Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Cup Quarterfinal picks: all of 'em in one place


But read the individual ones; the first is really, really worth your time.

Game 1 - Netherlands v. Brazil - Friday 7am
Brazil will win 2-0, but it won't be as exciting as everyone thinks. (I'm proud of this preview.)

Game 2 - Uruguay v. Ghana - Friday 11:30am
Uruguay should have enough to win, also 2-0. Could go the other way.

Game 3 - Argentina v. Germany - Saturday 7am
This will be an absolute corker. Wake up early. Germany could win 2-1.

Game 4 - Paraguay v. Spain - Saturday 11:30am
Spain should win, easiest of the round, 3-1.


There you have them, my picks for the quarterfinals. I went 6 and two half points out of 8 in the Round of 16; not bad at all.


World Cup: Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan suspends team

And in batshit-crazy news today

The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has suspended the national team from international competition for two years because of their performance at the World Cup. FIFA threatened to take action by... wait for it... banning them from international competition. Well done, FIFA.

In 1994, after the national team lost 3-0 to South Korea, Batshit-Crazy Jong Il suspended the team from international play for six years. That's some good company you're keeping, Mr. Jonathan.

World Cup Quarterfinal 4: Spain v. Paraguay

This looks the easiest pick of the quarters. Spain haven't blown anyone out of the water yet, and you always feel that they could, so this might be it. On the other hand, Paraguay have had a very respectable campaign so far and haven't shipped goals (they've allowed 3 in 4 games).

Quarterfinal Game 4 - Paraguay v. Spain

11:30am on Saturday morning.

I don't have any time to write this, argh. Spain will dominate like they did against Chile and Portugal. They're getting it done, and finally doing it with style and a small amount of ease. Paraguay aren't as good at the back as Portugal but will be more adventurous.

2-0 to Spain.

EDIT: fudge that. I'm going for 3-0 or 3-1.

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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup Quarterfinal 3: Argentina v. Germany

Quarterfinal Game 3 - Argentina v. Germany

7am Saturday morning.

This is the match of the round. Both teams can score; neither will sit back and defend. The big question will be whether Germany can restrict Messi and Co. They've certainly looked very good at the back, and should provide sterner resistance than Argentina have seen thus far. Second, will the Argentine defence hold when faced with a fast, skilled attack? My guess is no.

Now it is entirely possible that Messi and Higuain and DiMaria will overwhelm the German defence. But Neuer has had a good tournament and will provide a solid last line of defence in the net.

(I'm heading out for the long weekend so haven't written much on this game or the Spain . Paraguay match. Or at least not as much as I did for Netherlands v. Brazil. Enjoy this game; it should be a corker.)

2-1 to Germany


World Cup Quarterfinal 2: Uruguay v. Ghana

Expect a South American semi-final on the left half of the bracket

The quarter-finals offer up some mouth-watering matches worthy of the final. See Netherlands v. Brazil for a look at that match.

Uruguay-Ghana isn't exactly a classic, but it should be fun; one of those two will be insanely happy to go through and both teams have been fun to watch. As a relative neutral, I'm cheering for both.

Quarterfinal Game 2 - Uruguay v. Ghana

Uruguay, perhaps more than any other team so far, has shown the ability to play however is needed to win. They can attack with verve, defend well, or maintain possession if needed. I'm not saying they are the best at it, just that they've demonstrated it more than anyone else.

They've shown that they can score, and some really nice goals too. Diego Forlan creates as well as finishes, and in Luis Suarez Uruguay have a clinical striker. (He had 49 goals in 48 games last season for Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Ghana are a bit of a strange team. Their game against the US showed, I think, the good and bad about this team: They are young, quick, good with the ball, and a bit sloppy. Too often against the US they dallied too long on the ball, particularly Ayew, or were too cute in passing. Resolute in defence, but they were exposed by a quick US move and often resorted to fouling the US players.

The speed and invention of Uruguay should be good for a goal or two, and the South Americans will defend better than the US.

2-0 for Uruguay.

World Cup Quarterfinal 1: Netherlands v. Brazil

And then there were eight.

The quarter-finals offer up some mouth-watering matches worthy of the final. Argentina-Germany looks like it will be a corker, and Netherlands-Brazil is huge match-up, if not as exciting. Either game reads like a great final.

Less monumental will be Uruguay-Ghana but it should be fun; one of those two will be insanely happy to go through and both teams have been fun to watch. As a relative neutral, I'm cheering for both.

And then there's Spain v. Paraguay... Yah, it will be interesting tactically but no one is getting too excited about this one. Hopefully Spain score early and force Paraguay to attack with intent.

Games 1 and 2 are this Friday, July 2nd, at 7am and 11:30am.


Quarterfinal Game 1 - Netherlands v. Brazil

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this will be a boring game. Brazil has produced only a handful of flashes of brilliance one expects from Brazilian teams, and against Chile only after they were a goal up. The Netherlands haven't hit top gear yet, and other than a few moments of brilliance (Robben's goal, for instance), have looked a bit disjointed.

This will likely be a midfield battle: Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong will face Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva, each pair looking to release their highly talented attacking players or to spread the ball outside to attacking fullbacks. Maicon and Bastos for Brazil and van Bronckhorst and van der Wiel for the Dutch will all play significant roles, as both teams will look to push them forward and overwhelm their opponents.

Both teams play a variation on a 4-3-3, both with two holding midfielders, though both Melo and van Bommel have the ability to create as well. Melo will play in the place of the impressive Ramires, who picked up a second yellow against Chile.

Luis Fabiano and Robin van Persie play similar roles at the front, both quite mobile, extremely deft, but sometimes ineffective if starved of service. Robinho and Robben, other than sharing a name, are similar as well: creative, skilled with the ball, and eager to run at defenders.

Kaka and Sneijder play in the same position but have such different styles: Kaka smooth, fast yet languid at times, Sneijder quick, combative and technical. Both are under-performing. Yes, Sneijder has scored twice and passed beautifully to set up Robben's goal. But both his goals were fortunate, and he hasn't linked up well with the Dutch attackers, his primary role. Kaka passed well for Fabiano's goal against Chile but other than that has been frustrating.

