The World's Blog: Day 19

The Samurai Blue end their World Cup journey in dramatic fashion as two world powers collide early in the Round of 16.

Paraguay 0 (5), Japan 0 (3)

On the bright side, Paraguay has made it to their first ever quarterfinal. On the negative side, to get there they played in the most boring game of the tournament and potentially ever. I have never been one to complain about the sport being boring, but if this was one of the first games someone saw, I could see how they could come to that conclusion. Chances on goal were rare. The finishing was abysmal. If I had to pick, I'd say the two bright spots came early on, with Matsui hitting the bar and a beautiful turn by Lucas Barrios. In the spirit of this game though, Barrios followed the move by shooting tamely right into the keeper's chest. 

From about seventy minutes in you could tell this game was going to penalties. Neither team was willing to commit men forward to make the push for a goal, surprising considering both countries were playing for their first ever quarterfinal and each have a wealth of attacking options available. Japan seemed willing to sit back and attempt to draw free kinks for Endo and Honda, while Paraguay labored with possession, never really attacking. The passing was atrocious, each team under 70% in the first half, but you didn't need stats to see it. Some have chosen to blame the Jubilani for poor passing, citing its unpredictability, but these players are the best in the world, and that was not world-class passing. Both teams were so afraid of going behind that neither made any effort to go ahead.

I'm really running out of negative words to use, so I'll address the positives. Paraguay's penalties were beautiful, none of them close to being saved. Morel had a pretty good game, working in some good crosses and corners.  It was nice to see Cardozo get the last penalty. Maybe this is the boost he needs to recapture the form he had for Benfica this season. The whole defense looked pretty strong, maybe a little tired by the end, but that's to be expected. That being said, they looked vulnerable defending set-pieces, which admittedly are Japan's strong suit, and were it not for Tanaka's inept finishing, might have lost. 

Hopefully, Paraguay can recapture their attacking instincts, because they'll need it in the next round. They should be very motivated and have nothing to lose against Spain, a very good team, but one that is capable of underperforming. The only negative here is that it is, to use a phrase I hate, "anti-football" that best disables the Spanish attack. However, the team has the personnel and the mental strength required to play Spain like the USA and Switzerland did, dropping men back and counter-attacking. But I think that they will need to score at least one goal to even get the draw. Fortunately, Santa Cruz and Barrios both have the class and are just lacking form. The quarterfinal should be a great game, and, while there might not be many out there giving them a chance, I think Paraguay could just earn their first semifinal appearance.

My pug was getting ready for round 16.

What a game, what a team, what a journey.  So many emotions, fustrations, smiles, and tears.  I'm too emotional to write too much about this 120 minute + PK game at this moment.

As a supporter, of course I wanted to see Japan goes to the semi-finals, as they had hoped.  But watching them lose all the practice games in May many of their supporters, including myself, didn't expect this much.  I didn't think there would be more than three entries in this blog, yet here I am, writing my forth blog for team Japan proudly.

For both Japan and Paraguay, I'd like to praise so many well-aimed shoots, so many perfect saves by goal keepers, the courage, and the mental and physical strength to play this match for not just 90 minutes with no score, not even 120 minutes still without score, but until they faced the climax of this mental game; penalty kicks.

There is a Japanese saying "Do not run after those who leave".  So I let team Japan go from 2010 World Cup proudly and cheer for my other favorite team, Germany.  And best luck to Paraguay who won this match gallantly; since they defeated Japan in one of the best games of this World Cup, I'd like to see Paraguay to keep winning.

Spain 1, Portugal 0

I always get a little nervous when a ref lets teams just play to start a game no matter whether there are fouls or not; he peppers in a few calls but mostly just lets things slide.  This type of refereeing can go one of two ways; either the teams play respectfully and strongly and use the continuous play to their advantage or all hell breaks loose and countless harsh fouls are made, things get sloppy, and it’s dives galore.  I think looking at this game we can all guess which of the two would happen in the “Iberian Battle” between the FIFA ranked #2 and #3.

The ref quickly changed his tack, but maybe not quickly enough as the entire game was riddled with flops, dramatics, and fouls filled with excessive and diabolical contact.  For the most part the teams came out unscathed and the victors reigned, ESPANA!

I also changed my tack but far before the game; after enjoyably watching the game in a bar and in a restaurant I came to find that the only place with enough room to dance and jump and honorably celebrate Spanish goals was my own living room.  With the copious space for celebration also came my own volume control, a front row seat, and the theatrics of the sun coming out & streaming through the windows just as Spain prepared to score.

Who out there isn’t loving the Spanish coming out of their shell to play their true game more and more each time they take the pitch.  Amazing passing (which is actually just typical passing for La Furia Roja) and we (I suppose I’m giving myself quite a bit of leeway to be an honorary member of the team by using “we”) actually used BOTH sides of the field to attack instead of just running the left and leaving Ramos and the right side of the field hung-out to dry for most of the game.  While using both sides of the field may not have paid off in the long run (we only got ONE goal) putting in the lofty and lanky Llorente did have the desired affect and threatened multiple would be goal-bound headers as the match came to a close.

Portugal’s clean sheet was ruined and DAVID VILLA’s 63’ goal stood as Espana won the Iberian Battle and moved on with 2 other European teams to face the fated South Americans in 3 of the 4 quarterfinal games.

VAYA (y viva) ESPANA!!!

Tyler Pisani
Username: i_luv_soccer08

Neighbors by geography, rivals by history. Today’s match was a race to the quarterfinals, not a race to explore the new world. In place of Columbus and De Gama, were La Liga opponents David Villa and Cristiano Ronaldo. One would triumph while the other floundered.

As the camera panned across the players, the Spanish had a fire in their eyes that was missing from their Portuguese counterparts. Portugal won the coin toss opting to take the ball to open the second half.  The Spanish fire was evident early. A shot taken from the top corner of the penalty box was saved by goalkeeping superhero Eduardo. Two more shots were taken from the left side and both were turned away by Eduardo.

The fire inside Portugal was ignited in the 20’ with a powerful shot from Tiago that the Spanish keeper popped straight up, the ball was followed into the air with Almeida’s head but Casillas’ glove gets to the ball just in time to turn away Portugal’s best chance of the game. Shortly after, on the first free kick of the game Ronaldo drills the ball into Casillas’ who cannot handle it, sadly no players in white were around to finish what their captain had begun. The heart stopping first half came to a close, with the vuvuzelas blaring and scoreboard frozen with a nil-nil score line

Portugal began the second half with the passion that was missing for most of the first. Less than seven minutes into the second period Almeida tried a touch pass to Ronaldo who was running to the center of the goal. A Spanish player tipped the ball and the Jabulani was six inches from lighting up the scoreboard in Portugal’s favor.

 In the 63’ Portugal’s dreams of becoming the 2010 FIFA World Cup champions took a serious blow as David Villa took an offside shot that bounce off Eduardo and directly back to Villa’s waiting feet. David then one touched the offside ball directly into the bottom of the crossbar, which directed it into the waiting net. The first goal conceded by Portugal of this World Cup came at the worst possible time.  Several substitutions Spain held the ball for the majority of the remaining twenty-seven minutes. In the final ten minutes Portugal was finally able to break up Spain’s game of keep away. It was too little too late. A tough tournament was topped off by an undeserved red card to Ricardo Costa in the Spanish box. Portugal left this World Cup after fighting hard and not seeing the results they needed. Seven goals would have moved them forward; unfortunately they all came two games early.