World Cup 2010 Schedule and Log

Numbers in parentheses are team FIFA rankings. Times are all Pacific. Wed Jul 7 20:58:48 UTC 2010

6/11 Mexico(17) 1 - South Africa(83) 1 (Group A)
Great job by the South African keeper. Africa full of tall, strong players who can run all day. Continually pulled the offside trap. Mexico looked sluggish. Is the weather too cold? Strange lack of dribbling from them too. They certainly did not live up to the difference in rankings. SA making full use of home field advantage?

6/11 France(9) 0 - Uruguay(16) 0 (Group A)
France had more chances, but neither team looked inspired. Ribery can still play a bit. Uruguay got a double yellow with 8 minutes to go. France stormed and stormed, but could not break through. Not much memorable soccer here. France is really missing a Zidane. Uruguay wins from a rankings perspective.

6/12 Greece(13) 0 - Korea(47) 2 (Group B) UPSET
Did not see. Total coup for Korea rankings wise.

6/12 Argentina(7) 1 - Nigeria(21) 0 (Group B)
Great header by the unmarked Heinze from the penalty spot on a corner. Argentina had many chances, but luckily did not need them. Watched on Spanish TV. The bias of the announcers for the Latin team was obvious even to me.

6/12 England(8) 1 - USA(14) 1 (Group C)
Which is more embarrassing, the England keeper or the US defense? The latter made two coverage mistakes on one play to give up the goal in just the 7th minute. But England's keeper, Green, amusingly wearing a green shirt which told its color, should have stopped an average speed roller, but had his hands too close together and it spun past him into the goal. Seemingly in every play, Cherundolo had a brilliant game for the US, also keeper Howard. Rooney was stopped, at least for the first three quarters. Amusing to see the super tall and awkward Crouch enter the match. England did look better overall though. They have more stars, the US better teamwork. American defense will be their downfall, though the offense only generated one dangerous shot (not the one that scored).

6/13 Slovenia(25) 1 - Algeria(30) 0 (Group C)
Did not see. Result is as expected against the Cup's only Muslim team. Highlights of the goal made the shot look very soft. Understand an Algerian went out with a second yellow for handling the ball.

6/13 Serbia(15) 0 - Ghana(32) 1 (Group D) UPSET
Tuned into this one in the middle, by which time the referee was already looking extremely tired. It became apparent that the reason was that Serbia were playing a very dirty game. They're blatantly holding, they're using the hand hoping nobody will notice, etc. Eventually it started to catch up with them. They had a guy knocked out with double yellow and then they used the hand in the penalty box. The Ghana penalty kick wasn't all that good, being nearly down the middle, but the keeper guessed wrong and it was off to the African dance. Serbia did have its goal scoring chances, but seemed afflicted with the "must shoot directly at the keeper" disease. Ghana had all the speed and endurance, but didn't really seem to know how to finish, unless they could get a breakaway. Big rankings upset.

6/13 Germany(6) 4 - Australia(20) 0 (Group D)
Typical German opener. Actually I was surprised that Germany won the toss and let the Aussies start with the ball because it almost cost them a goal. After that, German crisp passing and trickery consistently delivered the ball to Klose and Podolski who work brilliantly together. Best-looking team and best performance so far. Refereeing particularly draconian. Two German yellows for diving and a red (third red of the day) for Australia in the second half when the score was 2-0 for a not that bad slide. Two German tricks employed:(1) on the first corner kick defense, instead of marking man to man they created a zone which probably succeeded in confusing the Aussies because their shot hit their own player and(2) Lahm and Schweinsteiger periodically swapped positions which probably threw off their defenders.

6/14 Netherlands(4) 2 - Denmark(36) 0 (Group E)
The Dutch look very good, especially on the attack, and most of the game was spent in the Danish half. They are full of trickery and it was nice to see that they still like to use the long forward ground pass such as was used so effectively by their players Rijkaard and Guillit against Germany in 1986. The Danes still try their English style crosses aiming for headers, but their aim was horribly off. Their defense was very strong though. Every Dutch breakthrough was met a Dane in the right place. Their keeper made some very strong leaping saves as well. It's interesting that after the Green incident, now whenever any goalkeeper catches the ball on the ground, he immediately and ostentatiously falls on it to secure it. That's something new. Finally the Dutch found a way. They crossed one in front of the goal mouth even though there was no Orange player in sight to receive it. There were two Danes, however. The far one decided to head it back in the direction from which it came, a questionable decision at any time, but now terrible as it bounced off the back of his teammate and into the corner of the goal. Finally a Danish header that worked! Then the Dutch got a second one on a breakaway when the keeper's deflection unluckily bounced off the post and other attacker was able to put it away. Later a Dane had to make a miracle save by bicycling it out of the goal at the very last moment. Interesting to see Zidane standing in animated conversation at the top of the stands. The cameras panned to him several times. (The newspaper says he has been very critical of French teamwork; perhaps he's angling to replace the coach?)

6/14 Cameroon(19) 0 - Japan(45) 1 (Group E) UPSET
Despite brilliant sunshine and the participation of an African team, there seemed to be a lot of empty seats for this one, which is too bad as this is the fastest moving game I've seen so far. Both teams love to run all day long. As a consequence of the speed of the defenders, both sides had trouble getting the ball into the scoring area. As soon as they could approach, a defender tended to swarm up and divert the ball. Quite an athletic stop by the Japanese keeper, who landed painfully on his back. The Japanese goal came near the end of the first half from a cross that failed to be headed, but miraculously landed at the attacker's feet from which it was easy to flick past the keeper. Well done by Japan which have not been playing very well lately.

6/14 Italy(5) 1 - Paraguay(31) 1 (Group F)
Serious rain during the first half probably didn't help this somewhat boring match. Italia played their usual defensive game. They were getting the ball forward okay, but seemed to have no idea about how to finish. They kept taking shots that went right at a player as if that would somehow help. Finally they got one off a corner. Paraguay, when they did attack, looked better actually, though they have trouble getting the ball through the middle. Their goal came off a setpiece also, though it was an impressive flying header. Result is quite a coup for them rankings wise. I don't expect much from Italy this year. And it's weird that they replaced goalkeeper Buffon at half time without explanation.

Tue 6/15 Slovakia(34) 1 - New Zealand(78) 1 (Group F) 4:30
New Zealand is ranked slightly higher than South Africa, but on the other hand don't have the home field advantage, so might just be the worst team of the tournament. Of course, North Korea at 105 is rated even lower. Very windy conditions that tended to work against balls played in the air. Slovakia able to put together some nice combinations. New Zealand looked much less impressive, playing in the English style, but they do have tall, fast defenders who were able to block and strip the balls of the opponents. Finally, five minutes into the second half Slovakia crossed one that found a friendly bald head, after hitting a Kiwi head, and put it into the far corner. New Zealand had many screwups; if this is the best Oceania has to offer, New Zealand should follow Australia into the Asian confederation so that it can face better competition and the Oceania should lose its slot. But finally, just when everyone thought it was over, especially Slovakia, a Kiwi with his back to the goal centered one and a Kiwi head put it in, during injury time no less. What a blow to Slovakia as there was no time to do anything about it any more.

Tue 6/15 Portugal(3) 0 - Ivory Coast (27) 0 (Group G) 7:00
With Portugal you can tell right away this is a team of quality. Just a few moments in Cristiano Ronaldo sent a blistering shot off the post from quite a distance out. If one of the New Zealanders from the last game had done it, he'd probably be content to call it a day. But Ronaldo was quite upset that it hadn't gone in. There's simply a different level of expectation here. But Ivory Coast were not intimidated. They run well with the ball, and defend, even if some of their passes are questionable. A lack of teamwork on the offense is probably the biggest obstacle to their becoming a top flight team. Bad blood developed early when Ronaldo was tripped and there was shoving between him and an Ivory Coast defender. The referee gave both simultaneous yellow cards. Scoreless at the half. In the second, the very athletic Ivory Coast keeper pulled down a ball at the top of his jumping ability – very impressive. Twenty minutes into the second half the Ivory Coast star Drogba came in, just as the rain started falling. Portugal lost a probable goal on a corner kick. An Ivory Coast player was holding one of theirs so the Portuguese player pushed back. As the referee only saw the latter, the play which had put the ball in the net was whistled dead. Somehow Ivory Coast got away with a lot more than their share of fouling. Perhaps all these factors can help explain the relative disaster that befell the world number three.

Tue 6/15 Brazil(1) 2 - North Korea(105) 1 (Group G) 11:30
With temperatures barely above freezing, Brazil, where it's always pretty much warm, didn't seem to be playing too well. The Korean defense was numerous, but also calm and skilful. As a result, the score at the half was shockingly still 0-0. In the second half, it was much the same until finally Brazil found a solution in a shot that I bet Korea had never even seen before. Brazilians, on the other hand, grow up with a ball on their foot and have seen and tried everything. The player took it nearly all the way to the touch line and then curved one around the near post to land just inside the far post. The keeper was right there, but probably never imagined such a shot possible, so he was out of position. Later he was out of position again, but by then the entire Korea team looked tired and demoralized. But it was a Brazilian, stop, turn and fire that worked perfectly. Amazingly Korea got one back in the 88th minute via fast play. Brazil wins and yet Korea has nothing to be ashamed about.

