World Cup Day 7 Redux: Argentina Finishes, Kaita Stupidity, French Karma

18 June 2010

Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina Celebrates Scoring His Sides Second Goal with team Mates Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. (Credit Image: © Imago/ZUMApress.com)
If You Don’t Finish Your Chances, You Won’t Win
To be perfectly honest with you, this could be the closest 4-1 score line ever in the history of that score. Yet, what it does show you is the consequence of not finishing the chances you are given. Simply put, you can’t win.
Yes, Argentina were fortunate to see their opener come in the form of an own goal. The thing that surprised me the most though was how little fight South Korea had in the first half. They seemed way too interested in letting Argentina play their game; and while South Korea had the odd chance, they were caught out on them far too often.
South Korea could argue they were undeserved to be down 2-0 late in the first half, but that’s the consequence of not marking everyone. Rodriguez did well to beat the offside’s trap off a short free kick, and Higuain was level with Cho Yong-Hyung when the ball was played in. It was all to simple for him to head it in.
However, South Korea were given life thanks to Martin Demichelis losing track of where he was, but they couldn’t capitalize on it. Despite piling on the pressure in the second half, Yeom Ki-Hun was the only one with a true threatening chance. After that, Argentina played a smarter game and made up for their misses against Nigeria.
Now Higuain’s second goal does have to be called into question. After Messi had two chances on a tight angle to put the game away, the ball made its way off the post and onto Higuain’s feet. At the moment the ball went off the post, the goal scorer was offside. Now I am pretty certain since no South Korean player touched the ball, the goal should stand, but it was a tricky call nonetheless. By the time South Korea had a chance to blink though, it was all over anyway. With Messi as the fulcrum of the attack, Aguero was left unmarked, who had an easy cross to Higuain for his second headed goal, completing his hat trick.
Whenever Argentina turns up and are finishing their chances, they can’t be beat. Had South Korea pegged it back to 2-2, I don’t think Argentina would have won the game. One second half miss from Ki-Hun proved a bridge too far for South Korea to come back from, and gifted Argentina the group in the process.

Referee Oscar Julian Ruiz Acosta (L) shows Nigerian player Sani Kaita (R) the red card during the FIFA World Cup 2010 group B preliminary round match between Greece and Nigeria at the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 17 June 2010. (Credit Image: © epa/ZUMApress.com)
Dominance Destroyed By One Stupid Decision
It’s sad to see what happened to Nigeria today, but they can only blame themselves for how they lost this match. After dominating the opening half hour, one stupid decision by Sani Kaita cost them in a way I don’t think Nigeria can recover from in time.
After a beautiful free kick from Kalu Uche that saw keeper Tzorvas completely blunder his decision to dive away from the far post, Nigeria were in dream land. Greece was forced to open up their game, and to be kind, were not creating anything that would be perceived as a threat. Then off of what should have been a simple Greek throw-in in the thirty-fourth minute, Sani Kaita felt the need to lash out.
Yes, Torosidis could have been more ‘professional’ in setting up for the throw, but Kaita was just abominable. The shove was one thing: the attempted kick out was another. Sure, Torosidis made a small meal out of it, but in this instance it doesn’t matter. As soon as the linesmen informed the official of what happened, it was curtains for Kaita, as well as Nigeria.
After spending ten minutes relying on luck to not concede the equalizer, Greece were given their just reward. Salpingidis had to be licking his chops at seeing the open space he had to run onto the ball just on the edge of the penalty area. I think the shot was going in regardless, but the deflection off Haruna only added to the guarantee.
It wasn’t much better for Nigeria in the second half, despite the fifty-fifty nature the first fifteen minutes provided. What’s surprising about all of it was how Ogbuke found Yakubu instead of going for goal himself. Frankly, Yakubu should have scored there. Tzorvas had already run out to smother any shot; Yakubu should have rounded the keeper for an easy tap in. The problem with blaming Ogbuke was he had just slightly over run the ball in trying to follow up. With the bounce the ball took, he was never in a position to settle the ball to get a shot off. Ogbuke did his best to get something on it; but by the time he had time to react, the ball was already off his foot and halfway to the goal line.
After that though, Greece had three good chances to score prior to getting the game winner. It was a rather harmless looking corner kick in truth; but in another moment of madness, one simple error cost Nigeria a point. Tziolis’s effort from twenty yards was rather speculative, and something that Vincent Enyeama probably would have collect on any other normal day. However, after having to make save after spectacular save just to keep his side in the match, he was probably already thinking ahead. From there, Torosidis had an easy finish to give his nation their first World Cup victory.
Given the results today, second place is still up for grabs. Yes, one could argue that South Korea is probably in the best position to qualify out of the group in second place, but you just never know. Then again, Greece could throw up the ultimate shock in beating Argentina to advance…something no one would have predicted prior to the World Cup starting.

This combo picture shows Mexico's Javier Hernandez (No.14) scores a goal during a 2010 World Cup Group A match against France at the Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwan, South Africa, on June 17, 2010. (Credit Image: © Xinhua/ZUMApress.com)
Relying on Refereeing Decisions is a Surefire Way to Lose
In what was a very open France/Mexico encounter, two decisions that France felt should have gone their way eventually cost them. While that wasn’t the whole story, if you’re to believe the French players at the time the events in question happened, they would have had a draw and a small chance going into match day 3.
The first of those moments came in the sixty-fourth minute. After an hour of both sides creating plenty of chances, but lacking any final product, Javier Hernandez finished off a very controversial goal. However, there is no controversy in my mind. At the moment the ball was played in by Rafa Marquez, Eric Abidal kept him on. With Lloris, and the rest of his French counterparts, just expecting the flag to go up at anytime, Hernandez was able to easily round the keeper and slot the ball into an empty net. With Abidal just slightly behind the high line France had set, Hernandez perfectly timed his forward run. It was all he needed to do to set up what could be the easiest goal scored by a player at this World Cup.
The second of those decisions came thirteen minutes from time. After a great run by Barrera that beat Evra, Abidal thought he would just dive in and take Barrera out of the play. In truth, it was always a penalty, even if Barrera exaggerated the contact. He may have been hoping it would have resulted in a red card, but I think he was happy with the reward nonetheless. With a great penalty taker in Blanco, the spot kick was never a doubt. After that, it was lights out on the French party.
If we thought France was abysmal in their first game, they were equally as bad in this one. Even for their thirteen shots, the only one that really threatened Oscar Perez was a fifty-fourth minute effort from Florent Malouda. Mexico outplayed them in every facet of the game. France’s substitution pattern almost seemed to mirror who was in the manager’s good graces, not those who would give them the better chance of winning. To be frank about matters, I want Uruguay and Mexico to play to a handshake draw just to prevent this sinking ship ruining a knockout stage matchup.
Mexico’s success in these two games in my mind boil down to one player: substitute Cuauhtemoc Blanco. His presence on the pitch calmed down this team. His passing has opened up their second straight opponent. But above all, the players around him upped their game and all but assured themselves passage to the knockout stages of the World Cup.

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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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