World Cup Day 4 Redux: Lucky De Jong, Samuel Eto'o the Missing, Italian Gift

15 June 2010

Referee Hector Baldassi (ARG) issues a yellow card caution to Nigel de Jong (NED)(8). (Credit Image: © Icon SMI/ZUMApress.com)
Nigel De Jong Should Have Been Sent Off Twice Before Halftime
After what has been very good officiating, today we saw that come off the rails a little bit in the Holland/Denmark game. The biggest offender in all of this was Nigel De Jong, who I felt should have been sent off at least twice. Yes the logic seems a bit reckless, but it makes perfect sense when you look at the challenges.
De Jong’s first challenge on the half hour to Martin Jorgensen was late, high, studs showing, and never showed an attempt to play the ball. In fact, one could argue it was an even worse challenge that saw Tim Cahill get sent off against Germany. The fact he wasn’t even shown a yellow card here was just stupid in my mind, as it sent a message to players that reckless tackles were not only going to be permitted, but not even booked. What makes it more shocking to me was De Jong’s lunge in the forty-fourth minute on Bendtner that did see him booked was the fact, compared to his tackle on the half hour, it was not as severe.
Now to make my case for being sent off twice. In my mind, the first challenge was a straight red card, or at best a yellow card. In that instance, the yellow card Nigel De Jong received before halftime should have been his second bookable offense. So while the math may be fuzzy, in my mind, the fact De Jong was able too make it to his substitution in the eighty-eight minute is simple surprising after the refereeing we have seen so far.


Samuel Eto'o gestures to the audience after the Group E first round 2010 World Cup football match against Japan at Free State stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on June 14, 2010. Japan won 1-0. (Credit Image: © Xinhua/ZUMApress.com)
Samuel Eto’o, Where Did You Go?
After having one of his better club seasons at Inter Milan, I really expected Samuel Eto’o’s form would just continue on at the World Cup. One match saw that wasn’t going to happen.
After playing central most of the season, manager Paul Le Guen had the bright idea to move Eto’o out wide on the right hand side. The team’s performance showed. With Eto’o isoloated on the wing, Cameroon had no flow to them whatsoever. In fact, one could argue that regardless of what they did, they were never going to get a goal. Eto’o is best when he’s allowed to run onto players, not having to work central from the wing. Only once did Eto’o break a run to the byline and get a cross in.
Now you can say that it wasn’t all on Eto’o, and if N’Koulou been marking Honda on Japan’s goal, the game plays out to a nil-nil draw. However, once Cameroon went down, Eto’o should have forced his influence on the game by whatever means necessary. As captain of his nation, he didn’t seem all too interested in getting his side through a tough opening match. As consequence, their chances of making it to the knockout stages could very well have ended at full time in Bloemfontein.

DANIELE DE ROSSI of Italy (bottom) celebrates the Italian goal with teammates during the Group F first round match against Paraguay at 2010 FIFA World Cup at Green Point Stadium. (Credit Image: © Xing Guangli/Xinhua/ZUMApress.com)
Italian Gift From Keeper Error
Justo Villar is probably the sickest man in South Africa tonight. Yes, I think it’s safe to say Robert Green maybe off the hook, if only for a few minutes. For a man that finally got more than 8 minutes in a World Cup match, people won’t remember much about this game other than his one whiff at the ball.
Let’s face it, for the first hour of this match, Italy were in trouble. Paraguay’s compacted defensive shape prevented everything Italy threw at them from being a serious threat. Actually, one could argue that Villar until the hour mark was nothing more than a spectator. However, with the inclusion of Mauro Camoranesi, Italy briefly woke up from it’s slumber and started to test the keeper. It finally paid off in the sixty-second.
In truth, Pepe’s corner should have easily been caught by Villar. However, his late reaction to the ball, mixed with what can only be described as a quarter hearted effort at punching it, led to Italy being given a gift. One thing you cannot do against the reigning world champions, regardless of how notorious slow starters they are, is give them any chance. With Daniele De Rossi in perfect position, and completely unmarked, it was just a matter of putting foot to ball and seeing the equalizer go comfortably in the net. Even with Claudio Morel Rodriguez on the line, he couldn’t react quickly enough to being on the island of despair.
Villar’s one mistake no doubt cost Paraguay the dreamiest of dream starts to this World Cup. Even with Italy going route one and trying to hit every through ball imaginable late, they just did not look like scoring. The only question I have now is if this was the error that may have cost Paraguay a shot at the round of sixteen.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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