Wed 6/16 Chile(18) 1 - 0 Honduras(38) (Group H) 4:30
The field in this one was unfortunately bisected lengthwise by shadow. It was interesting to see the players favoring the shady side to such a large degree. The ball-handling skills of Chile were evident right away. They're the first time I've seen so far that have wanted to play with the ball, dribble it, try to take the ball around a defender and so on. Honduras is mostly on the defensive. Chile is getting off many shots, but somehow missing every time. Eventually with some nice play they took a ball into the corner, passed it to the center and a charging Chilean buried it in the net. 1-0 at the half. And that's the way this probably little seen game ended.

Wed 6/16 Spain(2) 0 - Switzerland(24) 1 (Group H) 7:00 UPSET
Right away one saw that this was the same fast and accurate Spain that won Europe two years ago. In fact the poor Swiss had trouble keeping the ball out of their half. There was a surprisingly large amount of fouling in this game from two teams that are not known for being that way. After all, Spain doesn't need to foul and the Swiss are too polite to do so. Yet there were even yellow cards. The first half ended scoreless. In the second half Spain got a corner kick, but as the Swiss are so tall, then chose not to loft it, but just play it short. Finally the Swiss scored on an ugly, crazy play. They had a breakaway player dribbling up after a throw-in from the midline. He and a Spanish player ended up rolling on the ground in front of the goal when an African Swiss player ran up and finished it, also falling in the process. Not pretty, but it got the job done. Spain was taking eight times the number of shots, but for one reason or another just couldn't get it in. It would go right at the keeper or be off target or whatever. The post and crossbar stopped a lot of shots, even an impressive one by the Swiss. After a while it got kind of eerie; were Spain cursed? And that's how it ended, the score the complete opposite of what had happened on the field, and the first major upset of this cup. The first round is now complete. Sixteen games have produced 39 goals.

Wed 6/16 Uruguay(16) 3 - South Africa(83) 0 (Group A) 11:30
These two teams seemed fairly well matched, though South Africa was committing a lot of infractions. About halfway through the first half Uruguay took a long shot that the keeper probably would have stopped had it not glanced off the back of a South Africa player and then traveled into the goal just under the net where it was absolutely impossible. The keeper was very angry and pointing afterwards. Probably it was because the player should not have blocked it, but it almost looked like he was trying to say that the ball hit off his defender's arm and should be called a handball. That would have been a first, though I suppose taking a yellow card and a free kick are better than giving up a goal. But even so I suppose the referee would just leave the goal under the advantage rule. By the second half it seemed that Uruguay had identified the player who scored Africa's goal in the last game and were not letting him get anywhere. So this is an advantage they have over Mexico who probably found it difficult to even locate any video on this obscure team. Uruguay's number 10, Forlán appears to be quite talented; he is the one who scored the goal and is the designated kicker for all of their setpieces. Thirty minutes into the second half an Uruguay player was chasing a ball toward the goal and the keeper slid out to kick it away. He did kick it, but then the player tripped over his leg. In a rare situation, the keeper was red carded out, though not sure he really deserved it. Everything stopped while a new keeper suited up and prepared to take the penalty kick from a determined looking Forlán. He easily put it in the top left – unstoppable, even though the new keeper guessed right and put a finger on it. At that point they showed a lot of obviously demoralized South Africans leaving the stadium. Possibly they felt cheated and this was a form of protest. Maybe they were fortunate as they missed Uruguay's third goal, this time by another player, a header off a center from the corner area. It looked offside to me, but it was difficult to tell. Uruguay may need extra security after this one. Unfortunately no dancing for Tutu today; Uruguay goes to the top of the group.

Thu 6/17 Argentina(7) 4 - 1 Korea(47) (Group A) 4:30
Korea fought bravely, but Argentina soon showed why they are one of the class teams of this tournament, dribbling and passing around them. Korea was forced several times to resort to fouling. Argentina had an indirect free kick off to the side of the goal. Players lined up parallel to the path between the ball and the goal. The kicker was to place it in front of them and his teammates run onto the ball and try to put it in. Well, he kicked it too hard, or you could argue, just right. It didn't reach any Argentina player, but bounced hard off the leg of a Korea player who just stood there, like I would, and then it bounced right into the goal, much to the keeper's suprrise. A few minutes later Argentina got a double header when a cross first hit one Argentina head and then another and then into the goal. Argentina is doing great with set pieces i this game, though they have plenty of regular shots as well. But Korea never seems to get demoralized. After each goal they come back with a strong shot or two. After the second one they got a breakaway just before the half and buried it in the net. Then just before the end Argentina had a breakaway and after bouncing shots off the keeper and the post in quick succession finally put the rebound in. But still they were not finished. A frew minutes later an Argentine was left open on the side and was able to cross one that got headed in.

Thu 6/17 Greece(13) 2 - 1 Nigeria(21) (Group B) 7:00
Probably not many saw this game of the group's likely also-rans. It was a dirty game too, especially on the part of the Greeks. They kept bringing down Nigerians in their own half. On one Nigerian free kick, the ball came from the side and into the crowd, about to hit a Nigerian head. But the alert Nigerian did not jump. The Greek keeper, believing he would, dived to his right to stop it. But when he didn't jump the ball bounced into the goal right where the keeper had been. From the outside this created a funny spectacle of the ball going to the right and the keeper jumping to the viewer's left. In any case, Nigeria had drawn first blood. The Greeks tried to come back, but couldn't seem to get the ball in close. They contented themselves with low percentage shots from far outside. But Nigeria were not content with this situation. One just had to get even by pushing his spikes into another player's thigh, only to get red carded for his efforts. With Nigeria down to ten, Greece started to make some progress, getting some shots and corners as Nigeria, having the lead, slumped to a defensive posture. Finally they got the equalizer just before the half, an outside shot that deflected very high into the corner of a Nigerian defender. Nothing the frustrated keeper could do. In the second half, Nigeria had chances. On a breakaway after a failed pair of Greek shots, they had a two on one and somehow mis-hit the rebound from the keeper such that it went wide of the open goal. On the other end the Nigerian keeper was kept quite busy, but was happily leaping and stopping them all. But eventually Greece got another one off a keeper rebound from an outside shot. So outside shots can work sometimes it seems.

Thu 6/17 France(9) 0 - 2 Mexico(17) (Group B) 11:30 UPSET
In terms of possession, these two teams were evenly matched, but the number and quality of shots definitely went to Mexico. It was only a matter of time before one went in, though it took the second half to do it. Then a Mexican attacker was brought down on the right side of the box. The old vet Blanco took a nearly perfect penalty at the left side of the net to score in this third world cup. France just doesn't seem to have any creativity at all and unbelievably one of last time's finalists might not even make it out of group play. For Mexico, their next battle is with the rather similar Uruguay. They share goal difference at this point so their goal is to win in order to avoid Argentina (and probably get South Korea) for the next round.

Fri 6/18 Germany(6) 0 - 1 Serbia(15) (Group D) 4:30 UPSET
Eastern European teams always play Germany very tough and physically and this was another game of faking and fouling. Klose kept trying to catch Serbians from behind; he really ought to know better. He's too old and slow to be doing it and besides it's not necessary. The fact that he was trying no doubt shows he wasn't getting enough balls and he was impatient. The first time he got a yellow card the Serbian player dived without being touched, but the second time he deserved it, kicking the player's foot rather than the ball. Just after he left, Serbia got a ball right in front from the goal after digging it out of the corner and put it in. Germany stormed back, bombing the Serbian goal over and over, but by the half, the score was Serbia 1, Germany 0, the referee 17, being the approximate number of names he'd written in his little yellow book. In the second half, a Serbian player reached for the ball with his hand in the box. Podolski took the penalty, but did a horrible job of it and put it right into the goalkeeper's body. In the second half of the second half, Serbia stopped trying to score, even when they had good ball positions, and shortsightedly just tried to maintain the status quo, which did work. Germany's Mueller had a bad game, or you could say he was under a lot of pressure, because his crosses from the corner were way off the mark. In the later stages Podolski should have been pulled because he needs Klose to operate well. He kept taking low percentage statement shots rather than working to get realistic ones. Well maybe this will be a wakeup call to Germany that against good teams they need to sit those older players down and start the younger ones. Kaiser Beckenbauer had some interesting thoughts in his newspaper column after this game.

