010
by Dan Krier

Germany vs. Argentina - 070310
Germany 4 - Argentina 0

Please cry for me, Argentina. This game was as close as the score indicates.

Call it "The Beat Down in Cape Town", because at no point in the entire 90-minute span of play were Argentina in control against their well-known German opponents, with whom they’d shared more than a few memorable World Cup matches. In fact, this game could be classified as a total washout, a 100% house-cleaning that solidly puts the young German team down as a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

What happened, you ask? Well…do you like early goals? Germany does. Just three minutes after kick off, the score was 1-0 on a fantastic in-swinging free kick by Bastian Schweinsteiger that was calmly headed in by 20 year-old sensation Thomas Mueller, his fourth goal of the World Cup in just his seventh ever game for his country.

After the first score, things did not change in the least. Germany maintained most of the possession, were able to keep Argentina out of anything resembling a valid scoring opportunity, and most importantly of all, shackled Lionel Messi with a blanketing team defense which made you wonder why he wasn’t doing more to help him team. Because he couldn’t. The Germans were too much to handle.

But the score remained just 1-0 at the half, so the Argentinians and coach Diego Maradona had to have hope. Unfortunately, the action after the break was the same as before, with Germany showing the ability to push forward as a full unit with blind speed whenever they desired.

Then more goals came and all hope for Argentina was extinguished.

First it was Lukas Podolski up the left wing cutting into the box in the 68th minute. A fake and a mini-cross to Miroslav Klose, and the score was 2-0, Klose netting his 13th career World Cup goal, surpassing Pele for third-most all-time. Then it was Schweinsteiger again in the 74th minute, copying Podolski with another run in from the left, his cross finding the foot of a falling Arne Freidrich for his first-ever international goal for Germany in 77 career games, and a 3-0 insurmountable lead. Not a bad way to put the nail in the coffin.

Just for icing on the German chocolate cake, in the 89th minute with the Argentinians ready to hit Cape Town International Airport, midfielder Mesut Oezil made another dashing run up the field, dropping a nifty pass over to Klose, who kicked in his 14th-career World Cup goal, and second of the match, for a 4-0 lead.

Klose is now tied for 2nd-most World Cup goals all-time with the great German striker Gerd Mueller.

So goodbye, Argentina…and hello to a new & improved German machine that will face Spain for the right to play in the 2010 World Cup Final. Who wins that game is anyone’s guess, but being that the German performance on Saturday was just as dominating as the display against England last Sunday, I fully expect the men in red, yellow, & black to be playing for their 4th Championship Trophy on July 11th. Sehr gut!

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Spain vs. Paraguay - 070310
Spain 1 - Paraguay 0

Spain did what its fans were waiting so long for on Saturday night, moving for the first time ever into the semi-final stage of the World Cup with an extremely tense 1-0 win over Paraguay in Johannesburg.

Call it jitters, or call it pressure, but the second half is where the action got crazy, leaving two players to wonder if they were going to be the scapegoat for the next four year. Luckily for the now-off-the-hook Xabi Alonso, the poison memories are going to Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo.

In the 58th minute, with the game tied 0-0 and goals clearly hard to come by, a Paraguay counterattack led them up the field to where a looping corner kick sailed into a melee of congestion in the box. Two separate Paraguayan players were pulled down by their jerseys, and to the horror of the Spanish, the team in striped red & white was awarded a penalty kick that would surely give them the decisive lead.

So up stepped Cardozo, hero of the PK shootout versus Japan last Tuesday, when he ended things by calmly sending home the fifth and final penalty shot for his team. Today it was nerves galore for Cardozo, because his left-foot kick failed to move much to the right and was smothered by Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Shock for Paraguay.

In fact, the shock was so great, Paraguay’s defense somehow forgot to mark superstar David Villa, who was allowed to make a clear run down the field just seconds later, only to be tripped up at the last moment inside the opposing penalty box for YET ANOTHER penalty kick…this time for Spain.

