The Cup Running Over

June 13, 2010 1:42 PM

Sunday Wrapup I: Algeria and Slovenia Disappoint but Ghana Does Not


As predicted, a very slow, tense match. Anyone watching would have smelled a 0-0 draw on the cards, and if not for a little luck that's the way it should have ended. Algeria substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal put in the worst performance of the tournament so far, missing a sitter and picking up the two fastest yellow cards for a substitute in World Cup history. But even against ten men, Slovenia never looked threatening, and it took a Robert Green-esque blunder from Algerian goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi to give Slovenia all three points. Based on this match, Slovenia looks like it could frustrate the USA or England - especially after the latter's tepid attacking display yesterday - but will unlikely trouble defenses much. Still, three points are three points, and if this side can hold out against the US or England, it could surprisingly advance.

Was Ghana-Serbia the best match of the tournament so far? Quite possibly. Despite the low score, this match had it all - slick passing, end-to-end play, and a last gasp winner. Serbia started solidly, using the sheer physicality of its players to dominate defensively. But despite the hype, Serbia showed a familar knack for self-implosion. Center-back Aleksandar Lukovic, who was having a decent match, needlessly grabbed himself a rash second yellow fifteen minutes from time to send his side down to ten men, and substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic inexplicably punched the ball in the box to give Ghana a late penalty. After the best defensive record in qualification in 2006, Serbia and Montenegro's 'wall of iron' crumbled at the tournament - is a familiar sense of finals-induced dread creeping into the side?

Even then, Ghana deserves ample credit. Even without stars Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, or Stephen Appiah (until the final 20 minutes), Ghana's midfield was excellent - Anthony Annan put in a superb defensive performance, and Kevin-Prince Boateng looked great on his debut (much better than he does for Portsmouth, we might add). Defensively, the team was also superb - John Mensah and John Paintsil put in great performances after injury-wracked seasons, and Richard Kingson looked great in goal. Most (including us) predicted this side to crumble without Essien, but if Ghana can continue this form, anything can happen. This was the best performance by an African side on the cup yet.

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