Menez and Bonaventura Goals Help Milan Beat Lacklustre Napoli

AC Milan striker Jeremy Menez celebrates his goal.

AC Milan striker Jeremy Menez celebrates his goal.

Goals early on in each half from Jeremy Menez and Giacomo Bonaventura help AC Milan to beat Champions League place rivals Napoli 2-0 at the San Siro. The Rossoneri survived very few scares through out the game and kept Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain especially quiet in a win that boosts their chances of finishing in the third and final Champions League spot.

Lineups:

AC Milan: Diego Lopez (GK), Bonera, Rami (66′), Mexes, Armero, Poli (77′), De Jong, Montolivo (c) (86′), Honda, Bonaventura, Menez.

Subs: Agazzi (GK), Muntari (77′), Saponara, Pazzini, Albertazzi, Essien (86′), C.Zapata (66′), Abbiati (GK), Zaccardo, El Shaaraway.

Napoli: Rafael (GK), Mesto (c), Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam, Jorginho (61′), David Lopez, Callejon, de Guzman (77′), Mertens (72′), Higuain.

Subs: Andujar (GK), Henrique, Britos, Colombo (GK), Hamsik (61′), Gargano (77′), Inler, D.Zapata (72′).

The game appeared to be a slow burner but it sprang into life with a bang, Milan have had a leading light in striker Jeremy Menez who joined on a free from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer and it was the Frenchman who dragged the ball with ease past defender Koulibaly and dispatched a precise low finish into the far corner that Rafael had no chance of saving.

With the sudden shock of conceding, it took Napoli some time before they began to click. Two chances came at once for Rafa Benitez’ side when Jose Callejon was teed up perfectly on the edge of the Milan box and his thunderous strike was too hot for Diego Lopez to handle as he parried to straight into the feet of David Lopez. The goalkeeper,  however, was fast enough to get himself together and stop the Napoli player from leveling the score.

The tempo of the game was suddenly electric as both sides attempted to hit the other with speed. Napoli continued to press but could only muster half chances from Higuain and Dries Mertens. Montolivo was the Milan player causing most problems for the Napoli defence but multiple shots from the home side’s captain continued to be wide of the mark.

Napoli’s best chance of the half came just before the end when Higuain cleverly fired a quick cross along the six yard box that needed to be cleared away by defender Philippe Mexes who’s stretch for the ball almost put it in into the bottom of the goal.

Former Swansea City player, Jonathan De Guzman tried to lift his Napoli teammates straight from the start of the second half,  but to no avail after his attempts to score and put Higuain in on goal were thwarted by keeper Diego Lopez. After the small spell of pressure from the away side, Milan struck the killer blow.

Coming forward with pace as they had done throughout thus far, the ball reached Pablo Armero out on the wing. The fullback provided a brilliant pinpoint cross for the leaping Bonaventura who was was up in the air before any of the Napoli defence, and his headed effort was perfectly put into the far corner of the goal.

Within minutes of scoring, Milan almost had a third when Menez played the ball into space for midfielder Andrea Poli to run into, however, the Italian’s first touch was poor enough for Napoli goalkeeper Rafael to stop him in his tracks. The second Milan goal hugely deflated Napoli and for much of the rest of the half, Milan defended at ease as Napoli continuously pumped half hearted crosses into the box.

They tried though until the very end but could not even clinch a consolation goal as Milan claimed their victory. The win puts Filippo Inzaghi’s side in the midst of an assortment of sides that are fighting for the third and final Champions League spot with Serie A Champions Juventus and Roma, currently, too far ahead of the rest. The win will be a huge confidence boost for a Milan team that head to Roma next weekend after their 1-0 defeat to Genoa last Sunday.

As for Napoli, Rafa Benitez will most definitely be concerned of his sides inability to create enough clear cut chances and taking them. They play Parma next at home on Thursday night.

 

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Russia Rise Too Late

RUSSIA 1-1 SOUTH KOREA

In the final Group Stage match of the first round both Russia and South Korea were looking for the perfect start. With both sides still yet to face dark horses Belgium the pressure for this match was immense as the three points could have been the perfect set-up for either side. The match started fairly even as both sides failed to hold possession in the middle of the field. The tempo of the game began to pick up as both sides began to exchange chances. Within a minute a half chance for Russia appeared as a cross missed everyone in the Korean penalty area and within seconds a long ball was played up-field by Yun Suk-young followed by a brilliant lay-off for Son Heung-min who was then able to run at the Russian defense, however he blasted his shot over the crossbar. As both sides finally began to settle, the South Korean defense did itself no favors as a ball was allowed to bounce within their penalty area giving Kokorin a chance to score for Russia, but he blasted his shot wide.

