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Posts Tagged ‘world cup 2010’

World Cup 2010: Battle of the Continents

The World Cup is the only major tournament where national teams from all the continents meet  in meaningful competitive matches and, coming only once every four years, it gives us a rare and interesting insight into the relative footballing strengths of the different continents.

Of the 64 matches at the 2010 World Cup, 53 were contested between teams from different continental federations (there were also 10 all-Europe clashes and one all-South American match), and we have analysed the results of those games to produce a league table of the continents showing which are football powerhouses and which are the also-rans.

South America took the title as the strongest continent, largely thanks to their impressive performances in the group stage where all five of their representatives reached the second round, four of them winning their groups. They ruthlessly dispatched the weaker opposition they encountered in the first round and didn’t seem to need any time to acclimatise to the conditions, but their performances dipped later on in the tournament. Overall they contested 24 matches against teams from other continents and won half of them, earning 1.75 points per game (on a 3 points for a win, one for a draw basis). They also scored the most goals per game at 1.375.

Europe were not far behind, with an average of 1.62 points per game from their 34 matches against teams from other continents. European teams started slowly but the ones who made the second round grew stronger as the tournament progressed and they made up three of the last four teams. Europe and South America’s results put them comfortably ahead of their nearest challengers in our table showing that the traditional football hotbeds are still leading the world.

A distant third came Asia, with 1.07 points per game from their 14 matches showing that the most populous continent is well placed to mount a challenge to the established powerhouses in years to come. Football has been rapidly gaining in popularity in Asia over the past couple of decades and playing standards have been steadily rising, so you can expect them to consolidate their current position and close the gap on the big two in the next decade. Their teams did have the leakiest defences at the tournament, conceding 2 goals per game but that was mainly due to North Korea‘s capitulation against Portugal.

Oceania is a surprise fourth in the table and it was the only unbeaten continent at World Cup 2010, with New Zealand‘s three draws from as many games earning them an average of one point per game. They also had the meanest defence but the lowest goals scored average at the tournament, scoring and conceding at 0.6′ goals per game.

North America (CONCACAF) will be disappointed at their fifth place finish, although getting two of their three teams to the second round suggests that judging them purely on a points per game basis is unfair. Nevertheless, they would have hoped for at least one quarter final representative and a better average than 0.91 points per game from their 11 fixtures.

Africa‘s challenge, or lack thereof, was the most disappointing aspect of the first World Cup on African soil. They managed only 0.9 points per game from 20 matches and five of their six representatives dropped out in the first round. Once again they failed to turn their potential into results and seem not to have made any progress in recent years.

Whether or not these performances will result in changes to the number of places each continental federation gets at the next World Cup remains to be seen. What is for sure is that South America will have an extra place as Brazil will qualify automatically as holders, with four more countries qualifying automatically and once going into a play-off. Europe has done more then enough to hold on to it’s 13 places but there may be a redistribution of the remainder. Africa will drop down to five teams as they lose the hosts spot that went to South Africa, and they may even have to make a further concession as Asia now warrants as many, if not more places than Africa. I would give Asia a full fifth place at the World Cup and make the fifth best African team play off against their fifth placed South American counterparts and have the Oceania representative play off against the fourth placed North American team.

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Our Proposed World Cup Allocations for 2014:

South America (CONMEBOL): 5.5
Europe (UEFA): 13
Asia (AFC): 5
Africa (CAF): 4.5
North America (CONCACAF): 3.5
Oceania (OFC): 0.5

*We’re not counting the Confederations Cup as a major tournament.

World Cup 2010 Review: England

England were by far and away the best team at World Cup 2010, streets ahead of their rivals both technically and tactically, and were strolling serenely towards the title when a scandalous refereeing error cut them down in their prime and kicked them out of the tournament.

OK, so you’ve all seen what happened and only the most ardent and short-sighted England fan would agree with that opening sentence. In fact the performances up to that point had been disjointed, lacklustre and abysmal, with all the evidence suggesting that the team was nothing like good enough to win the competition in South Africa, but we will never know for sure.

Goals change games and, as our research into previous World Cup comebacks from two or more goals down suggests, England would have had an 88% chance of going on to win or at least make it as far as penalties if Frank Lampard’s strike had been allowed. The psychological turmoil caused by losing a two goal lead coupled with the well known effects of conceding a goal just before half time (they dwell on it for 15 minutes in the dressing room you see) could have caused the Germans to crumble and implode. We’re not saying that’s definitely what would have happened, just that it really is time to use video replays or goal-line technology for these ball-across-the-line incidents.

Anyway, that gripe aside, let’s return to the other less controversial aspects of England’s World Cup campaign. The opening 35 minutes of their second round exit against Germany were littered with schoolboy defensive blunders and an alarming lack of cohesion. The defence was effortlessly breached on numerous occasions and Germany could have been four goals to the good before Matthew Upson’s header from a Gerrard cross beat Neuer in the German goal to halve the deficit. Lampard’s disallowed ‘goal’ came moments later.

England did manage to carry their momentum into the second half and started strongly, enjoying a good twenty minutes after the restart during which time Lampard hit the cross bar with a free-kick. Oh it could have been so different! However, England’s spell on top seemed to make them over confident and they committed too many men forward on subsequent attacks, twice having their lack of pace exposed as Germany ruthlessly punished them on the counter attack to complete a 4-1 trouncing.

England had struggled through one of the weakest World Cup groups and their qualification was in doubt right up until the final moments of their third match when Slovenia had a couple of good chances to equalise and put Fabio Capello’s men out. The opening game, against the United States, started brightly when Heskey teed up Gerrard for the England captain to open the scoring in only the fourth minute. However, England failed to capitalise on their early lead and were pegged back when goalkeeper Rob Green let Dempsey’s tame shot slip through his hands shortly before half time. Heskey missed a good chance in the second half and the match fizzled out into a draw, which was a fair result and probably suited both teams.

England were expected to produce an improved performance against the supposedly weaker Algeria in their second fixture, but the less said about that game the better. They lacked invention and there were few chances at either end in an instantly forgettable game. Their final group game against Slovenia became a must win affair and, without playing much better, England did just enough to gain the three points, Jermain Defoe volleying in James Milner’s cross in the 23rd minute for the only goal of the game. They finished second in Group C with five points, behind the USA on goals scored and a point clear of the Slovenians.

