Monday, June 26, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 26, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

Despite the scandal, many expected Italy to be here. With most of their players based in Europe, Australia were able to beat out Croatia and Japan for second place in Group F. Switzerland has not allowed a goal in World Cup play yet. Andriy Shevchenko and Ukraine will see if they can change that. The winners of these two matches will play each other in the quarters.

Italy vs. Australia
Group E Winner vs. Group F Runner-Up
Australia winger Harry Kewell is pictured arriving at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion in Kaiserslautern on crutches and it is soon confirmed that he will miss the match with a groin strain. Marco Bresciano takes his place, while Luke Wilkshire comes in for the suspended Brett Emerton. Mark Schwarzer replaces Zeljko Kalac, who had a shocker against Croatia in their final group game. Alessandro Del Piero has been given the chance to turn back the clock - he replaces Francesco Totti in the Italy team and will probably line up in a three-man attack. Marco Materazzi replaces the injured Alessandro Nesta in the centre of defense while Luca Toni comes back into the side in place of Mauro Camoranesi.

The Socceroos began in confident fashion and almost stunned their opponents in the opening minute, with Scott Chipperfield's cross picking out Tim Cahill in the box but the Everton midfielder could not find any power in his header. Toni then latched on to Del Piero's dangerous cross and headed inches wide of the far post while Chipperfield made a vital block with Alberto Gilardino ready to shoot from Del Piero's assist. Gilardino should have put his team ahead in the 19th minute but his acrobatic kick was palmed over by Schwarzer. Buffon was forced to dive to his left to save Chipperfield's powerful effort from close-range in what was the Aussies' best chance of the opening half.

Five minutes after the re-start Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo showed a straight red to Materazzi for a two-footed tackle on Bresciano, whose subsequent free-kick fizzed wide of Buffon's far post. The Italians continued to make unforced errors and were quite happy to play inside their own half and hit the Aussies in the counter-attack. The Aussies failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority as Italy kept their composure in defense. Bresciano again tested Buffon before the same player's corner saw Cahill head over. Guus Hiddink made his first substitution 10 minutes from time with forward John Aloisi on for Mile Sterjovski. With 30 seconds remaining, Grosso came to the rescue to help the Italians march on. Blackburn Rovers defender Lucas Neill brought down Fabio Grosso inside the area and Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo pointed to the spot. Totti, who had been surprisingly excluded from the starting XI and had only entered the pitch 15 minutes earlier, coolly struck past goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Man of the Match: Fabio Grosso (Italy)
He got ‘tackled’ in the box in stoppage time to give Italy a penalty kick and Totti put in. Neill didn’t really foul him but Grosso did a tremendous job selling it and the referee gave it.

General Thoughts: Italy
Despite getting a man sent off, the Italians hung tough and were able to get the win. I wasn’t generally impressed with the side until Totti came on for Del Piero. The Azzurri feed off of him and he has the courage to take the penalty with the game on the line. Message to Marcelo Lippi, stick Del Piero on the bench and let Totti play the full 90. Losing Materazzi for the next game is going to hurt.

General Thoughts: Australia
This was a tough loss to take for the Socceroos. They have the man advantage yet were unable to do much with it. Guus Hiddink is a great manager but I have to question why he didn’t decide to provide Viduka help in the second half. John Aloisi came on but he was in a reserved forward role. Lucas Neill prematurely slid in to block Grosso and left himself in a vulnerable spot to get a foul called. He should have stayed up and challenged him because he didn’t have an angle. Overall, it was a great run for the Aussies and with many of their players in Europe, they should be back.

Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Grosso, Del Piero (Totti 75), Perrotta, Gattuso, Pirlo, Gilardino (Iaquinta 45), Toni (Barzagli 55). Subs Not Used: Zaccardo, Peruzzi, Amelia, Camoranesi, Barone, Inzaghi, Oddo, Nesta.

Sent Off: Materazzi (51)

Booked: Grosso, Gattuso, Zambrotta.

Goal: Totti 90 pen.

Australia: Schwarzer, Chipperfield, Neill, Moore, Culina, Wilkshire, Cahill, Grella, Bresciano, Sterjovski (Aloisi 81), Viduka. Subs Not Used: Popovic, Skoko, Kalac, Kennedy, Lazaridis, Covic, Beauchamp, Kewell, Thompson, Milligan.

