WC2014 Ghana 1 – 2 USA

Americans wake up confused as they claim inaugural soccerball win over Ghana

Americans wake up confused as they claim inaugural soccerball win over Ghana

That Was A Bit Exciting

As you might say when you experience some unimaginable horror (like the Iran Nigeria match) and miraculously emerge unscathed. Despite having a  middle stint that best resembled a poorly run attack vs defense training drill, this match could not have been more different, as it exploded into life in the first and 82nd minutes.


What We Learned From Uruguay vs Ghana (1-1)

That Was A Bit Full On

Possibly even more so than the Brazil Holland clash, this match was one that both teams went out to win. Certainly, Ghana were a bit tentative at first, but when Kevin Prince Boateng (who is my Man of the Tournament so far – I know, I know even I don’t believe that, but there it is) moved inside they began to dominate the game and really take the match to Uruguay.

Just as with the first game, South Africa v Mexico, where it was vital for the host nation to score first (and what a cracking goal that was), so it was essential to the game that the Valiant Wildebeest got in there quickly, if only to settle everyone’s nerves and ensure that they (and possibly the whole of Africa) genuinely believed they could win. Not hoped. Not wished for. But Believed. And when they did score Ghana were way the better team, had completely neutralised the threat of Forlorn and Dirty Sanchez and should have made it 2 or even more. As ever, Boateng was at the heart of Ghana’s threat and you wondered how powerful they might have been if only Michael Essien (another Premiership casualty) had been fit.

Those Penalities, They’re A Killer

None more so than the penalty Ghana got at the end of the final period of extra time. One penalty and you’re through. Not five. Not mano a mano. Just one penalty. And you have to feel for them. This was a clear penalty for a stone banker deliberate hand ball stopping a certain goal. Dirty Sanchez (for that is his real name) might have been sent off, but you can’t help feeling that a penalty isn’t really reward enough for such blatant cheating. Bear in mind this is the same punishment Oztralia got for having the ball cannon into arch-tit Kewell’s arm when he knew very little about it. No Uruguay will always be tainted by this cynical, deliberate cheating. They are officially cheating cunts and I hope the Dutch stuff their sorry arses.

58 Down 6 To Go 6 Teams Remaining

What We Learned From USA vs Ghana (1-2)

Defiance vs Resilience

The Ghanaians came in carrying the entire hopes of the continent on their shoulders. The Americans have that damn yankee never say die spirit. So it wasn’t going to be a quiet night.

This was one of those games that was impossible to take your eyes off. First Ghana attacked and really took the game to the States. And the States seemed to back off. This is a mistake on so many levels, not least because the States actually play better when they attack. They seem to be the ultimate ‘underdog’ side, constantly coming from behind, working if not so much on the skill of Dempsey and Donovan, then their gritted determination and absolute desire to win. But it seems as if they need to be under pressure in order to begin to show themselves.

And they were certainly put under pressure. Kevin Prince Boateng, who was a bit-part player for Tottingham and one of the useful job lot of players who somehow fought their way through the Portsmouth debacle, has been the standout player for Ghana, the personality that makes the team happen. His push from midfield has frightened teams and made things happen. His cut in and shot seemed to confuse the Americans and that was it. You felt that not only was the stadium behind them but the weight of Africa suddenly fell on Team USA.

If America were going to get back into the game, you felt it would have come from Dempsey or Donovan, and it came from both. Dempsey has a face for penalties, when he goes down he looks so plaintive and wronged that the ref feels almost morally obliged to give it. Donovan, being the super-ego in the team, converted the penalty.

After that it was a tense, but highly engaging back and forth affair. As normal time came to an end the tension was ramped up as both sides went for it. Ghana’s winner, when it came was outstanding, a long ball played into Gyan, who was flanked by two defenders, neither of whom was close or strong enough to throw him off balance. Gyan’s left foot shot was fantastic and you felt every ounce of power he put into it.

It Shoulda Been Us

You can’t help thinking that, but for a moment of goalkeeping insanity (although not quite up to Chilean goalkeeping suicide) and, let’s face it, two thoroughly shabby performances, Engerland should have been contesting this match against Ghana. Given Engerland’s paucity of ambition and skill, it’s hard to imagine them beating Ghana, but still, it shoulda been us.