Fri 6/18 USA(14) - Slovenia(25) (Group C) 7:00
US goalkeeper Tim Howard was back after the collision his ribs had with English striker Heskey last match. Otherwise US problems on the defense continued. Once again two attackers were left unmarked and had an easy time firing one into the corner. The US really must get out of this rut of letting the other team score first. The US stormed back, bombing the opposite goal again and again, coming very close, but never sealing the deal. Then Slovenia, on a breakaway managed to score a second. So it stood at the half. The US pulled Findley and Torres for the second half, presumably to stimulate more offense. A couple minutes into the second half the US made a long pass to Landon Donovan on the right. The Slovenian defender took a stupid chance and slid to stop it, only he missed, leaving Donovan free with the just the ball and the goalkeeper. Despite the acute angle, he fooled the keeper into thinking he might fire low and easily shot one above his head for a goal. The second US goal was scored by Bradley, again on a very long pass into the box which found him unmarked. The US should note this kidn of tactic for the future. What a father's day gift from Bradley to his father the US coach. This entire game felt like a titanic battle and when the US equalized so much tension was released that the celebration was like a go-ahead goal. The US actually scored a third goal, which was incorrectly called back by a foul call. Actually the Slovenes had been flagrantly holding the US players. This ended, more a triumph for the Slovenes and a disappointment for the US amid a controversial call, though it did show that the US is strong enough mentally to come back from a serious deficit.

Fri 6/18 England(8) 0 -0 Algeria(30) (Group C) 11:30
England decided to replace goalkeeper Green for this match, a decision I would not have taken. His slip was not that bad. You shouldn't crush a man like that. That said, his replacement did play quite well. Actually the real missing man was Beckham whose talented foot England surely could have used. England have most of the advantage, certainly in shots. Algeria has no trouble moving through the middle, but can't get the ball to its strikers, probably a result of playing too many in the back. England only got off a few shots. Scoreless at the half. In the second half England did better, but still just could not score. Rooney had another quiet day. It seems the World Cup is just not his event. Oncce again England brought in Crouch late in the game, but to no avail. An impressive result for Algeria. What a crazy group this is turning out to be.

Sat 6/19 Netherlands(4) 1 - 0 Japan(45) (Group E) 4:30
Did not see. The Dutch apparently scored on a big blast in the 53rd minute.

Sat 6/19 Australia(20) 1 - 1 Ghana(32) (Group D) 7:00
Did not see. Apparently Australia red carded out a guy due to handball (and suffered a goal due to penalty) and had to hold on for sixty-six minutes. The Aussies made six changes in the lineup since their first disastrous game. Their star Kewell, considered injured before, suited up for this one, but was the one red carded. Ghana is now the surprise leader of this group.

Sat 6/19 Cameroon(19) 1 - 2 Denmark(36) (Group E) 11:30 UPSET
Cameroon are seeking to be only the second African team to win a game here. Their main striker found himself unmarked in front of the goal, received a pass from the side and put it in. The Danish goal came from a long pass to the right corner which found its sprinter Rommedahl lightly marked. He crossed it low where Bendtner was charging in and it wasn't hard to put it past the wrong-facing keeper. As the matches go on, it appears that the accurate very long pass makes for some of the easiest and also most attractive goals. More teams need to practice this tactic. Both teams were desperate to win to avoid automatic elimination so a curious thing happened after that. Both threw caution to the winds and only left a few players on defense. As a consequence the ball fairly flew back and forth between the two boxes with one excellent scoring opportunity after another. But no more succeeded before the half. Early in the second half this continued until finally Rommedahl scored. Now Denmark's attacks became more half-hearted, but Cameroon pulled a defender to add another on the offense and now attacked over and over again. Cameroon is the first team decidedly out while Denmark breathes new life.

Sun 6/20 Paraguay(31) 2 - 0 Slovakia(34) (Group F) 4:30
Both teams are coming off 1-1 ties. Right away Paraguay, in their intimidating red kit (though the wide white stripes resemble bowling shirts), did some impressive shooting into the upper corner of the opposing goal. Only a very impressive keeper leap stopped it, and even then he had to give up a corner kick. Slovakia doesn't seem to possess the same kind of ball handling skill that Paraguay does and had difficulty delivering the ball to scoring positions. Another contrast is that some Slovakians have shaved heads while some Paraguayans wear hair holders. After twentysomething minutes Paraguay scored as a result of some nice passing in front of the goal, the keeper unable to adjust to the rapidly changing situation. In the waning minutes of the second half they got a second one in the aftermath of a free kick. Their players seem to have a good ability to find free space and are calm finishers. It's looking to be a good cup for the South American teams; perhaps South Africa's Southern Hemisphere trumps Eastern Hemisphere?

Sun 6/20 Italy(5) 1 - 1 New Zealand(78) (Group F) 7:00
What a shock! Five minutes in, New Zealand has a long distance free kick toward the goal. It bounces off Cannavaro toward the goal and a New Zealander runs up and kicks it in. In the twentieth minute a Kiwi was holding an Italian shirt in the box while the Italian tried to run toward the goal. Finally he fell, though it's a little unclear whether it was because of the shirt or deliberately. In any event, the penalty kick guessed right and evened the score. This was a fairly dirty game. Although not a lot of cards were given, there was plenty of shoving, also diving. Apart from Cannavaro's lapse, Italy showed the superior play. Some of the Kiwi defense ideas are weird. After a strong shot bounced off their keeper, their defender kicked the ball over the touch line, giving away a corner. Thus ended the first half. The second half was about the same, without the scoring. Curious incident of a Kiwi lying on the ground, writhing in pain, until the stretcher arrived, at which point he jumped right up. The annoyed referee promptly issued a yellow card, apparently just to penalize delay of game. Not sure I see the point since it can just add to the injury time anyway. Also puzzling is that the New Zealanders call their team the "All Whites" which sounds a racially-loaded term. Still, they did well to tie today and from the way they and their fans were celebrating, obviously counted as a win in their books.

Sun 6/20 Brazil(1) 3 - 1 Ivory Coast(27) (Group G) 11:30
Brazil came out firing, almost scoring a long shot that sailed just a little over the crossbar. But their first score didn't happen until the 25th minute when a lax defense let Fabiano have the ball right in front of the keeper. He shot a high, hard shot similar to Landon Donovan's to score. By the way, anyone else notice that ABC announcer Martin Tyler has no idea how to pronounce Kaká? Most of the rest of the half was Ivory Coast trying to storm back, but they were unable to penetrate the box and contented themselves with low percentage outside shots that did nought. Five minutes into the second half Fabiano scored again, on a broken run through several defenders. At one point though, the ball went very high and he used his upper arm to bring it down – a handball. Too bad for Ivory Coast that one of the overzealous referees from other matches was not present for this one. Brazil's third goal came from a ground cross that reached a Brazilian attacker who was unaccountably allowed to get ahead of his defender as Ivory Coast looked increasingly despondent. Two of these goals were set up by Kaká, obviously the man for defenders to beware of, if they weren't already. In the 79th minute Drogba finally flicked a header into the corner of the goal for Ivory coast. The end of the game was fairly ridiculous. Kaká got a deserved yellow for pushing and shoving after a dustup. But a few minutes later he was just standing there when an opponent accidentally ran into him and probably deliberately fell to the ground. With that the MVP of the day was sent off with a second yellow, which will keep him out of the Portugal match.

Mon 6/21 Portugal(3) 7 - 0 North Korea(105) (Group H) 4:30
After not scoring in their last match, Portugal came out looking very energetic and determined. They did have the advantage in the early going, though I was surprised at how close to the Portuguese box the North Koreans were able to develop play. They passed very well. It was just shooting that they were unable to do. Then a hard rain started falling. Eventually a Portuguese pass came rolling up to the goal. The striker timed his run perfectly and put it in with ease. Their second goal came in the second half when three defenders tried to stop two, but nobody marked Simao coming up on the right, who when he got the ball, put it in easily. Just a minute later, another goal, this time a header centered from the left. Portugal has definitely recovered its mojo today. Korean defense has seemed to evaporate as yet another goal is scored. A failed Korean attempt to clear the ball in front of the goal results in a fifth one – this is getting like shooting fish in a barrel. A Ronaldo bleeding at the ankle got a sixth one on a steal from a lackadaiscal defender. Then there's a seventh headed in a minute later. This game is turning into a highlight reel. But it doesn't reach Hungary's 1982 blowout of El Salvador, 10-1. Hungary also did for the other Korea in 1954, 9-0.

Mon 6/21 Chile(18) 1 - 0 Switzerland(24) (Group H) 7:00
Chili with Swiss? Not since Turkey played Greece or Hungary have there been food references on both sides. This was a big game because both have high hopes of going through and Chile has yet to play Spain, who Switzerland have already beaten. From the beginning the Swiss defense was holey, permitting several excellent Chilean shots, though the Italian-looking keeper Benaglio was up to them. Referee in this one tried an interesting tractic before the free kick, possibly to avoid problems like those that happened in the USA-Sloenia match. He called out a certain player and gave a verbal warning before the play began. It seemed to have good effect. About thirty minutes in Chileans started diving on every close contact. Eventually the card-happy referee obliged them and red-carded out the Swiss player who had just been playing the ball. He did push his hand back, but in no way did he punch his opponent in the face as claimed. That does it. I've had it with referee problems in this tournament. They need to go to video challenges as soon as possible. It's just criminal to have all of this technology and not use it. Even worse, once players see all these cards, they start faking even more, just to take advantage of it. At times this verged on the ridiculous and I wondered if the whole match was going to have to be called off. After this, it was just a matter of time before Chile scored, but that time wasn't until 30 minutes into the second half that it happened, and then only because the keeper foolishly came way too far out his station. In the 45th minute through some clever passing the Swiss still were able to almost score, but the shot went just wide. Although not very fairly, the South American team triumphs again.

