Bienvenue and welcome to the daily World Cup column on Soccerlens.
The big story from yesterday was France‘s abject performance against Mexico, that saw El Tri post their first ever victory over Les Bleus in international football – not that the French looked remotely bothered.
As expected, the French media have had a field day at outbound coach Raymond Domenech‘s expense, with some outlets speculating that ‘Dom’ may have intentionally botched his country’s campaign as direct revenge for his pre-tournament walking orders – although previous records seem to suggest that he is, in fact, just sh*t!
Here’s your easy-to-swallow round-up of what the World Cup has to offer up today…
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Argentina 4-1 South Korea…
The first hat-trick of the South African finals (courtesy of Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain), coupled with an own goal from South Korean golden boy Park Chu-Young was enough to ensure that Argentina left Soccer City in Johannesburg with a comprehensive win under their collective belt.
Diego Maradona‘s men pressed from the off and duly took the lead after quarter of an hour, when Lionel Messi‘s left-wing free-kick struck the knee of Chu-Young and flew into his own net past the wrong-footed Jung Sung-Ryong.
Both teams then enjoyed a peppering of speculative efforts but South Korea fell further behind on the half-hour mark when Nicolas Burdisso flicked Maxi Rodriguez‘s cross into the path of Higuain and the Real man nodded in at the far post.
On the stroke of half-time, a defensive lapse from Martin Demichelis allowed Bolton winger Lee Chung-Yong to steal in and grab a wildly-celebrated goal that would unfortunately prove to be a mere consolation for the Asian side.
South Korea started the second period in high spirits, and enjoyed a sustained period of relative parity (Yeom Ki-Hun wasting the best opportunity that fell their way) until a sharp Argentinian counter-attack resulted in Messi clipping a shot against the near post – the rebound rolling tamely across the goal-line for the waiting Higuain to tap home.
However, the Albiceleste saved their best for last as a sweeping move saw second-half substitute Sergio Aguero delightfully re-route Messi’s chipped throughball across goal allowing Higuain to round off his treble with another deadly headed finish.
Read the Argentina v South Korea match report.
Greece 2-1 Nigeria…
Greece broke new ground after registered their first World Cup goals and victory at a finals and in the process also became the first side to come from behind to win in South Africa this summer.
Nigeria took an early lead when Kalu Uche‘s swirling 16th minute free-kick found the far corner when a clever dummy from Peter Odemwingie sold Greek ‘keeper Alexandros Tzorvas down the river.
The Super Eagles looked comfortable after nudging in front, that was until Sani Kaita saw red a quarter-of-an-hour later for foolishly raking his studs down the thigh of Vasilis Torosidis after the ball had rolled harmlessly out for a throw-in.
Canny Greece manager Otto Rehhagel, who masterminded their shock triumph at the European Championships six years ago, took advantage of the numerical advantage by switching to a more offensively-minded system – a gamble that quickly paid off.
A massively deflected strike from Dimitrios Salpigidis drew Greece level at the break and twenty minutes from time Torosidis ceased his chance to write his name into the history books – capitalising on a rare Victor Enyeama handling error to stab the loose ball home, sparking rapturous celebrations on the sidelines.
Read the Greece v Nigeria match summary.
France 0-2 Mexico…
Three substitutes combined to score the two richly-deserved second-half goals that gave Mexico their first ever victory over France, leaving Les Bleus on the brink of a shamefully early World Cup exit.
The supposed lack of harmony within the France camp manifested itself on the pitch as Raymond Domenech‘s side failed to create any chances of note, whilst their much-maligned coach looked on indifferently from the sidelines.
With Thierry Henry snugly wrapped in a tartan blanket on the bench, the French again struggled to find an attacking focal point, with both Nicolas Anelka and Franck Ribery drifting from the centre repeatedly – often leaving the Mexico area ominously free of blue shirts.
The Mexicans started the second-half on the front foot and promptly took the lead in the 64th minute when Manchester United new boy Javier Hernandez broke a lackadaisical French offside trap, rounded Hugo Lloris and rolled the ball into an empty net.
