Tag Archives: Ghana

2014 World Cup Draw Set

6 Dec

Yeah, I know, it’s been forever and a day since I actually posted anything, but the World Cup makes a person want to blog again, if only to complain about how rough the US has it.  Anyway, the ridiculously drawn out official draw was today and while yeah, the US has it rough, spare a thought for the Aussies, who have an even tougher go.  And while almost everyone can complain about the groups right now, in the end it’s all about what happens on the field.  Anything can happen on any given day and that’s one of the things that makes the World Cup (and sports in general) so awesome.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

I’ll admit that my initial thoughts were that the USA was on the receiving end of a brutal draw (In fact I think my exact words were ‘holy shit’).  But after thinking about it a little bit, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it could’ve been.  I think it’s great that the US will open against Ghana.  It’s going to be huge for the Yanks to start the tournament well and if they can do so against a team that’s knocked them out of the last two World Cups, so much the better.  There’s no doubt they’ll have the motivation to take down Ghana.  Portugal is tough, even if they only qualified through the strength of one Mr. Ronaldo, but I do think they are beatable if the US can play an entire 90 minutes.  I believe that Germany is the top team in the group and probably one of the favorites for the tournament.  That will be interesting if only for the storyline of Klinsmann taking on his home country.  I’ll chalk that one up for a German victory.

As I’ve said in the past, the key to US success on the big stage is putting together a solid 90 minutes. They can’t afford to have lapses and give up early goals like they did against England, Slovenia, Ghana x2 last time around.  Coming from behind to win/draw is not a sustainable model for success. The US has been playing well in the past year and I think Klinsmann’s system is finally starting to click.  It’s just a matter of whether they can show up when it really counts and play consistent football.

Now for the extremely premature predictions.  Of course a team’s chances could go to hell in a handbasket pretty quick with a couple key injuries and we all know that there is a lot of football to be played before we get to Brazil.  But based on how things stand currently, this is what my gut says:

Advance to second round (1st, 2nd)

Group A: Brazil, Croatia

Group B: Spain, Chile

Group C: Colombia, Japan

Group D: Italy, England

Group E: France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, USA

Group H: Belgium, South Korea

Knockout

A1 vs. B2: Brazil vs. Chile – Brazil

A2 vs. B1: Spain vs. Croatia – Spain

C1 vs. D2: Colombia vs. England – Colombia

C2 vs. D1: Japan vs. Italy – Italy

E1 vs. F2: France vs. Nigeria – France

E2 vs. F1: Honduras vs. Argentina – Argentina

G1 vs. H2: Germany vs. South Korea – Germany

G2 vs. H1: USA vs. Belgium – Belgium

Round of 8

Brazil vs. Colombia – Brazil

France vs. Germany – Germany

Spain vs. Italy – Spain

Argentina vs. Belgium – Argentina

Semifinals

Brazil vs. Germany – Brazil

Spain vs. Argentina – Spain

Final

Brazil vs. Spain – Brazil

Going with the home country in this one.  France was the last team to lift the World Cup in their home country, but I think Brazil has the talent to get it done.  Spain’s got the experience though and Brazil will be under mountains of pressure, so I anticipate this final going down to the last minutes.

Most memorable moments of 2010

31 Dec

Since my top players have now been sent their official Soccer Wall Player of the Year certificates, it’s time to move on to the most memorable moments of the year.  Of course the drama of the World Cup greatly influenced this selection.  In other exciting news, I close 2010 with my 500th blog post (wow!)

6. Barcelona defeats Real, 5-0 – Wow, just wow. This game on Nov. 29 was a master class by Barcelona, they picked Real apart with precision passes and smart movement.  Real did not stand a chance; it was mesmerizing to watch.

5. Qatar gets the 2022 World Cup – What the bleeping hell?  That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Spain wins first World Cup – Thanks to a late extra time goal from Andres Iniesta, Spain won its first-ever World Cup title with a 1-0 win over the Netherlands.  The Spanish side clearly deserved the win as the Netherlands resorted to dirty play early since they knew they couldn’t slow down the Spanish passing attack.

3. Suarez handball – With a spot in the semifinals on the line at the end of extra time, Uruguay’s  Luis Suarez clearly swatted away a certain score for Ghana off the goal line.  Asamoah Gyan stepped up to surely send Ghana to the semifinals and sent his shot off the crossbar.  The game went to penalties, Uruguay emerged victorious and there went the chance for the first African nation to go to the semifinals.

