WORLD CUP DIARY: 22 June

WORLD CUP DIARY: 22 June

So it’s over.

The inquest has begun as people disect where it went wrong for England. Should Roy Hodgson be replaced? Should Steven Gerrard retire?

But England aside, two of the pre-tournament favourites were in action as Day 10 of the World Cup kicked off.

 

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After a month of previewing the hopes of every nation (and in Spain, Costa Rica and England’s case getting it spectacularly wrong), a summer of sitting back and enjoying the World Cup was a fine prospect until the call from OwlsAlive Towers came late in the day!

With England eliminated I can now turn guilt-free to supporting my work sweepstake pick France for the rest of the tournament and I was impressed with how clinical they were in dispatching a supposedly defensively sound Switzerland side. To Saturday’s action however….

Argentina v Iran

Finishing work at 5pm meant the match was already well under way by the time I got home.

The Argentines were dominating possession in the first half but stubborn Iranian defending often saw Lionel Messi and company fail to break Carlois Queiroz’s well organised unit down.

In fact Iran had the first real meaningful chance as Hosseini headed wide from the lively Dejagah’s free kick and as the game wore on Argentina knocked on the door but couldn’t break it down.

A piece of Messi magic got Argentina out of jail

A piece of Messi magic got Argentina out of jail

Higuain, Aguero, Rojo and Garay all should have done far better with the opportunities presented to them but they either put it wide, over or forced Haghighi into a good save.

Reza Ghoochanneijhad showed on a couple of occasions why he plays for Charlton Athletic when he spurned a glorious opportunity to put Iran 1-0 up and Dejagah forced Romero in the Argentine goal to make a fingertip save when his fine header looked otherwise goalbound.

And Iran were punished for their wastefulness as the diminutive Messi produced a stunning strike to put Argentina through to the knockout stages and break Iranian hearts.

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Germany v Ghana

After Germany’s dominant performance against Portugal and Ghana’s loss to the United States (and yes, if the Yanks qualify for the knockout stages, I will as promised in the preview run down my street waving Old Glory) – people were expecting only one thing here, an inevitable German victory (insert standard efficient comment).

Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos compare notes

Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos compare notes

That wasn’t the case in a poor first half as the stifling Fortaleza heat saw both sides adopt a slow tempo and approach to the game.

Things livened up after the interval and as expected Germany took the lead, Thomas Muller’s pinpoint pass found Mario Gotze who headed then shinned it into the net.

The Africans weren’t interested in reading the script however and within minutes they were level, Harrison Afful’s cross nodded home by Andre Ayew.

The Black Stars weren’t happy to be merely on level terms and within ten minutes of equalising, they were ahead. A Lahm error was immediately punished as Sulley Muntari pounced on the opportunity to put Asamoah Gyan through and the former Sunderland man coolly slotted it past Manuel Neuer.

Jordan Ayew was perhaps too selfish with another opportunity with players in better positions and Low’s tactical substitution saw Miroslav Klose prod home from a corner to level Brazilian striker Ronaldo’s all time World Cup finals record as he netted his 15th World Cup goal. It also saw him join Pele and Uwe Seeler as the only players to score in four World Cup finals.

Miroslav Klose did what he's been doing at World Cups since 2002

Miroslav Klose did what he’s been doing at World Cups since 2002

The brave Ghanaians tired as the game wore on as Germany turned the screw in pursuit of a winner but they held firm, even putting their bodies on the line to do so and eventually secured a 2-2 draw as this was yet another fine advert for the tournament.

It also means that Portugal will be eliminated should they lose to the USA in Manaus tonight. Germany still look good to advance but looked far from convincing defensively against a plucky Ghana side who must beat Portugal in their final game to have any hope of making the last 16.

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Nigeria v Bosnia and Herzegovina

The 11pm games have hardly been thrillers in this tournament but I was slightly more optimistic about this one, neither side could possibly be as bad as they were in their respective openers.

