The World's Blog: Day 9

The Oranje, Samurai Blue, Black Stars, Socceroos and the Indomitable Danish? Our World Cup bloggers have nicknames too. See how they saw Saturday's World Cup action.

Netherlands 1, Japan 0

The Oranje are through. In a sense, this is all that matters. However, Holland’s hesitant showing against Japan today revealed a side lacking wide play, and the vigor required for a deep Cup run. The Dutch are infamous for fantastic early results in the World Cup, followed by lethargic and indolent screeching halts in knockout play. I hope the present mediocrity indicates a reverse to previous trends, but one continues to worry.

The Dutch suffered from the same prognosis many 4-2-3-1 formation teams do: disjointed attack. Holland showed promise in the Van der Vaart/Sneijder/Kuyt trio up top, but they had great difficulty breaking through the Japan line to Van Persie, and converting possession to points. Again, the left-wing (if you’d call him that) Van der Vaart was absent from his outside role, and offered no threat on the left flank. The Dutch possessed for 70% of the first half, yet had to rely on a rather pathetic effort before the break to give them a meek and pitiable single shot on goal.

Obviously, Sneijder’s second half shot was prolific - a fantastic strike. Van Bommel and De Jong held the midfield, and the defense warded off Japan’s swift attacks. But against a stronger side, this will not be enough. The Dutch continue to lack the immense threat of Robben and the creativity that is paramount in their legacy.

The Dutch will play the second place team from the World Cup’s worst group (Group F) in the Round of 16, and assuming victory, they will likely play the winner of a Brazil/Spain match. The Dutch need to be ready. 

It was a quarter after 3 a.m.  I woke up in the early morning, or middle of the night, to go to a bar to watch the game.  It may not sound like I'm a Japanese supporter but I didn't expect much from the Japanese squad today.  If Japan wins that's just amazing; if it ends a tie that's good enough; if it's one goal less that's also not bad, but please don't allow more than 3 goals...  Though my expectation were not high, at the same time I was not afraid of losing this match, probably the majority of Japanese supporters felt the same.

Fact is fact, the Netherlands is a stronger team.  Everybody else knows this and in every respect they are better organized than team Japan.  So what the Japanese squad needed to do to play against a better team is follow the one simple rule; don't give them a chance and don't miss an opportunity.

In a good way, the first half was a little different from what I had expected.  Both teams avoided risks and played safe, which fit Japan's plan to build a solid defense.

The Netherlands were probably shocked that they were scoreless at half time.  The reliable defense of Japan frustrated the Netherlands by never giving them a decisive chance.  However I could tell at the beginning of the second half the Netherlands' bright orange uniform would blind team Japan.  They played more aggressive than before and were quick to make a goal.  Goalkeeper, Eiji Kawashima, had a fast response and had a piece of the ball but, unfortunately, the bright orange shot was faster than his reaction.  

However even after one score from Netherlands, my low expectation turned to hope in the end.  Even though we were losing the Japanese squad didn't fade and didn't give up, even defender Tulio Tanaka was in the front.  Japan threatened the other goal until the final moment.  I read an article the night before the match where Netherlands coach Van Marwijk made a winning declaration making the Japanese team a joke.  They may be celebrating the victory of this match but they won't be able to make a joke about team Japan anymore.  

Australia 1, Ghana 1

It's never to early to go to the pub, have a beer, and watch some footy.  Early as it was, the Aussie gave an inspired performance.

The Socceroos started off on the right foot when Holman scored a  Levesque-esque clean up goal off a free kick in the 11'.  They continued to hold that lead, battling an onslaught of shots from the  Black Stars until an undeserved red card, but deserved PK, in the  24'.   This was a result of Cahill's (sent off on undeserved red last match) replacement Harry Kewell  unintentionally getting his bicep in the  way of a rocket-shot while standing on the goal line.  This was the  first time since the '98 Cup that a team has had two players sent off  on straight reds in consecutive matches, and probably the first time  on two undeserved red cards. Ghana scored on the ensuing PK, when  Aussie keeper, Schwazers, guessed wrong. Although the Socceroos were a  man down they weren't out.

The Aussies all but shut down the Ghanians the rest of the match only  conceding five more shots, out of their twenty-four total.  However,  they only came away with one point, and still are on the outside  looking in. Next match will most likely be for pride, as the scenario  for Australia to advance looks bleek.

