Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 18, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

The Samba Kings and Les Bleus return to the pitch today hoping to improve on their first performances. Brazil managed to get a 1-0 win over Croatia and France drew with Switzerland.

Group F: Japan vs. Croatia
After 21 minutes of drudgery, the match sprung to life courtesy of a penalty awarded to Croatia. Tsuneyasu Miyamoto clumsy challenge on Prso virtually ensured the Japan defender will not be named in the end-of-tournament XI. Srna stepped up to take the spot-kick, but his near-perfect effort was spectacularly saved by Kawaguchi low down to his left. Croatia did not seem too disheartened after wasting their golden opportunity, with Kranjcar and Klasnic causing serious problems for the Japanese defense. Japan was restricted to one clear chance, albeit from distance, with Stipe Pletikosa called on to parry Hidetoshi Nakata's piledriver. Zico's Japan needed to step up a gear after the break and the introduction of Junichi Inamoto and the industry of Nakata seemed to give his side a lift.

Soon after the restart Yanagisawa missed arguably Japan's best chance, when he miss-hit Akira Kaji's pacy ball from the right. Nakata stung Pletikosa's palms again from distance and late in the game Alex and then Masashi Oguro failed to connect when the ball flashed across Pletikosa's goal. Both came close twice, Kranjcar heading into the side-netting and seeing his 30-yarder rebound off the crossbar, while Klasnic scuffed a shot from three yards and had a stinging 20-yard effort saved by the alert Kawaguchi.

Man of the Match: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi
Stepping up to save a penalty shot to give your team a point is about as big as it gets for a goalkeeper. Japan has a slim chance to get though but at least it is a chance and that’s thanks to Kawaguchi.

General Thoughts: Croatia
They tried to develop some chances but they were unable to make that final pass and later on in the game, the heat got to them. Watching their penalty shot get saved also hurts team morale and makes a team press more. Defensively, they were solid for most of the game. They will have an emotional battle against Australia next.

General Thoughts: Japan
Watching their goalkeeper save that penalty is such a huge boost for team. It has the ability to energize a team and that is exactly what it did for Japan. Croatia had their chances but Japan’s defense was harassing enough to keep them from getting a good shot. The offense was non-existent again. The heat played such a huge factor in this game.

Summary
Japan: Kawaguchi, Miyamoto, Kaji, Nakazawa, Santos, Ogasawara, Hidetoshi Nakata, Nakamura, Fukunishi (Inamoto 45), Takahara (Oguro 85), Yanagisawa (Tamada 61).
Subs Not Used: Narazaki, Moniwa, Komano, Endo, Koji Nakata, Maki, Doi, Ono, Tsuboi.

Booked: Miyamoto, Kawaguchi, Santos. Croatia: Pletikosa, Robert Kovac, Simunic, Tudor (Olic 70), Simic, Srna (Bosnjak 86), Babic, Nico Kovac, Kranjcar (Modric 78), Prso, Klasnic.
Subs Not Used: Balaban, Butina, Didulica, Ivan Leko, Jerko Leko, Seric, Tokic, Tomas, Vranjes.

Booked: Robert Kovac, Srna

Att: 41,000

Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)

Group F: Brazil vs. Australia
Brazil are unchanged from the side that beat Croatia, while Australia coach Guus Hiddink made three changes, bringing in Tim Cahill, Tony Popovic and Mile Sterjovski for Marco Bresciano, Harry Kewell and Luke Wilkshire. The goalless draw in Nuremberg between Japan and Croatia means that whoever wins this match goes through to the second round.

Ronaldo started again for Brazil despite ongoing criticism over his performances and condition. His first contribution in this game saw him lose control of an Emerson pass but his second was a delight as he flicked the ball over his head for Kaka to crash a volley inches wide. Vince Grella's foul on Ronaldo gave Brazil's troupe of free-kick artistes an early chance to convene but Roberto Carlos's blast swung high and wide. Typically there was no shortage of confidence from Australia and tactically manager Guus Hiddink had done his homework, detailing Jason Culina and Mile Sterjovski to close off the flanks to negate the threat of Carlos and Cafu. Australia defended dutifully, marshaled by Craig Moore whose superbly-timed challenge only increased Ronaldo's frustration as he had a sight of goal. He picked up a needless booking for putting the ball in the net after being pulled back for offside and when presented with a chance by Kaka's chipped pass, completely missed his kick in front of goal.