El Tri doubled their lead with ten minutes left to play when another replacement Pablo Barrera glided past a non-plussed Patrice Evra only to be bundled over in the area by Eric Abidal. 37-year-old veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco dispatched the resultant spot-kick (after an alarmingly railroad-style run up) with the kind of confidence that years of experience can afford a man.
France’s response to both Mexico goals was underwhelming and their night ended in a whimper as Domenech continued to lean against his dugout, inexplicably staring into the middle-distance with a nondescript smirk etched upon his face.
Read the Mexico v France match report.
The aftermath in quotes…
“We need a miracle now.”
France ‘coach’ Raymond Domenech. You said it Bucko!
“We must save our honour. It is shameful to lose like that. It’s hard to react so soon after the game. We cannot leave without winning a match.”
Florent Malouda leaves it a bit late.
“I am disappointed because France did not have a single shot on goal – and that should be the least to be expected.”
France legend Zinedine Zidane didn’t like what he saw…
“We couldn’t pass the ball properly.”
…and neither did bench-bound playmaker Yoann Gourcuff.
“At least with [Laurent] Blanc there will be some logic.”
Former France defender Jonathan Zebina looks to the future.
“I’m disgusted, and we owe it to ourselves to beat South Africa, but as for miracles, I don’t believe in them too much.”
At least France captain Patrice Evra is giving us something to look forward to in the final game…ah.
“It’s a catastrophe, that’s all we can say. We are not a great team.”
Evra then sums up his side’s night by saying what we were all thinking.
Fabio is making his ‘keepers sweat…again
After rotating his three ‘keepers during a training match yesterday, it would appear that (from the outside looking in) England coach Fabio Capello is again set to wait until a few hours before kick-off to name his number one.
The Italian is widely expected (by the British papers at least) to keep faith with Rob Green, despite the West Ham man’s high-profile cock-up against the USA in England’s opening game although nothing will be certain until tomorrow afternoon.
Capello and his team have been scrutinising England’s goalkeeping options intently over the past couple of days and it seems the 64-year-old schemer may be edging toward giving Green a chance to atone for his costly error, telling a press conference yesterday;
“All players can make mistakes, whether they are forwards, goalkeepers or defenders. I have to choose players on the value they offer to the team, not on their mistakes. I will speak to him on Friday, not before.
I picked Green because he was in a good moment [form-wise] and had played very well in that first half of our friendly against Mexico at Wembley. But the real problem for the goalkeepers here is the ball. Sometimes the bounce is higher than normal. We will decide.”
Asked whether or not keeping his cards so close to his chest may undermine his players’ confidence, Capello replied in his typically stoic manner;
“No. Why would it be? All the players are ready and focused. There are no problems. I’ve always done it this way, it’s my way, and I’d prefer not to change.
Actually, not always. In my first year in management at Milan I used to tell the players if they were selected or not the day before, after dinner.
But, three times that year there was an injury or an illness the next day, and someone else had to play. So I stopped. I have not done it since.”
UPDATE: Bookmaker William Hill have stopped taking bets on David James starting in goal for England this evening – which is usually a good indicator of things to come. Looks like Green may have paid the price for his costly fumble after all!
Further team news…
It would appear that we are going to see Steven Gerrard reverting to his familiar left-wing role for England against Algeria this evening, with Gareth Barry returning to the deep-lying central berth after being forced to sit out the USA game with an ankle injury.
There were whispers that Jermaine Defoe was set to partner Wayne Rooney up front, but it would now appear that Fabio Capello is going to stick with Emile Heskey.
Jamie Carragher will deputise in the centre of the defence for the injured Ledley King, with the rest of the back four remaining unchanged.
Algeria are expected to name the same side that started their first game against Slovenia, although ‘keeper Faouzi Chaouchi may miss out – with rookie stopper Rais M’Bohli waiting in the wings.
Algerian coach hoping to ‘do a Switzerland’ on England…
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane is hoping that his side will take inspiration from the way unfancied Switzerland upset tournament favourites Spain on Wednesday, in a bid to help the Desert Foxes claim a similarly unlikely scalp when they meet England later today.