Up stepped Xabi Alonso to give Spain the lead, most likely because Villa had missed his PK when he had the chance for a hat-trick against Honduras. Good strategy too, because Alonso’s shot rang out with conviction, banging into the left side of the net for the 1-0 Spanish lead. NO WAIT…HOLD ON! Head referee Carlos Batres blew his whistle for a re-kick, saying Spain’s other players had crossed into the box too early before the kick was taken. Replays showed this to be true. Wow.

No problem, though…right? Wrong. On the second Alonoso kick, nerves struck the Spanard and his shot was weak and to the right, easily saved by Paraguay keeper Justo Villar, keeping the score tied 0-0. It was the first time a game had seen two missed penalty kicks in World Cup play since 1930. Probably’ll be another 80 years before it happens again.

Surely this game was slated for it’s own run into extra time and then more penalty kicks. It’s really the only way to decide things.

Except that David Villa was still on the field. The man with the magic touch connected for the game’s only goal in the 83rd minute after a dazzling run up the middle of the field by Spain’s Andres Iniesta, who shuttled a pass right to new substitute Pedro, whose right-footer plowed into the left post, the carom bouncing directly to Villa, who decided to knock his shot off the RIGHT post, the ball taking a bounce into the back of the net for the real 1-0 lead, Villa’s Cup-leading fifth goal of the tournament. T’was all over at that point.

Great run for Paraguay, who were determined to win the World Cup on the hopes of four straight scoreless penalty kick wins. Thankfully that won’t be the case.

Spain crawls forward by the slimmest of margins yet again, feeling relieved more than elated I’m sure. No Red Fury to be found on Saturday, so clearly some sort of spark will be necessary when they take on Germany July 7th in order to get to their first-ever Final. Efforts like this today won’t cut it if they’re going to go for glory.

What a World Cup!

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 22 Recap

Day 22 - #1 BITES THE DUST
Brazil’s championship dreams come crashing down after a furious 15-minute span that turned a sure victory into a sour defeat; Uruguay delivers more dark horse heroics in an unbelievable penalty kick ending.

July 2, 2010
by Dan Krier

Brazil vs. Netherlands - 070210
Netherlands 2 - Brazil 1

When Friday morning’s sunrise hit the horizon, who could have guessed that the Netherlands were about to vanquish Brazil from the 2010 World Cup?…And by the same exact score by which they ousted Slovakia just 4 days earlier, no less??

I know it’s rhetorical and obvious, but I’m still going to say it: NO ONE. Not me, not the players, not anyone who’s ever seen a World Cup game in their entire lives before this one. No one.

The measure of how unprecedented this truly is can be summed up with one key statistic: Brazil had never lost a game in 37 previous World Cup matches when leading at the half. NEVER.

And the ease with which the Brazilians scored made it seem like this contest would be anything but. 10 minutes in, a midfield laser beam of a pass from soon-to-be supergoat Felipe Melo went right up the gut of the Dutch defense where it latched on to the foot of Robinho, who deftly one-timed the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead and what looked to be a laugher.

But the lasting laugh will go happily to the Netherlands, who approached the second 45 minutes with a "why not?"-attitude, and were richly rewarded for such bravehearted fortitude. Without even hoping to score on the kick, Wesley Sneijder sent a cross towards goal in the 55th minute that skimmed off the scalp of Brazil defenseman Melo (whose head had been treated as collateral damage on a wayward Julio Cesar clearing punch), and the next thing you knew, the game was tied 1-1 on the own goal. Oops.

The seed of self-doubt had been potted & watered, and just 12 minutes later, a blazingly-fast rope of a corner kick was superbly flicked-on by forward Dirk Kuyt, where it stayed up on a platter for the 5’7” Sneijder, who happily became the owner of the 2nd goal against Brazil this day, his smashing header giving the Netherlands an unbelievable 2-1 lead.

Brazil seemed to crumble at this point. Just 4 minutes after the Sneijder goal, Felipe Melo momentarily snapped, completing his nightmare of a match by stomping on a tripped & fallen Arjen Robben in the 72nd minute in what I would label as a clinical case of frustration overload. Player stomp = Red Card. Brazil with 10 men = no comeback vs Netherlands.

