Friday, June 23, 2006

The Ball is Round Once Again

Brazil - Japan

Ok, so Ronaldo can still play a bit. He looked far, far livelier vs. Japan than at any time in the first two matches. His second goal in particular was very well done. Neat interpassing with Juan (the best Brazillian centerback in years, surely) followed by a free-kick like shot into the lower corner. Maybe he was just a little under the weather. Though he still lacks the rhino-like explosiveness of his top form. Japan were simply and totally outclassed by Brazil playing like, well, Brazil (as the opposing fans can now stop singing "are you Belgium in disguise?")

Unfortunately, ESPN screwed me on this match - instead of replaying this one on ESPN Classic as has been the practice over the first few days of 3rd round games, they replayed both games from USA's group. So the one game I'm missing from the old collection is Brazil in full Samba mode. Pigf****r. A minor bleg to anyone who has tape of the game, hook a blogger up, yo?

Italy - Czech Republic

Once again the Italians go ahead, from a set piece, against the run of play. Up to the point Materazzin scored (great headed goal, to be sure), Nedved was everywhere. And then Polak gets the red, presumably for having even worse hair than Wilhelmson of Sweden. And I have to half-heartedly cheer for f'in Inzaghi. Is there anyone who doesn't hate Pippo Inzaghi?

Croatia - Australia

Enthralling, tense, though ultimately sloppy game. Not Graham Poll's finest as a referee either. Cast iron penalty when Simunic tackled, in the NFL sense, Viduka. Not sure how he could have missed that one really. Good catch to spot the first handball, though he missed a fairly obvious one late on when Australia was going for the equaliser. And Kewell was clearly offsides for his 'winner.' On balance, Australia probably deserve to go through - Croatia's inability to score vs. Japan, and all that.

Ukraine - Tunisia

Possibly the worst game of the tournament. Another soft penalty, too many cards. Too little ambition from the Ukraine, and especially after the sending off, no real impetus from Tunisia. Ukraine awaits any of 3 teams (hopefully, not Switzerland as they could just line up for the shootout after 0-0 finish now.)

So, 14 of the 16 spots are determined, the remaining 2 to come from France, Switzerland, and hope is for Korea and France as that would make for the best games. France - Spain in the second round game looks potentially very tasty....

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