24 June 2010

World Cup 2010, Match Day 14

Another pair of groups finish today.

Group F:

Paraguay 5 +2
Slovakia 5 0
New Zealand 3 0
Italy 2 –2

after Slovakia 3:2 Italy and Slovenia 0:1 England. I watched the Slovakia : Italy match, and I was appalled. Italy deserved this result... or worse. The side showed no energy, no imagination, no fire for the first seventy minutes, but needed to win. This is at least as much a coaching failure as a player failure, although the players certainly did a poor job. Conversely, Slovakia looked focused, played focused, and put away its chances. The referee had an uneven match, but largely got things right and did a decent job of keeping tempers from flaring too badly at the end of the match; the fourth official, though, was rather negligent on the sideline regarding both added time (in both halves, for that matter) and bench management. B+/C/B+

So the two finalists from the last World Cup in 2006 not only failed to go through to the round of sixteen, but were on the bottoms of their respective groups (and by a substantial, if subjective, margin, were the worst teams in their groups). This will have no effect on FIFA's Eurocentrism, but it bloody well should. On to Group E:

Group E:

Netherlands 9 +4
Japan 6 +2
Denmark 3 –3
Cameroon 0 –3

after Cameroon 1:2 Netherlands and Japan 3:1 Denmark. I watched the critical Japan : Denmark match, which never looked much in doubt. Japan came out playing well, Denmark came out playing enthusiastically but not with intelligence. And that was enough, particularly after two well-struck free kick goals from Japan (neither against the run of play). The Danes didn't improve much as the match wore on; even their good chances were somewhat dodgy and the Japanese defensive system was never in danger of breaking down. The referee made a lot of small mistakes, but nothing major — the penalty in favor of the Danes was a soft call, but within the law. A/C+/B-

This leads to these round-of-sixteen matchups:

Netherlands : Slovakia (28 June)

Paraguay : Japan (29 June)