On the balance, Brazil are a better team, especially at the back. They won't give the Dutch many chances, and they'll put pressure on the weaker Dutch backline. Expect that pressure to produce a goal or two.

2-0 to Brazil.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup Day 19 predictions: Will Ronaldo cry when Spain beat Portugal?

I think he will, actually. He's a pretty passionate fellow.

From a relatively easy day to call today we move on to a much harder day, with Spain facing Iberian rivals Portugal and Paraguay hosting Japan. Either could be dynamite matches: Spain-Portugal has the potential to be either wild or dull, depending on Spain's tactics, and Paraguay-Japan should be exciting if a bit sloppy.

World Cup Day 18 results: utterly predictable, and impressive

Day Eighteen

It didn't take a genius to predict these two results. Both the Netherlands and Brazil were heavy favourites; neither needed their best to get past their erstwhile opponents. Brazil were impressive if not inspirational, while the Dutch flirted with danger after going ahead with ease.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup Day 18 predictions: What's better than roses on a piano?

Day 18 could be a goalfest, though after today I'm afraid we might have used up our quota. The Dutch face Slovakia in what could be the easiest game to call*, and Brazil matches up with Chile. Let's get right to it.

World Cup Day 17 results: oh, the refs...

Day Seventeen

prediction: Germany 2-0 England - "Germany's attack is fast, dynamic and uses the width of the field"
We'll be hearing about Frank Lampard's disallowed goal forever. Literally, forever. The Brits don't forget football grievances (unless of course they benefit from them); I'm looking forward to the British tabloid headlines (Blitzed by Fritz, maybe?) tomorrow. Fair enough, it was clearly a goal and could have changed the game at 2-1 down.

World Cup Day 16 results: Yanks go home! (as a directive in a chant)

Day Sixteen

prediction: Uruguay 2-1 South Korea - "we should see some fast, attacking football"
Well, that's nice to get one completely right for a change. Uruguay sat back a bit too much in the second half and were punished for it, but generally this was a lively, very watchable match. After conceding the tying goal, Uruguay went back into attack mode and deserved to win. Suarez's second was a piece of perfection:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Day 17: two world wars and one world cup!

Sunday sees a rematch of epic proportions and a game between the English and Germany (see what I did there?), as the matches in the top right quarter of bracket get underway.

The Germans don't really know there's a rivalry between England and them, while the English relish the chance at revenge, and chant such things as "Two world wars and one world cup!", referring to the one cup they won in 1966, beating the Germans in the final. Meanwhile, the Germans are far more focused on their rivalry with the Dutch. It's pretty amusing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Day 16: The knock-out stages are finally here

Well, folks, we're into the knock-out stages. This is where it gets exciting, while actually the games tend to get a little more conservative. There won't be a 7-0 blow-out, is all I'm saying.

The first round, aka the Round of 16, has a few interesting match-ups. The draw is now separated into four groupings, each group sending a semi-finalist. It makes sense visually, so I've included a picture rather than trying to describe it all.

World Cup Day 15 results

Day Fifteen results

prediction: Portugal 1-2 Brazil - "Brazil are resting some players"
What a boring game. Portugal had the most to play for and had the best chances, but this was over before it began.

prediction: North Korea 0-1 Cote d'Ivoire - "It would be nice for Cote d'Ivoire to have a good showing"
result: North Korea 0-3 Cote d'Ivoire (this match review says 1-3, not sure why)
Well done to the Ivorians, but you have to feel for the poor North Koreans. It's entirely possible that they will face punishment back home and might not be allowed to play international matches for a while.

prediction: Chile 1-2 Spain - "Spain need to attack, need to get goals"
Spain looked good, finally, and should be a formidable foe in the next round. Chile were unfortunate to have a player sent off, because they looked likely to score, and indeed managed to early in the second half while a player down. Both teams were going through with the result below, and played out the last ten minutes without any effort.

prediction: Switzerland 1-1 Honduras - "I have a feeling this will be boring"
I thought this might happen, but I was really hoping someone would score to liven things up. First half highlights were a couple of shots. Switzerland go home with a famous win against Spain, Honduras go home without scoring a goal.


World Cup refs

Interested in reading an informed and relatively unbiased opinion on the reffing at the World Cup? On the Referees page of the World Cup blog every game is critiqued, usually with relevant pictures. Do you think Italy's offside goal should have counted? Read here. What about that phantom call in the US-Slovenia match that negated a winning goal for the Yanks? Check this.

It's so much nicer to read this compared to ranting on other blogs. The decisions are treated fairly and the entire game is looked at rather than every call on an individual basis.


World Cup Days 14 (Italy are out!) and 15 (Boring Brazil?)

See ya later, suckas.

A little behind the times over here, so some retroactive predictions:

Day Fourteen

prediction: Italy 1-0 Slovakia
I was so happy to be wrong on this one. Good riddance to boring, crap Italy. How is it that the only time they look good and score is in the last half of their last group game? They still looked old and at times lazy, but at least they showed some passion near the end. On the first of Slovakia's goals, however, the Italian defence looked asleep, and it only got worse, as they didn't react or anticipate the cross on the second goal and completely failed to pick up the runner on the third. Maybe picking the starting Juventus backline (3 of 4, anyway) wasn't the best idea, considering they finished 7th in Serie A and conceded 56 goals over a 38-game season, including 7 in their last 3 matches.

Well done to Slovakia, who were so much better than their last game against Paraguay and could be a spoiler in the Round of 16.

prediction: Paraguay 2-0 New Zealand
New Zealand didn't register a shot all game, and apparently their keeper did very well. Paraguay comfortably go through, while New Zealand had a respectable showing, not losing a game.

prediction: Cameroon 1-2 Netherlands
Netherlands cruised to an easy win in the end; Cameroon attacked and did show some intent, though they never really looked like winning. Robin van Persie finally scored, and Robben came on and set up a goal.

prediction: Denmark 1-1 Japan
Finally Japan show some solid attacking intent. Brilliant goals from two freekicks.