Only a lone attack up the left wing by Kaka is all the Brazilians could muster until the final whistle, and the 5-time champions were knocked out, coincidently at the same stage as in the 2006 World Cup, when they were sent packing by a non-bickering French team.

2-1 win for Holland. Amazing. The Dutch get Uruguay for a place in the World Cup finals. Anyone in orange is smiling right now.

Last note: Strange affair overall. Not the best individual player selection if you ask me for Brazil. Because to go to the World Cup without Ronaldinho and come home empty-handed makes the coaching appear to be at blame. It’s a rough thing to take the criticism off the players, who surely didn’t perform their best, but Dunga will be feeling the heat of this failure for years to come. And trust me: I’m not the only one who knows this will be true.

Final last noteSave of the tournament goes to Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who robbed Kaka in the 31st minute with a fantastic stretch, singlehandedly (pun intended) keeping the Netherlands within striking distance instead of being down 2-0. If Holland go on to hoist the cup, the save will be named "The Stekelenburg", and the man will see a statue of himself in that exact same pose in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark some day. You can book that.

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Uruguay vs. Ghana - 070210
Uruguay 1 - Ghana 1
(Uruguay wins 4-2 on extra-time Penalty Kicks)

A complete summary of Friday night’s match between Uruguay and Ghana in Johannesburg would likely be the size of a Merriam-Webster Dictionary if you tried to explain all the back & forths and ups & downs that went on in the 120 minutes of action. But the only thing need be said is…Best Game of the 2010 World Cup so far.

To keep it succinct, the story boils down to this: both teams were as evenly matched as you could be at every position, and ball possession stayed constant at a 50/50 clip the whole time. Each team found a way to punch home a top-tier goal (one by Ghana’s Sulley Muntari in first-half stoppage time, the other by Uruguay’s Diego Forlan on a wicked knuckle-curve of a free kick in minute 55), and each side saw numerous chances thwarted by rock-solid defense and right place, right time goalkeeping.

So lets just get down to it. Tied 1-1, we’re in the 120th minute with the referee lifting his whistle to send the game to what would be a boring penalty-kick finish. Ghana has one last chance…a cross from the right that swings in and gets batted around! One kick…off the goalie! Two kicks…goal!!! No wait!…It’s off a Uruguayan defender standing on the goal line. Wait a second…HAND BALL! Wait!…it’s a deliberate hand ball by Luis Suarez. Wow, what?!…RED CARD. He’s gone, outta here. Penalty kick for Asamoah Gyan to end things with a 2-1 Ghana win. Can’t believe they’re gonna win it this way.

Those thoughts took the span of three seconds at most. But the following few minutes will fuel many upon many sleepless nights for those in Ghana, if not all of Africa.

Gyan, who had scored two previous goals via the penalty kick in the 2010 World Cup, stepped up and proceeded to spike the shot high, directly off the crossbar to the sheer relief of the entire Uruguay squad, also turning Suarez’ necessary move into one of the most quick-thinking reactions in sporting history.

So penalty kick shootout it was (I’m not a fan, but what else can ya do?), which ended 4-2 in favor of Uruguay. Ghana really lost the shootout by kicking two goals directly at goalkeeper Fernando Muslera but overall it was a typical PK session where players look good for making it and like fools for missing.

With the win, Uruguay carry their torch to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1970, where they’ll face the Netherlands on July 6th. Great run for Ghana, but like many things in life, it came down to a case of so close yet so far. We’ve all been there.


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BRAZIL KNOCKED OUT BY NETHERLANDS! 2-1

Netherlands beats Brazil 2-1 on 070210

That was a shocking 2nd half. I can’t believe how much the game changed after Holland’s first goal.

I don’t think it should have been counted as an own goal for Felipe Melo. It was a fair score by Wesley Sneijder. Melo’s head got pushed forward by the goalie.

Bad luck on that play for Brazil, but they earned their loss. Sneijder was fantastic today.