As the Russian pressure began to slowly intensify they began to create more chances. A difficult corner had to be punched out by the Korean keeper but it fell into the path of a Russian player who could only fire a shot low into a crowd of players leading to it being cleared away. This was then shortly followed by another cross to the wasteful Kokorin who again headed the ball wide of the goal. A Ki Sung-yeung tackle surprisingly led to a foul being given to Russia with center-back Ignashevitch waiting to take it. At first thought it was expected that a long ball would be played into the area by Ignashevitch, but the Russian then took the defence by surprise as he struck a fierce shot from 35 yards out which needed to be pushed away by the goalkeeper. Russia’s grip the game began to loosen as South Korea began to create some of their own chances before half-time. Their first chance was easily their best as Koo Ja-cheol’s strike, just outside the penalty area, only went wide of the goal due to a deflection. The strike only narrowly went wide of goalkeeper Akinfeev’s left side post as he was left rooted to the spot. Within minutes Korea broke forward again leading to Son Heung-min picking up the ball on the edge of the box but his effort was embarrassingly high and wide of the goal. A disappointing first half was brought to an end by the referee.

The second half begin with an early charge from the Russians as Fayzulin’s shot from distance needed the goalkeeper to tip it over the bar. The corner that shortly followed afterwards almost saw a Russian player squeeze a header in at the near post but it only managed to hit the side netting. Through-out the next fifteen minutes South Korea began to get the upper-hand on the game as they slowly started to identify that Russia’s goalkeeper Akinfeev was struggling to catch shots from distance. A series of efforts from range including notable ones by Ja-cheol and a free-kick by Seung-min almost led to the goalkeeper spilling the ball into the path of a Korean attacker but the nervous Russian continued to recover. A short spell from Russia almost saw Kokorin get on the score sheet but again his efforts were denied. As the game then started to become more open, Lee Keun-ho saw his chance to break away as he then sprinted towards goal unchallenged. Keun-ho then hit another Korean effort from distance which should not of tested the goalkeeper at all, but the below par performance from goalkeeper Akinfeev then dropped to an all-time low. In an attempt to catch the ball, the goalkeeper watched as the ball embarrassingly sipped through his fingers, went over his head and into the goal giving South Korea a lead out of nowhere.

The goal actually turned out to be a good kick up the backside that the Russian team needed as striker Kerzhakov was then brought on to make something happen. Kerzhakov’s impact was instant. Within minutes of the substitution the European side began to pass the ball around, causing the opposition problems, and a shot was then parried by the keeper leading to the ball falling perfectly for an onside Kerzhakov to tap the ball into the goal. With the Russians then level the game became very end-to-end as both sides looked to create the perfect opportunity to get the winner. However, neither side could take their half chances to get a goal, with only Russian striker Kokorin coming closest as he again headed the ball over the bar. With all added-time having been played the referee blew for full-time and both sides will have definitely felt they could have maybe stolen the game away.

My Thoughts On The Game: To be honest, it was a pretty poor match as both sides in the first half looked too scared to go forward in case they allowed the opposition to attack. The freak error by Russian goalkeeper Akinfeev was definitely a blessing in disguise as the match was then somewhat entertaining for the last 20 minutes. However, in the end I think a draw was a fair result as South Korea did test the Russia goal a lot throughout the game and were very good when they tried to quickly break after a Russian move broke down.

My Man Of The Match: With their being pretty much no other stand-out performers, my man of the match would probably have to go to Aleksandr Kerzhakov because when he came on the Russia side then became more threatening and it was Kerzhakov who was at the center of all the chances that were falling for Russia. He was the one that in the perfect place at the right time to score their goal which resulted in them gaining in a point.

Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev attempting to stop the ball from crossing the line after he embarrassingly let it slip.

Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev attempting to stop the ball from crossing the line after he embarrassingly let it slip.

 

Substitutes Spark Belgian Revival

BELGIUM 2-1 ALGERIA

With many football fans tipping Belgium to do well at this World Cup, including myself, the pressure was on them heading into their group opener with Algeria. This game really did struggle to get going for the first twenty minutes, with the only chances in it so far at that stage being a few crosses from free-kicks into the Belgian penalty area for Algeria also,  a shot going embarrassingly wide after a defensive mistake from defender Daniel Van Buyten. The game then burst into life with a bang, as Ghoulam played a diagonal ball from the left hand side into the Belgian box, the cross was allowed to bounce along the area as Algerian winger Feghouli tried to run onto the ball to attempt a shot, defender Jan Vertonghen then stupidly pulled down the Algerian and a penalty was given while also the defender received a yellow card. Feghouli himself then stepped up to slot the penalty down the middle of the goal as keeper Courtois dived to his left.