Thus it was the same old story for England at international tournaments in recent years – a much hyped campaign failing to live up to expectations with the big name stars under-performing and the players generally unable to gel as a team. Tiredness and players carrying injuries following the long, hard Premier League season was the oft repeated excuse but perhaps they just weren’t good enough to win it.

The English squad submitted to FIFA was as follows:


1 – GK – David JAMES – 39 – Portsmouth
12 – GK – Robert GREEN – 30 – West Ham United
23 – GK – Joe HART – 23 – Birmingham City
2 – DF – Glen JOHNSON – 25 – Liverpool
3 – DF – Ashley COLE – 29 – Chelsea
5 – DF – Rio FERDINAND* – 31 – Manchester United
6 – DF – John TERRY – 29 – Chelsea
13 – DF – Stephen WARNOCK – 28 – Aston Villa
15 – DF – Matt UPSON – 31 – West Ham United
18 – DF – Jamie CARRAGHER – 32 – Liverpool
20 – DF – Ledley KING – 29 – Tottenham Hotspur
4 – MF – Steven GERRARD – 30 – Liverpool
7 – MF – Aaron LENNON – 23 – Tottenham Hotspur
8 – MF – Frank LAMPARD – 31 – Chelsea
11 – MF – Joe COLE – 28 – Chelsea
14 – MF – Gareth BARRY – 29 – Manchester City
16 – MF – James MILNER – 24 – Aston Villa
17 – MF – Shaun WRIGHT-PHILLIPS – 28 – Manchester City
22 – MF – Michael CARRICK – 28 – Manchester United
9 – FW – Peter CROUCH – 29 – Tottenham Hotspur
10 – FW – Wayne ROONEY – 24 – Manchester United
19 – FW – Jermain DEFOE – 27 – Tottenham Hotspur
21 – FW – Emile HESKEY – 32 – Aston Villa

*Rio Ferdinand picked up an injury in the first training session in South Africa and was replaced in the squad by:
DF – Michael DAWSON – 26 – Tottenham Hotspur

World Cup Comebacks

With the 2010 World Cup now a slowly fading memory, we continue our series of tournament reviews by looking at the excitement factor. It was a World Cup without a signature ‘classic match’ standing out to be remembered in years to come. Yes, it had it’s fair share of dramatic incidents, memorable moments and some tremendous goals but there was no real thriller of a game to keep us on the edge of our seats throughout the ninety minutes and send us on a roller-coaster of emotions.

This was probably due to the defensive outlook of many teams. It was the norm to approach any game against one of the tournament favourites with a plan to simply defend and frustrate the opposition. Many teams showed little ambition to score themselves. Two defensive midfielders were de rigeur for most coaches and defences were better organised than ever before, with all eleven players usually being well drilled in their defensive duties. These tactics left little scope for beautiful football to flourish and precious little chance of any high scoring games, especially in the opening rounds of the group stage where, more than ever before, teams were simply desperate not to lose.

The winners can usually be relied upon to weigh in with their fair share of goals, but on that front Spain were disappointing. They played neat and tidy passing football, keeping possession effortlessly, but repeatedly failed to find a cutting edge in the final third. Their main goal threat actually came from set pieces, where Puyol and Ramos were dominant in the air, and their tally of 8 goals in 7 games was comfortably the lowest ever for a World Cup winner. Their four knockout phase matches were all won 1-0.

Of the 64 matches at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, only 28 (43.75%) saw both teams find the net. This was probably because most teams that did manage to take the lead immediately became even more defensively minded once they had something to hang on to. Instead of pushing forward in search of more goals to extend their lead, they typically shut up shop and attempted to kill off the game. There were even fewer games where the lead actually changed hands: Greece 2-1 Nigeria, Denmark 2-1 Cameroon, Holland 2-1 Brazil and Germany 3-2 Uruguay were the only 4 matches in which both teams had the lead at some point. It’s a shame that Germany against Uruguay was the Third Place Play-off match because if was arguably the best game of the tournament and the only one in which the lead changed hands twice. Had it been a semi final, it could have been the classic match the tournament needed.

This brings us on to the subject of comebacks, which are surely one of the most exciting football spectacles. Those four matches could be called comebacks but they only involved a team recovering from one goal down. The biggest comeback, and only recovery from two or more goals down in World Cup 2010, was by the USA in their group game against Slovenia. They came back from 2-0 down at half time to draw level and even had a late winner wrongly disallowed. England also fought back from 2-0 down - or they would have done had the referee spotted the ball crossing the line for Frank Lampard’s ‘equaliser’ – in their knockout match against Germany. The goal was disallowed and we were denied the spectacle of only the 29th fight back from two goals down in World Cup history.

A closer examination of the previous 28 World Cup fightbacks shows what a crucial decision that proved to be, because 75% of the teams who have managed to come back from two or more goals down have gone on to secure a win or draw in the match. Taking only the data from World Cups post-1954 (to discount most of the freak scores from early tournaments), the figure is even higher – 88% of teams who have come back from a two (or more) goal deficit have gone on to win or draw the game. The last time a team lost having cancelled out a two goal deficit was back in 1994 when Holland drew level with Brazil at 2-2 only to concede again and lose 3-2 in their quarter final. Germany had only once previously thrown away a two goal advantage at the World Cup and on that occasion they went on to lose 4-2 to Switzerland. England had come back from two down once before and ended up drawing 2-2 with the USSR.

The consequences of letting a two goal lead slip are plainly there for all to see. Once you’ve lost such a lead, you are very unlikely to get it back. The psychological impact on the players is immense as they see their hard work undone before them and the momentum swinging firmly towards their opponents. On one side heads drop, on the other the adrenaline is rushing and they can almost feel the wind behind their sails. It takes a very mentally strong group of players to recover from the hammer blow of losing a two goal cushion to regain the initiative and score a winner. It has happened only twice in the last 56 years, so perhaps England would have taken Germany to extra time and penalties had Lampard’s goal been allowed.

