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World Cup – Day 9

Netherlands 1 – Japan 0

This outcome of this game was as expected, although the Dutch did not look all that good. They really miss Arjen Robben. Japan was clearly overmatched, but their defensive discipline along with the Dutch fear of the counter meant few chances. Oranje pressure increased, and they scored on 53′ when Wesley Sneijder blasted one past Japanese goalie Kawashima after a poor clearance fell to Robin van Persie.  Some have said that Kawashima should have stopped it, but I don’t agree.  The game opened up after the goal with Japan throwing men forward.

Netherlands on 6 points will advance from Group E, although if they lose to Cameroon on Thursday (24-June) they could go in second place on goal difference.  It appears that Robben may get some time against Cameroon, and will likely be ready for the first elimination match.

Ghana 1 – Australia 1

This World Cup is just a horror show for Australia.  Their best player (Tim Cahill) gets a soft red in their first game, and the unfortunate Harry Kewell gets a tough red for handball on the line in this game.  The resulting penalty tied the score.  Australia had taken the lead when Brett Holman converted a kind rebound from a free kick just outside of the box.  Kingson, the Ghana keeper, should have done better managing the free kick, which wasn’t particularly challenging despite a bounce.

After going to 10 men, Australia played well and held on to the point.  Mark Schwartzer (the stellar Aussie goalie) rose to the occasion and had a tremendous game. And Australia had some dangerous attacks as well, so they have some reason to be confident going into their last match.

Ghana is in control of Group D after Serbia beat Germany yesterday.  Somehow the Socceroos may still advance if they beat Serbia on Weds (23-June) and Ghana beats the Germans.  The latter is IMHO more likely than the former, particularly with Cahill and Kewell both out.

Cameroon 1 – Denmark 2

Cameroon has been a disappointment, and are eliminated.  There is a tremendous amount of talent on the team, but they have been utterly unsuccessful. This game was fun to watch, however. Denmark gifted Cameroon a goal on 10′, although from the way Eto’o pranced around you would have thought it had been his achievement!  Cameroon had a few more opportunities over the next 20 minutes but couldn’t convert them.  The Danes didn’t lose their composure, eventually figured the Indominable Lions pressure out, and the game was on.  On 32′ a gorgeous Denmark long ball got Dennis Rommedahl behind Assou-Ekotto; Rommedahl crossed nicely to Nicklas Bendtner, who put it away.  Both defenses looked shaky as the entertaining first half ended.  Cameroon generated plenty of good chances in the second half, but couldn’t put any away.  On the other side, Dennis Rommedahl, who had been giving the Cameroon defense fits with his speed, was given far too much space on the right wing, cut inside, and curled a nice left foot strike from 12 yards out on the post.  The rest of the game was just as entertaining, as both teams had multiple chances but didn’t convert. Both goalies made some nice saves.

The game was well officiated, although it wasn’t particularly challenging as both teams remained composed and controlled, and didn’t dive or whine. I thought Cameroon was denied a clear penalty on 48′ when Assou-Ekotto was taken down in the area, but the referee didn’t think so, nor did the commentators, and Cameroon didn’t complain.

Group E is now a typical big tournament group. Netherlands is through, Cameroon is out, and the two middle teams (Japan and Denmark) play for advancement on Thursday (24-June). On paper one would favor Denmark to win, but if they draw Japan advances on goal difference. The goal gifted to Cameroon may yet haunt them!  I’m watching this one!

About the Kewell Red Card …

The rules are clear.  Some (including me) dispute whether Kewell “intentionally played the ball with his hand”, but the (very experienced) referee Roberto Rossetti clearly thought he did, and was nicely positioned to see it.  Once that decision is made, the penalty kick is mandated, as is the sending off for “denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity”, aka DOGSO.  This is where I don’t like the rules.  IMHO a sending off is too harsh for this kind of situation, as it is in the kind of situation where a goalie takes down a player in the box going for the ball.  I think the referee should have the discretion to give yellow instead of red in DOGSO circumstances where a penalty is also awarded.

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