Mon 6/21 Spain(2) 2 - 0 Honduras(38) (Group G) 11:30
No one expected Europe's best team to have any trouble with North America's third best and it was only fifteen minutes before Spain scored, an excellent falling down shot into the top of the net. Finally Spain breaks its drought. Five minutes into the second half they did it again and you felt they were just toying with the Hondurans at this point. They made so many uncontested passes in front of the goal, each of which could have been a shot instead, that when it came the shot was almost an anti-climax. The Spanish guys are not that tall so it's interesting to see them play free and corner kicks. They don't even bother to try for the header and play it low instead. Late in the second half Spain was permitted to kick a penalty. Incredibly, it was kicked wide of the post, and on the ground yet! Haven't seen that before in World Cup play. Indeed it was surprising that the final score was too low and I fear Spain's fans must still feel a bit of nervousness, despite the win today. This games ends the first part of the cup. Now come the simultaneous games. Thanks goodness for the end of 4:30 AM play!

Tue 6/22 Uruguay(16) 1 - 0 Mexico(17) (Group A) 7:00
This game probably determines which of these two teams will emerge as the best from this group, very important because that team will in all likelihood be the one to avoid meeting Argentina in the next stage. So both teams came out firing. Mexico even started the old vet Blanco, who in the two previous games was only a late addition. Number 10 didn't seem to do too much in the first half, apart from writhe on the ground. The two teams were pretty evenly matched though, both getting off some very good shooting opportunities. Perhaps Uruguay had more, but Mexico's were of better quality, a couple times only being stopped by the keeper's friend, the post. The Uruguayan star Forlán was pushed to the ground in front of the Mexican goal, but no penalty was called. In the 43rd minute, Uruguay finally drew blood as Suarez headed home a perfect diagonal cross. Meanwhile the shocking score of the simultaneous France - South Africa game was transmitted to us. So going into the half, two teams are pretty happy. At the start of the second half, Uruguay seemed even more energetic, storming the Mexican goal over and over. They essentially had three corners in a row. Only the assiduousness of the Mexican keeper prevented further scoring. In the middle of the half, Blanco was pulled, never having had the chance to take the penalty that he may have been put in to take. Uruguay perhaps sensed one goal would have to do for the day and tended to pull back to a defensive shell and so there were many more Mexican forays. After a while Mexican frustration led to lack of focus. Receiving a pass in the box, one of them decided it was time to start dribbling, despite being triple-defended. Of course that didn't go far. Forlán looks so much like a north Italian; wonder if the original family name was Forlani. So Uruguay wins and does look better than Mexico, albeit only slightly. They play well, but there must be doubts about how far either one can go against the top teams in the next round. Uruguay goes through as the winner of this group and Mexico goes through also, having better goal difference than South Africa. They have the unenviable task, however, of likely taking on Argentina.

Tue 6/22 France(9) 1 - 2 South Africa(83) (Group A) 7:00 UPSET
Contemplating French fortunes calls to mind Greek tragedy, as if the sins of Zidane four years ago still need to be played out. True he was provoked, he was retiring anyway and Materazzi was a butthead, but when he head butted him, he took himself out of the final and also out of the penalty kicking, at which he certainly would not have missed. This was a sin against soccer. Four years later we saw the trouble France had in trying to qualify and how they eventually came in ahead of Ireland via the dubious means of a handball. Now they have had untold troubles getting to this game and they didn't cease today. The first South African goal shouldn't have been that, but a foul on the player who scored it. It was a nice header, actually shoulder, from a corner kick. The fact that it was a shoulder should be a clue. The reason he got that high was that he was using the shoulder blades of the French player marking him to jump up higher and in fact eventually pushed the Frenchman to the ground. The French must have been annoyed at this. "So that's the way you're gonna play, huh?" So on the next corner up goes Gourcuff and in the air pushes at the head of the South African jumping beside him. Tit for tat, he did about the same as was done to his team, no? Not if you're a character in tragedy. This one the referee saw. Gourcuff red carded out. So now the team that is cheating has a goal and the team that is the victim of it has only ten men. That South Africa scored another goal in the first half was hardly a surprise. That they again did it using questionable legality, that it wasn't called, and they didn't score even more may be. Well, so long France, who twice beat Brazil under the most difficult circumstances. I don't know what it will take for you to restore your state; it might not even be able to happen within four years.

Tue 6/22 Argentina(7) 2 - 0 Greece(13) (Group B) 11:30
Argentina didn't care too much about this game. The chance that they would not go through to the next round was very small, involving some other team winning a game by 5 goals or more. I think they had only three minor reasons to want to play hard: (1) some preference for playing Mexico over Uruguay who probably beat them in qualifying; (2) for pride and (3) to get Messi some goals as he's still to find his first one. Nevertheless they dominated most of the game, which was quite puzzling once South Korea tied and then went ahead in their game. Once that happened, Greece had nothing to lose and should have put ten men forward. Why didn't they? Trying to save face? Let's hope nothing so ridiculous. Yet there they were, hanging back and only occasionally attempting anything, and then with only the one guy, the hapless number 7. On the Argentine side, there were many shots on goal, most expertly stopped by the Greek keeper who didn't let much get by him. The post stopped Messi's powerful shot. Argentina didn't play several of its regulars, probably because they're carrying yellow cards, else they might have scored more. Maradona seemed quite happy with the result anyway. Funny moment of the game, maybe the tournament: when the Greek keeper got in an argument with his defender and could very clearly be seen gesturing to him get out there and defend instead of blocking his kick and giving away a corner!

Tue 6/22 Nigeria(21) 2 - 2 South Korea(47) (Group B) 11:30 UPSET
On the attack, perhaps surprisingly, the Koreans are too fast for the defending Nigerians. But the Nigerians are much bigger players. Perhaps that's what so often tempts the Nigerians to manhandle the Koreans to the ground. This happened so many times that these should have been yellow cards, not to mention that several were breakaway attacks. So maybe it's not surprising that Nigeria struck first, by outrunning the defender to reach a cross on on the ground. As usual though, Korea never looked discouraged. Then Korea got one on a free kick from just outside the box. They didn't try to out-head the opposition, but placed it close to the goal, at which point a Korean ran up and tipped it in. 1-1 going into the half. The second Korean goal came right after the rest period. It was a direct kick and the Nigerians must have constructed their wall badly because Korea did something you almost never see at this level: curl the ball around the wall and right into the corner of the goal. Nigeria had a beautiful attempt when they dribbled right up, crossed just a little pass to an open man practically on the goal line who unaccountably booted it wide. The keeper couldn't have done a thing and yet he missed an open goal. This must the be worst miss of the entire cup. Shortly after came a strange penalty call. A Korean was dribbling the ball, a Nigerian interposed himself so fast that the Korean ended up kicking him. Nigeria took a pretty good penalty shot, helped by the keeper guessing wrong, and evened it 2-2. But it mattered not. Despite their efforts, Nigeria had no chance to go through and yet another team falls by the wayside. Korea goes on to face Uruguay, which promises to make for an entertaining match.

Wed 6/23 USA(14) - Algeria(30) (Group C) 7:00
Once again the USA is cheated of a goal, being called offside on Dempsey's when it looked pretty clear he was even with the last defender. Will these referee gaffes never end? They're making a shambles of this tournament. At least the US didn't give up a goal in the first half, though not for want of trying. Algeria came very close, but their best shot went off the crossbar. Dempsey had a very good half, getting the ball a lot and generally doing good things with it. Altidore screwed up an almost certain goal, kicking it way over the bar. 0-0 at the half and I'm astonished 45 minutes have passed. One of the fastest halfs of the tournament so far. TV gives a statistic that Algeria has had 54% possession and the US only 46%. How misleading. When the US has the ball, they're not sitting on it, but always move, driving, advancing and shooting. It's fun, exciting soccer. Now it's the second half and Algeria were just baldly cheated of a possession right under the linesman's nose. Is this supposed to make us feel better? Now Altidore has been given a yellow just because an Algerian took a dive; he didn't even touch him. Just keep it up referees! Until the stink of these outrages is so noisome that FIFA will be forced to change its staid ways and introduce video review, finally joining the 21st century! Now Dempsey is elbowed and bleeds from the mouth; there is no call and he has to leave the pitch to get cleaned up. Algeria has more than twice the number of fouls the US has, and that's not even counting the ones not called. Bill Clinton is at this game; we should have him file a formal protest. The US has brought in Damarcus Beasley, stalwart of the last cup. I remember him as mostly fast, not very skilled. Can he still be even fast four years later? Wonder why we are digging so deep. Actually this game seems like Dempsey vs. Algeria; he seems to be everywhere, involved in nearly every important play. He is even taking some of the setpieces. A minute from the end and the US has yet to score on its many chances. Now Beasley has been booked for a handball in the box. Four minutes of extra time. Unbelievable! A minute in the US finally scores! It's a breakaway and Landon finishes it on the rebound. Original shot by Altidore I believe. US fans hold up a sign reading "Yes we can!" Now Algeria commit a foul on their corner and decide to argue, so they get a yellow. They continue to argue and so their captain gets a red. It's high time considering the outrages this team has perpetrated throughout this match. And the fouling continues the nevertheless. Altidore was just brought down on the sideline. But it matters not. We have a point in the books and now have won. Landon kicks the ball into the crowd in jubilation. No jersey swapping in this one. Nobody wants the jersey of a dirty cheater. The US must be through! They're through! On to the next round!