50 Down 14 To Go, 14 Teams Remaining

Extra Extra What About Them Second Rounds Then

Group Of Ease

Yeah, so one of Uruguay, South Korea, USA or Ghana is going to a World Cup semi-final. And, let’s face it, that should have been Engerland not USA in that list. Out of these I give the Koreans little or no chance, for while they have a great team with a couple of decent players, they’re up against Uruguay, who have the excellent Diego Forlorn, who seems to be one of the very few players not to have been overwhelmed by the scale of the World Cup and has actually seized control of and dominated games. I see Uruguay going right the way through to the semi. USA have a great team with a never say die attitude, but attitude aside all they really have to offer is Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and I’m not convinced. Ghana are a great strong passing side, who haven’t managed to score goals other than penalties so far. You can see them riding the wave of African euphoria, but they’re going to have trouble when they come up against a quality side.

Group Of Death

Forget any previous pussy, lame Groups of Death, this is the real thing. Germany, Engerland, Argentina and, well there’s always one, Mexico. For Engerland to get to the semis, we’re going to have to beat both the Germans and the Argies. If we get that far life will be very sweet indeed and we’ll probably only have to beat Spain and Brazil to win the big lump of gold. So no pressure there boys. If we want to win it, we’re going to have to do it the hard way. Heart says we go through and win, rational analysis says it’ll be the bloody Argies (again).

Group Of Football

With both Holland and Brazil, this should be a group of total football. Holland, I suspect have been playing a very cagey game and not really over-exerting themselves. Straight wins throughout their First Round matches means that they haven’t really been tested yet and I don’t see the conquerors of Italy, Slovakia, giving them any trouble at all. I think the Dutch will open with their wingmen and then we’ll see some football. Brazil and Chile should play off a great South American cup tie, but given Chile’s attack only policy and Brazil’s excellent defence I see Brazil wiping the floor with Chile’s poor quality defending. Brazil v Holland will be a cracking quarter final, which will provide Brazil with a really serious test, but this Brazil side is pretty formidable and, like the Dutch, just beginning to find their form. I see this as Brazil’s group.

Group Of Unexpected

Ideally, Spain and Chile should have switched groups, but they didn’t so this group has the Tweedledumb and Tweedledumberer match up of Spain and Portugal, in some ways it hardly matters which one of them comes through. Spain will have a tough game, they seem to have lost their way mentally and don’t know which direction to go in. Now true World Cup Champions always undergo some kind of transformation during the tournament, but the transformation Spain are undergoing is tortuous. Will they sacrifice the beautiful game that got them here for a pragmatic hoof and wingplay game we saw them trying before Chile gifted them the game? Portugal will be a hard test, they have a rock solid defence and are really hard to play against and when they’re in flow as they were against North Korea, they can’t half knock in the goals. I see Portugal going through. Paraguay and Japan will be a fantastic, open game, the Japanese will not give in and Paraguay are a decent team. This match should be a cracker and I see Portugal going out of this group.

The Semis

I see these being

Uruguay vs Engerland

Brazil vs Portugal

Can’t help being optimistic eh?

What We Learned From Group D Eliminators

The Absolute Limits Of Human Endurance – Germany 1 – 0 Ghana

By now I’ve watched a lot of World Cup action. And it’s time to talk about ITV’s TV coverage. Aside from the awesome own goal of managing to miss Engerland’s opening goal by having some sort of ad break instead – a none too uncommon occurrence for ITV – their coverage is, frankly, a disgrace. Adequate commentators backed by inept, uninteresting pundits who think that telling you what you just saw counts as insight, they seem more interested in the celebrity spotting camerawork than they do in actually covering the action in any meaningful way. But then again they don’t need pundits, presenters and insight because that all gets in the way of the adverts, which gloriously pimp gambling, drinking and banking, all things that people could do with less of.

Anyway, halfway through the Germany Ghana match, as ITV punditry gave way to another bout of advertising effluence, I was forced, forced you understand, to switch over to the Wimbledon coverage. And it was just too compelling. Two guys, on court for the best part of 10 hours (yes that is ten hours), were at 55 – 55 in the fifth set. And that’s not a tennis score like 40 – 30, that’s 55 games each in the fifth set. And that’s what they’ve played today. I worked it out. Given that to win the World Cup you’ll need to play 7 matches, three in the First Round and four knockout rounds, that’s an absolute maximum of 12.5 hours. To win the World Cup. So these guys, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, have basically played their way to the World Cup final in one day and they haven’t even finished their tennis match. By the time they stopped (it was getting too dark to play) it was 59 – 59 and there had been a total of 4 (count them, 4) break points in the entire match. Isner looked like he could hardly move, but was still serving aces (97 to date) on demand. Mahut, who is French, is in line for the kind of sporting elevation that only Presidents can give as a grateful France discovers a sporting hero to counterpoint their spoilt dysfunctional football team/squad/federation/manager. I don’t think Mahut has any idea of the hero’s welcome he’s going to get when he finally goes back to France, but he looks fresh. And it was an illustration of how far this World Cup has to go to produce really memorable games that it is being overshadowed in terms of both drama and sporting achievement by a single first round match at Wimbledon. By the way, whoever does, eventually, win this match they will have a second round match on Friday (in addition to actually finishing this match tomorrow).