It took Brazil just three minutes of the second half to forge the breakthrough as Australia switched off defensively for the first time. Ronaldo looked offside as he collected a through pass but he squared the ball for Adriano who took advantage as Scott Chipperfield failed to close quickly enough to score left-footed from 18 yards. Australia was presented with a golden chance as Dida dropped a cross but substitute Harry Kewell blazed over the unguarded goal. Kewell then almost embarrassed Dida, dipping a 40-yard shot inches over the bar after spotting the keeper off his line. Australia went for broke but Robinho, on for the disappointing Ronaldo, almost punished them on the break, nicking the ball over keeper Mark Schwarzer and onto the roof of the net. At the other end Dida went full length to claw away Mark Bresciano's volley, while Kaka thumped a header against the bar from a corner. Viduka's lob left Dida stranded but agonizingly landed on the roof of the net and as Australia threw everything forward in search of an equalizer they had Brazil on the rack. But substitute Fred sealed victory with a second goal to flatter Brazil, tapping home after Robinho's shot came back off the post.


Man of the Match: Ze Roberto (Brazil)
With the Brazilian offense still not at the level where it is supposed to be, they had to count on some defense to help get them through today. Australia was able to make some strong counter-attacks but thanks to Ze Roberto, many of them did not amount to anything. This could have easily been a draw if the defensive midfielder wasn’t there.

General Thoughts: Brazil
It wasn’t a very impressive performance by the Samba Kings but a win is a win and they are through to the next round. They were a little bit better today as there was more creativity. Ronaldo had a nice play drawing three players to him before laying it off to Adriano for the goal but that was it. Robinho reinvigorated the team off the bench and should be starting in Ronaldo’s place. Emerson and Ze Roberto were both very good today making some key tackles to prevent the Aussie counterattack. Juan and Lucio are the most thankful for those two. Dida had one mistake which could have cost him but otherwise, he was consistent.

General Thoughts: Australia
They went toe to toe with the best team in the world and held their ground. They held Brazil scoreless in the first half. Though Brazil did score in the second half, the Aussies still outplayed them and came close to equalizing on several occasions. Kewell and Breschiano were spark plugs off the bench. The Aussies have to feel good about the football that they are playing right now even though they lost this one.

Summary
Brazil: Dida, Cafu, Lucio, Juan, Carlos, Kaka, Emerson (Gilberto 72), Ze Roberto, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo (Robinho 72), Adriano (Fred 88).
Subs Not Used: Cicinho, Cris, Julio Cesar, Juninho, Luisao, Mineiro, Ricardinho, Rogerio, Silva.

Booked: Cafu, Ronaldo, Robinho.

Goals: Adriano 49, Fred 90.

Australia: Schwarzer, Moore (Aloisi 69), Popovic (Bresciano 40), Neill, Chipperfield, Emerton, Grella, Sterjovski, Cahill (Kewell 56), Culina, Viduka.
Subs Not Used: Beauchamp, Covic, Kalac, Kennedy, Lazaridis, Milligan, Skoko, Thompson, Wilkshire.

Booked: Emerton, Culina

Att: 66,000

Referee: Markus Merk (Germany)

Group F Update
Brazil is through to the next round. They can win the group with a point. If they lose to Japan in the biggest upset of all time, they can still win the group as long as they have a better goal differential (gd) than the Aussies who would have to beat Croatia.
Australia are through if they beat Croatia. They are also through with a draw and just as long as Japan does not win and have a better gd. Australia can win the group with a win, a Brazil loss, and a better gd.
Croatia need to win and hope Brazil beats or draws Japan. Should Japan also win, they need a better gd.
Japan needs to win. If Croatia wins as well, they need a better gd. If Croatia and Australia draw, they need a better gd than the Aussies.

Group G: France vs. South Korea
France coach Raymond Domenech named his line-up 24 hours before the match and makes one change, Florent Malouda coming in for Franck Ribery. Domenech has a reported distrust of players born under the star sign of Scorpio. He has chosen none in his squad. The bad news is there are none in South Korea's either for his players to prey on. South Korea will start with Ahn Jung-Hwan, their match-winning goalscorer against Togo, on the bench. Kim Dong-Jin comes into the defence and Kim Nam-Il plays in midfield.

The 1998 winners had looked dull in their opening game against Switzerland but Raymond Domenech's side gave an altogether more alert performance until they slackened off in the closing stages. Malouda's return had much to do with France's improvement as les bleus played at a much quicker tempo than they had managed against the Swiss. Just as importantly Vieira gave a more convincing performance as well in the center of midfield for France. France laid siege to the South Korean goal in the opening 10 minutes and Lee Woon-jae did well to come out and narrow the angle to prevent Sylvain Wiltord from scoring. The South Korean goalkeeper had no chance of stopping France's next attack. Henry took one touch before he found the net with deadly precision. France should have had a second goal when Vieira's header clearly crossed the line, despite Lee Woon-jae's desperate efforts to keep the ball out. When the ball came out of the goal Malouda lunged to reach it and in doing so he was penalized for fouling Ho Lee.