CAN’T BELIEVE THIS RESULT! PRETTY MUCH THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT I PREDICTED, HA! OF COURSE.

2010 FIFA World Cup - Quarterfinal Round Predictions

Brazil

Brazil vs. Netherlands

This game has the potential to be a classic, and there is some extra spice involved due to the deep history between the two teams.

The Netherlands were knocked out of the 1994 & 1998 World Cup Tournaments by Brazil, and this year will be no different. Brazil has too many weapons to choose from, most notably Luis Fabiano and Kaka. Most importantly, the Brazilians have a mental advantage over everyone they go up against, and in this case it’s only multiplied being that the Dutch are so familiar with playing second-fiddle to the 5-time Champs.

For Holland, expect a good game from stars like Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt, and Robin Van Persie, each of whom have scored a goal in the 2010 World Cup. I think Netherlands are a great team, but even if they score first, look for Brazil to strike back as necessary to get the victory.

DK Pick: Brazil 3 - Netherlands 1

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Uruguay

Uruguay vs. Ghana

This game is a treat in that neither squad could have been predicted in the quarterfinals, so it makes it even better to know one of them will be making it into the semi-finals.

If that team happens to be Ghana, it will mark the farthest an African team has ever gone in any World Cup. Players like Asamoah Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng both have the capacity to move the Ghanaians to the next stage, both having netted a goal in the team’s victory over the United States last week.

Unfortunately for the Black Stars, this Cup appears to be the year of the South American continent, with 4 teams still alive. Uruguay has provided rugged and skillful play in each of its games thus far, and one more win is surely to be expected. Players like Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez are having magnificent tournaments, and they perhaps seem to be a team of destiny. We’ll find out soon enough.

DK Pick: Uruguay 2 - Ghana 0

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Argentina - Higuain

Argentina vs. Germany

Along with Brazil vs. Netherlands, this is the other marquee match of the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals, a splendid pairing that just so happens to be a rematch of the 1986 World Cup Final.

Germany is coming off a 4-1 destruction of England in their last match, and Argentina has faced tougher competition in team scrimmages than in their 3-1 win over Mexico last Saturday.

What this adds up to is a fight for the ages, and I am expecting a back and forth affair all game long. Look for goals from the Germans’ best marksmen, players like Miroslav Klose and Mesut Oezil. Argentina, as well, will most likely see a goal or two from either Gonzalo Higuain or Carlos Tevez, who have both registered multiple-scoring games thus far. Also, don’t forget about Diego Milito, who has yet to put his stamp on things in the 2010 World Cup, but is always ready to score when his team needs him most.

All other players aside, the biggest difference is going to come from the littlest man on the field, none other than “Maradona: The Next Generation”, a.k.a. Lionel Messi. He has yet to score in the tournament as well, but all that changes on Saturday. This will be Messi’s signature moment of the World Cup…that is, until he takes his team all the way to the Finals. Buckle up!

DK Pick: Argentina 3 - Germany 2

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Spain - Xavi

Spain vs. Paraguay

Is this the stage at which Spain falls in line with history and sees its way out of the World Cup like so many times before?

Not this year.

Although Paraguay come into this match filled with confidence after winning Group F - which everyone, including yours truly, picked to be a cakewalk for Italy…oops - I’m afraid the candy-stripers will be sugar-free saccharin aftertaste against the Red Fury of Spain’s attacking line: all-stars like Xavi, David Villa, and Fernando Torres, who I fully expect to break out of his slump to provide some of the magic fans are used to seeing from the proficient point-man.

Look for Spain to score early and then hold on, knocking in a late goal to seal the deal when Paraguay is forced to go for broke. Cheers!

DK Pick: Spain 2 - Paraguay 0

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2010 FIFA WORLD CUP MVP - as of June 30th: DAVID VILLA

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David Villa - after scoring vs. Portugal - 062910

With a tournament-leading 4 goals going into the start of quarterfinal play, my pick for World Cup MVP thus far is Spain’s David Villa.