Anyway, that over I was able to return to the recorded Germany Ghana match, but you know what, it seemed a little dull in comparison to a match where players are literally playing themselves to death right in front of you. So Germany won (as if we believed there was any other outcome) to set up a Round of 16 match with Engerland and you know what, I’m really not that bothered. At their best this Engerland team has the beating of the Germans, at their worst, Engerland deserve to go home. Ghana, meanwhile, become the first (and only?) African team to get through to the Knockout Stages.

Oztralia 2 – 1 Serbia

Yeah, well goodbye losers.

40 Down 24 To Go 21 Teams Remaining

Extra Extra What We Learned At The Halfway Point

The Competition Has Kicked Off

Yes, the Second Round of Group matches were certainly better than the First Round. Most teams understood that they couldn’t simply defend all the time and play for a draw, even the Swiss, whose adoption of an almost ‘Neutral Country’ option has seen them regularly top both the Haven’t Conceded and the Haven’t Scored tables, realised that at some point they’d have to come out and have a shot, although to be fair they did have something that vaguely resembled a shot in the First Round and it paid off handsomely. The games got faster and more meaningful as we saw Matches That Mattered and teams realised that there was a very real danger of their World Cup ending later this week.

The Goals Are Coming

As teams threw off the shackles of defensive cowardice and started attacking we began to see more goals. Few teams were content to sit on a one goal lead and continued to press their opponents. Some goals were even good, although few of them were up to the Tshabalala standard. However, I distinctly remember exclaiming, “What a goal” more than once during Round 2.

The Cheating Has Started

Grab and Dive, with or without pirouette, is the order of the day. Compulsive penalty box wrestling at every set piece. Not that much deliberate diving, but plenty of subtle blocking and writhing around. All in an attempt to cheat your way to a free kick or some colour of card for the opposition, or both. Not good. I think if it continues, we will see some kind of tv replay system introduced on the fly, if only because the whole world is watching.

Lots of Empty Seats

Now that it’s getting serious I suspect we won’t be seeing too many empty stadiums, but I’d lay money that there will be empty seats at the Uruguay Mexico match, where both teams need only to draw to go through (0 – 0 anyone?). However, too many venues have been conspicuously less than capacity.

Who Has Been Naughty?

It’s goodbye to South Africa, France (very naughty), Nigeria, Greece (very bad),  Algeria,  Oztralia (awful), Serbia (painful). Cameroon, New Zealand (rubbish), Slovakia (tedious), Ivory Coast (unlucky to get Group of Death for the second World Cup in a row), North Korea, and Honduras. You are all officially too crap for the World Cup. Book your flights now.

Who Has Been Nice?

And it’s hello to Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, South Korea, Ghana, Germany, Holland, Paraguay, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Chile. Nicely done South America.

And Who Is Bricking It?

Group C is totally up for grabs with two of Engerland, USA and Slovenia, the permutations are excruciating, but basically all teams have to win to be sure that they will qualify. In Group E Japan and Denmark will duke it out, a draw being enough to take the Japanese through. Group H is so complicated that Spain, Chile and Switzerland could all end up with 6 points and theoretically identical goal differences and goals scored, in which case as Spain will have beaten Chile, who have beaten Switzerland, who have beaten Spain lots would have to be drawn.  Makes penalty shoot outs seem tame by comparison.

And Who Is Really Bricking It Most?

Has to be ever-optimistic no-hopers Engerland, who just seem utterly unable to cope with the pressure of having to play a few matches away from home in front of large television audiences. Basking in unwarrented media acclaim and with performances getting more inadequate by the day, Engerland are a disaster waiting to happen. And while the French are imploding with a farcical degree of hilarity, Engerland can’t even manage an effective internal coup d’etat. One thing is clear, Wednesday could be the most excruciating game of football ever played.