Day two of the 2010 FIFA World Cup blessed the audiences with three matches to really get the action flowing. The mysteries of Korea Republic and Greece were set to be exposed, Maradona and Messi were put to the test, and it was finally time for the England-USA matchup.
KOREA REPUBLIC (Lee Jung-Soo 7,Park Ji-Sung 52 ) 2-0 GREECE
Once underway at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, Greece was the first side to produce a scoring opportunity. It came in the 3rd minute when Vasilis Torosidis sent his side footed effort off a short hop just over the farpost from an early corner.
The Greeks rued that missed opportunity because just minutes later off a set piece from the corner flag, defender Lee Jung-Soo ran himself to the far post and side footed a volley into the back on the net for the match’s opener. All the talk heading up to the match was about how Greece would be the threat from the spot kicks, but ironically the South Koreans were the side to take advantage from one. Greece defender Loukas Vyntra had the opportunity to clear, but his failed attempt to head away skimmed the ball off his head and over teammate Angelos Charisteas to the back post where Jung-Soo cashed in.
Korea Republic continued to attack when in the 15th minute a quick throw sent Lee Chung Yong into the area and behind the defense, where Torosidis made a clumsy and foolish challenge from behind leading to the first legitimate penalty shouts of the tournament, but the referee waved to play on. Yong really made a meal of the contact, but the 50-50 call went Greece’s way.
The South Koreans were once again unfortunate at the hands of the referee in the 25th minute when Park Ji-Sung went in on goal by the last defender who lost his footing and went to ground only for the referee to blow his whistle for an infraction when replay showed there was clearly no contact.
Just minutes later Park Ji-Sung sent Park Chu-Young through on the keeper with a precise through ball. Once in the area, Chu-Young was denied by a spectacular foot save by Alexandros Tzorvas, the Greek goalkeeper. Good last gasp hustle by Greek defender Avraam Papadopoulos was also just enough to get a slight touch on the ball and alter the exactness of the attempt on goal.
Korea Republic was clearly controlling the run of play against a lifeless Greece eleven. The possession was in hand for the majority of the half and the off-ball movement was an issue for the Greek defence. The Korea Republic keeper was hardly tested besides his dealing with the sun and a few long balls.
In the 52nd minute Korea Republic pounced on their first opportunity to double their lead at the foot of captain Park Ji-Sung. An inexcusably careless giveaway by Loukas Vyntra in his own half gave Park possession. He then dribbled in smoothly set the keeper up and slipped in a casual composed finish to put Korea Rep. up 2-0.
The South Koreans didn’t stop there, as in the 63rd minute Park Chu-Young almost got himself on the score sheet when Cha Du-Ri sent a picture perfect cross into the area from the right wing, only for the number ten striker to head his effort just over the far post.
With 20 minutes to play, Greece began a flurry of attacks peppering the Korea penalty area, but failing to convert a handful of half-chances. In the 81st minute, Greece striker Theofanis Gekas produced Greece’s best shot on target of the match, but the sharp left footed effort was stylishly tipped over the bar by the rarely challenged Korea Republic keeper, Jung Sung-Ryong.
At the final whistle, the scoreboard showed a 2-0 Korea Republic victory that was about as dominant as they come.
Greece will clearly hang their heads after this lackadaisical performance. They in no way lived up to their organized defensive reputation, as they were loose and sloppy at the back, while also being far from creative of effective in attack. They still have yet to score a goal at the World Cup and the pressure will be on to recuperate against the Nigerians.
Korea Republic will be inspired with the great start to their tournament. They not only assured themselves a cushion at the top of the group, but they were mighty impressive in the process. The attack was threatening and the passing and off-ball movement an issue to their opponents. We will now have to wait and see if they can continue this run against a mighty opponent like Argentina.
Men of the Match: Korea Republic - Park Ji-Sung, Greece - Theofanis Gekas
ARGENTINA (Heinze 6) 1-0 NIGERIA
Johannesburg was the site for the first match that included a real powerhouse from the field, in the form of Argentina. Manager Diego Maradona was dressed to impress and the Argentines hoped to be just as fancy on the pitch.
Adversely Nigeria was the first side to provide a scare to their opponents in the 3rd minute when the ball was on the foot of Chinedu Obasi just at the edge of the area, who left Argentine defender Jonas Gutierrez for dead after a step-over before firing a left footed blast well off target.
Moments later Argentina provided a serious threat of their own when Lionel Messi danced through the Nigeria defence into the area and squared a pass to the unmarked Gonzalo Higuain who casually botched his sidefooted effort wide from six yards out. Higuain should have done much better.
Messi was just getting started though, cause in the 6th minute he was at it again when fellow Argentine attacker Carlos Tevez won possession and slipped a ball to Messi who sent in a curling left footed effort to the farpost forcing an impressive stretching save by the Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who tipped wide conceding a corner.
Off that corner Juan Sebastian Veron supplied and an the unmarked Gabriel Heinze finished, opening the scoring with a powerful header to the top corner over the defender, who was guarding the post and had no shot of intervening. The marking on Heinze was nonexistent and embarrassing, as no one was within yards of him.