Wed 6/23 England(8) 1 - 0 Slovenia(25) (Group C) 7:00
Finally Rooney seemed to find himself and England won to take second in the group.

Wed 6/23 Germany(6) 1 - 0 Ghana(32) (Group D) 11:30
It was a Ghanaian player who injured German captain Ballack (in the FA cup final) so it was interesting to see if there would be any bad blood between the teams. This player is also the half brother of a Germany team player. Both Boatengs did start the game, the German one at right half, the Ghanaian at right back, so the didn't seem to meet very much. Germany didn't look comfortable for much of this game. In the first half though they had more shots, Ghana had the better ones. Ghana did the majority of undetected fouling and diving as well. By the half Germany had not scored for the last three halves. Finally in the second half Özil managed to put one in from outside the semi-circle, a hard air shot into the corner which fortunately didn't hit any Ghanaians and which was totally unreachable by the keeper. Around this time the Aussies scored twice on Slovenia making it virtually certain that Germany and Ghana would go through, unless Australia got more goals. Ghana did not sit on its laurels though and tried hard to score. Keeper Neuer had a busy time as Germany didn't leave many defenders, but he was up to the task and managed to stop many fine shots. Mueller didn't have a particularly good day and Schweinsteiger, though he did, had to come out with a slight injury to his upper right leg – though this stoic player protested that he was fine. Germany goes though to meet old rival England (no. 6 vs. no. 8) while the US will play Ghana, an opponent not dissimilar to the Nigeria they beat this morning. Müller got a yellow card in this game.

Wed 6/23 Serbia(15) 1 - 2 Australia(20) (Group D) 11:30
For a long time neither team could make any headway. Finally one Serbian had a very long run all on his own, was one on one with the keeper, which almost certainly should have gone in, but he skyed it. Again the Serbian team were not too shy to foul, yet the Australians were not pulled into their dirty tactics. Serbia had another chance, firing very close, but the keeper stuck his hand out and was able to get to the rebound faster than the shooter could. But still, Australia playing in their yellow with green trim, couldn't anything near a shot when they had the ball. The main problem seemed to be not sending enough players forward. Finally they sent more up and succeeded in at least directing a weak, bouncing header at the goal just before the half. After the half both sides seemed to be into the game of diving, for which yellow cards were duly arranged. Finally in the twenty-third minute a diagonal cross hit Cahill, who headed it in to the corner of the Serbian goal. Very English style. After that Serbia seemed to get new respect for Australian heading abilities and played their corner kicks short. he second Aussie goal came just four minutes later, a long shot from way outside the semi-circle that arrived on a bounce, but right into the corner. What life the Sockeroos have found so late in their World Cup career. Serbia got one back by a clever backpass when one defender was covering two attackers. This led to a shot and a Serbian lurking near the goal put away the rebound. After that both teams really renewed their efforts, but to no avail and both end their World Cup 2010 experience here on what looked to be a very cold night in South Africa.

Thu 6/24 Italy(5) 2 - 3 Slovakia(34) (Group F) 7:00 UPSET
Italy has not been playing well, but not handle Slovakia? The past champions are out in the first round! Did not see, but am not sorry that this boring brand of soccer is not continuiing. Hope this causes a major re-evaluation of Italian national soccer. Italia out.

Thu 6/24 Paraguay(31) 0 - 0 New Zealand(78) (Group F) 7:00
Interesting to see New Zealand come out in their all-black uniforms after last time seeing their all whites. Apparently the use the same color scheme Germany does. Paraguay, on the other hand, has extended their bowling shirt stripes to their socks such that the resemble candy canes. Ridiculous. Unfortunately a Kiwi took a dive and the referee fell for it, awarding a Paraguayan his second yellow card of the tourney, meaning he'll miss the next game. Paraguay are good ball handlers and think nothing of trying to dribble by even a pair of defenders. But New Zealand are careful, scrupulous defenders who don't prmit much to get through. They sort of nibble away at the ball handler until he loses it, thereby usually avoiding any kind of foul. But putting together goal chances was not easy for them. In consequence, Oceania's representative does not survive this round, despite never having been beaten. As for Paraguay, they can probably do well, though vulnerable to the more powerful South American teams.

Thu 6/24 Denmark(36) 1 - 3 Japan(45) (Group E) 11:30 UPSET
Japan played with great energy as they always do. Neither side could score, however, until Japan took a free kick and curled it right over the wall and into the net. Then they did the same thing. It's unclear if the Japanese free kicker is extra special or if the Danes just don't know how to set up walls, but this was the only scoring until near the end when Denmark got one. But then the melancholy Danes let them have one more after leaving two guys undefended deep in their area. This was a critical game; it's too bad it wasn't more competitive. As a result, a very good looking Japan goes through and Scandinavia loses its last representative in the tournament.

Thu 6/24 Netherlands(4) - Cameroon(19) (Group E) 11:30
Did not see. Netherlands were almost certainly going through while Cameroon was already out. Expected Netherlands to start all subs, try new formations, etc., but instead they won! Apparently Robben came back for this game which may have helped. Cameroon got a penalty between the two goals.

Fri 6/25 Ivory Coast(27) 0 - 3 North Korea(105) (Group G) 7:00
Did not see. The poor North Koreans. Hope they will be okay when they get home.

Fri 6/25 Brazil(1) 0 - 0 Portugal(3) (Group H) 7:00
This dream matchup between two powerhouses of the sport has been sadly botched by FIFA. These two teams should have played in the first round of group games, not the last. Now Brazil doesn't even care whether they win or lose since they are sure to go through anyway, so they're only playing for pride. Yet in the early going it was all Brazil anyway, even without Kaká. Over and over they threatened while the much-vaunted number three in the world couldn't even get off a shot. Fabiano got himself a yellow card, though. Not wise, and why was he in there playing in a game that does not matter? On the other hand, some of the Portugal players are not that bright either. On a breakaway, a Brazilian player brought the ball to the ground with his hand and was promptly issued a yellow card. But Duda ran up to argue anyway; apparently he wanted a red? So guess what. He got a yellow for arguing! If I were a player, I hope I'd be smart enough not to argue with the referee when he still has the yellow card out 'cause it's way too tempting to use it again. The next time Portugal came down it was Silva who got a yellow, for taking a dive in the box. For all their skill, the Portuguese are just not playing smart at all. And yet the Brazilians don't learn from their example and keep earning their own yellow cards as well. It will be hilarious if the main thing these two Portuguese-speaking teams do is implode their chances in this match. 0-0 at the half. Portugal had the ball to start the second and Ronaldo was seen to have a long conversation with the referee. Trying to re-establish a good feeling? Promising to do less fouling? There was a little more carding anyway, but as it became clearer that both Portuguese-speaking teams would go through in the event of at tie, play became half-hearted and rather boring to watch.

Fri 6/25 Switzerland(24) 0 - 0 Honduras(38) (Group G) 11:30
Watched simultaneously with Spain v. Chile. The Swiss dominated most of this game, desperately needing a win to follow up their incredible upset of Spain, and they bombed the goal area time after time, but they just don't have anyone who can finish. Three-quarters of the way through they relieved Nkofo with Frei, their old vet, but he couldn't do better. A few times Honduras almost struck on the fast break, particularly late in the game as the Swiss practically neglected defense in support of scoring, but to no avail. As a consequence, ingnominious defeat for North America's third best team and no promotion for the Swiss either. Spain and Chile will continue on from this group.

Fri 6/25 Spain(2) 2 - 1 Chile(18) (Group H) 11:30
Watched simultaneously with Switzerland v. Honduras. There wasn't a great deal of effort in this game as both teams were likely to go through, particularly Chile. The only real danger was Chile winning by a big margin, which would let the Swiss in. After Spain got the first goal this became less and less likely. Peculiarly, this game had more scoring than the one that needed it: Switzerland v. Honduras. Spain are finally finding their championship form.