And back up to speed:

Day Fifteen (results posted here)

prediction: Portugal 1-2 Brazil
result: Nothing too exciting so far.
Brazil are resting some players, and Dunga seems happy to have his team be careful and not give up anything at the back. Portugal are solid at the back, as usual, and haven't had much threatening possession. UPDATE: 61st minute, Portugal should have scored.

prediction: North Korea 0-1 Cote d'Ivoire
result:
It would be nice for Cote d'Ivoire to have a good showing; a decent result and the North Korean players may avoid the workfarms. Both team are virtually eliminated, so should have nothing to lose.

prediction: Chile 1-2 Spain
result:
Spain need to win, while Chile are almost assured of going through. Spain need to attack, need to get goals, but Chile will be dangerous hitting them on the counter.

prediction: Switzerland 1-1 Honduras
result:
It should be an exciting match, as Switzerland could go through. But I have a feeling this will be boring. I'm hoping for goals, but this could just as easily be 0-0.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup Day 13 predictions

Just in case you thought vuvuzelas were only annoying...

My predictions

Slovenia 1-1 England
I have a feeling one of the US and England will slip up, and the US look more determined. An easier prediction is 0-1 to England, but the turmoil and injuries to the team (specifically in the backline) should take a toll.

USA 2-0 Algeria
See above. Algeria looked okay against England but that's not saying much; the US will see this as a great opportunity to progress and should have a goal or two in them.

Australia 0-1 Serbia
Without Tim Cahill, Australia have struggled to create chances; he's available for this match. However, Serbia are well organized and should play with more purpose. Australia have to win to progress and could leave space at the back.

Ghana 1-2 Germany
Germany can get it done when they need to, and can score goals. Ghana have struggled to score, even though they lead the group. A draw (or even a loss and some luck) sees Ghana through, so they might not be the most adventurous.

World Cup Day 12: France crash, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico impress


Day Twelve... how do you say "ouch" in French? *

prediction: France 1-0 South Africa
Wrong result, half-wrong score. Well, we have our first big casualty, but is anyone surprised? I really thought France would have enough talent to overcome their chaos, but France never looked good all tournament. Well done to South Africa for getting the win. A win and a draw are nothing to be ashamed of, even if they are the first host to not get through the group stage.

Domenech the muppet started Djibril Cisse and Gignac up front... Cisse was good five years ago and plays in the Greek league; Gignac has never impressed outside of France and has only scored against the Faroe Islands and Austria.

prediction: Mexico 1-1 Uruguay
Wrong result, half-wrong score. Mexico should have equalized after Uruguay went ahead. The first half of this was the most attractive bit of football I've seen so far: end-to-end stuff, both teams playing to win, getting chances, stringing passes together. The second half cooled down as Uruguay looked to defend their lead.

prediction: Greece 0-2 Argentina
result: Greece 0-2 Argentina (link to match report pending)
Argentina worked hard to break down a resolute Greek side that could have gone through with a draw. Maybe not the best plan against Argentina, especially given how weak their central defenders looked at times.

prediction: Nigeria 1-2 South Korea
result: Nigeria 2-2 South Korea
Nigerian striker Yakubu missed a sitter from 4 yards out. Really, probably the easiest goal he ever could have scored. He redeemed himself from the penalty spot shortly after, but still...


* According to Babel Fish, it's "aïe".

Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup Day 11: Holy goalfest Batman! Portugal turn it on

Day Eleven results

prediction: North Korea 0-1 Portugal - "Portugal are ... quite good"
Right result, wroooonnnnng score. Yep, that's right, seven goals. Three halves of stalwart defending (game v. Brazil plus first half here) is still quite respectable. We'll hear about this loss every time NK and the World Cup are mentioned together, but I don't think North Korea have anything to be ashamed of. Here's hoping the Great Leader agrees.* Portugal turned on the class in the second half and scored in bunches. C-Ron even scored an amusing goal after unknowingly bobbling the ball on his neck, back and head.



prediction: Chile 2-0 Switzerland - "Switzerland can't keep it up forever"
Right result, half-wrong score. I didn't know this, but Switzerland were on course to set the record for the longest time without conceding a goal in World Cup history, and they did it in the first half before Chile finally broke them down. A bit of a fortunate non-call for offside on the goal, but Chile deserved the win, helped on by a soft red card to Switzerland in the first half.

prediction: Honduras 0-2 Spain - "Spain will score goals"
Right result, right score. Spain scored. That was more like it: flowing, attacking football leading to two nice goals. They didn't dominate like they can, and there are some serious questions marks over the head of Fernando Torres. So much for my "Fernando Torres will be the leading striker" prediction. He can't put a shot on net. Watch for a barnstormer against Chile in a few days. Spain need to win, Chile could lose or draw.

And that's 3 for 3 on the day for my predictions. Thank you, thank you. Back to .500 on the tourney.


Did you know?

Did you know that after France won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 they exited the 2002 World Cup after the group stage without scoring a single goal? They famously lost the opening game to Senegal, a former French colony.

Whoops. That wasn't part of the plan for the reigning
world and euro champions.

Contrast that with Switzerland, who didn't allow a single goal at the 2006 World Cup but were still eliminated in the Round of 16, going out on penalties to Ukraine.


* Apparently after a big loss to South Korea in 1994 Kim Jong Il refused to let the team play any international matches until 1999. What a dick.

World Cup Day 11: Will today be the day all the results make sense?


Day Eleven predictions - on my way to a .500 record?

Portugal 1-0 North Korea
North Korea put in a stellar performance against Brazil. Playing Portugal may be a letdown. Portugal aren't Brazil, but they're still quite good.

Chile 2-0 Switzerland
Switzerland can't keep it up forever. Chile deserved more goals in their opener.

Spain 2-0 Honduras
Spain will score goals at the World Cup. Just depends on how soon that happens, and if they change their tactics. Honduras won't be as organized as the Swiss.


I think I'm 13 and 16 on the tournament so far. With these three correct guesses, I'll be back to .500; I've only got all three right once, though, so I don't like my chances.

World Cup: Has the rest of the world caught up to Europe?


