South Korea 2, Togo 1
Watched this one on tape. Don't have a whole lot to say about it as both teams played about as well as I figured. I'm happy I picked the Koreans to win the group, and given the France result, I like their chances. Their speed and willingness to attack should serve them well against the French, and their only concern should be triple marking Henry. For the Togolese, they looked to have more of an attack than I anticipated, and their speed and dribbling ability of midfielder Moustpaha Salifou on counters and the sheer size of Emmanuel Adebayor up front could give the lumbering Swiss some problems. A result there isn't out of the question. Anyway, since the three best players of the game just happened to be the goal scorers, we're going right to...
Your 3 Stars
3. # 14 LF Chun-Soo Lee: The Blonde Bomber leveled the game up with a bending free kick over the wall moments after Togolesee defender Jean-Paul Abolo got sent off for his second yellow, desperately trying to slow down the hard charging star of the Man U midfield Ji-Sung Park. Chun-Soo has a bit of a reputation as a chirper, but he was able to back it up today.
2. # 17 RF Kader Mohamed: Gave his side the first half lead with so far the only longball goal of the WC, from what I can remember. He managed to slow down midfielder Alaixys Romao's punt enough with his thigh to be able to blast the ball to the lower left corner two strides later. Had another hard effort a couple minutes after half. He looked to have a lot of juice and room to run since the Korean defense were paying more attention to the more celebrated Adebayor. Wasn't afraid to shoot, that's for sure.
1. # 9 CF Jung-Hwan Ahn: 02' WC hero and my favorite Korean player joins Mexico's Antonio Zinha and Australia's Tim Cahill as subs to earn Man of the Match honors thus far. In the 71st minute, after receiving a pass from holding midfielder Chong-Gug Song, he took advantage of a nice dummy run to get some room for himself and cracked one from right outside the box to the upper left corner of the net. Tried to score 5-hole in the 74th minute too, which I thought was gutsy. Bringing him on at half time when everyone else is tired really brings out the best of his abilities.
Media Highlights: I love the pair of Adrian Healey and the legendary Tommy Smyth doing the games. A Brit and an Irishman, it's the perfect odd couple tandem. I wish they could just be at some studio in Bristol and do all the games. They're so much better than the staid American announcers who are afraid of offending anyone and can't be funny to save their lives. They were on their A-game tonight.
Smyth really, really despises the British. When Heatley informed us that the ref was British, Smyth responded, "Is that good or bad?"
Then later, when Heatley announced that this was the first WC since the 60's without a British coach, Smyth's snide retort was, "Should I put away the hanky now or do you want to cry a little more?"
Finally, later in the game when the straightman reported that the Danish word for knocking the ball around to end the game is pong, Smyth replied, "We have a good word for giving it away- we call it stupid."
Oooh, also, Heatley said that Korean substitute midfielder Nam Il Kim is known as, "The Vacuum Cleaner."
Hey, what the guy did to get on the team is none of my business.
France 0, Switzerland 0
I HATED this game. If it was the first soccer game any American happened to watch, it'd surely be the last. My god was this dull. I had to keep from drifting off. The goddamn French just refused to shoot the ball! It's like there was some team rule that said that only striker Thierry Henry was allowed to shoot the ball and no one else. Guys like midfielder Franck Ribery passed off wide open shots to get Henry the ball instead. It was maddening. Forget `em, they're done. The first tough team they play in the 2nd round (if they even get that far) and they're gone. They don't belong in the conversation with the other European giants, Italy, Spain, Germany and England. And certainly not with the Czechs, either.
That being said, both sides had a couple chances on net. Swiss forward Alex Frei just missed heading into basically an empty net off a 23rd minute free kick, and his partner up front Daniel Gykax knocked one off his noggin right into French goalie Fabien Barthez's feet in the 65th. France's best scoring chance came in the 36th when Ribery's awful decision to pass up a wide open shot in favor of slotting it back to his lone striker still could've worked out if the ref called a hand ball when Henry's shot was blocked. I couldn't help but wonder why France didn't play David Trezeguet. It gets no easier for the French as they have to deal with the spunky Koreans, intent on proving they're legit and with plenty of guys not bashful to put it on net.
Your 3 Stars (Reluctantly) Out of principle, I won't name any Swiss here. They refused to knock the ball out of play when Henry was rolling on the ground hurt. The whole crowd rightly scolded them for it. BOOOOOOOO!
