After a couple of days off the World Cup was back. I wasn’t sure whether to call this Day 20 of the World Cup as it is the twentieth day of World Cup matches but it was the twenty second day since the tournament started. I went for Day 20 and I stand by that decision, but I immediately regret having to explain myself and it doesn’t make for a very interesting read. Anyhoo…
The first game of the day was the pant-tightening encounter between Brazil and Holland. This was the 10th meeting between these sides, with Brazil having won three to Holland’s two, with four draws. The last time they met in the World Cup was in the 1998 semi-final, which Brazil won on penalties. So hopefully the Dutch had been preparing for this clash with a healthy dose of Spotflick action, just in case the match went the distance.
Both teams had been playing some good football in the tournament so far, but had failed to really find their feet and play to their full potential. They had both been on the end of some pretty harsh criticism from their respective country’s press for not living up to expectations. Brazil’s coach Dunga had come under a lot of criticism for his willingness to put results before playing samba-style football. Fair enough I say. And the Dutch had also attracted criticism for not being as talented as the Dutch teams of the late 1970’s. But come on, how can you criticise a team that in unbeaten in 23 games. And I thought the English press were hard on Fabio and his boys, but if they were performing like the Dutch the red tops would fizzing at the mouth. But, it was hoped that both teams today would find their form in this match and we would be treated to a World Cup Classic.
The match might not be remembered as a classic but it certainly did not disappoint and will give the red tops plenty to write about, never mind what Brazil and Holland’s press will do. In the first half Brazil looked the stronger side and took a deserved lead in only the 10th minute when Robinho ran on to a Felipe Melo pass that split the Dutch defence apart like wax off a Babybel. The Brazilians looked like they had the measure of the Dutch, playing it very tight at the back and creating chances at the other end, and it was only the heroics of Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg that stopped Brazil stretching their lead.
But after the break the Brazilians seemed to fall apart and the Dutch seemed like a different team (insert half time Oranges gag here). It all started when Holland equalised in bizarre fashion. Wesley Sneijder floated a cross into the box from wide on the right. Brazil’s reliable shot stopper Julio Cesar came out to punch the ball clear but made a complete Jakki Brambles of it, missing the ball completely and clattering into Felipe Melo. The ball then struck the off balance Melo on the napper and went into the net. The Dutch were back in it.
Brazil seemed to go to pieces after this and the Dutch took the lead in the 68th minute through Wesley Sneijder. A Dutch corner was flicked on by Dirk Kuyt at the near post and the unmarked Sneijder nodded home the simplest of goals to send the Oranje fans wild. Brazil were now chasing the game and tempers began to flare. Things went from bad to worse for Brazil when Felipe Melo, capped off a sensational shift in the Brazilian shirt by getting sent off. So Melo, set up a goal, scored an own goal and got sent off. A busy day for him and a bit of a mare for anyone who had him on their Dream Team. There could be no complaints about the card though. He fouled Robben, who to be fair fell to the deck and started howling, but Robben had been acting up all day, going down quicker than a Russian sub and rolling around on the deck under the gentlest of challenges. I must say I had a certain sympathy for Melo as if I had the chance to stick the boot into Robben I would probably take it, but this is the World Cup Quarter Final. Total Madness. Straight red. Nice to see Robben get some shoe pie though.
Brazil pressed hard for an equaliser, but with time running out and down to 10 men they just couldn’t find a way through the Dutch defence. It ended 2-1 and Holland looked like they had just created a cure for baldness. The delight on their faces was clear to see as they looked dead and buried at half time but pulled off a remarkable comeback to dump Brazil unceremoniously out of the World Cup. Dunga will not be looking forward to meeting the press after this game. I wonder if he now regrets not taking this big lad?
The second match of the day was between Ghana and Uruguay, with a place in the semi-finals against Holland up for grabs. The two teams had never met before in a competitive match and I must say that I didn’t know what to expect from this game. But it turned out to be a gripping watch with more end to end action than Wimbledon, and an ending more impressive than Jennifer Lopez.
Just as it looked like the first half was going to end goalless, Sulley Muntari picked the ball up in the Uruguay half and when he realised that no one was going to close him down decided to have a pop at goal. To be fair no one closed him down as he was about 40 yards from goal, but Sulley proceeded to slap his shot right into the back of the net. You could point the finger at the Uruguayan keeper Muslera for getting beaten from such a distance but the old Jabulani is a tricky little fella to predict, especially when it is lashed at you at about 90 mph. That was the last kick of the half, and what a blow for Uruguay.
But Uruguay came out fighting in the second half and got themselves back into the game in the 55th minute. This time is was Diego Forlan who used the jabulani to bamboozle the Ghanaian goalie as his free kick swerved erratically in the air and wrong footed the keeper and nestled into the back of the net. The game ended 1-1 so the game went into extra time, but few could have guessed that this match would end in such dramatic fashion. Both sides failed to seize the initiative in the additional time and the game looked destined to go to penalties but in the dying moments Ghana mounted a last desperate attack to try and get the goal that would see them become the first African semi-finalists in World Cup history. And it looked like they would score when Steven Appiah fired a loose ball in the box towards the Uruguayan goal, but Suarez, who was stood on the line, blocked it with his leg only for Adiyiah to react to the rebound and head the ball towards the goal again. This time Suarez took a more unorthodox approach to blocking the ball and palmed the ball away from goal in a move that would not have looked out of place on the volleyball court. Thankfully the ref spotted it and awarded the penalty and showed Suarez a red card.
But that was not the end of the drama. Up stepped Asamoah Gyan to take the penalty that would keep Africa’s World Cup dream alive. He had already proved his worth from the spot scoring 2 penalties already in the tournament and showing some great Spotflick tekkers. But he fired his spotkick over the bar with the last kick of the game! It was going to go to penalties. Drama.
Uruguay went first in the shoot out and the impressive Diego Forlan opened the scoring with a confident penalty kick. Unbelieveably Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take Ghana’s first. He must have some big old swingers as he expertly fired the ball into the top corner in what is one of the most impressive penalties I have ever seen. Unfortunatle Gyan seemed to be the only playyer who had been using Spotflick to practice his penalties as both Mensah and Adiyiah both missed with pretty tame penalties taken off a very short run up. It was then down to Sebastian Abreu to secure the win for Uruguay and he showed that he also possesses a pair of swingers of similar magnitude to Gyan by audaciously chipping the ball down the middle to break African hearts and send Uruguay through to the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1970. A more dramtic end to a game you will struggle to see, and Suarez’s deliberate handball paid handsome dividends for his team but will undoubtedly be the most talked about handball at a World Cup since the ‘Hand of God‘.
Believe it or not but after the drama of the penalty shoot out some Ghana fans must have got themselves Spotflick in order to put their penalty shoot out heartbreak behind them. Ghana posted a number of victories in the Spotflick Cup yesterday, but England continued their impressive run, chalking up another couple of wins to maintain their impressive lead over the chasing pack. While Ghana still have some way to go before catching England, as we have seen with this World Cup, you never know what’s going to happen!
There is still time to get your nation involved in the Spotflick Cup and make sure they top the table at the end of the World Cup and prove they are the best penalty flickers in the world. All you need is a copy of Spotflick – The Penalty Shoot Out game for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.