The collective record of the best European teams at this World Cup so far is dreadful:

Team - W-D-L
France: 0-1-1
England: 0-2-0
Germany: 1-0-1
Netherlands 2-0-0
Italy: 0-2-0
Portugal: 0-1-0
Spain: 0-0-1

for a combined record of 3 wins, 6 draws and 3 losses. If you consider that neither of the Netherlands' wins have been convincing, you're left with one solid win from 12 matches. This could be seen as a crisis of continental proportions.

What it is is boring. Only Germany in their first match (and maybe the Dutch in theirs) were adventurous and attacked with skill, flair and intent. Other than that it's been boring, boring football from Europe's leading football powers.

I wonder if it hasn't become more about minimizing the damage to a team's reputation than anything else. It is so damaging to lose that teams don't venture forward in numbers, or they try to control the game as much as possible, with possession more important than chances on net.

Most of these teams still have good chances of going through to the Round of 16. France are almost certainly going home and the Dutch are already through. With wins in their next matches England, Italy and Germany will progress. Portugal and Spain have only played one each, so it's harder to judge, but both could struggle.

It would be interesting to compare this to other World Cups. My memory of team records isn't great, so I don't know if this is an anomaly or if it happens every World Cup. What is obvious is that teams like Paraguay, Mexico and Chile seem to have narrowed the distance between themselves and the traditional European footballing powers. Depending on how the next few games go, we might even be talking about how they have been surpassed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup Day Ten results: Paraguay are my new favourite team

Smeltz celebrates his goal for New Zealand. A historic goal and result for football in NZ.

Day Ten results

prediction: Paraguay 2-1 Slovakia
Right result, half-wrong score. Paraguay pressured Slovakia like Japan pressured the Netherlands, but they attacked with equal intent. They should go through top of the group. Slovakia showed nothing to indicate they should progress. I think their first shot was in extra-time.

prediction: Italy 1-0 New Zealand
The first half saw both goals: Iaquinta converted a penalty to bring Italy level after NZ scored off a set piece early. This was a very poor showing from the Italians. Except for Di Natale (who Lippi refuses to start) and Montolivo (who wouldn't be starting if Pirlo was healthy), the Italians looked devoid of invention. NZ defended well when needed, and even threatened to win late. If Italy go through I'm going to kick someone Italian.

prediction: Brazil 2-1 Cote d'Ivoire
This wasn't as exciting as the score would indicate. I faded in and out of watching it, even. Luis Fabiano's second goal only came after he handled the ball twice, both somehow eluding the ref's attention (though click that link or watch the video of the ref joking with Fabiano, it's weird). (Actually, the video is below; it deserves your attention.) A few instances of brilliance led to Brazil's goals, but other than that they were hardly inspirational. Drogba got a consolation goal late on, heading in nicely from a brilliant pass from rumoured Arsenal target Yaya Toure.





World Cup: Why I don't think Didier Drogba is a bad person anymore


I have really had a hate on for Didier Drogba, Chelsea and Cote d'Ivoire striker and diver/cheater extraordinaire. He's easily the strongest striker in the Premier League yet seems to fall over at the slightest bump and flagrantly dives fairly often. He's a great striker that unfortunately lacks class.

And then I heard today while watching the Brazil-Cote d'Ivoire match that he recently donated 3 million pounds to build a hospital in the capital of Cote d'Ivoire. He just signed a new contract with Pepsi and asked them to donate his entire fee; his club Chelsea will also give their percentage to the project. Wow. Good on ya, fella.

And apparently he also helped broker a peace deal to end the civil war in Cote d'Ivoire. What?

World Cup Day Ten: Italy suck

Day Ten predictions - a little after the fact

prediction: Paraguay 2-1 Slovakia
result:
Haven't watched this yet, not sure if I'll bother.

prediction: Italy 1-0 New Zealand.
result: Italy 1-1 New Zealand
Guess I got this one wrong. I really, really hope Italy don't make it through the group stages. What a dull team. They were really dreadful, and barely deserved a draw against New Zealand, a team that many had picked as the worst in the tournament. They lack speed, creativity, intent, and motivation. Their backline is old and looks slow.

prediction: Brazil 2-1 Cote d'Ivoire
result:
The game has just started. Nothing to report, except that Drogba is starting. Oh, and the Ivorians are playing in striped shirts, green and white horizontal. Quite nice. UPDATE: It's 3-0, after a handballed goal from Luis Fabiano* and a nice pass by Kaka for an Elano goal.


*After the uproar over the Henry handball, I'm just waiting for all the Irish fans to get super upset about it... wait, most fans are completely self-interested and only care when cheating hurts their team.

World Cup Days Eight, Nine. I'm really slowing down.

Day Eight results - 0 for 3 again.

Germany 0-1 Serbia
me: Germany 2-1 Serbia. Wrong result, half-wrong score. Shit reffing. Nine cards in the first half. Klose should never have been sent off. The Germans looked good in the first half, but Podolski apparently found his club form for country. Well done to Serbia. They are my dark horse candidate, so...

Slovenia 2-2 USA
me: Slovenia 1-2 USA. Wrong result, half-wrong score. What a great game, though the US really should have won, with a ghost call pulling their third goal back. What was so impressive was that neither team stopped attacking. Compared to the next game, this was so refreshing and exciting.

England 0-0 Algeria
me: England 2-0 Algeria. Wrong result, half-wrong score. What a dire game for England. Only the play of keeper David James was any good. Could this finally put to rest the Gerrard-Lampard-midfield debate? Gerrard was England's best player against the US. Out wide against Algeria he was barely in the game, and Lampard was shit. It must be so frustrating for coach Fabio Capello to watch as pass after pass goes astray. Just for fun, compare the forwards for Spain with the England forwards. It's not a pretty sight.


Day Nine results - finally some results in my favour

Netherlands 1-0 Japan
me: Netherlands 3-1 Japan. Right result, wrong score. What a boring game; worst I've seen so far. The Dutch seem to have forgotten how to attack. Full credit to Japan, who swarmed all over the field pressuring the Dutch at every touch, but a better team would have passed or dribbled through the pressure, while the Dutch were happy enough to just pass it back to the keeper time and time again. I can't remember any of the Dutch starting 11 trying to dribble past an opponent. They've got two wins, neither convincing, and I hope they either find their real form or lose their next game. I had such high hopes for their playing style.