The full list of World Cup matches during which a team has come back level from a deficit of two (or more) goals is shown below. Credit must go to Portugal (1966), Colombia (1962) and Austria (1954) for the only three-goal comebacks – perhaps the greatest World Cup comebacks of all time. Incredibly, Germany have come back from two or more goals down on six occasions. The next best is Mexico on three and the team to have lost the most two goal leads at the World Cup is Hungary, also three times.

(The team that made the comeback is shown first in bold and in green where they went on to win the game or red where they went on to lose)

World Cup Comebacks

2010 USA 2-2 Slovenia
2006 Ivory Coast 3-2 Serbia
2002 Uruguay 3-3 Senegal
2002 South Africa 2-2 Paraguay
1998 Mexico 2-2 Belgium
1998 Mexico 2-2 Holland
1998 Germany 2-2 Yugoslavia
1994 South Korea 2-2 Spain
1994 Holland 2-3 Brazil
1986 Germany 2-3 Argentina
1982 Germany 3-3 France
1970 Peru 3-2 Bulgaria
1970 Germany 3-2 England
1966 Portugal 5-3 North Korea [3 goal comeback]
1962 Colombia 4-4 USSR [3 goal comeback]
1958 Germany 2-2 Czechoslovakia
1958 England 2-2 USSR
1954 Mexico 2-3 France
1954 Belgium 4-4 England
1954 Austria 7-5 Switzerland [3 goal comeback]
1954 Uruguay 2-4 Hungary
1954 Germany 3-2 Hungary
1950 USA 2-5 Chile
1950 Paraguay 2-2 Sweden
1938 Poland 5-6 Brazil
1938 Switzerland 4-2 Germany
1938 Brazil 4-2 Sweden
1934 Egypt 2-4 Hungary

NB: There were no comebacks from two or more goals behind in the 1930, 1974, 1978 or 1990 World Cups.

All Time Record:
TOTAL: 28 teams have come back from 2 or more goals down at the World Cup
8 went on to win (29%)
13 went on to draw (46%)
7 went on to lose (25%)

Since 1954:
TOTAL: 17 teams have come back from 2 or more goals down at the World Cup
4 went on to win (23.5%)
11 went on to draw (64.7%)
2 went on to lose (11.8%)

More than one 2-goal comeback:
Germany 6
Mexico 3
Uruguay 2

Lost a 2-goal lead more than once:
Hungary 3
Serbia/Yugoslavia 2
Brazil 2
France 2
England 2
Sweden 2

World Cup 2010 Review: USA

It was a mixed World Cup for Bob Bradley’s USA squad, with a largely successful group stage followed by elimination in the second round with a poor performance against Ghana. Pre-tournament they would have been hopeful of making the quarter finals and having won their group they should probably have gone on to do so. That said, it transpired to be a fairly weak group and the United States didn’t exactly take it by storm.

Their opening match, against England in Rustenburg, was an underwhelming affair in which they were fortunate to be gifted an equaliser courtesy of Robert Green’s handling error from Clint Dempsey’s long range effort, having gone behind in only the fourth minute to Steven Gerrard’s goal. The teams cancelled each other out in most areas and created few real chances although by full time the USA had probably done enough to merit the draw on balance of play even though it took the freak goal to secure the point.

The second Group C game, against Slovenia in Johannesburg, was very much a game of two halves. Slovenia dominated the first 45 minutes and were 2-0 up at the interval through Birsa and Ljubijankic. A double substitution from Bradley at half time turned the game back in the USA’s favour, with Edu and Feilhaber replacing Torres and Findley. Goals from Donovan and Michael Bradley brought the USA level with ten minutes to go and Maurice Edu scored what seemed to be a late winner with a volley from a Donovan free kick but it was incomprehensibly ruled out by the officials.

The USA’s third and final group game will be remembered for the drama of the final few minutes when their future in the competition was hanging by a thread. With England beating Slovenia the Americans needed a win against Algeria in Pretoria to avoid an early exit. It as a nerve wracking 90 minutes with both teams striving for a breakthrough and accumulating over 40 shots at goal between them but unable to find the back of the net. Just when all seemed lost, in time added on for stoppages, Landon Donovan popped up in the right place at the right time to finally beat the heroic Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi from a rebound and win the game at the death, thus moving the USA from third to first in Group C in the blink of an eye. It was no more than the United States deserved over the three games and the joyful celebrations reflected just how much that late winner meant.

Coming top of the group opened up a route to the semi finals uncomplicated by any of world football’s traditional superpowers as Ghana and then the winner of Uruguay versus South Korea was all that stood in the way of a place in the last four for the USA. They knew they may never get a better chance so it was imperative to perform at their best in the second round fixture, back in Rustenburg, against Africa’s last remaining representative in the tournament. However, they were overwhelmed early on by the pace and power of the Ghanaians and went behind in only the fifth minute to a Kevin Price Boateng strike. Easily second best in the first period, the Americans came out a changed team after the interval and were given a route back into the game in the 62nd minute when Clint Dempsey’s trickery took him into the box where Mensah could only trip him and concede a penalty. Donovan coolly converted it to level the scores.

Neither team could force a winner in normal time so the first period of extra time at South Africa 2010 was required to separate them. Again Ghana came out of the blocks quickly and caught the USA defence napping as early as the 93rd minute when a high ball forward found a huge gap for Gyan to run in to. Captain Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit were too far apart and unable to get goal side of the striker, who shrugged off a feeble challenge from Bocanegra and fired his shot past Tim Howard before DeMerit could reach him with a desperate lunge. It was a massive blow and from that moment the Americans looked a tired and beaten team. They weren’t able to fight back for a second time and their World Cup adventure was over for another four years.