Villa is simply the single-biggest reason Spain is still in this tournament. With two goals in a must-win situation versus Honduras and then a 45-yard masterpiece of a score against Chile, he topped things off by getting the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win against Portugal.

If this continues, Villa will lead Spain all the way to a World Cup Championship for the first time in the country’s history. I’m sure Argentina and/or Brazil will have something to say about that.

2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 19 Recap

Day 19 - IBERIAN KNIGHTS
Tuesday, the 2010 FIFA World Cup was privy to its first penalty-kick shootout, as well as an intriguing affair from two world-class European neighbors.

June 29, 2010
by Dan Krier

Spain vs. Portugal - 062910
Spain 1 - Portugal 0

Spain defeated Iberian Peninsula-mates Portugal in a border-war that saw stingy defense and some uneven but quality action, the game ending 1-0 Tuesday night in Cape Town.

Things were back & forth all match long, with Spain controlling much of the possession, their domination dotted with several moments of offensive creativity from Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammates.

The game’s only score came in the 63rd minute, when Spain’s left forward David Villa notched his World Cup-leading fourth goal on a crafty one-touch back-pass from Xavi which led Villa straight to the net. Villa’s first shot, a left-footer, smacked right into sliding Portuguese goaltender Eduardo. But the rebound fell softly and Villa was able to lift a right-footed shot just over Eduardo’s arms for the 1-0 lead and the first conceded goal of the tournament by Portugal.

The final twenty-plus minutes saw various scoring chances for both sides, but nothing really that close for the Portuguese, who were clearly outclassed by the Spanish offense, which was potent enough to be their best defense.

Not quite Red Fury for Spain, but they do move on to the quarterfinals, where they’ll face Paraguay Saturday as heavy favorites to make the final four. Portugal bow out of yet another world football tournament without a championship, left to wonder if it will ever happen for them. I kind of doubt it.

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Japan vs. Paraguay - 062910
Paraguay 0 - Japan 0
(Paraguay wins 5-3 on extra-time Penalty Kicks)

Goal-scoring opportunities were at such a premium Tuesday afternoon in Pretoria, there might as well have been cardboard cutouts standing in goal.

This was the result of both sides playing it safe, coalescing on a strategy centered around defensive sturdiness and offensive reluctance. For Japan, this was to be expected, their goal incursions based on counterattacks and curving free kicks. It was more of a surprise to see the same from Paraguay, who won their group with a mix of both defensive and offensive proficiency, scoring three times but only allowing one goal.

Today had the feel of a 0-0 tie from the opening kickoff, and indeed full time AND extra time played out in this manner (yes, 120 minutes was not enough). Therefore, the game had to be decided by penalty kicks, something no one likes but everyone enjoys.

So to PK’s it went, where both teams made their first two shots. Unfortunately for the Japanese, things took a terminal downturn when defensive-back Yuichi Komano, a player who had never scored a goal for his country, punched his kick too high, cracking it off the crossbar for a miss that will haunt him and the team for a long while.

Seconds after this, Paraguay saw Nelson Valdez slot the team’s fourth PK, and then Oscar Cardozo took his time and calmly finished things off in perfect 5-for-5 fashion for the men in striped socks, taking his team from the Round of 16 to the quarterfinals for the first time in history.

With the win, Paraguay become the fourth South American team to make it to the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals, an astounding feat based on how many teams began this tournament when qualifications started more than two years ago.

Next, Paraguay take on World #2 Spain, whosit ready to pounce in the next round to determine which team gets a shot at either Argentina or Germany. You’re not going to see a bad matchup from here on out. Enjoy!

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 18 Recap

Day 18 - CLASS ACTS

Things are getting tasty at the World Cup with Brazil & Netherlands both winning on Monday to set up a monster of a match between the two on Friday.

June 28, 2010
by Dan Krier

Netherlands vs. Slovakia - 062810
Netherlands 2 - Slovakia 1

The men of the Dutch national football team found themselves flying atop the field Monday afternoon in Durban, breaking out their wings once in each half en route to a decisive 2-1 win against a prominently overmatched Slovakian side.