Ghana 1-1 Australia
me: Ghana 1-1 Australia. Right result, right score. A good match that Ghana should have won. Winger Harry Kewell was sent off for stopping a goal with his arm; full credit to the Aussies, who needed a win and kept on attacking. Someone had obviously told the Ghanaians to shoot from distance; too often they did when a pass would have been better. This group is bonkers now, and this sets up a barnstormer of a game between Ghana and Germany.

Cameroon - Denmark
me: Cameroon 1-0 Denmark. I haven't watched the whole game yet. It's 1-0 to Cameroon in the 30th minute, so could be good for me. J-pop says it's a great one, so I'm looking forward to finishing later today.

I'll link to match highlights after the games today; I don't want to inadvertently see a result.


And now a seemingly forgotten segment here: Did you know?

Not available in Europe. Get it? Doesn't make as much sense now that he did well while on loan at Everton last season, but it's still funny.

Did you know that Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy golden boy and the face of the US national team, is known as Landycakes? He really is. Even to his fans. I really don't like him, but I can't remember why. This quote might explain it:
“They are jealous of us, the Mexican players, because we've got a life and they have nothing ... Because of that they despise us. ... Who is going to win this game? The best team. And we know good and well who is the best team between the U.S. and Mexico. We know it well.” - Landon Donovan
That's only slightly unfortunate right now, as the US are struggling to get out of the group stages while Mexico are almost guaranteed to go through.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Update on the North Korea at the World Cup #3 UPDATE!!

They're coming fast and furious! This just popped up in my email:

Legea UK Ltd

to me
show details 1:15 AM (3 minutes ago)

Dear Sir,

Due to the lateness of the contract being finalised, we are still awaiting delivery of the first shipment of Replica Shirts, we believe that these will arrive shortly, but do not yet have a confirmed date.

We will keep your details on file and will forward further information as soon as we have it.

Regards

Legea UK Ltd

North Korea at the World Cup #3 UPDATE!!

Well, what could I be updating? You guessed it, the North Korea shirts situation. As pressing an issue as we'll see at this World Cup.

As noted earlier, I emailed as many people as I could about the Legea shirts that the North Korean team is wearing. Here is the briefest of exchanges I was rewarded with:

Time: 12:10pm
Subject: North Korea World Cup shirt

Hello. Is there any way to get ahold of a North Korea World Cup jersey?

Cheers,
Brenton

and the response came a mere 2 hours and 42 minutes later, from peppefalanga@live.com:

Dear Mr. Brenton Walter we close the deal with Korea DPR only a week before the 2010 World Cup and because so the merchandising will be available in one month. If I will get anything before I will let you know. By the way how many jerseys will you need?
Thank you for contacting us.
Best regards

That's is. I've got a contact that can get me North Korean World Cup shirts!

Friday, June 18, 2010

North Korea at the World Cup #3

And returning to our favourite segment here on Brenton writes, it's time for Round 3 of "North Korea at the World Cup". (See numbers one and two.)

Over at the World Cup Blog, they have a page for each team at the World Cup, including North Korea. I assume the other teams have actual fans writing, while they probably had to find someone willing to have a bit of fun with the North Korean page, including posting this supposed photo of the Great Leader (or whatever he's called):

That's nice. Could that really be him? Is this really the guy whose birth was foretold by the appearance of a swallow and marked by a double rainbow?


Jerseys, uniforms, kit, shirts, whatever you want to call them

Interested in showing your support for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea? Unfortunately for you, there's been some trouble in getting ahold of the current North Korean kit. This store's link, which looks promising (but doesn't even have the right shirt), leads only to a store offering retro shirts from 1966. And that's it. Here's a shot of the shirt, just to tantalize your senses:


The website of the Italian company Legea that has produced the shirts* acknowledges their sponsorship but doesn't include any links or information. I've emailed as many addresses as I could find in hopes of a response; I'll keep you updated.


* This might be interesting for you Canadian footie fans: Legea also produces the uniforms of the Montreal Impact (but they're not listed on the Legea website... too small?), rivals of our Vancouver Whitecaps. Interesting company they keep.

World Cup Day Eight: predictions gone to shit

I'm watching the Germany-Serbia match right now, it's 0-1 in the 73rd minute, and my predictions (and I suspect most everyone else's) have gone to shit. The ref in this game is waaaaaaayy too card-happy. Klose should never have been given his first yellow.

Also, what is up with the cardigans worn by the German coaches? Horrible idea. Apparently others thought so too. I'm looking for a picture. He's usually so well dressed, as seen in this photo probably from Euro 2008:
And here is the cardigan in question:
You be the judge.

My predictions

Germany 2-1 Serbia (guess I got that one wrong)
There's still time (EDIT: full-time. 0-1 to Serbia. Argh) for Germany to get me the result, but after having a penalty saved I'm not sure they have it in them. Podolski has had a bit of trouble in front of goal today.

Slovenia 1-2 USA
I've never cheered for the US, and I almost hope I'm not right on this one. But they should be better than the Slovenians. Because I didn't see the Slovenia-Algeria game, I have no idea how they did, other than they barely beat one of the least-favoured teams. C'mon you plucky Balkan bastards!

England 2-0 Algeria
England have to win one game, right? There should be a gulf in class, and I don't think Algeria have a Swiss performance in them. Count on Rooney for one (he has that ad to live up to, after all) and maybe Crouch to gangle one in. Yes, gangle (from gangly) is a verb now.


World Cup Day Six results, Day Seven picks and results


Because I can, and because I went a sad 2 and 7 on my
predictions over the past three days, and because
Nina is away for the weekend.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong. My prediction record is hanging in tatters.