Even after conceding Belgium didn’t really look to instantly get back into the game, partly due to Algeria doing very to hold them out but also down to their own lackluster performance. Finally though, ten minutes after conceding the penalty, they finally began to threaten as Witsel chested the ball down to fire a shot from 25 yards out which became slightly more difficult for the goalkeeper as it bounced just in front him however, he was able to push it out for a corner. Towards the very end of the first half was when Eden Hazard began to let himself be noticed as he managed to get away from his marker to play a pass into Nacer Chadli who unfortunately can’t get his footing right inside the penalty area and scuffed his shot straight into the keeper’s hands. Hazard though was straight back into the action as he again broke away from the defender marking him and played a brilliant low ball across the six yard box but no one is there to tap the ball into the net. Just as the Belgians were beginning to get going though the half-time whistle went. The first of three changes to have a huge impact on the game came at half-time as coach Wilmots decided that he had enough of Nacer Chadli’s performance and decided to bring on Dries Mertens for him.

Mertens involvement was immediate as he took a corner for Belgium which the keeper completely missed and that surprised Witsel, who wasn’t expecting to get the ball, and he headed the ball over the bar. Mertens then tested the keeper’s resolve again as he whipped in a free-kick which he had to punch away. Shortly after, Algeria went close to scoring after a ball crossed in was headered and the ball looped into the air and almost fell into the goal at the unmarked backpost and Belgian coach Wilmots again decided to make his second key change as he brought on teenager Divock Origi for Romelu Lukaku in a straight swap of strikers. After half a chance for Jan Vertonghen to get on the score sheet went wide, a few seconds later a ball played over the top was perfect for Origi who managed to sprint away from the defenders and fire a shot low at the Algerian keeper who parried the ball away. With chances coming thick and fast for Belgium, coach Wilmots decides to make his third and final substitution taking off Moussa Dembele for the height of Marouane Fellaini as Eden Hazard played another ball into the six yard box that was cleared away by the Algerian defence.

Then finally the break for Belgium came, as Hazard regained possession on the far left side, after a failed attempt to get the ball into the box, he chose to pass out to De Bruyne who then whipped in a diagonal ball that substitute Fellaini came across for and held off a defender brilliantly to allow him to nod the ball into the top right hand corner of the goal, in of the crossbar. Just ten minutes later, the Belgians were in again as a fantastic tackle from De Bruyne allowed the European side to break on the counterattack fast as Hazard then turned away from a defender and into space to allow him to sprint freely towards the opposition penalty area. The Algerians were desperately trying to keep up with the speed of the counter but they couldn’t allowing Hazard to play a ball to the opposite side where substitute Dries Mertens was also sprinting to help Hazard with the attack. Mertens then in acres of space controlled the ball inside the penalty area and fired the ball into the roof the net at the near post, giving Belgium the lead.

With only ten minutes remaining of the match, Belgium continued to attack with the two substitutes, Mertens and Fellaini, continuing to combine. The first opportunity came with seven minutes to go and Mertens played in a fantastic in-swinging cross to Fellaini who headed the ball towards goal only for the goalkeeeper to tip the ball over. The second chance was unfortunate for Fellaini as he chested the ball down inside the penalty area, from yet another Mertens cross from the right, but could not get the touch to take the ball towards goal. Belgium continued to pressure Algeria right up until the final whistle as they escaped with three points after the masterful choice in substitutions from Belgian coach Marc Wilmots.

My Thoughts On The Game: After the first 20 minutes it was beginning to feel a bit like the Iran/Nigeria game however with the vast amount of quality that Belgium have at their disposal, it was only a matter of time before they would score. Needless to say I was stunned as Algeria took the lead through a poorly conceded penalty by Vertonghen. Belgium really didn’t do enough for that first half, they were too slowly when building up attacks and Lukaku was still clearly not 100% after only recently returning from an injury. The changes that Wilmots then made through the start of the second half brought the speed that they were lacking through Mertens and Origi and the target man in Fellaini. Algeria shouldn’t be too disheartened by their performance as they held off Belgium well for long periods of the game and also threatened them as well.

My Man Of The Match: It was a tough choice but I’ve decided to go with Dries Mertens as I felt that his impact was slightly larger than Fellaini and Origi. As soon as he came on for the second half Belgium began to threaten more and more consistently and he took his goal really well with a superb finish to cap off a great Belgian counterattack.