2. New owners for Liverpool – After many terrible months with the douchebag duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool FC finally got some new owners in October.  NESV, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, took over the club and while things have not necessarily gone swimmingly for the team, there’s at least hope that things can improve in the near future.

1. Donovan’s goal vs. Algeria – The U.S. went from eliminated to top of group C with Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria in the final game of group play (take that England!).  It was an incredibly emotional moment that actually ended up bringing me to tears.  Here’s the clip of the goal and the video of the reaction from around the country (which also made me cry).

What are your top moments?

My World Cup best XI

12 Jul

I’m sure everyone in Spain is drunk with glee, the Dutch are drunk with sorrow, but I’m sober and it’s time for my World Cup best XI.  Let me know what you think.

BEST XI

G – Iker Casillas, Spain – He didn’t win the Golden Glove for nothing.  The Real Madrid keeper posted four straight shutouts in the knockout round and came up huge when it counted, notably on two breakaways from Arjen Robben in the final.  He also saved a key penalty in the quarterfinal win over Paraguay.

D – Carles Puyol, Spain – He was a rock in the back and a leader for Spain throughout the tournament.  His flying header to send the team through to the final.   Puyol was part of a defense that only gave up two goals in seven games.

D – Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Netherlands – The Dutch captain was crucial to their final run.  Playing in his final World Cup, Van Bronckhorst scored one of the goals of the tournament in the semifinal win over Uruguay, unleashing an absolute cracker from about 30 yards out.  The defender was aggressive, yet controlled throughout the tournament and helped keep David Villa off the score sheet in the final.

D – Sergio Ramos, Spain – Sorry for the multitude of Spanish players, but Ramos deserves to be here.  This guy probably ran more than anyone else in the tournament, thanks to his long runs into the attacking third.  He put on a solid defensive display, particularly in the final, and was also a threat to put the ball in the back of the net.

M – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany – He had a stellar World Cup.  Playing in the middle of the field, he was the lynchpin for Germany’s offense.  His field vision and calmness on the ball was excellent and he wasn’t afraid to mix it up in there either.  He’s clearly matured a lot since his first go-round in 2006.

M – Xavi, Spain – Spain’s passing game would not be nearly as fluent without Xavi.  He was a catalyst for the champions and plays his non-glamourous role with aplomb.  He also played a major role in shutting down key players like Wesley Sneijder and Schweinsteiger.

M – Thomas Mueller, Germany – The 20-year-old won the Golden Boot and was also named Young Player of the Tournament.  Not too shabby.  He finished with five goals (same as three others), but won the tiebreaker with three assists.  He made his presence known as part of the killer German counterattack and his dynamic play was sorely missed in the semifinal.

M – Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands – What a season for Sneijder.  He won the Champions League with Inter Milan and came oh-so-close to winning the World Cup.  Although his impact was minimal in the final, his five goals in the tournament helped propel the Dutch into the final.

M – Asamoah Gyan, Ghana – Although maybe best known for missing the penalty at the end of extra time against Uruguay, Gyan was a force for Ghana in its quarterfinal run.  He scored three goals, including the extra time winner against the U.S.  He also gained major respect (at least from me) for nailing Ghana’s first penalty in the shootout with Uruguay mere minutes after missing in extra time.

F – Diego Forlan, Uruguay – Forlan won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and rightly so.  Another five-goal man, Forlan was key to Uruguay’s surprise fourth place finish. (If you called Uruguay as the last remaining South American team, more power to you.)  He came up big when it mattered and was thisclose to sending the third place match into extra time after clanging a last second free kick off the crossbar.

F – David Villa, Spain – He continued to excel on the international stage, scoring five goals, including three game-winners.  He has shown that he can be a threat from anywhere on the field, including 50 yards out (goal against Chile).

BENCH

M – Landon Donovan, USA – Finally shed the big game choker label and scored the goal that sent the U.S. through to the knockout round.  Showed the ability to carry the team on his back.

D – Gerard Pique, Spain – Had a great tournament anchoring Spain’s defense, probably bled more than any other player.

D – Maicon, Brazil – So dangerous down the right flank.  Strong defender with an excellent touch on the ball (See: goal vs. North Korea)

F – Luis Suarez, Uruguay – Made up a fearsome  partnership with Forlan, not afraid to shoot from anywhere.

Quarterfinal drama

2 Jul

Wow, what a day.  This was by far the best day of the tournament. 