The American squad submitted to FIFA was as follows:


1 – GK – Tim HOWARD – 31 – Everton
18 – GK – Brad GUZAN – 25 – Aston Villa
23 – GK – Marcus HAHNEMANN – 37 – Wolverhampton
2 – DF – Jonathan SPECTOR – 24 – West Ham United
3 – DF – Carlos BOCANEGRA – 31 – Rennes
5 – DF – Oguchi ONYEWU – 28 – AC Milan
6 – DF – Steve CHERUNDOLO – 31 – Hannover 96
12 – DF – Jonathan BORNSTEIN – 25 – Chivas USA
15 – DF – Jay DeMERIT – 30 – Watford
21 – DF – Clarence GOODSON – 28 – IK Start
4 – MF – Michael BRADLEY – 22 – Borussia Moenchengladbach
7 – MF – DaMarcus BEASLEY – 28 – Rangers
8 – MF – Clint DEMPSEY – 27 – Fulham
10 – MF – Landon DONOVAN – 28 – Los Angeles Galaxy
11 – MF – Stuart HOLDEN – 24 – Bolton Wanderers
13 – MF – Ricardo CLARK – 27 – Eintracht Frankfurt
16 – MF – Francisco TORRES – 22 – Pachuca
19 – MF – Maurice EDU – 24 – Rangers
22 – MF – Benny FEILHABER – 25 – AGF Aarhus
9 – FW – Herculez GOMEZ – 28 – Puebla
14 – FW – Edson BUDDLE – 29 – Los Angeles Galaxy
17 – FW – Jozy ALTIDORE – 20 – Hull City
20 – FW – Robbie FINDLEY – 24 – Real Salt Lake

World Cup 2010 Review: South Korea

South Korea improved on their showing from Germany four years ago and qualified for the knockout phase of the World Cup for the first time ever outside of their home turf. They produced a couple of good performances and looked a well organised team with one or two exceptional individuals but didn’t quite have the quality to progress further than the second round.

They started strongly, with their best result of the tournament, a 2-0 win over Greece. Lee Jung Soo gave them an early lead in only the 7th minute and Manchester United’s Park Ji Sung added a second shortly after the interval. It was a good time the catch the Greeks as they never got out of the starting blocks and Korea could and should have scored several more.

The stroll in the park against Greece did nothing to prepare the Koreans for their next opponents. Argentina had also won their opening game and were approaching top form meaning Huh Jung Moo’s team had a completely different task ahead of them. Containment was the order of the day and, although they were thoroughly outplayed, they did at least manage to keep the score down in the first half. Argentina could have run up a cricket score in the first 45 minutes but it is credit to Moo’s men that they went in only a goal behind thanks to Lee Chung Yong’s goal in added time.

The second half brought more of the same and South Korea were unlucky to come up against an imperious Lionel Messi pulling the strings for Tevez and Higuain. It was Messi’s free kick that had been deflected in off Park Chu Young for the opener and the little maestro went on to serve up a hat-trick for Higuain in what became a 4-1 demolition. Still, there was all to play for in their final group game.

A win against Nigeria would have guaranteed progress and a draw was always likely to be enough and in the event a draw was what Korea got although it was a close run thing. They went behind in the 12th minute and could have fallen further adrift before Lee Jung Soo’s equaliser seven minutes before half time. Park Chu Young put Korea ahead early in the second half when he struck home the first free kick goal of the tournament but they rode their luck for the rest of the game conceding a penalty for the equaliser and surviving a an open goal comically missed by Yakubu before their place in the second round was finally secured by the final whistle.

Their last sixteen encounter pitted them against Group A winners Uruguay and the occasion inspired another fine performance from the South Koreans but they ended up losing out by the odd goal in three. It was a closely contested match that could have gone either way right up until the last ten minutes when Uruguay’s Suarez produced a fine individual strike to win it. The same player had given the South Americans an early lead but Korea fought back through Lee Chung Yong’s header in the 68th minute and had chances for a winner of their own.

Second in their group and a narrow second round defeat was probably par for the course for this squad but they can be relatively happy with their performance and have every chance of building on it over the coming years ahead of their next assault on the World Cup.

The South Korean squad submitted to FIFA was as follows:

1 – GK – LEE Woon Jae – 37 – Suwon Bluewings
18 – GK – JUNG Sung Ryong – 25 – Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma
21 – GK – KIM Young Kwang – 26 – Ulsan Hyundai
2 – DF – OH Beom Seok – 25 – Ulsan Hyundai
3 – DF – KIM Hyung Il – 26 – Pohang Steelers
4 – DF – CHO Yong Hyung – 26 – Jeju United
12 – DF – LEE Young Pyo – 33 – Al Hilal
14 – DF – LEE Jung Soo – 30 – Kashima Antlers
15 – DF – KIM Dong Jin – 28 – Ulsan Hyundai
22 – DF – CHA Du Ri – 29 – SC Freiburg
23 – DF – KANG Min Soo – 24 – Suwon Bluewings
5 – MF – KIM Nam Il – 33 – Tom Tomsk
6 – MF – KIM Bo Kyung – 20 – Oita Trinita
7 – MF – PARK Ji Sung – 29 – Manchester United
8 – MF – KIM Jung Woo – 28 – Gwangju Sangmu
13 – MF – KIM Jae Sung – 26 – Pohang Steelers
16 – MF – KI Sung Yueng – 21 – Celtic
17 – MF – LEE Chung Yong – 21 – Bolton Wanderers
19 – MF – YEOM Ki Hun – 27 – Suwon Bluewings
9 – FW – AHN Jung Hwan – 34 – Dalian Shide
10 – FW – PARK Chu Young – 24 – Monaco
11 – FW – LEE Seung Yeoul – 21 – FC Seoul
20 – FW – LEE Dong Gook – 31 – Jeonbuk Motors

World Cup Final 2010: Spain 1-0 Holland (aet)

World Cup 2010 Final (Sunday 11th July 2010, K.O. 19:30 BST)
Venue: Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg
Conditions: Cloudy and dry. Temp: 14c, Wind 5.0m/s

Spain: 1 (Iniesta 116)
Holland: 0

Casillas (C), Capdevila, Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Sergio, Alonso (Fabregas 87), Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro (Navas 60), Villa (Torres 106).
Holland: Stekelenburg, Van Bronckhorst (C) (Braafheid 105), Van Der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bommel, De Jong (Van Der Vaart 99), Sneijder, Kuyt (Elia 71), Robben, Van Persie.

Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham, England)
Linesmen: Darren Cann & Michael Mullarkey

Spain beat Holland 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup final in Soccer City, Johannesburg to win the tournament for the first time in their history. Both teams had chances to win the game in normal time but an extra half hour was needed to separate them and Andres Iniesta crowned a magnificent performance with the winning goal only four minutes from the end.