Day Six results


me: Chile 1-1 Honduras. Wrong result, half-wrong score. Chile attacked with style. I really expected more from Honduras this World Cup. A good win marred by a horrible dive by Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez. Shame.

me: Wrong result, wrong score. I could be forgiven for getting this one wrong. Never underestimate a great coach (Ottmar Hitzfeld). See my match report on what happened.

me: Uruguay 1-1 South Africa. Wrong result, wrong score. I should have heeded my own words: "I suspect the Uruguayans have too much quality for the South Africans". A blatant dive for a penalty, but Uruguay looked like winning. The first Forlan goal wasn't as spectacular as everyone says (it was deflected, ferchrissakes), but it was still pretty nice. Uruguay look in good position in what was the most difficult group to predict.


Day Seven predictions and results (lucky I emailed them to a friend so I remember them)

me: Argentina 2-1 South Korea. Right result, half-wrong score. Argentina put on the show we expected from Spain. How much of this is Maradona and how much is the skill of the players? Your guess is as good as mine, but I am starting to hope they fail so the Maradona era comes to a crashing end. He's an annoying man.

me: Nigeria 1-0 Greece. Wrong result, wrong score. Another victory marred by some playacting. Nigerian midfielder Sani Keita, in a fit of anger kicked out at Torosidis, who went down like he'd been stabbed in the leg. If there was contact it was minimal. Stupid, stupid move by Keita, one that likely cost his team a chance at progressing.

me: France 1-1 Mexico. Wrong result, wrong score. Will this be the second time in a decade that the French fail to score at the World Cup? Well done to Mexico, who played with intent, passion and flair. France looked good in the first half but couldn't break down Mexico's backline. Abidal had no business taking down the Mexican player for the penalty; he was never going to threaten a goal.


My predictions thus far

I started well, highlighted by a ballsy call on the 1-1 draw between England and the US which put me at 4 and 1 after Day Two. Day Three gave me another two correct, for a 6 and 2 record. Day Four left me at a respectable 7 and 4. Then came the fall.

Days Five, Six and Seven were not kind to me. A sad 2 and 7, with my only positives the easy Brazil and Argentine victories. I thought for sure I was safe picking Spain... bah.

So I'm 9 and 11 on the tournament so far. And it's only going to get harder. At least I've got my FHM jogo bonito girl up top.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup: Spain v. Switzerland; Spain can pass very well

Spain v. Switzerland
  • After 15 minutes: Spain have had 77% of possession so far but not a shot on net (but then two in the space of two minutes, neither threatening). Spain have just passed the ball around midfield and defence, never really getting in behind the Swiss backline.
  • Defensive midfielder (DM) Sergio Busquets' specialty is falling over after losing possession in order to get a freekick. The count is at 1 so far.
  • 24th minute: Good chance for Pique in the box, well saved by the Swiss keeper.
  • 27: First real chance for the Swiss on a freekick: Iker Casillas fumbles the dangerous shot but grabs the loose ball.
  • Swiss (and ex-Arsenal) defender Senderos looks like he's injured his ankle.
  • 30: Freekick for Spain right at the top of the box after a dangerous run by Iniesta: into the wall at waist-height by David Villa. Waste is right.
  • 38: The match has really slowed down; lots of fouls. I don't like Spain's chances of scoring before the half.
  • 40: Possession is down to 68% for Spain. Worrying...
  • Ramos again passes back to Xavi and stays put. I wonder if coach Del Bosque has told him to stay put in defence.
  • Spain look frustrated. They're certainly having more trouble breaking down the Swiss than they did Poland.
  • 44: Finally a real chance when Spain break with speed. Villa looks in scoring position but oddly chooses to chip the keeper, missing the net by miles.
  • Dear Spain: I'm actually looking forward to the half so I can do the dishes.
Second half:
  • This new Jabulani ball really seems to fly off the boots. Xabi Alonso just put one fifty feet over the crossbar.
  • 49: Great move by Iniesta puts David Silva in a great position in the box, but he's dispossessed all too easily when he should have shot. Silva has struggled.
  • 52: Switzerland score!!!! Horrible defending as the Swiss break from a goal kick. Casillas did well but the ball fell kindly to Gelson Fernandes (who you might think is Spanish but you'd be wrong; he's from Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off the west coast of Africa).
  • 60: Good pressure from Spain leads to a few chances.
  • 61: Silva and Busquets off for golden boy Fernando Torres and speedy winger Jesus Navas. Looks like Del Bosque has decided a dedicated DM isn't needed against a team that is only going to defend.
  • 65: Immediate results as Iniesta has a great chance that bounces wide. Navas then combines with Torres for a decent chance.
  • 68: Great chance for Torres as Spain break quickly: he puts the ball high and wide. I've picked him as the top scorer, so he better get his shooting boots on.
  • 70: Alonso's shot hits the crossbar from a corner! Navas looks dangerous running at the Swiss defenders, and has a decent shot.
  • 73: First yellow card; Howard Webb has done a good job of refereeing today.
  • 75: Nearly another for the Swiss as forward Derdiyok puts one off the post.
  • 76: Barcelona's young striker/winger Pedro on for teammate Iniesta, who looks injured. Pedro had a great season for Barca; this will be his first tournament with the national team.
  • 83: Spain break but Torres wastes possession. Navas then sends a cross right into the Swiss defender. Alonso wastes a freekick. They'll have to do better.
  • 86: My recording is jumping all over the place. Maybe that's why Chris gave the PVR away so easily.
  • 87: Torres puts a shot 50 feet over the crossbar, then kicks the ball away when almost in alone.
  • 89: I'm tense. This is my team (other than North Korea, of course), if that's possible.
  • 90: Five minutes of stoppage time; I can't remember a significant injury or time wasting. Pedro wastes a corner. The Swiss waste some time (the keeper gets a card).
  • 94: Villa clears from a Spanish freekick. That was a poor choice.
  • 95: And that's that. The Swiss beat Spain for the first time in 19 tries. We've got our first big upset. Group H is thrown wide open.
Torres was in no position to be striking poses this game. 24 shots on goal for the Spanish and 67% possession meant nothing in the end. I feel like I'm back watching Arsenal.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup Day Six predictions, and a Spanish wondergoal

A quick one before bed.