In the day’s opening game, Brazil dominated the first half against the Netherlands.  Robinho gave Brazil an early lead after a gorgeous through ball from Felipe Melo and it looked like it was going to be all Brazil.  The second half, however, was a different story.  Dunga’s disciplined defense showed signs of cracking after Melo was credited with an own goal after a long ball into the box from Wesley Sneijder.  (To make matters worse, it’s Brazil’s first ever own goal in World Cup play.  Although to be fair, it could have easily been called a Sneijder goal.)  Sneijder scored the game-winner in the 68th minute, heading the ball in after Dirk Kuyt headed a Arjen Robben corner across the goal.  Melo put the stamp on a crappy game minutes later, rightfully earning a red card by stomping on Robben’s leg.  

It was a huge victory for the Dutch as they have a long history of underachieving at the World Cup.  A win over Brazil will give them a major boost of confidence going into Tuesday’s semifinal.  It was an impressive turnaround in the second half after a seriously lackluster first half.  

The day’s second game was one for the ages.  A resurgent Uruguay against Africa’s final hope.  Sounds like a bad TV movie.  Anyways, Uruguay came out strong, but Ghana fired back with a couple close chances of their own.  Ghana struck first with a long range strike from Sulley Muntari in stoppage time of the first half.  It could’ve been a knockout blow for Uruguay, but Diego Forlan had other ideas.  The striker curled in a free kick in the 55th minute to level the game at 1-1.  It continued to be a back-and-forth affair with neither team able to break through in regulation.  

So to extra time we went.  Again, both teams struggled to find the back of the net.  It looked like things would be headed for penalties, but no.  A last minute free kick from Ghana caused chaos in the box and Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the goal line.  Penalty to Ghana in the dying seconds of extra time – holy cow!  Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take it and looked set to send an African nation through to the semifinals for the first time, but he hit the crossbar!  Holy drama batman, what an ending.  To penalties they went.  Gyan showed nerves of steel to convert first for Ghana mere minutes after missing in extra time.  Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera made two saves on less than stellar shots, but it was enough to send Uruguay through to the semifinals and cause ultimate heartbreak for Ghana.

It was definitely the game of the tournament so far.  Both teams played solid football and created good chances.  It was quite the game to watch and ended in one of the most dramatic way I think I’ve ever seen.  The (I think) deliberate handball from Suarez ended up being Urguay’s saving grace.  He will now miss the semifinal, which is a big loss for the team.  I think it was a smart move by Suarez to get the red card though because at the point in the game, you’d rather give up a penalty than a goal because players can miss penalties (like Gyan did).  

I can’t say that I wanted Ghana to win, but that had to be the most heartbreaking loss to handle.  Gyan is probably kicking himself for missing the penalty in extra time after he was able to make it in the shootout.  It would have been something else if Ghana had been able to become the first African nation to make it to the semifinals of the World Cup.

Here’s hoping the Germany-Argentina game and Spain-Paraguay game live up to today’s standards.

Video of Gyan’s extra time miss right this way:

Five most memorable moments of the round of 16

30 Jun

There are no World Cup games today and that makes me quite sad.  I really don’t know what to do with myself, so I guess I could actually get some work done.  Or blog about the latest round of games.  Yeah, blogging wins that battle quite handily.  Anyways, I’ve compiled a list of my top five most memorable moments from the round of 16 – some things are good, some are bad, but they will all stick with you in one way or another.

1. Frank Lampard’s “no-goal” – Of course you have all seen this a million times by now, but it’s still shocking that a ball clearly two yards over the goal line was not ruled a goal.  I credit Germany goalie Manuel Neuer for that as he played the ball like it had merely bounced off the bar.  If Neuer had responded like he’d been beaten, I bet Jorge Larrionda would have given the goal.  Had the strike counted, it would have drastically changed the game. 

2. Ghana’s extra-time winner – You have no idea how hard it was for me to write that.  However, putting aside the fact that the U.S. was the team punished by Asamoah Gyan, it really was a great moment for African soccer.  Ghana is the lone representative of the continent to make it out of the group stage.  They withstood the pressure magnificently in the round of the 16 and now we will get to see if Ghana can become the first African nation to make it to the semifinals. 

3. Game-winning goal from Luis Suarez – Simply put, this goal is absolutely brilliant.  It also proved to be the game-winning goal to send Uruguay through to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1970.  Check it out for yourself.

4. Carlos Tevez is way offsides – Argentina took an early lead on Mexico, thanks to Carlos Tevez and a bumbling assistant referee.  Tevez was offsides by a mile when he headed the ball in the goal and even a conference between the head honcho and the assistant couldn’t overturn the call.  The entire arena saw the goal replayed and that wasn’t good enough either.  The goal stood and Argentina went on to claim a 3-1 win.  Oh and Tevez scored again in the second half, this time he was onsides.