Netherlands scored their first goal in just the 18th minute thanks to a spectacular one-man effort from fully-healed Arjen Robben, who appeared back on top of his game while slicing his way down the right sideline alone before turning back in to fire a left-foot blast that laced its way down the tiniest of channels into the back right of the net.

Holland took the meager 1-0 lead to halftime, but in no way did the game feel in jeopardy for the men in technicolor-bright orange. Slovakia simply didn’t have the pieces necessary to solve the Dutch defense.

The second half saw several good chances for both sides that were saved by stellar goalkeeping. Slovakia’s Jan Mucha got some luck along with his skill in the 51st minute, blocking a sure second Dutch goal with his face of all things. And then, in the 67th minute, Netherlands netminder Maarten Stekelenburg stopped not one, but two mono y mono Slovakian shots, one by Miroslav Storch and one by Robert Vittek seconds later.

In the 84th minute, the Netherlands were rewarded for their hard work, getting a well-built goal off a quickly-taken free kick that sent a long pass to forward Dirk Kuyt, who worked free up the left sideline before delivering a crispy little cross into the box that was slapped in by Wesley Sneijder for the 2-0 lead. That was all she wrote.

Slovakia’s Vittek did knock in a stoppage-time penalty kick to make the final score 2-1, but the referee blew the final whistle as soon as the ball crossed the goal line, so it was the equivalent to an NBA player hitting a 3 at the buzzer with his team down by 6. Not gonna do it. Vittek does finish his Cup run with four goals, tournament-leading at the time. Well done.

So now Netherlands moves on to face World Cup juggernaut Brazil on Friday in a match that will most-likely decide who ends up in the finals from this half of the bracket. It’s going to be like watching two #1-seeds go at it in the NCAA tournament. Can’t wait.

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Brazil vs. Chile - 062810
Brazil 3 - Chile 0

The Brazilian soccer machine was running on full power Monday night in Johannesburg, as the 5-time Champions behaved like a cobra in an open basket, rising up to strike whenever it felt the need, unleashing its fangs on Chile three times in a 3-0 blanking.

The Chileans charged out the gate like gangbusters, and Brazil let them, sizing up their enemy for the first half hour before getting a proper gauge on where and when to exploit the pressure points. Soon it was all going their way.

The Brazilians began moving into Chilean territory around the 30-minute mark, with Maicon delivering ball after ball across the middle on several free and corner kick attempts.

Then in the 34th minute, an outstandingly perfect pass found its way into the net. Maicon’s out-swinging corner from the right side hooked hard and fast, sailing over the helpless Chilean defense to where Juan got hold of the ball high in the air for a header that scored top shelf over the leaping goaltender. 1-0 Brazil, and there was no looking back.

Just four minutes later, Chile’s reeling defense surrendered another goal on a lightning-quick counterattck that saw Robinho find Kaka up the middle, who acted as a pinball bumper, one-timing his pass to Luis Fabiano for a perfect side-step fake-out of the goalie for an open net. 2-0 Brazil, and it was all but over.

The second half was filled with Brazilian scoring chances, one of which was capitalized on via a Ramires run up the middle from midfield to the penalty box, where he dropped off a pass to Robinho, who one-touched the ball on a lovely finish into the right side of the goal. Great assist, great teamwork, great team. 3-0 final, Brazil’s eighth consecutive victory over Chile.

So the 2002 Champions move on to yet another quarterfinals, where they’ll face Netherlands, whom they played and defeated in both the 1994 and 1998 World Cup. Holland is great, but I’ve seen nothing to make me believe the result will be any different this time around.

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 17 Recap

Day 17 - WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Not without a bit of controversy, Germany & Argentina move on to the World Cup quarterfinals, setting up a fantastic affair between the two sides next Saturday.

June 27, 2010
by Dan Krier

England vs Germany - 062710
Germany 4 - England 1

England has a valid gripe after their 4-1 loss to Germany in the Round of 16 Sunday afternoon, but complaints or not, one thing is always for certain in soccer: You can’t go down by two goals in a World Cup match and expect to win.

