Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Quarter Finals

I re-discovered why I'm in love with the beautiful game again over the course of the past thirty hours. The World Cup came to life and shredded any chance I had at ever becoming a football pundit into smithereens. There's nothing like watching someone put their head on the block and then watch them fall to their knees like a wimpy dude who's confessed to an affair. In a perfect world neither would happen but this is the world we live in.

As I wrote earlier I expected the boys from Brazil to deal with Holland in an effective manner. Up until half-time it looked they were going to do just that. They looked like they were cruising to the semi-finals after a glittering first half display unfortunately resulted in just one goal.
However Holland had other plans and goals from Wesley Sneijder on 53 and 68 minutes have the Dutch dreaming of the final and a possible first success in the tournament. The Brazilians were left to contemplate their fate as they left the field almost disbelieving that this could ever have happened. Perhaps my hope of hearts that the Dutch come through and win this is going to happen. Based though on my predictions I probably have just cursed them.

I predicted that the Ghana v Uruguay game would be won by Ghana after a 1-1 draw on penalties. In fact it was the Uruguayans who progressed on penalties. Goals from Muntari and Forlan had the teams deadlocked coming to the end of extra-time. Ghana pushed forward in one final assault and in a goal mouth frenzy Suarez took one for the team when he received a red card for saving Ghana's goal bound effort with his hands. Gyan stepped up to fire himself into the history books but his attempt bounded over off the cross bar leaving him wishing he had sought one of the corners.

Gyan showed his metal when he converted Ghana's first penalty in the shootout but that was the highlight as Abreu delicately chipped his spot kick down the middle of the goal to send Uruguay into rapture and Gyan into a personal nightmare that may last a lifetime. It was gripping to watch as the hopes of a continent disappeared on a professional footballers inability to score from a dead ball situation twelve yards from goal. Uruguay celebrated as the nation of only three and a half million people made the semi finals for the first time since 1970.

Argentina v Germany was the tie of the round on paper but didn't quite live up to my prediction of an epic 3-2 win for the Argies after extra time. The Germans turned on the style and avenged their epic 1986 encounter when they dismantled the best Maradona could muster by four goals to nil. The Germans must be loving this after the way no-one gave them a chance to win the tournament. As the bookmakers scramble for cover, the Germans must feel confident of adding to their title count. Goals from Thomas Mueller, Klose (2) and Friedrich saw the Germans put an end to the Argentine gallop that threatened much but delivered little when greatness started to speak a little louder.

The Paraguayans can count themselves a little unlucky not to progress at the expense of their former conquerors in an entertaining last Quarter final which sprung to life in the second half when Paraguay were awarded a penalty only to see Spanish goalkeeper Casillas save Cardoza's effort. Sixty seconds later the tide had turned as the Spanish watched as David Villa dispatched the penalty Spain had been awarded only to see the referee make him take it again for an encroachment. He then missed the re-take. Either side could have won this one but it was David Villa's day when he scored an 83rd minute winner to send the Spanish into the final four for the first time in their footballing history.

The quarter finals had it all. Goals, drama, shocks, performances and most of all a show of football that draws so many to it's endless possibilities. Just as it seemed the European sides were not in the same league as their South American counterparts they rise above expectation and answer the questions like only champions can. The problem now is which one is it going to be.

As I gaze into my crystal ball right now it's quite a blur. It's questioning my attempts at carving out a career for myself at the local betting shop or ever becoming a caricature of myself on Apres Match. Hope however always springs eternal so it seems only fair that I give it another go.

I see the Dutch ending Uruguay's admiral run in a tight affair which the Dutch will win 2-1. In the other semi final I see the Spanish throwing another World Cup curve ball and taking the Germans out 1-0. So in other words put a double against my bets and win yourself a fortune. Where else would you get it?

The standard of Irish comedy was raised a bar tonight when some sharp script writing, keen eyed editing and some remarkable delivery gave the Apres Match team a candidate for comedy moment of the year. It's more than The Savage Eye!

Footnote to Goalkeepers - In a penalty shoot scenario make gestures of movement from your line but do not move an inch from your spot.

Footnote to academics - Do the stats on likelihood of victory? You could change football and get yourself a job with Jose Mourinho as a statistician. It has to be better than shovelin' shi.....

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