There were no surprises in the Dutch line up for their third final appearance. Right-back Gregory Van Der Wiel returned from his one match ban to take the place of Boulahrouz and defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong was back from his suspension to replace De Zeeuw in the engine house of the Holland team meaning that coach Bert Van Marwijk was able to name his strongest eleven. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque had a selection dilemma in attack, eventually opting for Pedro, who impressed in the semi final, ahead of Fernando Torres, who has struggled since rushing back from injury to be fit for the finals. Therefore, Spain fielded an unchanged team from their win over Germany. On the celebrity front, Nelson Mandela was present in the stadium for Africa’s first final and Michel Platini made it too, having fainted in a restaurant on Friday night. Most importantly of all, Paul the Octopus predicted a Spain win, and he hadn’t been wrong yet this tournament. Unfortunately he couldn’t attend in person. England’s Howard Webb was appointed referee for the big occasion, three days before his 39th birthday.

Holland kicked off and their game plan was clear from the start, with three fouls conceded in the opening minutes. The first real chance came early on too, with Xavi whipping in a free kick from the right following one of those fouls. Ramos met it with his head and Stekelenburg needed to make a fine save to protect his clean sheet. Dirk Kuyt managed Holland’s first shot on target a couple of minutes later but it wasn’t hit hard enough to trouble Casillas. Ramos was having a busy start and he got forward again in the 11th minute, beating Kuyt as be broke into the box and struck a shot towards the far post, which was diverted over the bar by Heitinga. Villa had a shooting chance after the resulting corner and hit the side netting as Spain piled on the pressure. The Dutch were already struggling to keep up with the slick movement of their Spanish counterparts and Van Persie was booked for his second bad tackle on the quater hour mark when he took out Capdevila.

Carles Puyol demonstrated that Spain can mix it in a physical encounter when he brought down Holland’s danger man Arjen Robben a minute later to earn himself a yellow card and Wesley Sneijder was presented with his first chance to aim a free kick at Casillas’ goal. His powerful shot beat the wall but was too close to the Spanish ‘keeper. Mark Van Bommel got his own, much anticipated, booking in the 22nd minute for a terrible challenge from behind on Iniesta, and Ramos was similarly punished a minute later for a foul on Kuyt as the yellow card total began to mount up. De Jong claimed the fifth caution in the 28th minute and he was probably lucky not to be dismissed for a studs-up high foot into Alonso’s chest. The game calmed down a bit towards the end of the half with little more than a few long range efforts to note, the best of which was a snap shot from Robben following a corner but Casillas turned it around his near post to ensure parity at the interval.

Spain had an early chance in the second half with Puyol again dominant in the opposition box from a corner. His downward header across goal went through the legs of the Capdevila when any sort of touch could have found the net. The Spanish seemed to have come out of the dressing rooms with instructions to raise the tempo and accordingly Holland returned to their spoiling tactics with Van Bronckhorst and Heitinga both picking up cards to take the Dutch total to five. Del Bosque replaced Pedro with winger Jesus Navas, perhaps wanting to introduce a player who would run at defenders inducing fouls and potentially red cards.

The best chance of the game thus far came in the 62nd minute when Robben broke through one on one with Casillas and had plenty of time to pick his shot. However, the Spanish ‘keeper narrowed the angle well and saved with his right leg as Robben aimed a low shot towards the bottom left corner. With hindsight the Dutchman will probably wish he had tried to round the ‘keeper. Van Persie was the next player to nearly get in behind the Spanish defence but he was upended by Capdevila and the left back became the eighth man to enter the referee’s book.

Navas made his first major impact on the game in the 69th minute when he beat his man and played the ball low across the Dutch goal mouth where Heitinga could only deflect it into the path of David Villa. Spain’s top scorer was presented with perhaps the easiest chance he will get this tournament but his shot from point blank range was blocked by a desperate lunge from Heitinga. A corner from Xavi with a quarter of an hour to go presented Ramos with his third chance of the game as he rose unchallenged yet again to thump a bullet header just over the bar.

Robben had an almost identical one on one with Casillas in the 83rd minute when he easily outpaced a sluggish Puyol to steal the ball and bear down on goal although he was pulled back by the burly defender and could have gone down for a free kick which might have seen Puyol dismissed. However, he opted to stay on his feet and this time did try to go round Casillas but the ‘keeper was again off his line quickly and dived at Robben’s feet to gather the ball. Robben was then booked for his protests as he tried to convince the referee to bring back play for the foul.

Five minutes into extra time Spain had their own one on one opportunity when a superb through ball from Iniesta picked out substitute Cesc Fabregas but the midfielder couldn’t beat the outcoming Stekelenburg, who saved well with his legs. Fabregas returned the favour for Iniesta three minutes later but Iniesta was too slow to shoot and the ball was whipped away from him by Van Bronckhorst. Navas then had a shot from the corner of the box deflected off Van Bronckhorst and into the side netting with Stekelenburg diving the wrong way and yet another great chance went begging. All that last ditch defending must have taken its toll on Van Bronckhorst’s thirty-five year old legs as the Dutch captain was replaced by Edson Braafheid just before half time in extra time. It was his 106th and last appearance for the national team and the final professional appearance of his long and distinguished career as he retires following this tournament.

Vicente Del Bosque played his last card at the start of the second period of extra time, bringing on Torres for Villa in a bid to freshen up his attack. However it was Iniesta who forced the first mistake in the Dutch defence when he was pulled back by Heitinga chasing a ball over the top and the centre back received his second yellow card of the game to leave Holland with ten men for the final ten minutes. Xavi put the resulting free kick over the bar. Heitinga’s second yellow and one for Van Der Wiel minute later raised the Dutch total to nine.

The breakthrough finally came in the 116th minute when Fabregas found Andres Iniesta free in the box and the midfielder finally managed to put a shot past Stekelenburg. Spanish jubilation in one corner of the field was countered by Dutch protests in another as they argued they should have had a free kick for a foul on Elia but there was no chance of having this goal ruled out and there was hardly any time left for a Holland fight back. Spain held on and deservedly claimed the trophy with their fourth 1-0 win in a row.