Both of Belgium's goalscorers, Fellaini and Mertens, celebrate their victory.

Both of Belgium’s goalscorers, Fellaini and Mertens, celebrate their victory.

Americans Hold Out Ghana To Earn Three Points

GHANA 1-2 USA

After being knocked out by Ghana in the previous two World Cups, USA were looking for revenge and their Group G clash was the perfect time to get it with the European influence of former German national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, the USA were more than confident that they could match and get the better of their opponents through key players such as Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. Funnily enough, it was Clint Dempsey who made, a quite literally, instant impact as straight from kick-off the USA players closed the Ghanians down fast in order to gain possession, Jermaine Jones received the ball and then passed it on to Dempsey on the left hand side. Dempsey then cut inside of defender Boye and fired a low drive into the bottom right hand corner, with the aid of the right post.

A wave of pressure and chances for Ghana then had to be sustained by the American defence for fifteen minutes as chances fell for Ghana defender Boye, who headed wide after a poorly delivered free-kick from midfielder Muntari, Jordan Ayew got away from his marker to put in a low cross, from the right hand side, into the penalty area towards striker Asamoah Gyan however, Tim Howard anticipated the cross and confidently cut the cross out with a catch. The African side continued to throw crosses into the American penalty area, but no player for Ghana was there to finish them off. An attempted through ball to Asamoah Gyan was again cut out by goalkeeper Tim Howard and then the USA then finally managed to get a break as the ball was worked up to the right hand side of the Ghana penalty area for a ball to be cut across the box to USA striker Jozy Altidore who didn’t control the ball well to begin with and his delayed shot was then blocked right in front of the goalkeeper. The game was then delayed for a few minutes as Altidore sustained the first American injury of the game. When the game then restarted, American Bedoya managed to create himself a chance but fired a shot wide.

Ghana then began to dominate again but with very few chances being created by the African side. A dipping, low cross played into the American penalty area led to defender Besler uncomfortably kicking the ball up over his own crossbar and a few minutes later Ghana went closer as striker Gyan fired from distance, forcing goalkeeper Howard to get low in order to push it away. After Gyan’s chance, the game began to quieten down with the exception of Clint Dempsey taking a whack to the nose leaving him covered in blood and needing medical attention, however the American is patched up in no time and within a few minutes returns to play. The half then ended very openly as both sides attempted to score the next goal. American Bedoya again managed to break down the right hand side as he won the ball, with lots of free space in front of him, he then played a nice passing move which led to substitute Johannsson being only able to scuff a shot which rolled into the keeper’s hands.

The keeper then booted the ball up the pitch for an unmarked Gyan to get a hold of the ball inside the American half, as a result, the Ghanian was able to cross the ball but it ended up going out for a goal-kick. Within the last few minutes of the half both sides still had time for chances as the USA gained a free-kick by the left hand side corner and Bedoya almost was able to bend it in as it headed towards the far corner of the goal, but the keeper managed to palm it away for a corner. With seconds left, defender Beasley was caught up-field as the Americans again tried to break but the ball was played outside on the right to winger Atsu who then tried to play a ball across the box to Jordan Ayew who completely miss-hit  the ball allowing defender Besler to clear the ball as the half-time whistle shortly followed. Besler went off with another injury for the USA as defender John Brooks replaced him.

The second half began with nothing but continued pressure from Ghana who were struggling to break the USA resistance, chances came time and time again for Gyan and a key chance came when the striker jumped impressively to head a looping ball towards goal that needed Howard to put it behind. Winger Christian Atsu then tried to bend in a shot into the top corner of the USA goal, only to see it go over the bar, small chances however did break for the Americans as Jones’ shot was straight down the middle of the goal forcing the goalkeeper to parry it out. Panic ensued minutes later inside the American penalty area when a ball was crossed in from the left hand side, intended for the leaping Gyan however, it fell at the feet of the surprised Andre Ayew who couldn’t quite get a shot away as defender Geoff Cameron was instantly on top of him clearing the ball away. After another small chance for the USA as Dempsey tested the goalkeeper, into the final ten minutes of the match, the chance Ghana had been waiting for finally came.

A ball was played wide to substitute Kevin-Prince Boateng who then decided to cut inside and played a brilliant through ball to Gyan inside the American box, Gyan then fooled the defenders by back heeling the ball into the path of Andre Ayew who then smashed the ball with the outside of his boot beating Howard at last at his near post. Then Ghana slightly took their foot off the gas, for the final few minutes, as they allowed the USA to hold some possession, and newly substituted Graham Zusi sprinted for a loose ball inside the Ghanian box and managed to force a corner. It was Zusi who then took the corner with a fantastic delivery for the substitute John Brooks to head the ball into the back of the Ghana goal. His celebration showed just how stunned he was to score. Ghana then couldn’t apply enough pressure to even create half a chance as the full-time whistle blew after five minutes of injury time.

