Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 27, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

Today is the last day of the second round and it features a pair of interesting matchups. Brazil takes on surprising Ghana who will be without the services of Michael Essien. Then, it’s a battle to neighbors as France and Spain duel.

Brazil vs. Ghana
Group F Winner vs. Group E Runner-Up
Brazil reverts to their first-choice line-up, with Jose Ze Roberto, Adriano, Emerson, Roberto Carlos and Cafu returning. Cafu plays his 19th World Cup finals match, a new Brazilian record. For Ghana, Eric Addo is in for the suspended Michael Essien. Sulley Muntari returns from a ban while Asamoah Gyan will partner Matthew Amoah in attack. Emmanuel Pappoe comes in for Habib Mohamed in defense.

It was a start made more remarkable by the African side's defensive naivety than Brazil's attacking prowess, as twice in five minutes they got caught out at the back. The first time they were saved by a flag incorrectly ruling Ronaldo offside, the second time they pushed up and allowed Kaka to feed in Ronaldo, who shimmied past Kingson and slotted in. After all the criticism, it was yet another record-breaking goal for the peerless Real Madrid man. Two minutes before half-time, Ghana had a golden chance to level. Mensah rose unchallenged from a corner, but to Ghana's dismay his bullet header struck Dida's leg and bounced away from danger. Just before the break they were punished when Brazil launched a quick counter-attack and Cafu crossed for a seemingly offside Adriano to bundle home.

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic was so incensed that he was sent to the stands for the second half after remonstrating with the referee. The second goal was hard on Ghana after a spirited response to their early errors and to their credit they continued to plough forward after the break. John Pantsil flashed a header wide from another set-piece and Gyan and Haminu Draman both wildly lashed over from good positions. Until Gyan was sent off, his second yellow card was for diving, Brazil did not look like adding to their tally, a Pantsil header at his own goal a rare venture into the Ghana penalty area. But with 11 against 10 they stepped up the pace and Ghana's misery was compounded when substitute Ricardinho floated a ball over the top and Ze Roberto flicked it past Kingson, ran round him and rolled into an empty net.

Man of the Match: Dida (Brazil)
He made some terrific saves to ensure Brazil did not lose control of this match because they were outplayed for a majority of it. He is having a great tournament and his form could be the most important.

General Thoughts: Brazil
The chemistry is starting to show and they are getting some luck. That spells trouble for the rest of the field. However, Brazil has shown that they can be had because they allowed Ghana every chance to get back in this game. They need Juan and Lucio to tighten things up back there because Dida is not going to make every stop. You get the feeling that Robinho needs to be out there to add another quality dribbler to help Kaka and Ronaldinho.

General Thoughts: Ghana
There is no telling how this game would have gone had Essien been out there. Playing an offside trap thirty yards from goal was an idiotic move and had a player like Essien been out there, it would not have happened because the ball would never have been played. But the Brazil of Africa outplayed the original today and should hold their heads high. They truly were the darlings of this World Cup.

Brazil: Dida, Cafu, Lucio, Juan, Carlos, Emerson (Silva 45), Ze Roberto, Kaka (Ricardinho 83), Ronaldinho, Adriano (Juninho 61), Ronaldo.
Subs Not Used: Cicinho, Cris, Fred, Gilberto, Julio Cesar, Luisao, Mineiro, Rogerio, Robinho.

Booked: Adriano, Juan

Goals: Ronaldo 5, Adriano 45, Ze Roberto 84.

Ghana: Kingson, Pantsil, Shilla, Mensah, Pappoe, Draman, Eric Addo (Boateng 60), Appiah, Muntari, Amoah (Tachie-Mensah 69), Gyan.
Subs Not Used: Otto Addo, Adjei, Ahmed, Kuffour, Mohamed, Owu, Pimpong, Quaye, Sarpei.

Sent Off: Gyan (81)

Booked: Appiah, Muntari, Pantsil, Eric Addo, Gyan.

