Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Cup Day 19 results: Another day, another call for replay

Day Nineteen

prediction: Paraguay 2-1 Japan - "this could be a cracker"
result: Paraguay 0-0 Japan after extra time, Paraguay win 5-3 on penalties

Holy was I wrong. In the early game Paraguay and Japan played to a 0-0 draw, after extra time even, and then Paraguay won on penalties. Say what you will about the unfairness, the this and the that; the penalties were nearly the only instance of tension in the game. This was a dull affair, and if Japan feel aggrieved after going out, they should also feel slightly ashamed of barely ever attacking and boring us to tears. It was not, as I had hoped, a cracker.

What it was was a brilliant example of how to defend well as a team. After an exciting game against Denmark, Japan's coach must have decided that he couldn't risk getting behind a goal and they reverted to their defensive shell. Only a swerving shot and misjudgment by their keeper beat them when they employed this tactic against the Dutch. I'd rather forget this match than continue writing about it. No pictures.

prediction: Spain 1-0 Portugal - "Fewer goals than one might expect"

I really feel like I got this one bang on. Here's what I wrote:

"Will Torres finally score? I don't think so. Luckily for Spain David Villa is on fire and Iniesta is back to good health. Portuguese left-back could expose the spaces Sergio Ramos leaves on the right side of Spain's backline. Ronaldo ... hasn't performed at anywhere near his best."

And this was exactly it. David Villa scored after a nice move (but was he offside?), Iniesta was a key player, even more so than Xavi (the best player in the world, Rob), and most of Portugal's chances came from the attacking play of Coentrão, their left-back (who has been a revelation this tournament). Ronaldo was ineffective as usual, though that's more the fault of the manager, as he barely had any support or service.

Looks close, but he is offside in this shot. Nearly impossible to pick up at speed. And I'm okay with that.

Spain controlled the play for the most part, while Portugal soaked up pressure and looked to hit on the counter. They came close a few times, but Spain deserved a win after dominating possession, shots and chances. Keeper Eduardo kept Portugal in this.

Xavi and Iniesta dominated the midfield as expected, but with Villa out wide left and Torres struggling, at times Spain looked like they lacked options in the box.

Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente looked good coming on for Torres; del Bosque won't consider starting him next match but he should. Torres looked a bit better in the first 20 minutes but then faded.

Well done to Spain. They should beat Paraguay, and will likely face Germany in the Semi-final.

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