My Thoughts On The Match: This game had a brilliant ending however, I didn’t even think Ghana were going to get an equalizer as they had been so poor with their opportunities from the very beginning when they went 1-0 down. When they did manage to equalize with a moment of quality play it looked like only one team were going to win but the USA stuck in and showed character to come again and get the winner and it showed with the young center-back, John Brooks’ celebration. It’ll be tough but the USA  now have a chance at qualification with the match between themselves and Portugal now pivotal to who will finish 2nd behind Germany.

My Man Of The Match: For me, it was Clint Dempsey, he led his side by example and his solo run for the USA’s first goal within 31 seconds was brilliant as his technique and skill to get away from two or three Ghana players was superb. He kept fighting for the entire game even when sustaining a pretty nasty looking injury to his nose, but he still didn’t allow it to phase him.

American, John Brooks, turns away in stunned celebration as he heads the winner against Ghana

American, John Brooks, turns away in stunned celebration as he heads the winner against Ghana

 

 

 

Iran and Nigeria Draw Blanks In Stalemate

IRAN 0-0 NIGERIA

At any major competition, there is always those few games where you wonder after why you even bothered and this match was most definitely one of them. With both teams having sets of attacking players not even close to the highest standards, in hindsight we all really should have realised that this game wasn’t going to be a wonderful attacking display from either side. However, the game did get off to a good start with Nigeria dominating as Victor Moses took the first Nigerian opportunity firing straight at the Iranian goalkeeper. What shortly followed would most likely have been looked at in disappointment by the Nigeria World Cup team, as a Nigerian corner taken by Moses is whipped into the penalty area, the goalkeeper flaps at the ball completely missing his attempted catch allowing Musa to put the ball into the back of the Iran goal. However, for some strange reason that I still can’t agree with at all, the referee decided to disallow the goal for a foul on the goalkeeper.

The Nigerian players didn’t allow it to dishearten them as more chances came following the disallowed goal. Emenike managed to force an Iranian defender off the ball to allow himself to play a ball from the far left hand side into the penalty area for Musa to slide in to touch the ball into the goal but he can’t quite reach it. The ball was then cleared poorly to the edge of the area leading to midfielder Onazi to drag a shot wide of the left post. Iran finally managed to create themselves a half chance as a free-kick played into the the box was headed wide. Nigerian defender Oboabona was then stretchered off for him to then be unable to continue a few minutes later and was replaced by defender Joseph Yobo. Just over midway through the second half, Nigerian midfielder Ahmed Musa almost caught the Iranian goalkeeper by surprise with a free-kick as the latter was clearly expecting Musa to play in a cross, but little did the keeper know that Musa actually intended to shoot towards the near post and the keeper has to make a big effort to dive back across goal in order to put the ball out for a corner.

Iran then had what was probably the best chance as of the game. Iran began to apply pressure onto the Nigerian defense but lost the ball to Musa, who got back to help defend, Musa then immediately lost the ball in the far right corner to Iran midfielder Teymourian who made a brilliant sliding challenge and then got up to fire in a cross into the penalty area but it was deflected behind for a corner. From the resulting corner, midfielder Dejageh played a brilliant floated cross for striker Ghoochanneijhad to header the ball towards goal, which Nigerian keeper Enyeama reacts to quickly, diving towards his right in order to save the striker’s header well. After that, Emenike fired wide of the Iran goal leading into half-time.

Honestly, there really is not much else I can write about for this game, as the second half, in my opinion, was one of the worst halves of football I’ve ever watched. Iranian striker Ghoochanneijhad had a good in-swinging shot towards the goalkeeper’s right post go just wide after the break, but it wasn’t until the final ten minutes for another half decent chance for either side as Nigeria looked to substitute Peter Odemwingie to fire them to victory, however, the substitute couldn’t do anything to change the end result with only a half volley to note which was cancelled by a wrong decision from the referee who judged that Odemwingie had handled the ball in order to control it. Replays showed after that the Nigerian striker had used the top part of his shoulder. . Nigeria looked to another substitute in Shola Ameobi to perhaps fire them to victory but apart from two headed half chances, Ameobi also could not stop the two sides from gaining a point each.