Sat 6/26 Uruguay(1A) 2 - 1 South Korea(2B) 7:00 (Game 1)
Did not see. Guessed it would be a good game and the highlights seemed to indicate it was. Uruguay scored already in the eighth minute, then Korea equalized. Uruguay finally went ahead in the eightieth minute with a tremendous goal. The striker was double covered, dribbled around his defenders and kicked such a perfect banana into the corner of the goal that I think most of the defenders were shocked that such could even be possible. Future opponents, watch out for number 9 (Suarez)! Uruguay appears to be quite good and yet it's sad to lose Korea as they provided a lot of exciting soccer.

Sat 6/26 USA(1C) 1 - 2 Ghana(2D) 11:30 (Game 2) UPSET
Another bad beginning for the US. Not only did they fail to close down the fast Ghanaian attack that led to a goal, Clark got a yellow card almost immediately after. All of this in the first seven minutes. I have to believe that Coach Bradley's pre-game speeches must be the worst ever devised. As Klinsmann says, the important thing about that speech is to make the players feel loose and calm. My guess is that what Old School Bradley does is to put pressure on them with this "the eyes of the nation are upon you" approach, which of course is completely wrong. No wonder it takes them half a game to feel comfortable out there. A few minutes later Cherundolo, one of the most valuable players for the US, got beat and committed a retaliation, got a yellow and will be out next round. Most of the US are not playing well and Ghana are dominating the game. Dempsey is an exception with a good strong shot that was stopped and an excellent lead that Findley failed to finish well enough. Strongly suspect that Donovan should be moved up to striker with Dempsey feeding him. 1-0 at the half on the goal from Boateng. In the second half, Feilhaber replaced Findley and immediately things got better. He himself took had a good opportunity on the left and later made a great pass to Dempsey who continued to play well. When Dempsey's excellent opportunity was terminated by being brought down in the box, Donovan stepped up to put it away on a penalty, bouncing it in from the right post. Thirteen minutes before the end of regulation time, Boateng came out with an apparent hamstring injury, which appeared a very good omen for the US. Regulation time finished 1-1. Two minutes into the extra time a high bouncer was too tricky for the US defense to handle and Ghana were able to put it in hard and high over Tim Howard's head. The US tried and tried, but to no avail. In the corner kicks of the final minutes, even the goal keeper came forward and it was a surreal sight to see the two keepers both jumping for the same ball. But Ghana repeated their 2006 victory and sadly the US run ends here.

Sun 6/27 Germany(1D) 4 - 1 England(2C) 7:00 (Game 3)
Germany fans had plenty of concern before this match as both Schweinsteiger and Boateng were potentially out with injuries. In the event, however, both did play, and apparently without difficulty. In addition, expert striker Miroslave Klose returned from his red card suspension. His partnership with Podolski was renewed, to their mutual profit. In no time Germany was ahead 2-0, one for Klose and one for Podolksi. The only question was, why doesn't Klose do his trademark forward flip any more. Then England got one back. Then they almost got another one. Actually they did get a second one, only the referee didn't see it. The ball bounced off the crossbar, hard, and then down, then back up to hit the bar again and down again. The German keeper picked himself up after his dive, dusted himself off and kicked it away. The referee, positioned outside the semi-circle, couldn't see it. Demoralizing for England, not to mention for soccer fans everywhere? You bet. In the second half, Germany's Müller who has been doing yeomanlike work the entire cup finally got one also. By the end it was 4-0 and Germany was putting in subs who probably never expected to see playing time. Defenders like Boateng were even taking shots, just so he could someday say, "Yeah, I took a shot in the World Cup." England's troubled career, sans Beckham and sans Ferdinand ends while Germany goes on with renewed confidence, the earlier loss to Serbia mostly forgotten and dismissed as an aberration.

Sun 6/27 Argentina(1B) 3 - 1 Mexico(2A) 11:30 (Game 4)
It took quite a while for this one to develop. Not that much was expected of Mexico, but they held off Argentina for quite some time. Meanwhile they had two excellent shots, both of which were unlucky, one hitting the crossbar and one going barely wide. But eventually Argentina struck, and then struck again. But on the second, once again the chaotic refereeing struck as well. In face Agentina had clearly been offside and about eleven Mexican players told the Italian referee so. The referee went over to talk to the linesman for quite some time and everyone thought we would see a rare undoing of a referee call. But alas, no. It had been a very fast-moving play and perhaps the linesman did not see it properly. But unfortunately both officials got it wrong. After that the wind went out of the Mexican sails. They frustrated, lazy and sloppy. They blatantly pushed Heinze down, strangely avoiding any card for it. At the half, Heinze's shortest path leaving the field took him behind the Mexican bench, where some possible collision of words led to a collision of bodies and pushing and shoving. I wonder if the referee is permitted to issue a card during the intermission. It was in the second half that Mexico pretty much had its meltdown. One defender, instead of clearing the ball, just kicked a weak dribbler to an Argentinian striker right in front of the goal. He might as well have kicked it into his own goal as the striker did not let that opportunity go. In addition, Mexico totally ignored for some reason of developing the attack along the wings. Even if you don't feel confident crossing to a header, this can be useful for opening up the defense and so on. It's a shame they always drove up the middle and thus often lost hte ball. Judging from previous games it seems Mexico could have done much better. It's too bad that their emotional intelligence and the referee conspired to beat them so badly this day. So next it will be Argentina v. Germany, perhaps two of the top four teams in the tournament and a match happening rather too early. This one could easily have been the final and it's too bad that one of the teams will have to go home already. This will be a match not to miss. On the other hand, we hoped for two good matches today, but instead got two spankings.

Mon 6/28 Netherlands(1E) 2 - 1 Slovakia(2F) 7:00 (Game 5)
It must be a nice time to be a Netherlands fan. They're in their fourth game already and have yet to be truly tested. With Slovakia coming out of a weak group and not impressing all that much, this game was not likely to provide it either. The first Dutch goal, seventeen minutes into the match, was instructive. Their player was dribbling, outside the box, parallel to the goal when he suddenly turned and fired. The low ball found the corner of the net just wide of the fingers of the diving keeper. Dutch players take a lot of shots like this so let their opponents beware. The second Dutch goal came on the type of play that every team is able to create, but sadly so few manage to exploit. One Dutch striker was up in the front corner and received a very long pass. He expertly controlled it, turned and sent a medium roller to the center where it found the foot of another charging Dutch player whose easy shot did not miss. Textbook soccer. Why during the final injury time their keeper found it necessary to foul a Slovakian in the box is a mystery. Maybe he'd never had a yellow card before and wanted to see what it was like? Slovakia did not disappoint; they put the penalty kick right in as the keeper guessed wrong. The next second the game ended. The Dutch train rolls on without a hitch. We know they're good. Maybe if they meet Brazil next we'll find out if they are great.

Mon 6/28 Brazil(1G) 3 - 0 Chile(2H) 11:30 (Game 6)
Here are two teams that know each other very well. While other teams might be overawed by the legend and reputation of Brazil, Chile is probably much more aware of the reality, both good and bad. Both teams came out looking determined to score first. In the very earliest play it was surprisingly Chile getting off the shots. But Brazil soon came back with a fast break that Fabiano failed to finish and then a triple corner kick which also failed to produce anything, Chile's keeper once making quite a good diving save. Chile had trouble getting the ball and even worse, getting it out of their half, though at length they did, only to see it come back quickly in a very fast-moving and fluid match. Kaká is back in for Brazil after sitting out due to double yellow card, but hasn't done a great deal in the first third. Instead it's Lucio, the captain, who seems involved in every significant play, is having a lot of physical contact, and even some words with the opposition to the point of being verbally cautioned by the referee. Although Chile is getting shots off, they are not of the quality of Brazil's, which except for the quality of the keeper might easily go in. Julio Cesar, minding the goal for Brazil, has yet to be seriously challenged in this match. In the 34th minute a Brazilian corner finds a head which propels the ball on a nearly flat trajectory into the top of the goal. Chile's keeper was jumping for it in the right place, but was just a fraction of a second late. Just two minutes later Brazil struck again on a very fast break with Kaká getting the assist. With the score 2-0 at the half, it's looking dark and cold for Chile. In the second half, a third goal for Brazil. Only now do Chile start to take some good chances, but it's much too late. I had hoped to get some titanic back-and-forth matches at this stage, but the last three games have been wipeouts. So Chile is the first of the South Americans to go home while the Brazilian machine motors on to, let's hope, a more tightly-contested match with the Netherlands.

