Friday, June 23, 2006

Ghana joy, as others Czech out

Mickey McBias reports on a day of surprises :

Congratulations to Ghana. Can you believe it ? Through to the second stage of the World Cup, after beating the USA today, 2-1, though the result that really did it for them, was the 2-0 beating of the Czechs, just days before. We shouldn't be too surprised, after all, many of the players nowadays of such teams like Ghana, Ivory Coast etc, do play for the top club teams in the world in the likes of Italy and Spain.
But a fantastic achievement for them none the less, on what was a very tough group to try to qualify from.
Well, Ghana through to the knockout stage. That's the good news for you. Oh, the bad ? Well, you play Brazil next, so keep those packed suitcases on standby, lads.
Italy got through against the Czechs, and their exit is probably the biggest shock so far. They were nailed on semi-finalists for most people, but it just didn't happen for them this time, and the loss of 2 of their strikers to injury was something they couldn't recover from, despite having who I believe is the best midfield player in the world in their ranks. He may look like an extra from Abba, but Pavel Nedved is a fantastic player.
Tonight, Croatia and Australia bludgeoned out a 2-2 draw, and well done to the Aussies for making it through because of that, and they have a tough task against Italy next.
The Brazil match against Japan reminded me so much of the Brazil v Scotland match a few World Cups back.
Exactly the same thing happened, scorewise. Back then, Scotland took the lead early, as Japan did tonight.
Joy, oh joy.
Trouble is, that upset the Brazilians. You could see it on their faces. They all had a 'how DARE you score against us' look on them, and you feared they would step up a gear, bring their amazing skills to the fore (and show off a bit at the same time) whilst trampling you into the ground, just to teach you a lesson for being so damn cheeky in the first place. They did. About 30 minutes later the Brazilians led 4-1.
They did exactly that to Japan tonight. The Brazilians have indeed found that extra gear that we speculated must be there, somewhere. Japan though, played some great football along the way, and I'm sure they will be more of a force in years to come. But for losing 3 goals in the last 7 minutes to Australia the other day, it could have been different for them. So, off home early they go, along with Croatia, and the USA.
Tomorrow, there could be an even bigger shock. France need to win, and win well, against Togo, or they are out. Anything else isn't good enough. I still expect the Swiss and the French to progress.