My Thoughts On The Game: Awful. Just awful. Both sides could barely put together five passes in either side’s half and both struggled to create clear opportunities. Never again do I want to speak of this game as both sides will probably head out the competition with Bosnia and Argentina,the other two teams in Group F, looking the much stronger of all four sides.

My Man Of The Match: As a joke, I want to say the injured Oboabona who went off after 19 minutes as he obviously realised the terrible further 71 minutes he would have faced had he stayed on the pitch and not because he actually picked up an injury. However, if I had to pick someone it would probably have to be Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa. He caused problems for the Iran defense and really should have scored, and would of done had it not of been for the officials poor decision to disallow his early effort.

Iran and Nigeria players, Ashkan Dejageh and Joseph Yobo, tussle for the ball.

Iran and Nigeria players, Ashkan Dejageh and Joseph Yobo, tussle for the ball.

Germans Run Riot As Portugal Collapse

GERMANY 4-0 PORTUGAL

With two 3rd pace finishes in their last two tournaments in their own back yard and South Africa, Germany were looking to start this World Cup Finals Group Stage opener against Portugal well. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s star man and recent Balon d’Or winner, was looking to lead his nation to an unlikely victory over the Germans. The game itself started very open with both sides looking to strike early on. Germany had an early cross, from Jerome Boateng, into the penalty area dealt with by a Portugese defender and shortly after Ronaldo had his early effect on the game as he cut in from the left hand side in order to supply a pass to striker Hugo Almeida who was then able to run into space towards goal only to see his shot then deflect into the hands of German keeper Manuel Neuer.

Another Portugese chance shortly followed as Philipp Lahm was caught holding onto possession too long and Ronaldo again causing a slight problem for the Germans as he managed to force Neuer into another save. A surprise almost shortly followed as Portgual goalkeeper Rui Patricio poorly tried to play a pass out to a teammate, only to give the ball straight to German midfielder Sami Khedira who somehow managed to fire wide of the empty goal. The fast start finally led to the first of the game’s key events as Mario Gotze managed to get himself into the Portguese penalty area and is then pulled back by defender Joao Pereira ending with a penalty being given by the referee. Pereira was shown a yellow card just before Thomas Muller confidently put away the penalty going to the goalkeeper’s right side as Patricio decided to dive the opposite way. The Germans then began to dominate as the game’s fast tempo remained intact, Sami Khedira was put in behind the Portugese defense shortly after the goal but defender Pepe managed to cut the German off from the goal well. A few minutes later, again, Germany tried to play a lovely passing move into the box which almost paid off but the ball was cleared away by the defense.

Portugal then finally managed to create their first good opportunity for a goal as a long diagonal ball was played to Nani on the right hand side which allowed him to cut inside to fire a powerful shot that rose just over Neuer’s goal. Germany then looked to hit Portugal fast after Nani’s opportunity as a long pass by Toni Kroos in the middle of midfield perfectly falls for Mesut Ozil to run onto, inside the penalty area and unmarked. However, Ozil takes his time allowing defenders to force him to cut the ball back to the edge of the penalty area as Mario Gotze comes running towards the ball to strike the ball at goal, but his shot is deflected wide just past the right post of Patricio’s goal. German midfielder, Toni Kroos then takes a perfect pinpoint accuracy corner to Mats Hummels who outjumps Pepe to powerfully head the ball past Patricio to double Germany’s lead. Portugal had two more half chances, that were let down by poor passes by Nani and Fabio Coentrao, before the game, for Portugal, was effectively ended due to a long ball being played up to Germany’s lone striker, Thomas Muller and defender Pepe tried to hold him off but caught the German with his flailing hand which led to Muller falling to the ground holding his face. Pepe then angrily reacted to Muller’s fall to the floor and then leaned over the German to push his head into Muller’s allowing the referee to have the perfect reason the show Pepe his marching orders with a red card.

With Portugal now down to ten men, Germany held complete domination over their opponents as they then took further advantage of Pepe’s red card just before half-time. Mesut Ozil on the far right side tried to play a ball into the box for Muller, but the ball was too high for him to head towards goal, Mario Gotze then picked the ball up outside the area which then led to him attempting to play a tight pass into Muller however, Portugese defender Bruno Alves managed to get a foot to the ball only for it to luckily deflect off of Muller allowing the ball to fall into the German’s path who then smashed the ball past Patricio to, in all fairness, put Portugal out of the game before half-time.