Day Six predictions

Chile and Honduras draw 1-1.
I've picked Chile to go through, and I'm tempted to go for a 2-1 win for them, but Honduras are better than their ranking indicates and should compete.

Spain beat Switzerland 2-0.
If you haven't seen it yet, enjoy this goal from a warm-up game Spain played against Poland:



Good luck, Switzerland.

Uruguay and South Africa draw 1-1.
This is a really tough game to call. I suspect the Uruguayans have too much quality for the South Africans, but home field and all that...


North Korea at the World Cup #2


I think this will be a regular segment (see first NKatWC here).

Apparently the North Korean "fans" at the World Cup aren't North Korean at all, nor are they fans. They are Chinese, and paid to act like fans. Weird. Read all about it at Deadspin, but in case you worry that Deadspin isn't so reliable, the story was first told in the Telegraph and Reuters.

As one tv anchor who made the trip said:
"When it comes to support in worldwide competitions, Chinese fans will stand for the Asia teams," Bi Fujian, one of the most popular television anchors in China, told Reuters TV before leaving for the trip.

"Not to mention that 60 years ago, China's military forces valiantly crossed the Yalu River to fight alongside the North Koreans against their enemies.

"Sixty years on, we cheer for their football team and hope they will go far."

It makes sense. Our good buddy Kim Jong Il would never allow so many North Koreans out of the country to see that they don't have to live on grass and clay.

World Cup Day Five results, and more!

Doesn't really deserve an exclamation mark, sorry.

Results

me: Slovakia 2-0 New Zealand. Wrong result, wrong score. Boo. New Zealand scored in the 93rd minute to get the point. Not surprisingly, this apparently wasn't a great match. I'm not even going to bother watching highlights.

me: Portugal 1-0 Cote d'Ivoire. Wrong result, half-wrong score. Portugal looked annoyed, Ronaldo called foul after foul against the Ivorians, and there were very few real scoring attempts. Note to Portugal: lofting high balls to Liedson, your sole striker who stands at 5'9", is maybe not the best tactic. The Ivorians played well, creating some chances, and if they play this well against Brazil, they could get a result.

me: Brazil 3-0 North Korea. Right result, wrong score. Well done to the North Koreans. I'm so impressed I'm starting a new series called North Korea at the World Cup. They held the Brazilians at bay for the first half, only to be undone by a stunning goal from Maicon and then a wonderful pass from Robinho to Elano, who passed beautifully into the net (goal on that linked clip). Disappointing for the Brazilians, who were expected to win handily, though as anyone who has studied this North Korean team will tell you, the South Americans should have expected a tight defensive performance.


Tidbits

I really don't like Ronaldo. As my friend so eloquently wrote: "Can someone please punch Cristiano Ronaldo in the face? I'll pay money." He really just inspires the worst in some fans. He whines, he complains, and he plays like he deserves to get what he wants. He wasn't even the best player on the pitch this morning; that honour goes to Gervinho, who caused problem after problem for the Portuguese. This is him and his hair, for your enjoyment:


North Korea at the World Cup

So little is known about this North Korean team. Here's what I found out in a few short minutes in the depths of the internet:

1. They qualified with relative ease in the Asian Football Confederation, which has a bizarre multi-multi-stage process. Here are their results:

First qualifying stage: Mongolia 2-9 North Korea.

In the first group stage they went 3-3-0 (W-D-L), with 4 goals for and 0 goals against. They drew 0-0 twice against South Korea, beat Jordan twice and beat and drew Turkmenistan.

In the second group stage they qualified above Saudi Arabia (on goal differential) and Iran, with a 3-3-2 record and 7 goals for and 5 against.

2. Their squad is relatively young: only thee players are over 30.

3. All except three play their football in North Korea. Two play in Japan and one in Russia.

4. Their star striker, Jong Tae-Se, has been called the North Korean Wayne Rooney. Yowzah. Eight of his international goals came in two matches, against Mongolia and Macau, so his strike return of 15 in 22 isn't quite as impressive as at first glance. He has scored against Japan, South Korea, Iran, and in NK's last three matches, against Taiwan, Greece and Nigeria. Watch this clip of one of his goals.


5. According to ESPNSoccernet, they play extremely defensively. Great.

Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup Days Four and Five: results, Kim Jong-Il, and predictions for tomorrow

Day Four Results
Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
me: Netherlands 2-0 Denmark. Right result, right score. In our early game, the Dutch needed an own goal to get into the match before a late Kuyt goal settled things. Robben is injured and didn't make an appearance, the Danes were well organized and threatened at times though they never really tested Stekelenburg in the Dutch goal. It wasn't a convincing performance from the Dutch, and they'll have to kick it up a notch before the knock-out rounds.

Japan 1-0 Cameroon
me: Japan 0-1 Cameroon. Wrong result, wrong score. Full credit to the hard-working Japanese. They played the Cameroon forwards off the pitch. Star striker Samuel Eto'o barely saw the ball, though I would argue he was played out of position on the right. At times it looked like there was only one player in the Cameroon midfield, probably a function of a poorly organized 4-3-3. This result means Denmark have to step it up against both these teams if they want to go through.

Italy 1-1 Paraguay
me: Italy 1-0 Paraguay. Wrong result, half-wrong score. Paraguay defended well and except for one goalkeeper error may have won this. They looked a threat going forward at times (though only had the one shot on net) and will be happy with the point. Italy, again, disappointed. They always look like they think they shouldn't have to work very hard to win. Their squad lacks creativity, and it showed as they struggled to break Paraguay down. Di Natale should start (he was the leading scorer in Italy's Serie A this season), and they really need Pirlo in the midfield directing traffic. Newcomer Riccardo Montolivo did well and De Rossi was as impressive as usual, but they missed some creativity.


Day Five predictions

Slovakia beat New Zealand 2-0.
No one is getting up for this early match. Slovakia may surprise if neither Italy nor Paraguay take control of Group F.

Portugal beat Cote d'Ivoire 1-0.
Cote d'Ivoire are no pushovers, and this could easily be a draw or a win for them, but Portugal have too much quality, and a stellar defensive record, to not get out of this group.