Tue 6/29 Paraguay(1F) 0(5) - 0(3) Japan(2E) 7:00 (Game 7)
Here are two teams that appear well matched. Paraguay is better at developing the attack, but Japan is very good at stealing and at the fast break. Paraguay is getting off more shots in the first half, one of which bounced off keeper Kawashima, but which was promptly escorted out of the area by not one, but two Japanese defenders. Now that's teamwork. Right afterwards, Japan sent in a screaming shot from impossibly far out, which just missed by hitting the crossbar. Paraguay is probably being very careful not to commit fouls in their area after Japan's game with Denmark; Honda's free kicks were deadly, but he hasn't had one here yet. Uh oh, here's a foul on Honda himself in the the 35th minute. Let's see what he can do. Oops, Honda does not take it. It must be an indirect. He kicks it into the big group, but it doesn't do any good. You have to admire the Japanese style though. Whenever they get possession, things move very fast. They just ran down and got the ball to Honda who took a very impressive outside shot, but he bent it too much and it curved out wide. Had it gone straight – impossible to stop goal. 0-0 at the half, which comes surprisingly quickly. Again there are questions about the refereeing. Twice Japan have been called for handling the ball, but both of them looked both involuntary and unimportant; they got no benefit from doing so. Fifteen minutes in, Paraguay sent in Valdez, he of the hair holder. I'm not sure why they waited since he has played a major part in previous matches, but maybe their worried about yellow cards. One minute in and Valdez is already arguing with the referee. This continued inability to score is worrying. Is this going to go to penalty kicks? If so, Paraguay probably has the advantage; they are probably far more used to taking them. The biggest problem for Paraguay is that the Japanese defense is so fast and numerous. The biggest problem for Japan is that when they try to feed the ball to their strikers, the passes are so often inaccurate. Being on the short side, they don't get much chance out of corner kicks either. Though both sides had several chances, even an overtime didn't produce a goal so this is going to penalties as feared, always a sad way for a team to lose. Kawashima is a better than average keeper, but then I think the Paraguayans will be better shooters, so I fear for Japan's chances here. Well, they were the more deserving team, though guessing that the next game will be their last. Will miss Japan and their fast attack a lot. At least they did much better than most expected.

Tue 6/29 Spain(1H) 1 - 0 Portugual(2G) 11:30 (Game 8)
Here are two excellent teams (ranks 2 and 3) that know each other all too well. Spain must be the home team because they got to wear the red that both teams favor, though actually Portugal looks pretty good in the white shirts with green shorts. Though they do have Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal must be considered the underdog here. Like the USA, they just don't seem to have found a striker in this tournament, even if they do manage to sometimes score in other ways. Actually, it appears that today Ronaldo is playing forward, a daring move that probably represents a desperate Portugal pulling out all the stops, at least until the can score the first goal. In the 25th minute we have yet to see any scoring. What is going on here? After two days of almost too much scoring, we don't get any today? Both teams have had decent chances actually, just haven't been able to put it away, mostly due to near misses and good defense. At the half there's still no score. An interesting play in the second half saw Portugal deep in Spanish territory and crossing the ball on the ground. To prevent this, a Spanish defender deflected it, which was successful, but very nearly into the goal! Spain seems to be a bit obvious in their attacking. Portugal knows when they are about to launch a cross and they block it. They know when an outlet pass to the wings is coming and the defender is there. Finally in the 17th minute a barely defended Villa, driving hard into the open space at the left on a nice pass from Xavi, gets one for Spain after his shot bounces off the keeper and he puts in the rebound off the crossbar. Now let's see whether Portugal can do anything about it in the remaining 25 minutes. Instead Spain seem to have captured the momentum and are attacking over and over. Portugal's response is a great deal of fouling, including in one incident tearing a shirt so badly that the player had to go off and put on a new one. As play continues Spain look more and more impressive, but attacks from the Portugal side seem to dry up. Haven't seen Ronaldo do anything since the half. Perhaps they should drop him back to the midfield position because where he is, he's not getting the ball. Now he has been pretty obviously pushed just outside the box, but theere is no call. Games without bad refereeing sure are rare in this tourney. Hmm, with three minutes left Villa is being pulled, presumably for a defender (Pedro). This could turn out a stupid move should Portugal yet score. But they don't so it's Spain who wins this all-Iberia contest, and deservedly so. Portugal probably could have gone further in this tourney had they met some of the other teams, but unfortunately their journey ends here. Spain looks good and maybe this is the year they can finally take home the trophy.

Fri 7/2 Brazil 1 - 2 Netherlands 7:00 UPSET
This was a very good match, probably as good as the final, if not better. Up to this point, the obviously very good Netherlands team has never been tested, but now playing world number one Brazil they are suddenly thrown into the deep water. Finally we might discover their limits. In the first half, both teams played well, but Brazil just a shade better. Their shots were better, their attacks better and sure enough, after one goal was called back for offside, Robinho uncovered in front of the goal scored on a runaway. Though the Dutch seemed dispirited at this, they didn't give up another goal in the half, despite at least two more attempts that could have gone in. There was at least one excellent jump save to the corner by the Dutch keeper. In the other half, Robben had the disturbing habit of failing to shoot or pass, and instead trying to tribble into a tribe of four Brazilian defenders. Of course he lost the ball again and again with such madness. Really I think the Dutch failed to send enough men forward so that even if there was a shot rebound or passing opportunity, nobody was there. So it remained 1-0 at the half; nobody has equalized on Brazil yet, I believe, so it looked grim for the Dutch. The second half started out not looking any different. Though still playing hard, the e Dutch were looking dispirited and frustrated. One one stupid play Robben was going to take a corner kick, kicked it about an inch, and then they decided someone else should take it. So he left the ball. A Brazilian noticed he had kicked it though and realized it was a live ball and took possession! Must be the shortest, and worst, corner kick in history. But later, on a free kick the Dutch crossed an excellent ball falling at a steep angle toward the goal. Keeper Cesar would have punched it, but his own defender intruded and it bounced off this player right into the goal. Shock! The Dutch had evened the game! I was pleased to see a game with some back and forth, finally. By the way, I was watching at 7 AM at very packed Irish bar (St. Stephen's). In front were all the Brazil fans and in the middle and back, all the – surprisingly more numerous but much less demonstrative – Dutch fans. We were seated right in the eye of the storm, in the neutral zone between them. I almost spilled my drink several times in all the excitement. Anyway, after the Dutch scored their fans suddenly became more vocal and more importantly, the Dutch team became faster and more energetic. Both teams struggled back and forth, Brazil having several near misses, the Dutch still having trouble with their finishing. During one midfield struggle, a Dutch player happened to fall next to a Brazilian. It wasn't really a foul, but then the the Brazilian, Melo, a sub who had just come in for a yellow-carded player, deliberately put his spikes into the fallen player's thigh. The excellent Japanese referee saw it and immediately awarded a red card. The game started to look ugly for a while after that, with fighting almost breaking out, but the referee managed to maintain peace. Finally the Netherlands got a corner kick. At first it looked too low, a squib. But it bounced off a Dutch head and thus got an extension on its life, then hit another Dutch head and then buried itself into the corner of the goal! A double header! After that, Brazil, who hardly seemed to miss their 11th member, though they did substitute for Fabiano, attacked again and again. At one point they had three corners in a row, followed by a throw-in. They even brought their keeper up to the midfield. They had several close chances, particularly from Kaká, but to no avail. The Dutch defense was tough and spirited with good goalkeeping behind it. And so mighty Brazil, reduced to ten men and caught from behind, fell out of this tournament in what played like and could have been the real final match. Dutch skill and determination looked very strong and they probably will have no trouble beating their next opponent, whether it be Uruguay or Ghana. But they need to find some ways to score other than via setpieces. On the other hand, Brazil needs to greatly improve their set piece performance. Actually, I hope this defeat means that Dunga leaves Brazil and they resume the fun, samba soccer style that they made famous because otherwise they are too much like any other team. Hmm, South Africa used to belong to the Dutch. I wonder if this helps them feel more at home here than other teams.

Fri 7/2 Uruguay 1(4) - 1(2) Ghana 11:30
Interesting match between two teams that were not expected to be here. Between them I give Uruguay the edge, but we shall see. In the early going it seems the game of Uruguay's Forlan. He seems to be everywhere: attacking, defending on the midfield, kicking all the teh setpieces, etc. One of his corners came very close to being a goal, but the keeper managed to stop it, though he couldn't hold on to it. Ghana is having trouble on the attack, though as we have seen in past games, most of their goals grow from fast breaks. Uruguay seems determined not to let them happen by never sending too many players forward. Ghana is committing a lot of fouls, usual sign of a team not managing to cope with the skills of the opposition. Impressively though, Ghana scored during the injury time of the first half with a hard shot from incredibly far out, which was too far to the side for the diving, and probably rather surprised, keeper to reach. 1-0 at the half. Uruguay continued to have many chances that didn't go in. Finally they got a free kick just twenty-two yards out and Forlán put it into the corner with a beautiful shot that the keeper couldn't fully reach. Play continued back and forth with plenty of chances for both sides, especially Uruguay, but no scoring. Muntari, Ghana's scorer, was pulled in closing minutes. Uruguay used all three of their substitutions fairly early. Regulation time ended with 1-1. Ghana's last game went into over time and now they have again. We'll see here how well their legs will hold up. This part of the match started getting quite sloppy, as if the players were sort of resigned to the idea of penalty kicks. Amazing drama in the last minute. Header for Ghana was punched down by the keeper, then kicked by a Ghana player with the keeper absent. Suarez on the line used his hand to prevent the goal. Red card and penalty! But the Ghana player beats the keeper, but bangs the shot too high and it bounces off the bar! Whew. Suarez did the right thing, it turns out. It's better to stop a goal now and risk the penalty than just let a ball in at the last second of a game. Good thinking, and fast! Pause before beginning penalty kicks. Only problem is that Suarez can't take his kick. Unfortunately there goes the last African team and Ghana did not ascend to a new rank for an African team in the Cup, but then they were outplayed in general by the Uruguay team. How much Uruguay will have left for the Netherlands is doubtful, but at least they can be proud of what they have done so far.