The second half was nowhere near as exciting as the first as Germany couldn’t to dominate through patient and smart build-up play. A glorious chance for Germany to add to their lead was wasted by Mesut Ozil as Gotze played him in behind the Portugese defense only to fire a shot straight at the goalkeeper who could only deflect the ball into the air for Muller to outjump all the defenders around him and head the ball over the bar and onto the top of the goal’s net. Then Germany set back, happy with their three goal lead as things got worse for Portugal as Fabio Coentrao was stretchered off with a serious thigh injury. The Portugese left-back was later after the match ruled out for the rest of the tournament. Substitute Andre Schurrle almost provided a goal for Mario Gotze who tried to cut inside his maker, only for the defender to then recover and put the ball out for a corner. A few minutes later, a comical event which involved the referee getting in the way of a German pass to allow Nani to gain possession of the ball to fire a shot from distance at keeper Neuer who pushes the ball away and into the path of striker Eder who is shoved away from the opportunity leaving Cristiano Ronaldo incensed that a penalty wasn’t given.

Germany finally got their fourth and final goal of the game when a brilliant low diagonal ball was played Schurrle on the right side who then took the ball towards the byline to play in a low cross into the six yard box which Patricio can only parry in front of him to the feet of Muller who taps in his third goal of the game to complete his hat-trick. Ronaldo had one more chance to score a consolation goal for the Portugese, but his powerful free-kick was straight down the throat of keeper Neuer. Shortly afterwards, the referee put the Portguese out of their misery as the Germans comfortably finished the match as 4-0 winners.

My Thoughts On The Game: The game had been a good one even at 2-0 to Germany but the stupid decision by Pepe to react to Muller’s, in fairness, poor reaction to being slightly flicked in the face by Pepe’s flailing arm ended the match as a contest with more than a half of football still to play. The Germans professionally scored their goals and were happy to patiently play the ball around awaiting the end of the game. Really though, they could have scored a further two or three goals if they had wanted to. Portugal will be very disappointed in the result as the group also containing Ghana and USA could come down to goal difference and as it stands, Portugal’s goal difference is looking very poor.

My Man Of The Match: Thomas Muller was always in the right places at the right times to get his goals and was brilliant in his link-up play with the attacking midfielders in, Ozil and Gotze. He caused problems all afternoon for Portugal all afternoon and is so far looking likely already to be a main contender to win the Golden Boot which he shared with four others in South Africa four years ago. With USA and Ghana still to play in the group stage, I’m pretty certain that Muller will continue to fire in the goals for Germany.

German Thomas Muller celebrates his third goal with his Germany teammates.

German Thomas Muller celebrates his third goal with his Germany teammates.

 

 

Messi Magic Mesmerizes Maracana

ARGENTINA 2-1 BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

After Barcelona teammate Neymar got off to a wonderful start for Brazil, the pressure was on Lionel Messi to help fire Argentina to the perfect start at, the home of their rivals, the Maracana Stadium. Messi and co were up against an unknown entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina who were making their debut performance in a World Cup. Speaking of debuts, Bosnia’s didn’t get off to a good start. After less than two minutes Argentina were awarded a free-kick on the left side of the Bosnia penalty area which Lionel Messi then whipped in to see it flick off the head of Argentine wing-back Marcos Rojo, and then deflect off of Bosnian left-back Sead Kolasinac and into the defender’s own goal.

The early goal for Argentina sparked a reaction from the European side as they then began to put pressure on their opponents. Opportunities came for Bosnia with a free-kick needing to be cleared by defender Ezequiel Garay which was then immediately followed by a corner kick that Romero, in the Argentina goal, had to punch away. What followed after was probably one of Bosnia’s best chances of the game, as a perfectly timed ball over the top of the Argentine defense led to winger Izet Hajrovic poking the ball towards Romero’s goal, but unfortunately for the Bosnian the goalkeeper was sharp enough to push the ball away from danger. Argentina tried to get themselves going again but runs into the Bosnian penalty area from Aguero and Messi were dealt with comfortably, allowing Bosnia to dictate play, for the time being, as again Argentina struggled to deal with a cross from another free-kick that almost allowed Bosnia to score.

Things at this stage were not going well for Argentina as it was clear to see Bosnia were dealing with the threat of Messi well, but the South American side continued to look for their main man to make something happen. Smart and patient build-up play did lead to a chance with midfielder Javier Mascherano shooting straight down the throat of Bosnian keeper Begovic who saved comfortably. Although Bosnia continued to break through the Argentine midfield as a good in-swinging corner from Misimovic was headered towards the near post by winger Lulic and Romero managed to save well. The corner was then shortly followed by a shot similar to Mascherano’s as the goalkeeper saved it with ease. Just before the half-time whistle blew, a glimpse of the Messi everyone in the Maracana wanted to see finally appeared, as Di Maria broke on the halfway line, sprinting clear past two Bosnians to the center of the pitch, he passed the ball to Messi who then danced around two defenders and tried to selflessly cross the ball low across the box to Aguero but it was magnificently snuffed out by a defender. The whistle blew leaving Argentine players and coach Alejandro Sabella feeling fairly frustrated despite their early goal lead.