World Cup 2010: Germany 3-2 Uruguay

World Cup 2010 Third Place Match (Saturday 10th July 2010, K.O. 19:30 BST)
Venue: Port Elizabeth Stadium
Conditions: Cloudy and wet. Temp: 14c, Wind 9.0m/s

Germany: 3 (Mueller 19, Jansen 56, Khedira 82)
Uruguay: 2 (Cavani 28, Forlan 51)

Germany: Butt, Friedrich, Aogo, Mertesacker, Boateng, Khedira, Jansen (Kroos 81), Oezil (Tasci), Schweinsteiger (C), Mueller, Cacau (Kiessling 73).
Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano (C), Godin, Fucile, Caceres, M. Pereira, Perez (Gargano 77), Arevalo Rios, Cavani (Abreu 88), Forlan, Suarez.

Referee: Benito Archundia (Mexico)

Germany claimed the bronze medals at World Cup 2010 by edging out Uruguay in a thrilling third place play-off game in Port Elizabeth. It was a match characterised by end to end attacking football with plentiful chances for both teams and the lead changed hands three times as the momentum swung one way and then the other. There was also drama in the race for the Golden Boot.

The German camp had reportedly been hit by flu since their semi final defeat, with coach Joachim Loew one of the victims. He seemed to have made a full recovery in time for the game and looked sprightly on the touchline. Injuries forced captain Philipp Lahm, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose out of his starting line up, with Dennis Aogo, Marcell Jansen and Cacau taking their places. Bastian Schweinsteiger was handed the armband for the evening. Klose’s injury denied him the chance of chasing the Golden Boot and a 15th World Cup goal in total that would have put him level with Ronaldo as joint all time World Cup topscorer. Thomas Mueller returned from his suspension and was also in with a shout of the golden boot, having replaced Piotr Trochowski on the right side of midfield, whilst Hans-Jorg Butt was handed a start in goal in place of Manuel Neuer.

For Uruguay, Luis Suarez and Jorge Fucile returned from their suspensions and captain Diego Lugano was back from injury. Diego Forlan overcame the slight muscle strain that forced him off at the end of the semi final but Nicolas Lodeiro was still ruled out by injury. Suarez and Forlan were both hopeful of scoring the goals that could see either of them crowned top scorer in South Africa.

Hamburger SV’s Dennins Aogo, winning only his third cap for Germany following his decision to pledge his allegiance to them rather than Nigeria, was extremely lucky not to have been sent off in the first few minutes for a horror tackle on Diego Perez. He went in hard and high, striking the Uruguayan’s shin with the bottom of his boot but the Mexican referee only produced a yellow card and fortunately Perez escaped unharmed.

The first good chance came in the tenth minute when Arne Friedrich met a Mesut Oezil corner at the far post to head against the crossbar with Muslera beaten. Germany had the better of the early exchanges and took the lead in the 19th minute when Schweinsteiger hit a venomous long range shot which was too hot for Muslera to handle and Thomas Mueller followed up to tuck home the rebound and claim his fifth goal of the tournament, which put him level with Villa and Sneijder at the head of the race for the Golden Boot.

Having been at the origin of the opening goal, Schweinsteiger was at fault for the equaliser in the 28th minute when he lost the ball to Perez in the centre of the park and Perez found Suarez in acres of space in the Germany half with Cavani making a good run to his left. Suarez’ perfectly weighted through ball bypassed Mertesacke and left Cavani with the simple job of slipping the ball past Butt and into the far corner to make it 1-1.

Uruguay ended the half on top and in the 42nd minute Luis Suarez should have had his fourth goal of the tournament as he was played clean through down the inside right channel but screwed his shot just wide of the far post. The entertaining first half ended on a high note with Muslera spilling a corner at one end but Uruguay reacting quickest to break with a man over at the other end and win a corner of their own from which Diego Forlan almost scored directly.

The second half was even more open and entertaining than the first as both teams went hell for leather in the last 45 minutes of their World Cup campaigns to try and secure third place. Forlan scored the goal of the game five minutes into the half after great work by Arevalo Rios down the right flank. He crossed the ball along the edge of the German box and the Atletico Madrid striker drove a superbly executed volley down into the ground and back up into the net shaving the right hand post with Butt helpless. The goal moved Forlan level with Mueller, Villa and Sneijder on five apiece.

Germany weren’t behind for long, equalising five minutes later through Jansen, who headed in a superb Boateng cross when Muslera came off his line and missed it. It was a difficult evening for Muslera, who struggled with high balls throughout the match and created uncertainty in his defence. They next twenty minutes were open and frantic and littered with goalscoring opportunities at each end. It was Germany who eventually broke the deadlock thanks to a set piece. Mesut Oezil’s 82nd minute corner was allowed to drop in the Uruguayan six yard box and, when Lugano failed to clear, it bounced up kindly for Khedira to loop a header into the top corner.

There was still time for a dramatic finish when Friedrich fouled Suarez deep into injury time for a central free kick just outside the box. Diego Forlan lined it up and, with what proved to be the very last kick of the match, struck a powerful shot over the German wall, past Butt’s outstretched hand and onto the crossbar just a fraction too high to take the game into extra time and to give him an outright lead in the top scorers chart.

World Cup 2010: Germany 0-1 Spain

World Cup 2010 Semi Final (Wednesday 7th July 2010, K.O. 19:30 BST)
Venue: Durban Stadium
Conditions: Cloudy and damp. Temp: 18c, Wind 1.3m/s

Germany: 0
Spain: 1 (Puyol 73)

Germany: Neuer, Friedrich, Lahm (C), Mertesacker, Boateng (Jansen 52), Khedira (Gomez 81), Trochowski (Kroos 62), Oezil, Schweinsteiger, Podolski, Klose.
Spain: Casillas (C), Capdevila, Pique, Puyol, Ramos, Alonso (Marchena 90+3), Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio, Pedro (Silva 86), Villa (Torres 81).

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

Carles Puyol’s powerful header from a Xavi corner in the 73rd minute was the difference between Spain and Germany in a close semi final in Durban. The Barcelona defender’s third goal for his country qualified Spain for their first ever World Cup final where they will face Holland at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday evening.