3. # 12 ST Thierry Henry: He didn't have anything resembling a performance worthy of silencing his critics, but at least he wasn't afraid of the ball. He took four weak shots on net and the ref could've helped him out with that hand ball if he wanted to.
3. # 16 GK Fabien Barthez: Recovered enough after being left for dead by his defense to stop the rebound effort on Frei after his initial header banged off the post and saved the game later on by refusing to let Gykax beat him five hole on a header. Looks to be in decent form.
1. # 10 CM Zinedine Zidane: Did his best to set up a handful of chances for his wings, but they kept botching them by trying to make the extra pass to Henry. Controlled the game for large chunks and looked like he still had something left. He certainly could have used another forward out there to look for.
Media Highlights: It was revealed that at one time Barthez dated Madonna. Said Barthez, "It was the best year of my professional career. I felt like Superman." Superman was impervious to Hepatitis C, right?
Brazil 1, Croatia 0
THIS? This is your wonderful, flashy, Cup-Favorite Brazil? You've got to be fucking kidding. They look pretty ordinary to me. Sure, they have a couple guys who can shoot and some fancy dribblers, but at no point was I watching the game and thinking to myself, "Man, they're soo much better than Croatia."
And I don't even like Croatia.
Not fucking impressed.
The Croats deserved a better result. They had three hard cracks from point blank range from forwards Dado Prso, and Ivan Klasnic, and midfielder Marko Babic, but they were all struck pretty much right at Brazilian keeper Dida. A few other chances just missed the net. But they were definitely buzzing around the net in the 2nd half. I'm looking forward to their next game against the Japanese, but I fear it won't be pretty for the Asians, whom I'll be rooting on regardless.
As you can imagine, the Brazilian press wasn't happy, but in an ironic twist, they kind of gave the majority of the team a backhanded compliment. Basically, they congratulated the team for winning the game with only nine men. Huh?
You see, apparently forwards Adriano, and Ronaldo especially, didn't bother showing up for this one, so as far as the press was concerned, Brazil was down two men. I can't say I disagree with them, really. This looked to be the laziest, slothiest, most unmotivated forward tandem I've seen all tournament. Just a pathetic performance from both. When Robinho came into the game in the 69th for Ronaldo the fat toad, Brazil's pace quickened up considerably, and their young forward touched the ball significantly more in his twenty minutes than both the others combined. While the writers and fans are begging with manager Carlos Parreira to chain Ronaldo to the bench for the rest of the games, he's already gone on the record as saying he'll be starting their next game against the Aussies. If he continues to spend the whole game walking about aimlessly, the Socceroos could get a result. I'm telling you, this WC is wide open. Maybe the one in '10 won't be, but this one is.
Your 3 Stars
3. # 5 CB Igor Tudor: Did his best to pester the Brazilian forwards, and gave them no time or space. Sure, they won't working very hard, but anytime you hold Brazilian to one goal, from 30 yards out, your central defenders are doing well, and Tudor was very active and physical, repeatedly winning challenges.
2. # 10 LM Ronaldinho: It says something about the depth of his talent and abilities that in a game where he was consistently doublemarked everywhere he went, he still found a way to get two near goals, (one on a spectacular header in the 61st) had a couple of saucy dribbling displays, and did his best to service his sluggish forwards. Sadly, I fear we'll better performances than this from him before it's all said and done.
1. # 8 CM Kaka: Didn't do a whole lot, as one would normally expect from a MotM, but in a 1-0 game, he did enough. His blistering rocket, off a set up from ancient wingback Cafu in the 44th gave the Samba Boys all that they would need on this day. He also seemed frustrated by his forwards' reluctance to move, but thanks to the attention Ronaldinho was getting, he was able to find some room every now and then from 30 yards out and beyond. You pretty much have to pick your poison with Brazil, and Kaka might be in the catbird's seat, much as anyone who bats behind Bonds is for the Giants.
Media Highlights: Besides annoying as hell JP Dellacamera telling me how fun loving and joyful Brazil is to watch every five minutes, there wasn't much to work from here, although it's always weird to hear the positive adjectives like "delightful" and "amazing" before kaka. That's going to get some getting used to.
The best moment for me was ESPN's game cast, which observed a specator's interruption of the game with, "Then one idiot (and I don't mean Ronaldo) spoils it all by running on the pitch." You just know whoever wrote that was British.
Anyway, I think it's a bit harsh to call the fan an idiot. At least he was running.