The South Americans then returned a much changed side with both midfielder Maxi Rodriguez and defender Hugo Campagnaro taken off for a second striker in Gonzalo Higuain and holding midfielder Fernando Gago. Sabella also went with a changed formation with two forwards in Higuain and Aguero keeping defenders occupied, the hope of the Argentine coach was that it would allow space for Messi to work in. Things didn’t go to plan as the half started, with Bosnia continuing to make chances through Hajrovic who’s free-kick fell comfortably into the arms of Romero shortly followed by another attempt by the same man who again tested Romero after a good run from midfielder Lulic. A short time later, things were beginning to change as the tempo of the game began to pick up and the game became more end-to-end. Messi began to find free space to run into as he played the ball wide to Rojo who fired a low cross into the box which the Bosnians dealt with well, however, the Europeans were still managing to scrape together opportunities as Hajrovic cut inside on the right to fire an out-swinging cross in towards the six yard box, which again Argentina struggled to deal with as their last man in defence, Federico Fernandez, had to deal with it.

Another small glimpse of Messi then appeared as a Bosnian player sloppy ball back towards his defense was intercepted by Messi who then darted forward towards goal, but was forced to look wide to Sergio Aguero who’s shot at goalkeeper Begovic was tame at best. Then finally the moment had arrived that thousands inside the Maracana had waited for. Fernando Gago picked up the ball inside the center circle to then pass to striker Higuain who dropped deep in order to play a pass to Messi who then suddenly sprinted forward ten yards and looked to return a pass to Higuain who had raced forward after passing to him. Higuain then flicked the ball into the path of Messi who was already sprinting forward past Bosnian players expecting the flick, he then darted forward along the edge of the area shifting past two Bosnian defenders who collided with each other. He then finally, inside the penalty area, guided a shot in off goalkeeper Begovic’s right hand side post to the eruption of noise from the thousands of Argentina fans who made the trip to the Maracana.

After the brilliance of Messi, Argentina were in full flow with chances falling for Aguero, who had stretched out to reach a diagonal ball across the box only for the strikers shot to almost drop into the goal at the backpost. A fantastic first touch from Aguero minutes later led to him creating an opportunity for himself which ended in him firing wide. Finally, Argentina managed to hit Bosnia on the break in a three-on-three attack with Messi rushing forward then playing the ball wide to Aguero who then looked to return a pass to Messi who had continued his run into the penalty area only for it to be stopped by a Bosnia defender who had managed to anticipate Messi’s run. However, Bosnia then began to get themselves back into the game with only ten minutes remaining of the ninety. Small chances led to a run from substitute Vedad Ibisevic around the Argentine defence being picked out perfectly by a through ball from midfielder Senad Lulic which then allowed Ibisevic to poke the ball under the body of Romero which left the ball to roll into the empty goal. The remaining ten minutes were nervy for Argentina, but they managed to sustain all pressure from Bosnia and even almost had another chance to score as Messi had a run blocked off in front of goal that forced him to fire into the side netting. This was then shortly followed by the final whistle and it was job done for Argentina.

My Thoughts On The Match: Apart from the early goal for Argentina, which only happened due to the unfortunate deflection of a Bosnian player, the first half was a pretty poor start to the match because Argentina’s movement and build-up play was slow which allowed Bosnia to defend with ease and actually led to Bosnia becoming a force throughout the match. It did take a short while for coach Sabella’s changes to take effect but when they did they brought out a thirty minute performance from Argentina that was what exactly what everyone now wants to see from them throughout the rest of the tournament. Bosnia tested Argentina very well and I now tip them to go through with Argentina from Group F.

My Man Of The Match:Personally, I’d like to give the man of the match to Argentina’s coach, Alejandro Sabella, for identifying his sides problems at halftime and having the guts to make a double substitution which undoubtedly helped Argentina to play much better in the second half. However, it has to be a player and it’s going to be Messi, simply for his key role in the move that led to the second goal, which he finished, as it was simply brilliant and hopefully he will now go on to score many goals throughout the rest of the tournament, which for me is a certainty with the likes of Iran and Nigeria still to come for Argentina.

Argentina's Lionel Messi as he strikes the ball into the Bosnian goal.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi as he strikes the ball into the Bosnian goal.