5. Paraguayan penalties – The South American nation kept cool under pressure, sinking Japan 5-3 on penalties.  The drama didn’t really start until after Yuichi Komano of Japan missed his.  Nelson Valdez and Oscar Cardozo made the final two penalties for Paraguay to send the team to the quarterfinals.

It’s sad that poor officiating made it onto the list twice, but even FIFA has responded to the criticism and Sepp Blatter has said that the organization will reopen the case for goal line technology.

World Cup results – June 26 & 27

27 Jun

Heartbreak on Saturday, massive controversy on Sunday.  In the opening game on Saturday, Uruguay dispatched South Korea, 2-1.  Luis Suarez gave the South American side an early lead, but Lee Chung-Yong equalized midway through the second half.  Suarez notched the game winner in the 80th minute on a beautiful curling shot into the upper right side of the goal.  It’s Uruguay’s first trip to the quarterfinals since 1970 and it is well-deserved.

And in the day’s second game, an early extra time goal from Ghana was enough to send the U.S. packing, despite several golden chances for the Yanks to equalize.  (I’m still way too depressed about this game to get into much more detail.)

Anyways, Sunday’s games were characterized by controversy and once again raised questions about the place of technology in soccer.  Germany took a shock 2-0 lead over England in the first 30 minutes, thanks to goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.  The game looked over before it had started, but England got back in the mix after a Matthew Upson header.  Frank Lampard leveled the game moments later…or so everyone thought…except the ref.  Lampard’s shot bounced off the crossbar and over the goal line, but referee Jorge Larrionda waved play on.  (You might recognize his name from the three red card debacle between USA and Italy in 2006.)  Clearly an equalizer from England would’ve changed the game dramatically.  Thomas Muller scored twice in the second half to put the game away and give Germany a 4-1 win.

The Argentina-Mexico game saw its own bit of controversy.  Carlos Tevez gave the Argentines a lead in the 26th minute, but he was clearly offsides.  A conference between the ref and the assistant yielded no change and the goal stood.  (Note to self: write post about technology/refs.)  Gonzalo Higuain  added a second for Argentina in the 33rd and Tevez added a second (totally legit) goal in the second half.  Mexico got a late consolation goal from Javier Hernandez.

Saturday, June 26 results
Uruguay 2 (Suarez 7, 80)
South Korea 1 (Lee Chung-Yong 68)

USA 1 (Donovan 61 – pen)
Ghana 2 (Boateng 4, Gyan 92)

Sunday, June 27 results
Germany 4 (Klose 19, Podolski 31, Muller 67, 69)
England 1 (Upson 36)

Argentina 3 (Tevez 26, 52, Higuain 33)
Mexico 1 (Hernandez 71)

Quarterfinal matchups
Uruguay vs. Ghana
Germany vs. Argentina

Cardiac kids can’t do it again

26 Jun

Team USA gave us late game heroics to get to the knockout round.  They came from a goal down just to get to extra time against Ghana, but they couldn’t pull off a miracle comeback against Ghana, losing 2-1 in extra time.  It’s a heartbreaking loss for the U.S. as they had a multitude of opportunities, but just couldn’t convert to level the game.  Of course, it doesn’t help giving up a goal five minutes into the game or the eventual winner three minutes into extra time.

Forgive me, I’m still a little distraught over the loss and I’m not really sure where to go with this post.

I guess my big question for Bob Bradley would be this: Why did you change the lineup that was so successful against Algeria?  Bradley started Ricardo Clark for Maurice Edu in the midfield and Robbie Findley for Herculez Gomez up top.  Clark was the culprit on the early goal, giving away the ball in a bad position.  He did the same thing against England.  Edu is a much more consistent player and more of a goal-scoring threat than Clark.  Plus, he’s much better about not making stupid mistakes.  I think Bradley realized the mistake early on, substituting Edu for Clark in only the 31st minute.  That sub never should have had to been used though as Edu deserved the start.  As for Robbie Findley, so much was made of his speed, but he never did anything with it.  His passing was generally poor and he couldn’t finish to save his life despite a couple stellar opportunities.  Gomez replaced him at halftime.

I just don’t understand why the U.S. continues to give up early goals.  If it’s a problem, fix it.  It’s something that has plagued the U.S. throughout qualification and the group stage, but they just couldn’t figure out a way to get past it.  Is it nerves?  What is the issue?  Whatever it is, it has got be fixed for the future.  If the U.S. wants to make a deep run in tournaments like the World Cup, they’ve got to get their emotions and nerves under control prior to kickoff.

More to come later…