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World Cup – Eliminations, Day 4

This is the last day of the first elimination round.

Paraguay 0(5)* – Japan 0(3) – Paraguay advance on PKs

This was a difficult game to watch .. both teams were cautious and played not to lose. Paraguay was better, but not by all that much. Neither team deserved to lose, but neither deserved to win either.

This was the first shootout of this world cup, and it was exciting.  Paraguay shot first, and both teams hit their first 2 PKs.  Then Paraguay scored #3, and the Japanese defender Yuichi Komano bounced his PK off the crossbar.  both sides made #4, then Cardozo calmly watched the Japanese keeper Kawashima dive early as he ran up and put the ball in the empty half to send Paraguay through.

On a tactical note … IMHO the Japanese coach made an error in removing midfielders Yuki Abe and Daisuke Matsui. Komano should not have been taking the penalty.

Spain 1 – Portugal 0

Portugal/Brazil was a snoozer, and this game was not much better. Portuguese star (and 2008 FIFA player of the year) Cristiano Ronaldo was nowhere to be found, other than taking a couple of free kicks. Spain was clearly the better team, controlling the midfield and preventing Ronaldo from getting the ball in space. Spanish strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres imposed their will on their on the Portuguese defense.  Spain deservedly broke through on 63′ through David Villa, although offside should have been called. The outcome of the game was just, if not totally correct.

Referee Notes:

Frank deBleeckere, the excellent Belgian referee, did not (IMHO) acquit himself all that well in the Paraguay/Japan game. There were no big decisions to make, but he was inconsistent in fouls and discipline, and gave two highly suspect (and undeserved) cautions for “intentional” handball. I am not into schadenfreude, but I suspect that this performance may clear the path for my favorite (Englishman Howard Webb) to do the final.  After yesterday, Jorge Larrionda and Roberto Rossetti are out of the running, although I hope neither retires.

Argentinian referee Hector Baldassi officiated the Spain/Portugal game, and seemed to manage the roughness and fakery typical of both of these teams.  However, he made two (under-reported) errors.  The Spain goal should have been disallowed as Villa was offside. it was close, but clear.  TV replays show the assistant referee out of position. And the straight red card to Ronaldo Costa was ridiculous .. Baldassi was conned.

Spain's David Villa is clearly offside ...

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