worldcup 2010


Thursday, 1 July 2010

Brazil, Argentina could lead soccer world cup

A first ever South American semi-final sweep could unfold at the World Cup if Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay all win their quarter-finals, while European powers Spain, Germany and Netherlands and lone African survivor Ghana are out to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Four multiple World Cup winners and four who have never captured the title have made it to the quarter-finals and two of the matchups – Argentina-Germany and Netherlands-Brazil – are worthy of the final itself.
In the other quarter-finals, two-time World Cup winner Uruguay face Ghana and Paraguay take on European champions Spain.
Argentina and Germany met in back-to-back finals in 1986 and ’90 and the common denominator is Diego Maradona, who played in each final and now coaches the South American side.
‘I feel like pulling on the jersey and playing myself, it is beautiful to be involved with this group of players, I feel proud to share these moments with them,’ said the former star whose ability as a coach was put into doubt by some poor performances in qualifying.
‘They said I had no idea about how to coach, but suddenly I am winning matches and I am still the same guy,’ Maradona said.
Maradona was criticised for leaving behind Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, who starred in Inter Milan’s Champions League triumph. But four wins out of four have dispelled all the doubts and now he takes on Germany again. Germany ousted Argentina in the quarter-finals at the last World Cup, winning a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in Berlin.
They got to the last eight by outplaying England 4-1 and also put four past Australia in a group game. But seven of Joachim Low’s squad have yellow cards and another will rule them out of the semi-finals, in which they could meet Spain in a repeat of the Euro 2008 final.
Spain beat neighbor Portugal 1-0 on Tuesday to set up a quarter-final meeting with Paraguay at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Spaniards overcame a shock loss to Switzerland in group play to move into the last eight with David Villa scoring in three games in a row, including the winner against the Portuguese. However, co-striker Fernando Torres’ poor run of form continued, and the Liverpool forward has yet to score in the tournament.
In their fourth World Cup in a row, Paraguay reached the quarter-finals for the first time by winning a penalty shootout against Japan after a 0-0 draw in Pretoria.
Friday’s Brazil-Netherlands game in Port Elizabeth brings together the five-time winning Brazilians against a country which has never won football’s biggest prize but was runner-up twice in the 1970s. Back in those days, the Dutch had a style of play that matched the Brazilians, but the team fell just short in terms of making it count.
This Dutch side have a similar look, attack-minded and with top quality stars such as Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie, who are capable of unlocking any defence in the game.
But this Brazilian rearguard has a far more solid look than those teams of the past who were weak at the back.
That Dutch trio not only come up against the mighty Lucio and Juan – who are strong in the air as well as on the ground – but Brazil also has defensive midfielders who will stop the flow of passes to the Dutch front men and allow their full-backs, Maicon and Michel Bastos, to attack down the flanks.
‘We know the Netherlands are a very difficult team to play against,’ said Brazil coach Dunga. ‘Their football is actually very similar to South American football. They don’t try to stay defending and rely on long balls. They have technical quality and we will need to be ready for that. It’s a solid team.’
Their three World Cup meetings have ended with the winners going on to reach the final.
Dunga was captain of the Brazil side that beat the Dutch 3-2 in the 1994 quarter-finals in Dallas on the way to winning the title. The two sides also met in the 1974 World Cup when the Dutch won a second-round group game 2-0 on the way to reaching the final, where they lost to West Germany. Their last meeting was in the 1998 version when Brazil won on penalties after a 1-1 semi-final draw, only to lose 3-0 to host France in the final.
The winners face either Uruguay or Ghana in the semi-finals in Cape Town on July 6.
Despite winning the World Cups in 1930 and ’50, Uruguay have not made it this far since 1970 but are having a revival under coach Oscar Tabarez.
He has devised a three-man attacking system with Diego Forlan playing behind Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, while their defence did not concede until the 68th minute of their fourth game, a 2-1 victory over South Korea.
Ghana were Africa’s only team to get through the first round at the last World Cup and are the only survivors here, this time making it to the last eight despite the absence of their best player, Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien.
Now the young team guided by Serb coach Milovan Rajevac carries the hopes of the entire continent in a first meeting of the two nations on a football field although in-form striker Asamoah Gyan is struggling to overcome an ankle injury.

(Associated Press . Johannesburg)

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