Stephen Ishmael

As I rode home on the train back to Pretoria from Jo'burg after what should have been a U.S. win. I got into a conversation with a man from Australia where we talked about each others countries, South Africa, and of course soccer.
I couldn't help but feel sorry for him after watching Australia vs Germany, thinking his country had no chance against Ghana. But within 15 minutes of the game my sorrow for that man no longer existed. I sat in shock, just like all the other Africans around me, as another goal keeper error had put the Black Stars in an up hill battle vs the Aussies. Surely what looked like Africa's best chance at advancing past the group stage couldn't fail on African soil. There's no way soccer could be so cruel.
Shortly after, my fears were subdued when another Ghana penalty kick hit the back of the net to level the score. And even though Ghana didn't get the 3 points, it sure looked like that here in South Africa at least one African team has luck, and points, on their side, and luckily for me its the Black Stars of Ghana! Cheers.

Denmark 2, Cameroon 1

I sat down this morning at my kitchen table, a gyro from Aladdin in front of me and my slightly sick, still sleepy boyfriend next to me. Earlier we carefully weighed our options, and ultimately decided to watch the match from the comfort of our cozy apartment and to spend this lazy Saturday in pajamas. 

Before we knew it, the game began with a frenzied, frantic pace. The Danes were initially outrun by a very aggressive Cameroon line, and every time I tried to take a bite of lunch, it was quickly set down as I protested our sloppy passing and easy giveaways. The holes in our defense were easily exposed and when Eto'o scored their first goal on an error by Christian Paulsen, I muttered in disbelief, "Same name, different mistake." Shortly after though, I was left with my jaw on the floor as Rommedahl trapped a beautiful long distance pass from Kjaer and set up Bendter's equalizing goal.

Going into the break I thought the score could've easily been 3-3 and I was simultaneously pleased with the excitement this game had brought so far and nervous about the shaky defense that made it possible. It was the ultimate double edged sword. When I realized the halftime show was ending, I ran to reheat my still untouched gyro, hoping for a chance to finally eat.

Unfortunately for my rumbling stomach, the 2nd half was no different as the wild, entertaining play continued, and I just couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Rommedahl, who in my mind should've been Man of the Match, gracefully slipped passed Makoun in the 61st minute and drilled a beautiful left footed shot to put us up 2-1. I was literally jumping up and down, eerily reminiscent of Tom Cruise's shenanigans on Oprah's couch. Cameroon didn't give up though and we dodged their frantic attack for the rest of the match. There was no shortage of heart-stopping moments, and when the final whistle blew, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and sat for a moment with a grin pasted to my face.

I know there's one more game left to be played and many things that we need to work on in order to beat Japan, but right now, nearly four hours later, with the adrenaline finally subsided and body tired from the emotional roller coaster ride, the only thing I can think about is that gyro still calling my name.

Eto’o and Bendtner are two amazing forwards – just ask them.  Amazingly, FIFA was able to find a pitch large enough to fit both their egos.

But say what you will about them, both showed up to play today as they each scored the first goals for their respective teams.

After Eto’o scored the first goal, I was filled with hope and jubilation.  The Lions sported their traditional green, red, and yellow kits – and their play was looking just as colorful.  These were the Indomitable Lions that I had grown up cheering for.  It brought back memories of my dad taking me to Palo Alto in ’94 when I was 11 years old to watch the Indomitable Lions take on Russia in the group stage of the World Cup.  They lost the game 6-1, but for whatever reason, I have loved them and cheered for them ever since.  I was proud to sit down with my son this morning to show him what the Indomitable Lions were all about.

But my jubilation came to a halt as Bendtner capitalized on Cameroon’s poor defense.  Then, Rommedahl stuck a dagger into the heart of every Cameroonian fan in the 61st minute.  Heartbreak.  This was such an embarrassing performance by a team that has consistently been the leader of African Football.

After watching the match with my son, I’m saddened by the fact that the “Indomitable” team of the late ‘90’s thru the mid Oughts did not show up this year.  I hope my son is not too depressed after such an abysmal World Cup by the Lions.  However, my guess is that he will get over it.  At only nine weeks old, he seems much more concerned with being held and getting enough milk than the fact that Cameroon lost.  I do hope his priorities change as he gets older.