Argentina looked to expand their lead in the 21st minute, when Tevez cleverly slipped Higuain in on net, but he once again failed to convert, as a sliding Enyeama cut the angle to block the effort wide.
The Argentines kept up the pressure when defender Walter Samuel had an open header in the area off another dangerous cornerkick, but the attempt went ground ward and was dealt with.
Nigeria put together some nice one-touch passing in the 28th minute that led to a great scoring opportunity, that Chinedo Obasi, who had a bad first touch, botched with a weak effort that trickled through the six yard box and wide of the target.
Argentina almost doubled their lead when Messi and Mascherano played a quick give and go which opened it up for Messi to send a curling effort towards the far post again, where Enyeama made a leaping save to tip the effort wide. Enyeama was up to task again and this was fantastic by both the shooter and the stopper.
Messi continued his impressive dribbling performance in the 49th minute when he drew the attention of multiple defenders, spread the field with a ball to Veron and darted into the area making a run and receiving a nice ball from Veron only to stab the effort wide of the farpost on the half chance.
The match then died down for a bit before a thrusting final 20 minutes or so that began in the 65th minute when Argentina sprung a counterattack to a 4 on 2 break, where Tevez found Messi with a delayed pass, that he dribbled to the center of the top of the area, but shot just wide of the target. Argentina should have taken advantage of this break, but Tevez’s stall broke the flow.
A minute later Messi dribbled and engrossed defenders again and left off for Higuain, who stung the hands of the keeper with a firm effort that Enyeama dealt with properly.
In the 71st minute, Nigeria gave Argentina a serious scare when Taye Taiwo blasted a sharp left footed effort in awkward fashion just inches wide of the farpost hurting himself in the process.
Messi was back at it in the 81st minute when he and Angel Di Maria played a classy one-two springing the quick attacker into the area once again, only to be denied again by an up to the challenge Enyeama.
A minute later with their final chance to equalize Nigeria’s Yakubu sent in an effective cross to the substitute Kalu Uche who agonizingly disappointed the Nigerian supporters by side footing over the target. Leaving the final score at 1-0 Argentina.
Nigeria will feel like they left a point on the pitch because they had a handful of clear opportunities to equalize, but they must also realize that their defense must perform at a higher level because Enyeama can’t be expected to perform as great as he did in every match. They were also absolutely horrifying on the defence of set pieces and this must be worked on immediately in the training grounds. There is no excuse to leave an opponent five yards clear in your own penalty area and if you do you will pay like they did early on. Expect a much stronger showing against Greece.
Argentina will be extremely happy with their 1-0 victory, that they will say on any other night or with any other goalie, could have been four or five nil. They passed the ball around nicely in possession and Messi was a constant threat and nuisance to the opponent’s defence. They will expect better finishing in future matches, especially from Gonzalo Higuain, who could very well be replaced and should be replaced by Diego Milito in the starting eleven. Critics will point out the holes in the defence and the clear chances allowed, but Argentina sees that as part of their style and will continue to do that as the tournament goes on. They just expect to bag more goals than the opponent in the process.
Men of the Match: Argentina - Lionel Messi, Nigeria- Vincent Enyeama
USA (Dempsey 40) 1-1 ENGLAND (Gerrard 4)
The most anticipated opener of the World Cup took place in Rustenburg, South Africa between the Unites States of America and England. There were plenty of headlines for this classic encounter, but after months of debate and heckling back and forth, they finally took the pitch to put an outcome to display.
It didn’t take long for England to get started as an alert Steven Gerrard ran to space in the middle of the attack leaving his marker Ricardo Clark a step behind him and Emile Heskey found Gerrard, who simply slotted it home by a helpless Tim Howard. American defender Oguchi Onyewu was caught out of position and ball-watching, creating an unacceptable gap in the center of the American defence that England took clear advantage of. This was exactly what USA felt they needed to avoid, but it was just an obstacle nonetheless.
Gerrard was playing at a hasty pace after his strike, helping in defense on numerous occasions and winning the ball on multiple clean and aggressive slide tackles.
USA’s first real half-chance came in the 19th minute, when Landon Donovan sent a dangerous cross into the England area that striker Jozy Altidore just wasn’t able to get a clean head onto. Altidore was just shielded off effectively by defender Ledley King and Clint Dempsey was a step too late on the back post as the ball bounced over the end line.
England attacked back in the 20th minute, when striker Wayne Rooney held the ball up nicely and spread for winger Aaron Lennon, who dribbled into the area and slotted a pass across the box looking for a teammate on the far side to slip into an empty net, but a sliding Steve Cherundolo did well to intervene and save a goal.
USA got a scare later in the half when England’s Glen Johnson took the ball up the wing and grounded a tantalizing ball into the area that Tim Howard bravely dove and stretched for to deflect out of danger, but he surely paid the price for it when Heskey slid into the keeper catching him with his boot, some studs, and a bruising body blow that kept Howard down for minutes before he recovered and stayed on the pitch.
In the 40th minute disaster struck for England when USA attacker Clint Dempsey dribbled and spun twice from 25 yards out. Realizing there weren’t any options for him, he just gave it a go with his left boot sending a weak shot on net that England keeper Robert Green muffed and let roll over the goal line for the equalizer. It was an absolute shameful mistake by Green that will be remembered for years to come.