Yes, if the English ever feel like whining about the unregistered, game-tying goal in minute 38 of the first half off the foot of midfielder Frank Lampard (which was somehow unseen by BOTH the head referee AND the side judge), then they need only recall that the Germans dominated them for over 80% of the game, if not more.

Truly, the goal occurred amongst such entropy following Matthew Upton’s header which cut the German lead to 2-1 that it was almost too soon for another score to be realistically possible. Surely no team could be able to pull out of a 2-0 deficit in just one minute. It’s unfathomable.

So why even watch the action closely when the TV audience is busy viewing the replays or sitting back down after celebrating? That’s what the umpiring squad must have been thinking because they flat out got it wrong. The ball crossed the line by a good two feet. There’s no disputing that. The game should have been tied, period.

But regardless of all this…once again, the Germans were the better team on Sunday, clearly outclassing an unsure English side that for the fourth straight game failed to display anything close to world-stage wonderment.

Even if things had been tied 2-2 at the half, I’m certain the outcome would have been the same, this particular contest involving one superior team and another playing catch-up.

The statistics are almost secondary to everything said up until this point. Miroslav Klose scored early for Germany on a wonderful toe-poke in the 20th minute off an 80-yard assist from goalie Manuel Neuer, his 12th career World Cup goal tying the great Pele. Then teammate Lukas Podolski followed up 10 minutes later with a tight-angle razor blade of a shot that cut its way near post fot a 2-0 lead.

England then struck back with Upton’s header in the 37th minute before suffering the horror of the "no, that really wasn’t a goal"-goal by Lampard, taking the game to the half 2-1.

The second stanza was back to work for the Germans, who fought hard to thwart the England equalizer until breaking the game open in the 67th minute with a killer counterattack, when 20 year-old Thomas Mueller smashed in a right-foot rocket that pushed the lead to 3-1. Three minutes later it was more of the same, as Mesut Oezil sprinted down the left sideline on another counter, delivering a room-service cross that Mueller shot into the net for the 4-1 final tally.

The 3-goal loss amounts to the worst single-game defeat in English World Cup history. Maybe they won’t feel so bad about it if I tell them the final score should have been 4-2.

Germany moves on to the quarterfinals, a round they’ve reached in every tournament since 1954. There they’ll meet up with Argentina in a game that might decide who wins the whole thing.

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Argentina vs. Mexico - 062710
Argentina 3 - Mexico 1

Argentina gave a repeat performance Sunday night in Johannesburg, running circles around the Mexican defense on their way to a 3-1 victory that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.

Mexico’s strategy was to rough up Argentina field general Lionel Messi, and that they did, committing several hard fouls on the small but durable midfielder. Sadly for the Mexicans, Diego Maradona’s squad also has a Messi-clone in the form of Carlos Tevez.

Tevez scored on a 25th minute pass from Messi to give Argentina a 1-0 lead. And even though the play was shown to be a missed offsides call not whistled by the side judge, this really didn’t change the outcome of the match. It was just a matter of time the way the Argentinians were hammering away at the goal from close range all first half.

And just to prove this point, in the 33rd minute, Gonzalo Higuain scored his tournament-leading fourth goal of the Cup on a terrible giveaway at the edge of the penalty box by Mexican fullback Ricardo Osorio. Higuain stole the ball and juked the goalie to give himself an open net and his team a 2-0 lead. Embarrassment for Mexico, who suffered defeat at this exact same point to Argentina in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The second half was more bad medicine for Mexico, with Tevez scoring on an unstoppable right-foot blast in the 52nd minute that cut through the wind and went top shelf right to make the score 3-0, putting the game on ice.

Mexico’s Javier Hernandez knocked in a nice left-foot shot in minute 71 to cut the lead to 3-1, but that was the only real stain on Argentina’s sheet the whole match.

For Argentina, it was a dominating exhibition by a team that seems poised to make its way to the Finals. We’ll see about that. The Germans will get their say on things next Saturday.