Germany were forced to omit four goal hero Thomas Mueller from their squad due to his suspension for accruing two yellow cards and coach Joachim Loew opted to replace him in the starting line up with Hamburg’s Piotr Trochowski. Spain, for their part, had nobody suspended but Vicente Del Bosque also made one chance to his team, bringing in Barcelona’s Pedro for the off-form Fernando Torres. For the record, Paul the Octopus predicted a Spain win.

The first real chance came in the seventh minute when Pedro slipped the ball through for David Villa to run on to behind the German defence. Spain’s top scorer found himself one on one with Manuel Neuer but the German ‘keeper was off his line quickly to charge the down shot almost before it had left Villa’s feet. Spain enjoyed most of the possession during the first quarter of an hour and the game was largely played in the German half. They passed the ball about well and the early signs were that they would be more creative than in their previous games in this tournament. Indeed, they carved out a second good chance in the fourteenth minute when Iniesta’s cross from the right found Puyol free on the edge of the six yard box but the defender directed his header over the bar.

Piotr Trochowski was the first player to really work Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who had earlier flapped at a corner but hadn’t really been tested by the Germans. Trochowski’s low driven shot from outside the box in the 32nd minute forced him to make a diving save at his left hand post. Spain continued to control the tempo of the game but didn’t actually manage to create any more clear cut chances and right at the end of the first half it was Germany, with one of their direct counter attacking moves, who almost broke the deadlock. Mesut Oezil was bearing down on goal with only Sergio Ramos to beat when the Spanish right-back clipped his ankle right on the edge of the box. There was a big penalty shout and Ramos would surely have been dismissed had it been given, but the Hungarian referee waved play on. Television replays suggested that it was a foul, but was just outside the box, and the half ended goalless.

After a slow and uneventful start to the second half, Spain suddenly came alive around the 58th minute when they bombarded the German goal with three good chances in the space of a few seconds. Firstly a superb passing move created space for Pedro to shoot from the edge of the box and he forced a good save from Neuer. Following up, Iniesta dribbled through the box towards goal and played a low pass across the six yard box only inches in front of Villa’s desperate lunge. Spain kept on the pressure and moments later Pedro had another shot go off target. Finally Spain were making some headway and the German defence was beginning to show cracks. Another couple of Spanish half chances came and went on the next few minutes and you got the feeling they were edging closer to that elusive opening goal.

Typically, it was Germany who then created the best chance of the half thus far with yet another thrilling counter attack. Good work by Oezil down the left found Podolski free to cross from the edge of the box and his ball in was aimed towards Klose and substitute Toni Kroos who had both evaded their markers at the far post. It dropped kindly for Kroos, but his side-footed shot was comfortably saved by Casillas. That chance must have jolted Spain because a minute later they were ahead, and it wasn’t the product of a slick passing move. For once they scored a simple goal from a corner with Xavi’s kick powerfully met by Carles Puyol and headed emphatically past Neuer.

Spain withdrew David Villa from the action, presumably to rest him for the final and Germany threw on an extra striker, with G0mez replacing Khedira, but almost immediately Spain had a golden chance to win it when Pedro ran half the length of the pitch with substitute Torres to his left and only Friedrich standing in his way. He should have scored himself or teed up Torres but perhaps got caught in two minds and ended up losing the ball. He was replaced soon after by David Silva. Germany tried hard to rally but couldn’t conjure up another opportunity and Spain frustrated them with more neat passing to close out the came. Right again Paul the Octopus!

World Cup 2010: Holland 3-2 Uruguay

World Cup 2010 Semi Final (Tuesday 6th July 2010, K.O. 19:30 BST)
Venue: Green Point Stadium
Conditions: Clear and dry. Temp: 11c, Wind 5.0m/s

Holland: 3 (Van Bronckhorst 18, Sneijder 70, Robben 73)
Uruguay: 2 (Forlan 41, M Pereira 90+2)

Holland: Stekelenburg, Boulahrouz, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst (C), Van Bommel, Kuyt, De Zeeuw (Van Der Vaart 46), Van Persie, Sneijder, Robben (Elia 89).
Uruguay:Muslera, Godin, Gargano, Victorino, Caceres, A Pereira (Abreu 78), M Pereira, Perez, Arevalo Rios, Cavani, Forlan (C) (S Fernandez 84).

Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)

Holland edged out Uruguay in an exciting semi final at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town to qualify for their third World Cup final and they will hope to make it third time lucky after losing out in 1974 and 1978. Two goals in three second half minutes did the damage and they survived a late scare to hold on for a 3-2 win although Uruguay will claim that the crucial second goal should have been disallowed.

Holland were compelled to make two changes to their starting line up, with coach Bert Van Marwijk selecting Stuttgart defender Khalid Boulahrouz and Ajax’s Demy De Zeeuw in place of the suspended Gregory Van Der Wiel and Nigel De Jong. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez was of course forced to make do without the services of striker Luis Suarez, following his controversial handball against Ghana in the quarter finals, and also defender Jorge Fucile, who had picked up two yellow cards. Ajax striker Suarez was a particularly big loss seeing as he had scored three of Uruguay’s goals thus far in the tournament and was also top scorer in the Dutch  league last season.

There was an early chance for the Oranje – playing all in orange -  after just three  minutes when Muslera’s punch out from a Robben cross only reached the edge of the box where it was picked up by Dirk Kuyt, who fired just over the bar. There followed a fairly open fifteen minutes of play where both teams gently probed and tested each other’s defences and created a couple of half chances at either end. Just as it looked as though the pattern of the game had been set, Dutch left back and captain Giovanni Van Bronckhorst unleashed a real pile driver of a shot from all of thirty five yards and it fairly flew past Muslera into the top right corner of the net to make it 1-0 to Holland.