For 75 minutes of the game South Korea's attacks had tended to sputter out the nearer they got to France's goal. Just before the interval France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez had a momentary scare when Lee Chun-soo's free-kick went narrowly wide after it travelled through a packed penalty area. Barthez was just as inactive for much of the second half but in the 81st minute when he was called on to be decisive he flapped in a desperately indecisive fashion. Seol Ki-Hyeon's deep cross from the right was headed back by Cho Jin-Jae and Park scooped the ball over Barthez and William Gallas. Zinedine Zidane was then booked for France and will now miss the Togo match, possibly bringing down the curtain on his career in a way he could never have foreseen.

Man of the Match: Thierry Henry (France)
Hey Thierry, where have you been? The overbearing and impatient Thierry Henry of the French national team has been replaced by the playmaking and goalgetting Thierry Henry that lights it up for Arsenal. The French have been waiting for this performance from Henry on the major international level for years and it came today as he was a force up front and he scored the first goal in World Cup competition for France since 1998. With Zidane out for the next match, Henry will have to step it up another notch to lead France to the next round and give Zidane one more chance to play in front of the fans.

General Thoughts: France
They looked so much better today than they did against Switzerland or at any time in 2002. They were actually playing as a team. They were looking for each other, passing well, and running into space. Having Wiltord up front with Henry took so much pressure off the Arsenal man. Wiltord also played at Arsenal so they knew how to work together. The French should have had another goal in the first half as the ball crossed the line before the goalkeeper pushed it back off. They were in control for a majority of this match. Barthez showed why he is a liability out there because he can’t handle crosses and allowed Park Ji-Sung to equalize. It’s time to see Coupet start in goal. With a critical game against Togo coming up next, they will be without their leader Zidane who picked up his second yellow card.

General Thoughts: South Korea
They may have been able to come back and beat Togo but they France proved to be a much tougher opponent. They gave Henry and Zidane too much space to work and were lucky that the ref and linesman didn’t call the goal. They were able to get their charges forward and were able to take advantage of the inability of Barthez to handle crosses in front of the net to get the equalizer.

Summary
France: Barthez, Abidal, Gallas, Thuram, Sagnol, Malouda (Dhorasoo 88), Vieira, Makelele, Zidane (Trezeguet 90), Wiltord (Ribery 60), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Diarra, Givet, Govou, Landreau, Saha, Silvestre.

Booked: Abidal, Zidane

Goals: Henry 9.

South Korea: Woon-Jae Lee, Young-Chul Kim, Dong-Jin Kim, Choi, Young-Pyo Lee, Nam-Il Kim, Ji-Sung Park, Eul-Yong Lee (Seol 45), Ho Lee (Sang-Sik Kim 69), Chun-Soo Lee (Ahn 72), Jae-Jin Cho.
Subs Not Used: Baek, Won-hee Cho, Chung, Do-Heon Kim, Jin-Kyu Kim, Yong-Dae Kim, Young-Kwang Kim, Chu-Young Park, Song

Booked: Ho Lee, Dong-Jin Kim

Goals: Ji-Sung Park 81.

Att: 43,000.

Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico)

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
Togo vs. Switzerland – 9:00am EST – ESPN2
Saudi Arabia vs. Ukraine – Noon EST – ESPN2
Spain vs. Tunisia – 3:00pm EST – ESPN2

The Togo Saga
Fifa intervened on Sunday to persuade Togo's players not to boycott their World Cup game with Switzerland. The squad finally boarded their bus to Dortmund where the Hawks will play their second Group G match against Switzerland on Monday. The players had initially stayed in their Wangen base while they discussed a long-running pay dispute. No team that has qualified for a World Cup finals has withdrawn from a match in the 76-year history of the event. Any nation doing so face a heavy fine and could be banned from subsequent competitions.

The Togolese, beaten 2-1 by South Korea in their opening match on their World Cup debut, did not leave their base in Wangen on Sunday in time to catch their scheduled morning flight to Dortmund. Instead players held crisis meetings with officials over the pay row.

The dispute had prompted Pfister, a German, to walk out just before the tournament, saying it made it impossible for him to do his job. He returned just in time for the first match.

Players from the tiny West African country have demanded $196,300 each to play and $38,000 for each win, half that for each draw. But officials from the country with an average per capita income of well below $1,000 have said those demands are too high.

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