Angered by the embarrassing goal England barely gave the Americans seconds to celebrate, as they stormed down the pitch and Johnson forced another save out of Howard before the halftime whistle.
The scoreline was tied 1-1 at halftime and England supporters were still in shock over the horrifying mistake made by their goalkeeper.
England were first to come out the gates in the second half, when in the 49th minute the speedy winger Lennon burned by Carlos Bocanegra and sent in a dangerous ball that no one latched onto as it rolled through the danger zone.
Seconds later Wayne Rooney was sent in on a long-ball but ill advisedly he was ruled offside. Rooney not hearing the whistle continued his run anyway only to be denied by Howard.
The English continued their push for a second in the 52nd minute when Heskey went in on goal and ripped his effort directly at an in form Tim Howard who amazingly not only made the save, but held on to prevent a rebound
In the 64th minute Glen Johnson smoothly brought down a corner delivery at the back post only to lash his effort plenty wide to the disappointment of England supporters.
A minute later Altidore used his speed and strength to beat Jamie Carragher and attack the net off the angle before attempting to beat Green at his near post, but Green got just enough of his gloves on the effort to deflect the ball up off the post and back in play for England to clear the danger. It was a gasp of relief to the keeper, as he worked his way back towards any form of forgiveness from his teammates, manager, and supporters worldwide.
After that near score for the US, England began to threaten with ten minutes full of legit half-chances to take the lead.
In the 71st minute Gerrard whipped a cross to the back post just out of the reach of a lunging Wayne Rooney head attempt that he surely would have scored for Manchester United. In the 75th minute Rooney spontaneously smoked a swerving shot inches wide of the far post that indisputably would have made the highlight reels for years to come. Seconds later Rooney was in the spotlight again, this time leaving off to Shaun Wright Phillips in the area, who’s shot was easily handled by a well-positioned Tim Howard. In the 77th minute, Gerrard’s cross found Heskey’s head, but it was well over the target.
After failing to capitalize on these late chances England began to accept that a draw was in the cards for the night and USA did the same, as the final whistle blew with the match ending all square 1-1.
So England will look ahead to their next match against Algeria in need of a victory to make sure that they control their own destiny. On the night, the English weren’t that bad compared to the beating they are sure to take in the papers. They did well to score early on, but they will also be disappointed that their huge advantage on the wings failed to cash in on at least another goal. Rooney will be expected to have a much bigger affect in the other fixtures. The defence was solid; as Altidore’s run was really the only time it was penetrated. But the obvious atrocity was the goalkeeper and his unforgivable mistake. Without that slip up England would be sitting pretty right now, but instead they will be much criticized and unsure of the position for the rest of the tournament.
USA on the other hand will leave the stadium with their heads held high. They will feel they showed the world again, that they can compete with the powerhouses of the football world. The performance had its pros and cons, but bottom line is they got the point they were in search of. It may not have been a showy presentation, but it was solid enough to grind out a result. The attack left much to be desired, as there wasn’t enough service to Altidore or spacing on the wings. The defence was hot and cold, as the positioning on the England goal was atrocious, but the Rooney marking was splendid. The defence on attacks from the wings must improve, but the goalkeeping was top-notch. In the end, this was the start everyone was hoping for the United States to produce, but there is plenty of work left to be done.
Men of the Match: USA - Tim Howard, England - Steven Gerrard
GOAL OF THE DAY - Argentina’s Gabriel Heinze’s bullet header to the upper corner from the corner delivery. Its pace and accuracy left little room for improvement and it gave Argentina the early 1-0 lead and stood as the match winner.
SAVE OF THE DAY- Many candidates for this award in today’s action, but Vincent Enyeama, the goalkeeper from Nigeria, takes the honor with a leaping, full stretched finger tip save on a bending far post effort from none other than Lionel Messi.
CELEBRATION OF THE DAY - Not a day filled with memorable celebrations, so by default the award goes to a tongue showing Gabriel Heinze who clearly was enthused over his headed goal, as he sprinted towards his team’s bench to celebrate with his buddies.
MATCH OF THE DAY - Argentina-Nigeria
MISTAKE OF THE DAY- Looked as if Loukas Vyntra of Greece had this in the bag early on in the day after his inexcusable giveaway to Park Ji-Sung in his own half that directly led to his opponents second goal, but he can thank Robert Green for his blooper reel save attempt on a weak Clint Dempsey effort that the English goalkeeper failed to get in position for or parry away, as the ball rolled across the line for the equalizer. Devastating replay that will be shown and remembered for years and years to come and it will also have likely to cost Green his starting spot for Capello’s England side.
CONCLUSION- The second day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup brought us five goals and opened the action for Group B and half of Group C. Korea Republic put on the best performance of the six sides and are happy to sit atop their group along side the attacking Argentines with three points a piece. England and USA both will feel they got a point out of what should be their most challenging match, but tomorrow Algeria or Slovenia will have an ideal chance to jump atop their group if either can produce a winning result.
KOREA REPUBLIC 3