The Dutch enjoyed a good spell of possession after the goal, playing keep-ball as they sat on their lead, but Uruguay gradually worked their way back into the match as they recovered from Van Bronckhorst’s thunderbolt, and they got back on level terms thanks to an equally spectacular strike from their own captain in the 41st minute. Diego Forlan notched up his fourth goal of the tournament with a left-footed shot from a central position thirty yards out. His curling effort just evaded Stekelenberg to dip under the bar in the centre of the goal, but the Holland ‘keeper will be disappointed he didn’t do better. Two wonder strikes in a half of few real chances meant the teams returned to the dressing rooms for the interval with the game nicely poised at one apiece.

The second half started in much the same manner as the first had been played, minus the long-range goals. Both teams building up their attacks from deep but never really creating any clear cut chances. Uruguay perhaps had a slight territorial advantage during the first quarter of an hour of the half but there wasn’t much in it. The game came alive again in the 67th minute when Forlan took a direct free kick after yet another foul by Mark Van Bommel. His dipping shot was fisted away by Stekelenberg diving low towards his right  hand post. Almost immediately Holland responded through half time substitute Rafael Van Der Vaart. His shot across goal necessitated a smart save from Muslera and Robben was unable to hit the target with the rebound.

A couple of minutes later Holland did regain the lead, albeit in contentious circumstances as Wesley Sneijder’s shot from the corner of the box deflected off a Uruguay defender and in off the far post. However, the ball’s trajectory took it within millimetres of Robin Van Persie, who appeared to be standing in an offside position and seemingly made an attempt to divert the shot into the opposite corner, narrowly missing the ball with a flick of his right foot. It was marginal, but television replays suggested the Dutch striker was just offside and it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t interfering with play. The Uruguayan defenders were certainly outraged that the goal was allowed to stand.

That second goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Uruguay and they conceded another just three minutes later when the magnificent Arjen Robben headed a Dirk Kuyt cross into the corner of the goal. The Dutch had numerous chances to add to their lead as they repeatedly outnumbered the game-chasing Uruguayans on the break, but couldn’t convert any of them. The South Americans looked beaten when Forlan trudged off with six minutes to go but they did manage to rally at the end and set up a grandstand finish when Maxi Pereira curled a shot through a crowded penalty area and past the unsighted Stekelenberg deep into injury time. The Dutch box was under siege for the next couple of minutes but the ball never quite fell kindly enough for Uruguay and Holland snuck into the final.

World Cup 2010: Spain 1-0 Paraguay

World Cup 2010 Quarter Final (Saturday 3rd July 2010, K.O. 19:30 BST)
Venue: Ellis Park
Conditions: Dry and cloudy. Temp: 13c, Wind 2.6m/s

Spain: 1 (Villa 83)
Paraguay: 0

Spain: Casillas (C), Pique, Puyol (Marchena 84), Capdevila, Ramos, Sergio, Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso (Pedro 75), Torres (Fabregas 56), Villa.
Paraguay: Villar (C), Veron, Morel, Barreto (Vera 64), Santana, Da Silva, Caceres (Barrios 84), Riveros, Valdez (Santa Cruz 72), Alcaraz, Cardozo.

Referee: Carlos Batres (Guatemala)

Spain survived a penalty and missed two of their own in a dramatic second half against Paraguay and relied once again on in-form striker David Villa to pull them through. His fifth goal of the tournament and 43rd for Spain left him one behind Raul in the all time Spanish top scorers list and booked Spain a place in their first ever World Cup semi final, against Germany on Wednesday evening.

There wasn’t much action to report in the first 45 minutes. Paraguay defended impeccably as we know they can, and Spain had plenty of possession but wasted it time and time again with sloppy passing, especially from their set pieces. You have to admire Paraguay’s defensive capabilities, but it doesn’t make for a very watchable football match. In truth, Spain made it quite easy for them in the first half by passing but not probing. They rarely got into dangerous positions in wide areas and didn’t manage any incisive through balls. The closest they came to threatening Justo Villar’s goal was a solitary long range effort from Xavi that flew just over the bar. Paraguay actually had the best three chances, with two crosses just evading the oncoming forwards in the Spanish box and a disallowed goal for Nelson Haedo Valdez, who beat the offside trap to bring down a cross with his chest and coolly slot the ball home. However, his strike was chalked off because Cardozo had strayed into an offside position and made an attempt to play the ball. The Spanish team looked tired and disjointed, with Fernando Torres again anonymous whereas Paraguay, having made six changes to their starting line up, seemed comparatively fresh.

Fortunately the second half was a much more exciting and eventful affair. Spain came out determined to have a go at creating real goalscoring opportunities and began to push forwards with intent. Torres was only given a further ten minutes before he was replaced by Fabregas, but the first big opportunity of the half fell to the South Americans from a corner kick. In a moment of madness Gerard Pique pulled back Oscar Cardozo in the box and the Guatemalan referee awarded a penalty. Cardozo struck the penalty himself but Casillas pulled off a fine save and Paraguay were denied a retake despite several Spanish players having entered the area before the ball was kicked.

Within a minute of that save, Spain were awarded a penalty of their own at the other end of the field where David Villa had broken clear of the defence and was tripped from behind by Alcaraz, who was lucky to stay on the pitch. Xabi Alonso struck his penalty confidently into the top corner but this time the referee was looking for encroachment and he ruled that the kick should be retaken. At the second time of asking, Alonso decided to go low and Villar pulled off a fine save, with yet more encroachment this time going unpunished.

Spain enjoyed their best period of the game in the minutes following the three penalties with Ramos, Alonso and Iniesta having good chances and Villar producing a top class save to maintain the status quo. Vicente Del Bosque brough the lively Pedro on for Alonso in the 75th minute and his pace gave the Spanish attack added impetus. He had a major hand in creating the winning goal in the 83rd minute when, after excellent work by Iniesta, his low shot hit the post and rebounded to Villa who followed up with another shot onto the same post and along the goal line into the net off the opposite post.

Spain brought on Marchena for Puyol to close off the game and there was only one further scare for the European champions as Paraguayan substitute striker Lucas Barrios broke down the inside right channel and hit a bobbling shot which Casillas failed to hold. Fellow substitute Roque Santa Cruz was following up and should have scored but hit his shot directly at the Spanish ‘keeper. The final whistle brought tears for Paraguay and relief was the overriding emotion for a Spanish team that has yet to fire on all cylinders and will have to play much better against the Germans in the next round.

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