Booked: Grella, Cahill, Wilkshire.

Att: 46,000

Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain)

Switzerland vs. Ukraine
Group G Winner vs. Group H Runner-Up
Switzerland brings in one Arsenal defender for another, with Johan Djourou replacing the injured Philippe Senderos. Also in defence Ludovic Magnin comes in for Christoph Spycher. Ukraine has problems at the back with Andiy Rusol and Viacheslav Sviderskiy suspended. Vladislav Vashchuk returns after a red card against Spain and steps into the back three along with Andriy Gusin. Further forward Serhiy Rebrov is dropped for Andriy Vorobey.

In a tightly contested match both teams found it difficult to create clear openings in the penalty area, with the game's best chances coming from set pieces as well as some powerful long-range shots. Raphael Wicky tested Shovkovskiy early on with a rising shot, while a hammer effort from Shevchenko flashed past the post midway through the second half. Before the game went into extra-time, Ukraine twice went close from corners, as Andriy Gusin flicked a header narrowly, while Pascal Zuberbuhler sliced an attempted punch. Ukraine also claimed a penalty after Grichting covered himself around Andriy Voronin after the Swiss defender came off second best in an aerial battle.

In extra-time Grichting redeemed himself when he bravely cut out substitute Milevskiy's dangerous cross. At the other end of the pitch Gusin made a superb blocking tackle just as Streller prepared to shoot from a promising position. Given the recent wave of yellow and red cards in the tournament this game was an altogether less explosive affair, with referee Benito Archundia not booking a player until just before the hour. Not that the game was without its ugly moments, notably when Andriy Nesmachniy was left writhing in agony after an ugly challenge from Cabanas. Vladislav Vashchuk was also unhappy with a Cabanas tackle as the Swiss midfielder raked his studs down the Ukraine defender's shin.

It then went to penalties. Ukraine took the first penalty. The last time Andriy Shevchenko was in a shoot-out it was the Champions League final for AC Milan against Liverpool. It's another nightmare for the skipper as his effort was saved. Substitute Marco Streller struck an equally poor penalty and this one was also saved. Another sub, Artem Milevskiy dinked it down the middle and scored. Tranquillo Barnetta missed and slamed his effort on to the crossbar. Serhiy Rebrov sent the keeper the wrong way and scored to give Ukraine a big advantage. Ricardo Cabanas has to score but he does not. A long run-up and Oleg Gusev scored the penalty that sends Ukraine through to a quarter-final against Italy on their World Cup debut.

Man of the Match: Olexandr Shovkovskiy
He stepped up and saved PKs in the shootout. Granted, they weren’t taken very well, but he did the job and sends Ukraine to the quarters. Not bad for a World Cup debut.

General Thoughts: Switzerland
They have no one to blame but their manager. Kuhn did one of the best managerial jobs in this World Cup as the Swiss did not allow a goal. But why do you take off top scorer Alexander Frei just five minutes before the shootout? You’re team hadn’t scored for 115 minutes, was that going to change in the next five? The players lost confidence taking the kicks. They looked scared and predictable. They are the first team to go out of the World Cup without conceding a goal and they are the first side not to score a single penalty in a shoot-out.

General Thoughts: Ukraine
Okay, this was a tough Swiss defense and they should consider themselves lucky that they have escaped with a win because that was a losing performance. I have an idea. How about you get Shevchenko some help by starting Rebrov? That better happen against Italy because those boys know Shevchenko awfully well from his days at AC Milan. Tossing Rebrov at them will be a curveball.

Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Djourou (Grichting 33), Magnin, Muller, Philipp Degen, Vogel, Cabanas, Wicky, Barnetta, Yakin (Streller 64), Frei (Lustrinelli 116).
Subs Not Used: Benaglio, Margairaz, Behrami, Coltorti, David Degen, Dzemaili, Gygax, Senderos, Spycher.

Booked: Barnetta

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Vashchuk, Nesmachniy, Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Gusin, Kalinichenko (Rotan 75), Voronin (Milevskiy 110), Vorobey (Rebrov 93), Shevchenko.
Subs Not Used: Pyatov, Yatsenko, Yezerskiy, Nazarenko, Byelik, Shust.

Ukraine win 3-0 on penalties.

Att: 45,000.

Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico)

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
Brazil vs. Ghana – 11:00am EST – ESPN
Spain vs. France – 3:00pm EST - ESPN


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