The game opened up early on and the Nigerians were denied an opportunity as Haris Medunjanin cynically pulled down Musa, Odemwingie fired the resultant free kick wide.

A dodgy call followed as a beautiful through ball by Pjanic found Dzeko who was flagged. Replays showed he was clearly onside and the Bosnians could feel even more hard done to as Pjanic’s rasping drive was barely recovered by Enyeama in the Nigeria goal.

Peter Odemwingie was the difference between Nigeria and Bosnia

Peter Odemwingie was the difference between Nigeria and Bosnia

The end to end play continued as Emenike shrugged Spahic away and crossed to Odemwingie who put the Nigerians ahead. The Bosnians called for a foul but my initial thought was Emenike was just too strong for him.

Any Bosnian hope came from Miralem Pjanic and Asmir Begovic, the Stoke goalkeeper equal to Babatunde’s long ranger and pulling off a tidy save with his feet from Emenike.

The Bosnians seemed to have that familiar problem known to us Wednesdayites with the final ball being wasted and looking frail defensively as Nigeria comfortably coped with what they had to throw at them despite a nervous final few minutes as first Dzeko nodded straight at Enyeama and then saw his effort hit the post.

Bosnia can feel hard done to with that incorrect offside decision but that apart, they offered very little going forward, a disappointment given the talents of Pjanic, Dzeko and Ibisevic.

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VERDICT

Two of the favourites for World Cup glory looked far from convincing here. The Argentines were nearly embarrassed by a dogged Iranian side whilst Germany struggled to assert their dominance over Ghana.

Argentina’s passage to the last 16 has been secured and they’re likely to face Switzerland in the first knockout round so you can’t really see them failing to reach the quarter finals.

If (and it’s a big, big if) the USA defeat Portugal, Germany find themselves in a catch 22 when they meet the States. With both sides knowing qualification can be secured with a draw, do they play it out the cynical way or go for broke? With the runners up in Group G facing the winner of arguably the weakest group of the tournament in H that may be the way to go – this is all ifs and buts of course.

Bosnia join Spain, Australia, Cameroon and England in getting that first flight home leaving Argentina and Nigeria in prime position to qualify, with the two playing each other on Wednesday, the cynic in me feels they’ll play out a drab goalless draw.

Iran still have hope of making the knockout stages, they must beat Bosnia and Herzegovina and hope Argentina defeat Nigeria, given their impressive display against Argentina you wouldn’t really hold it against them, they need to be far more ruthless with their chances however.

 

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Harrison Afful impressed for Ghana

Harrison Afful impressed for Ghana

Player of the Day: SERGIO ROMERO – Messi may have secured Argentina’s passage to the last 16 with a trademark strike but the goalkeeper saved Argentine blushes by making crucial saves, his fingertip save from Dejagah’s  header the pick of them. Iran had a few clear cut chances but he was equal to all of them.

Player for Gray: HARRISON AFFUL – With Lewis Buxton seemingly spending more time on the physio’s bench than on the pitch nowadays, the Owls need a marauding right back and the full back gave the Germans a lot of problems with his rampaging runs, his cross setting up Andre Ayew’s strike. Surely the Hillsborough lights are a more appealing prospect than Esperance and Tunisia?

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TODAY’S FIXTURES

GROUP G – Portugal v USA (11pm,BBC)

GROUP H – Belgium v Russia (5pm, BBC); South Korea v Algeria (8pm, ITV)

TODAY’S TIPS

As those who read my previews throughout the season know I’m notoriously bad at gambling tips but if you fancy the USA to repeat their 2002 heroics over Portugal, this treble may tempt you – Belgium/South Korea/USA could earn you around £125 from a fiver of your hard earned.

The safer, more conservative option is Cristiano Ronaldo to net the opener in that Manaus game and Paddy Power are offering odds of 13/5 that the Real Madrid star will open the scoring and his World Cup account.

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Danny (D-Good)
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @DGood83


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