» World Cup

Odd Stats

With a couple of off days until the Quarter Finals get under way on Friday, I came across a site that has compiled some interesting stats to help kill the time. It’s obviously very subjective, but they’ve got the numbers on such things as dives, tantrums, faking injuries, even the number of the team members not singing their national anthem. It won’t kill the entire two days, but it might help. The US actually faired well in most of the catagories.

On the ball statistics

Spain Out Again

I had a feeling at the start of this match that France was going to win this thing. Spain shows flashes at times of how brilliant they should be. But, in the end, they always duck out earlier than they should–and things are starting to get late in the World Cup. It was time for them to make their exit. France obliged with a couple late goals to send them packing 3-1.

I always start thinking that things are going to be different this time, but they almost never are. Brazil will probably win the Cup. England will lose somewhere on penalties. The sun will come up tomorrow. Spain will get knocked out earlier than expected by losing a match they should have won.

France has its own funk to deal with, but for now, they live to fight another day. It should still be interesting against Brazil. Both teams may actually show up ready to play. I’m looking for Brazil to put on the first real demonstration of what they are actually capable of, though. Losing to Brazil in the quarters is no great shame, and France seem more intent to avoid another shameful tournament rather than actually thinking they can win it.

Brazil, on the other hand, act like they already have won it and are just playing some exhibition matches for the fans. It’s about time for them to show up. I thought Spain would have a chance to upset them, but I don’t think France has it in them. Brazil will Beat France then Portugal (or England on penalties), then Italy.

It’s starting to look as inevitable as the sun rising.

Brazil, Almost Too Easily

Without Michael Essian, Ghana never had a prayer. You can almost always hope that if the favorite plays poorly and the Cinderella overperforms, there is always a chance for an upset. There was never a chance of one in this match. Brazil didn’t come close to getting out of first gear, and still cruised past a Ghana team that played about as well as they could have. It ended 3-0, but it could have been 6 or 7.

Ronaldgrande put one in after 5 minutes, and the match became something like a scrimmage for Brazil. They never looked back, nor needed to. Ghana would have been a better tune-up for them than the school boys they used in the friendlies before the Cup got under way, but only just. The Brazilians have hardly broken a sweat so far.

The Round of 16 has had its moments, but everyone managed to get through that was supposed to. Spain/France is yet to play, but whoever wins that one won’t be a huge surprise. Whoever it is, Brazil will at least be required to pay attention for a change. A second gear, at least, should be required.

Italy Trip Through

Fabio Grosso fell over a scrambling Lucas Neill in the box in the final seconds of stoppage time to earn Italy a penalty, which Francisco Totti knocked home to oust the Australians 1-0.

It was another match of quick cards and an undeserved sending off, but the ref had no choice but to give the penalty. Italy held the scrappy Australians even though they were down to 10 men for almost all of the second half after Matarazzi was inexplicably sent off. Actually, with Viduka just standing around on the pitch all day, Australia was playing a man down as well.

The match looked certain to head to extra time. If that happened, it wouldn’t have looked good for the Azzurri. The Australians seemed the more dangerous side, and they were bound to nick one sooner or later. Buffon was up to the task, but the ball would have eventually found the back of the net. It only seemed a matter of time.

Instead, fate swung the other way for the Aussie’s this time. They get nipped at the wire, by a penalty call that the ref had to make. There was never a doubt Totti was going to bury it, and send the Socceroos back to Oz after a fine World Cup.

Gus Hiddink’s Australian side have nothing to hang their heads over. Heart and fire took them further than they had any right to expect. At least, further than I expected. Today, they had one of the best teams in the world on the ropes. One mistake cost them the match.

Italy, ironically, are bound to face a slightly more talented team in the next round, but are sure to have an easier time of it. Whoever wins the Ukraine/Switzerland match won’t match the Aussie’s in pure desire, and Italy matches up well against either side.

Portugal Downs Horrible Ref to Advance

It was bound to happen. In a World Cup of quick yellow cards, and just some shaky officiating overall, a match was finally dominated by an abysmal performance by the man in the middle. the Russian referee completely lost control of this match, sending off two from each side and handing out the most yellows ever in a World Cup match. Oh, and by the way, Portugal beat Holland 1-0.

At least the outcome is as it should have been. Holland put on a shameful performance. As soon as it was clear the game had descended into anarchy, it was The Netherlands who were diving, instigating, and generally showing extremely poor sportsmanship. Refusing to return the ball to Portugal after an injury stoppage at one point. Silly little school yard stuff from a team that doesn’t believe it can win.

Portugal deserved the victory. I was glad to see them hold on.

Things continue to go exactly England’s way as Portugal will not have the services of Deco nor Costinha due to a referee that would make you long for even the likes of a Graham Poll, at his show-boating worst. Pretty boy, Christiano Ronaldo, also took a little bump on the thigh and could be out as well.

Holland seem to still be plagued by internal turmoil. I’m no great fan of Ruud Van Nistleroy, but it was shocking to see him continue to sit late in the match while the Dutch were up a man and down a goal. It was the exact kind of situation he excels in. If they really wanted to win, he had to be on the pitch. I guess coach Marco Van Basten’s proving his point, whatever it was, was more important than the win.