When asked if he’d like to replicate his Swiss counterpart Ottmar Hitzfeld‘s feat, Saadane answered;
“I hope so. If it’s possible I’d like that very much. Obviously this is something trainers watch very closely, so there is lots to be learned from each match. But everybody plays with their own means, each team is different.
I think it will be an important match for both teams. I think we’ll see a good match, it’s the World Cup so undoubtedly it will be a fine spectacle and that’s the interest of the tournament.
I have a lot of respect for Mr Capello and the England team. We don’t have any questions to ask and we’re looking forward to the match.
We’ve seen how they play, let me say again that we have no complexes [about being under-estimated], we will play as well as we can to produce a good performance and a good match.”
Saadane was then asked if he intended to employ the über-defensive tactics used by Switzerland to frustrate La Furia Roja, but the 64-year-old manager vowed otherwise;
“I don’t think we’ll play like North Korea against Brazil or Switzerland against Spain, we’ll play differently because we have different human components and we play according to our possibilities.
England have their backs to the wall. We have nothing to lose and everything to win.”
Like Capello, Saadane is yet to announce whether he will keep faith with ‘keeper Faouzi Chaouchi, the numpty that let Robert Koren‘s soft shot slip past him in Algeria’s opening game defeat to Slovenia.
Nothing like a bloody struggle to stir the soul…
With their clash against England looming, under-dogs Algeria have watched the film ‘Battle of Algiers’, a graphic account of Algeria’s bloody struggle for independence from French colonial rule for inspiration.
It obviously had the desired effect on midfielder Hassan Yebda, who left the screening with a pumping in his chest and a tear in his eye;
“I had never seen it before. It was very moving, and it was very moving to spend the time together. This is the kind of thing we need to do to feel together.”
I know what you mean Hassan. I was left feeling much the same way after seeing ‘Steel Magnolias’ for the first time.
Lost in translation…
When asked about the affection he shows toward his players at a press conference yesterday, Argentina coach Diego Maradona obviously received a very different question through his earpiece.
World Cup Economics…
Mint.com have produced a wonderful graphic to help illustrate the economics involved at this summer’s World Cup – well worth a look.
- England have never met Algeria before at any level of the game.
- The Desert Foxes will become the 82nd different country England have ever played against.
- Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain‘s hat-trick yesterday was the first treble scored at a World Cup since Portugal striker Pauleta managed the same feat against Poland in 2002.
- Higuain is only the third Argentine to score a World Cup hat-trick, joining Gabriel Batistuta and Guillermo Stabile in the record books.
Quote of the day…
“Obviously he is extremely disciplined but the manager is cool, he’s got good banter.”
Striker Jermaine Defoe on England manager Don Fabio. Can’t quite see it myself.
And in other news…
Crocked defender Rio Ferdinand will not be returning to the England camp (Telegraph)
Top 10 World Cup shocks of all time. (Goal)
Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has hinted that Didier Drogba may feature from the start of Les Elephants‘ second group game against Brazil on Saturday, despite still nursing a broken arm. (Sky Sports)
Australian midfielder Tim Cahill has been handed a one-match ban following his red card against Germany. (Telegraph)
Martin Keown has warned England over the dangers of tight marking. Thank you Martin. (Mail)
Soccerlens Fantasy Football…
Soccerlens Fantasy Football gives you the option to go against friends and fellow competitors over a day’s games.
This means that you should pick your fantasy team from players involved in the games happening on that specific day. It also gives you the option of picking your fantasy team with the players you might be more familiar with.
Either way, it’s fast and action packed. So pick the specific round(s) you want to join from the home-page and join a competition!
You can also challenge your friends over a specific round by creating a private competition
Today’s (Friday 18th June) round is as follows:
Give it a go and you may come away with a cash prize!
The 2010 World Cup on Soccerlens…
There will be comprehensive coverage of the World Cup on Soccerlens over the coming months.
With the dedicated World Cup section (chock full of info, including fixtures and stats – and even links to buy replica shirts) on SL, there really is no need to go anywhere else for your World Cup needs this summer!
Also on Soccerlens…