Sat 7/3 Germany 4 - 0 Argentina 7:00
After many lopsided matches, this shaped up to be a meeting of two titans. Argentina have yet to lose a game in the tournament while Germany, despite one loss, have won several games by at least three goals. In the event, it proved somewhat otherwise, however. Germany scored its first one via the efforts of Schweinsteiger and Müller in the first five minutes; meanwhile her very effective defenders contained Messi. Once Germany pulled no fewer than four Argentine attackers offside at the same time. 1-0 at the half. In the second half, Germany exploited weaknesses in the Argentine defense that other teams had failed to find and scored another one. Given that it's a knockout format, Argentina were forced to throw everyone forward and in the process Germany scored two more, Klose getting two on the day and Schweinsteiger, looking fit, being instrumental in all of them. In the last minutes Argentina tried to at least get a face saving goal for Messi, but even this proved unfeasible. So the mighty Argentinian team, which had lots of promise, must fall by the wayside. Germany's prospects look rosy, though they lost to Spain in Eurocup play two years ago, Müller got a second yellow card in this game and so will be out.

Sat 7/3 Spain 1 - 0 Paraguay 11:30
This was an odd match because Spain are vastly more qualified than Paraguay, but the latter play an Italian catenaccio defense style which keeps everyone back and only attempts to score on the occasional fastbreak play. But the Paraguayans have talent and are very hardworking, running down every ball. As a consequence Spain could not score for most of the match. About half of the time, after Paraguay stopped their attack they would just do a long kick to the other end. About half of these would be picked up by their lone striker, Nelson Valdez, who has talent and speed and would sometimes do something with it. On one play he actually fired it into the goal, but this was called back due to offside. This call can be debated forever; it's that ambiguous. The pass was not really to the player offside, but it would be possible to construe things that way and besides, it's very difficult for the linesman see both the players and the point of starting the pass. The real story here, once again, is that more officiating resources, whether people or video or both, are absolutely required. This became even more true, if possible in the weird and dramatic events of the second half. First Paraguay were awarded a penalty kick and sadly, missed it, putting the ball pretty much down the middle and right into the keeper's body. Interestingly, on the play, about five Spanish players broke the rules and charged the ball before the kick had even been started. The referee must have taken note and ninety seconds later it became very important since over on the other end of the field Spain was awarded a penalty kick. They took it and it went in, but once again, the Spanish players violated the rule in the same way. They were called on this and the kick had to be taken again. Spain used the same kicker and guess what, he kicked it in the same way. The keeper guessed that this would happen – wouldn't you? – and blocked it! So in ninety seconds we saw three penalties taken during normal play and not one counted. This we do not see every match. Finally, late in the game David Villa was correctly positioned to take advantage of a rebound and put the game away. Spain deserved it more and Paraguay's game is not only boring, but bad for soccer, but you still feel somewhat sad for this little team with little World Cup success to date, with no big stars and yet who tried so very hard. On the other hand, this is Paraguay's best result yet and definitely something to build on for the future. Meanwhile this sets up match between Spain and Germany, which is probably the true final of this tournament.

Tue 7/6 Netherlands 3 - 1 Uruguay 11:30
Way to go, FIFA, your officials have screwed up yet another match. Sure, the Dutch went ahead first with an excellent shot into the top corner from incredibly far out. But then Forlán came back with a similarly excellent long shot that went in. In terms of general play, it was mostly Uruguay that looked better. Just like they did during part of the Brazil match, the Netherlands seemed to lose focus or energy or something, but Uruguay kept fighting and working very hard. So far so good, 1-1 at the half. It was in the second half that things got ugly. When the Dutch kicked a ball forward and Schnijder put it in, the replay clearly showed that he was offside. It was only by a leg, yet still it was offside per the rules. It was the second half already, so of course after that Uruguay put all its players forward to desperately try to equalize. This is an important point to realize because when the Netherlands scored the third time just ninety seconds later, that was the reason. Thus, the bad call gave the Netherlands not one, but two goals. Still, Uruguay did not give up and in the injury time actually managed to get a second goal, getting it to 3-2, though more likely it should have been 1-2 had there been any justice at all. So the Netherlands reach yet another final while plucky and very admirable Uruguay most content themselves with contending for third. Poor Mr. Forlán, at 31 can he really play in another World Cup? But even more worrisome, with officiating like this, how badly are they going to screw up the all-important final match?

Wed 7/7 Spain 1 - 0 Germany 11:30
This was a re-match of the 2008 European Cup final in nearly every way, including score and what happened in the game. Once again the Spanish players were fast, accurate, tricky and always seemed to be in the right place. They stole the ball many times, dribbled and passed around and generally were tough to contain in the midfield. That kind of play simply wins games. Of course they took shot after shot that was off target or too easy for Neuer to handle and ironically only scored on a header from a corner kick, but clearly they were the more deserving team. Some might think that the Germans were not playing their usual game or that they missed Müller too much, but I think really it was just that Spain is that good. Even had Müller been there, I'm not sure if they would have gotten him the ball. Well, it was odd that Germany had so little luck with headers as they are so much taller. But in general Spain controlled the ball most of the time. Germany had a few flashes in the second half, but never really got a good ball to Klose or took more than one outside shot. Their first shot of the game took thirty minutes to happen. Well, this might well have been the final as I think Spain will handle the Netherlands, which should be a good match though. On the refereeing front, it was very lax by the Hungarian – no cards at all – but seemed to be generally fair. Stats on this match:

I searched and found my comments from the 2008 match: "A more major failing on the part of the German coach was not to do more when he saw the usual wasn't working. At the very start of the half he should have put in Kuranyi and instructed the midfielders to start flying balls into the box in the hope of getting a header. This is an area where there might have been an advantage, but it wasn't done until the last few minutes of the game. Bad tactics. Time to do to the coach what was done to Lahm - replace him. But the Spanish players were fast and accurate and rarely made serious mistakes. They fully deserved their win."
It was good to see that this time they did try for the header at least, though it didn't work out.

Fri 7/10 Germany 3 - 2 Uruguay 11:30
Many of the regular German players did not suit up for this match, claiming influenza, or in the case of Klose, back problems. Also missing were left winger Podolski, goalkeeper Neuer, captain Lahm and others. Given that it's a third place match that didn't matter all that much, this was somewhat suspicious. Maybe the players didn't care that much or the coach wanted to give younger players a taste of the World Cup? In any case, it turned out okay for them anyway. It was a very fast and free-flowing game with plenty of back and forth action and also back and forth scoring. A much better advertisement for soccer to the non-fan that the final would turn out to be. Germany scored first in the first twenty minutes, then Uruguay responded by thirty. In the second half Uruguay went ahead on a memorable one-touch bouncer by Forlán. But Germany were not dismayed and came back to equalize just a couple minutes later. Finally Germany got the go-ahead goal in about the 80th minute. The other scorer for Uruguay was Cavani; for Germany the goals came first from the returned-from-suspension M&uumml;er, from Jansen and Khedira. Schweinsteiger as usual had the most touches in the match. The very last play was a blazing kick from Forlán that unfortunately for him was a touch too high, bouncing off the crossbar. He was to be awarded the Golden Ball for his performance in this tourney, as well as being the highest rated player on the Capelli Index. So it seemed everyone had something to cheer about and all went home happy.

Sat 7/11 Spain 1 - 0 Netherlands 11:30
This was one brutal game. The Dutch must have seen what happened when Germany played Spain and decided to come out very physical. The consequence was that they had a very high foul count though English referee Webb was reluctant to give out cards. In one case Dutch spikes were planed in Spanish ribs; in what universe is that not a red card? Finally in the 109th minute the Dutch did get their red. Seven minutes later Spain, who had controlled the ball most of the game with Dutch making mainly counterattacks, scored on a brilliant pass to Iniesta. By the end, the Dutch had 25 fouls and nine yellow cards (one becoming a red) while the Spanish had 15 fouls and five yellows. Combined with the low score, this was not at all what the premier world soccer event should have been, even though the more deserving team won in the end. And though the Netherlands get second place, I'd wager that the match which didn't happen, Germany v. Netherlands, would see Germany land on top.