Match Day 11- When a win ain't a win...
I devoted a lot of electrons to the New Zealand game last night, but I wanted to add just another couple of points to the discussion. I left out Coach Ricki Herbert and Ryan Nelsen who deserve every bit of the credit I doled out to Paston and Smeltz last night. Herbert did an amazing job of organizing his side. Captain Ryan Nelsen was like lightning on the back line speeding to the ball to make some critical clearances.
It is just a fact, REACT!
Slovakia, Slovakia, Slovakia, what am I going to do with you. I give you love and then you look completely toothless against Paraguay. Paraguay look all set to advance with their dismantling of Slovakia thanks to two really stellar goals from Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros. People are talking about how if the karmic wheel were spinning justly, New Zealand would take at least a point from Paraguay and Italy would lose to Slovakia or draw 0-0. The problem is Paraguay looks pretty tough and hoping for a 0-0 draw between Italy and Slovakia seems like it might be in vain. Cross your fingers though, because crazier things have happened.
Brazil looked rough, but rough for Brazil is still better than 30 other teams in this competition. A lot of people are planning for an Argentina/Brazil final the way those two teams are playing. May the good Lord help any team that gets in Brazil's way should they start playing up to their full potential. Luis Fabiano scored two of the most electrifying goals of the tournament. One that was a horrible crime against all things fair and equitable with not one, but two hand balls guiding it through the defense. Regardless, still astonishing to watch. Elano slotted in the other that may end up being the last contribution of his World Cup given the way he was carted off the pitch last night. I was ashamed of Ivory Coast's performance last night as they tried to outdo Italy for Camp Tankawakanaka's amateur thespian award. Didier Drogba had the lone highlight of the evening dropping in a great header that was ultimately pointless other than to illustrate he should have no problems playing against North Korea.
When a win isn't a win- PREVIEW!
Game 1: Portugal v. North Korea.
If Cristiano Ronaldo wants to continue being in really expensive Nike ads, he better start producing against North Korea. Portugal already looked sloppy against Ivory Coast, and losing Deco for this game doesn't make things any easier. Ronaldo is on an international goal drought with something like 16 months of play with no goals for country. I don't think that will last through the tournament or even the night, but it is something to keep in mind. Chiseled abs and pecs look great but don't put the ball in the net. North korea again comes in as the underdog after a defensively stalwart performance against Brazil. Striker Jong Tae-Se is still promising second round play, so don't expect much of a change in tactics from the last game. They will probably line up with five players on the back line hoping to squash any offense. A draw is not out of the realm of possibility tonight.
Best guess: Portugal 1-0 North Korea.
I think North Korea gets eliminated tonight with Portugal doing just enough to eke out a win. Against Brazil, North Korea really had no shot, but against the one man army that is Portugal, they could still manage something special. Unfortunately Kim Jong Il's soccer prowess proves fruitless without him on the pitch. For surely if the great leader were playing tonight he would score 100 goals, each more beautiful than the last.
Game 2: Chile v. Switzerland.
The "win is not win" tagline comes into play for this game. Chile could beat Switzerland tonight and not advance depending on what Spain does in the next two games. Chile is the favored team tonight, a personal favorite to make the 2nd round. Chile has shown themselves to be one of the most entertaining teams in the tournament with a fire-all-of-your-guns-at-once mentality. Switzerland's afterglow ends tonight as they get back to work slightly worse for wear after picking up some key injuries that leave them depending on the bench for today's contest. However, like I said, they hold a unique advantage with the win over Spain and and a game in hand against a lackluster Honduran side. They could conceivably lose tonight and still crush Honduras. Then if Spain beats Chile, well my head is starting to hurt so we'll explore that later this week.
Best guess: Chile 2-1 Switzerland.
Let's remember that the Swiss got a little lucky with Spain firing shots all over the place but rarely at the goal. Chile is also in a bit of a sticky spot as their defense may not be strong enough to resist the accurate counter attack of the Swiss. I think Chile outworks Switzerland tonight but not without giving up a goal that may end up sinking their mathematical chances.
Game 3: Spain v. Honduras.
If anyone is thinking we'll get a repeat of New Zealand v. Italy, let me dispel that notion quickly. Spain, unlike Italy is built for offense and a lot of it. Honduras' defense was already a little suspect and Spain's short passing game should break them down. I think the early tournament favorites remind everyone just why they were favorites to begin with. Spaniards and Catalans can smile begrudgingly at each other knowing their team isn't done just yet.
Best guess: Spain 3-0 Honduras
You ugly, hey hey, you ugly, hey hey, U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly, hey hey, you UGLY!
Tomorrow begins the last round of Group stage games, so I'm contemplating a format change. Until then, I'm gonna have some cake, some glorious, glorious caaaaake.