Att: 65,000

Ref: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)

Spain vs. France
Group H Winner vs. Group G Runner-Up
Spain included Cesc Fabregas and Raul at the expense of Marcos Senna and Luis Garcia. Suspended French duo Eric Abidal and Zinedine Zidane return for Mikael Silvestre and David Trezeguet.

This match was entertaining from the start. Mariano Pernia went close with a dipping free-kick, though the Spain defender was soon on defensive watch as he courageously blocked a Zidane shot. While Pernia showed bravery, his defensive colleague Carles Puyol relied on athleticism to head back to Casillas to stop Zidane's pass reaching Henry. The Arsenal striker finally escaped the attentions of the Spain defence when he broke down the right and sent over an inviting cross that neither Vieira nor Ribery could reach. Villa's penalty briefly stopped France in their tracks. Thuram was too eager to challenge Ibanez and Italian referee Roberto Rosetti had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Barthez guessed correctly, but Villa's shot, low and powerful, was unstoppable. Five minutes before the interval France equalized with a elegant goal as Vieira's quick pass released Ribery. Finishing has not been the Marseille's winger strongest point in France's group games, but Ribery's speed got him round Iker Casillas and his sidefooted finish eluded Pernia and Puyol as they tried to cover back.

France's equalizer saw the game shift up a notch in intensity in the second half. Just past the hour Ribery skipped his way past Pernia, but he was unable to find a French player with his powerful cross. France's invigorating start to the second half prompted Spain coach Luis Aragones to make a double substitution as he brought on Luis Garcia and Sanchez Joaquin. With 12 minutes left Joaquin ghosted past Eri Abidal before firing a shot into the side netting. But it was France who found an extra gear in the last 10 minutes as first Vieira and then Zidane punished Spain. It was a deflected Zidane free-kick that Vieira headed in and France's captain applied the coup de grace with a run and powerful shot that gave Casillas no chance. The defeat was the first Spain had suffered under Aragones in 25 games since he took charge after Euro 2004.

Man of the Match: Patrick Vieira (France)
He made the pass that Ribery took past Casillas for the equalizer and he got his head to a Zidane free kick that won France the match and puts them into the quarters. Maybe Vieira is giving teams something to consider with his departure from Juventus a possibility or he wants to extend Zidane’s time in his last World Cup. Whatever it is, France wants him to keep on going.

General Thoughts: France
I don’t know what happened but this team has found the on switch. For the past 135 minutes of football, they look like a completely different team. They are making faster, harder runs, their passes are connecting, and they are finishing. This is all being without Thierry Henry having found his form yet. But one mistake can change everything and with Brazil next, Barthez better not act like a show off.

General Thoughts: Spain
Spain is the Chicago Cubs of international football. Despite having an impressive team in every World Cup, they fall short. They lost all momentum in this match when Ribery scored the equalizer and it felt like they were watching Zidane instead of trying to take the ball off him. No one stepped up to take control in the last half hour. Maybe it was a mistake by Aragones to pull Raul. Thierry Henry gets his revenge on Aragones after the racist comments last year.

Spain: Casillas, Pablo, Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Pernia, Fabregas, Xavi (Senna 72), Alonso, Villa (Joaquin 54), Torres, Raul (Luis Garcia 54).
Subs Not Used: Salgado, Marchena, Albelda, Reyes, Antonio Lopez, Iniesta, Canizares, Juanito, Reina.

Booked: Puyol

Goals: Villa 28 pen.

France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Ribery, Zidane, Makelele, Vieira, Malouda (Govou 74), Henry (Wiltord 88).
Subs Not Used: Landreau, Boumsong, Dhorasoo, Silvestre, Saha, Givet, Diarra, Trezeguet, Chimbonda, Coupet.

Booked: Vieira, Ribery, Zidane

Goals: Ribery 41, Vieira 83, Zidane 90

Att: 43,000.

Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy)


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