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2010 FIFA World Cup - Day 16 Recap

Day 16 - DEAD & GHANA
Americans can’t come back twice in one game as Ghana goes on to the quarterfinals. Uruguay continues to impress in win over South Korea.

June 26, 2010
by Dan Krier

USA vs. Ghana - 062610
Ghana 2 - USA 1

The USA had made a habit of falling behind early before coming back in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and again they accomplished this feat on Saturday night.

Unfortunately for the team, they committed the sin of surrendering a second goal in the beginning stages of extra time, falling to Ghana 2-1 in a Round of 16 match held in Rustenburg.

Yes, it was yet another case of deja vu (yes…it was ANOTHER case of deja vu) for the boys in red, white, & blue, who today saw midfielder Ricardo Clark give a ball away at midfield that was quickly converted into Ghana’s first goal, just 5 minutes into the match.

The steal off Clark’s foot was immediately passed to a motoring Kevin-Prince Boateng, who burnt through the American defensive unit and fired a low grounder that smoked its way around US goalie Tim Howard and into the back left side of the net for the 1-0 lead.

It was the exact last thing the Americans could afford to do, yet well in line with what fans had come to expect.

But on the other side of this coin is the customary comebacks by Uncle Sam’s Army, and today was no different in that respect either. The US battled hard throughout the first half to regain their composure, turning the tide early in the second half by coming out of the lockers with confidence and a determination to get even.

They did just that on a 62nd-minute penalty kick by Landon Donovan, who scored his third goal of the tournament after Clint Dempsey was upended illegally in the penalty box on what was the sixth or seventh American charge toward the Ghanaian goal in a just-over ten-minute span.

The remainder of the second half saw several opportunities for the USA to get a go-ahead goal, but nothing materialized and the game headed into the mandatory 30-minute extra period.

Ghana only needed two and a half of those minutes, because in the 93rd, striker Asamoah Gyan controlled a long bounder and shouldered his way into the American box before connecting on a wonderful left-foot liner that shaved off whatever stubble was left on Howard’s scalp, the game 2-1 with grim reality setting in for the USA.

This time there was no extra comeback, and Ghana did well to control posession and stall whenever possible to make it to the final whistle.

With the win, Ghana will move on to face upstart Uruguay in the quarterfinals on July 2nd. The USA will head home to ponder what could have been, but really, there can be no huge complaints. The team made it out of the group stage, and did their country proud in the process. Perhaps next time around, the issues with early goal giveaways will be resolved.

If not, there will be more of the same heartbreak.

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Uruguay vs. South Korea - 062610
Uruguay 2 - South Korea 1

You can start calling him “Super” Suarez.

Uruguay’s scorching forward Luis Suarez netted both goals with his fantastic right foot Saturday afternoon in Port Elizabeth, putting Uruguay back on the world soccer map as his team held on to defeat a dogged South Korea 2-1 Saturday in a wet windy downpour.

Diego Forlan played a prominent role for the third straight match, assisting on the game’s first goal with a snaking cross from left to right that burned a trail behind the last defenders, evading South Korean goalkeeper Sung-Ryong Jung but making its way right to Suarez, who popped in the tight-angle shot for a 1-0 Uruguay lead. Beautiful execution on both ends.

The game quickly made its way to the second half with the same score, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion to mark the Uruguayans down for the quarterfinals. But South Korea had other ideas, scoring on a bouncing ball that was headed in amongst great defensive confusion by Chung-Yong Lee in the 68th minute for the 1-1 tie.

That’s when the rain began to fall in sheets, and that’s when Uruguay took the game back under their command.

In the 80th minute, Suarez gained control of the ball at the outer left corner of the penalty area, cutting back and unleashing an impossible bender that looked like a baseball curveball, hooking left and down before finding the back of the net for his second goal of the game and a 2-1 Uruguay lead.

The 1930 & 1950 World Cup Champions are back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1970, and it’s no fluke. They have a very real ability to move even farther thanks to the superior play by forwards Forlan and Suarez.

Respect to South Korea, who can’t be sad about making it out of group play for just the second time in team history.


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