Brazil beat North Korea 3-0.
Will this be the easiest result to call the whole tournament? NK are such an unknown entity that it would almost be fun to predict a result for them. Sorry, Kim, not this time. Better luck at the ol' nuclear intimidation thing.


Did you know...

that North Korea featured at World Cup 1966, and made it to the quarter-finals? The World Cup finals only had 16 teams then; they were drawn in a tough group with the Soviets, Italy and Chile. They beat Italy 1-0 to make it through the group stage, Italy having lost to the Soviets earlier. They lost 5-3 to Eusebio's Portugal in the first knock-out, with Eusebio scoring 4 to bring Portugal back from 3-0 down. Nothing to be ashamed of. So, underestimate this Korean team at your peril, Brazil.

Feel like showing your support with a vintage 1966 North Korea shirt? Look no further than The Old Fashioned Football Shirt company, or TOFFS.*

Italy are old. Or bored with the group stage already.

That's the rumour heading into the tourney. And they showed it today, for the first half anyway. That or they're so cocky they don't think they should have to run. This, of course, is an overstatement. Simone Pepe was everywhere today, De Rossi cleaned up in the middle, Montolivo roamed the midfield, and Iaquinta switched flanks seemingly for fun.

But at times they stood around, happy to let someone else do the running. Against a fast attacking side they could be exposed.


*Thanks to Chris LaRoche, Korean expert, for the tip.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup Day Four: predictions, and a new segment, Did you know?

The Italians are known for their style of play known as the catenaccio,
or door-bolt. You can guess what that implies.


My predictions

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
The Dutch have all the attacking talent they could dream of (though apparently Robin van Persie is now hurt... again...). Robben will take shots from everywhere. Kuyt will work really hard. Babel will dribble into trouble and lose the ball. For the first time in years the Dutch don't have a solid keeper, though their defensive frailties are nothing new. The Danes will be organized and will be a threat on the counter and on set pieces.

Japan 0-1 Cameroon
Cameroon are the highest ranked African team at the tournament, with a good keeper, solid defence, a strong midfield and scoring talent. They haven't impressed much lately, struggling to qualify and losing to eventual winners Egypt in the quarters at the Africa Cup of Nations. Japan aren't as strong as they were in 2002, when they lost in the Round of 16 to Turkey. They've also lost their last four matches, all friendlies.

Italy 1-0 Paraguay
Italy don't have much in the way of creativity in their squad right now, and they're getting old, but they are talented, hardworking and organized, and have just enough to get through an easy group. Paraquay impressed in qualification, including wins over Brazil and Argentina. Star striker Roque Santa Cruz struggled with injury this year, and his striking partner Salavador Cabañas will miss the tournament after being shot in the head in a Mexican nightclub.


Did you know...

In this segment I'll bring to your attention an interesting or little-known fact about the World Cup, the teams, or the players. In today's segment, keeping to the theme of footballers and guns, we take a look at the unfortunate Andrés Escobar.


In the 1994 World Cup held in the US, in a group-stage match against the US, Colombian defender Escobar deflected a cross into his own net. Colombia lost the game 2-1 and were eliminated. Escobar was shot and killed ten days later in Colombia, purportedly because his own-goal led to huge gambling losses for some Colombian drug lords or gambling syndicates (the same thing?).

He was known as the Gentleman of Football and his funeral was attended by 120,000 people.

World Cup Day Three: results, Germany's youth and the reffing so far

Asamoah Gyan scores the pivotal penalty against Serbia

Day Three Results


Slovenia 1-0 Algeria
me: Slovenia 2-0 Algeria. Right result, half-wrong score. I have no idea how this game went and I don't know any of the players on either team*, just had a hunch. Puts Slovenia in good stead and puts some pressure on the US to beat them.

Serbia 0-1 Ghana
me: Serbia 1-0 Ghana. Wrong result, wrong score. This is the first game I've got totally wrong. Ghana showed more organization at the back and invention going forward than I thought. Serbia had a great chance to make it 1-0, and then Ghana were correctly awarded a penalty that they buried. This throws my group predictions for a loop, as I had Serbia going through. Now they have to get a win against Australia and a result against Germany and hope things go their way.

Germany 4-0 Australia
me: Germany 2-1 Australia. Right result, wrong score. Our first blow-out of WC2010. Germany dominated start to finish all over the pitch. They passed the ball well, used space intelligently, took their chances, and look to be a force this tournament. Nice to see Podolski and Klose score; both players have struggled this year for their clubs. Other than one or two players, Australia just don't have the quality. With Cahill getting the red card (horrible call, by the way), Australia's chances of progressing have taken a nose dive.

Also, what's scary about Germany is that they've got such young talent. Muller (who I had no time for in the Champions League final but who just scored a nice goal) is only 20, and kept Klose and Luca Toni out of the Bayern squad. Ozil (see below) is 21, their starting keeper Neuer is 24, captain Philip Lahm is, amazingly, only 26, Mertesacker in defence is 25, Gomez is 24, Khedira 23, Schweinsteiger is 25. If they do well here one can only imagine how long this core group can play together.

Young player of the tournament

Early days, but Mezut Ozil of Germany looks the business. He could have scored twice in the first half, and looks like a creative force. The bigger European clubs will be knocking on Werder Bremen's door this summer if they aren't already.

Reffing so far

So the straight red against Everton's Tim Cahill gave us the first reffing controversy of the tournament. It was a foul, maybe a yellow, but certainly not a red. Australia have every right to feel aggrieved; after the dubious penalty given against them in 2006 to give the Italians a late, late victory, they might start to feel like someone is working against them.

Other than that, I think the reffing has been very good. The other red cards have been for two yellows, and both that I saw looked deserved.

Blown coverage

And if you were wondering why there aren't ads during the games, see this shit coverage by Britain's ITV: missed Gerrard goal.


* After checking the squad lists, I do know a couple of Algerian players: Belhadj had a good year for Portsmouth; Bougherra plays for the Rangers in Scotland but I think I've only heard of him through playing Football Manager.