Day 4: Japan vs. Australia, USA vs. Czech Republic, Italy vs. Ghana
Game 9: Japan vs. Australia
Cahill 83 88, Aloisi 90
Ed: This has to go down as the silliest game so far. Where Germany vs. Costa Rica was inevitable and dull bad football though, at least this was funny. Horrendous defending allied with atrocious shot–taking from both teams allowed this game to be a fairly even contest. Japan seemed to have a greater clue about what they were doing. As soon as they had brought the ball close to the opposition box, the covering wing back would fluff up giving the attacking player time and space to place a simple cross or through–ball. Instead the attacker would place the ball in the only place that did not allow for a goal. The Japanese defending was guilty of the same thing, although the Australian attacks were a bit more basic ie. booting long balls towards the box. The game ended with four strikers (all standing in roughly the same attacking positions). It was the introduction of one tiny bit of quality, Tim Cahill, that won the game, as he had the small amount of ability necessary to tear apart the opposition defense, scoring twice and constructing the third.
Si: Neither side looked like they could hit a barn door in a barn door factory but both were so imcompetant in defence you thought maybe they wouldn't have to in order to score. Japan looked good moving the ball through midfield with quick incisive passing and Australia could rely on the skill of Kewell, Viduka and latter Cahil, to create promising situations, but neither side could make anything work in the penalty area. Only Cahill's first goal was a result of attacking technique, all the others resulting from defensive errors. An entertaining game if only for the suspense over who's defence would crumble the most.
Game 10: USA vs. Czech Republic
Koller 4, Rosicky 35, 75
Si: Fueled by the energy and ability of an on form Nedved, the Czech Republic's slick one or two touch football was far too much for a weary looking USA. Rocked by the early goal the Americans simplistic football never gave them an advantage over their opponents defence. They only came close with a wonderful long range effort by Reyna that hit the post. Although not filled by big names the Czech squad is filled with talent and it never felt like they hit top gear.
Ed: With teamwork and individual skill at this level, the Czechs should have an excellent remainder of a tournament. The U.S.A, on the other hand, really lived up to their FIFA World Ranking of 5th best in the world. (!) They were totally inept and uninventive, and the Czechs felt comfortable allowing them a large percentage of possession, as there was no goal threat. Pavel Nedved was the linchpin when the Czechs came forward, his range of passing giving options all over the pitch. He also had the freedom to scamper around looking for the ball. The first goal was clinical, but unremarkable, a simple cross enough to beat the defence. Rosicky's first goal was an incredibly well placed strike from outside the box, and his second yet another superb Nedved through–ball.
Game 11: Italy vs. Ghana
Pirlo 39, Iaquinta 82
Ed: I was a little surprised and how little Ghana achieved in this game, but with the Italians playing at this level, they can be forgiven. Without being as defensive and uninspired as previous tournaments, they here made positives out of the traditional Italian style of building patiently from a solid base. With time on the ball, they had the opportunity to pick from a range of excellent passes. Totti in particular finding just the right positioning for the final pass. The chances duly came. After the interval, Ghana did come at them a bit more, but they were well marshalled. Their effort combined with Italy's skill made for an exciting game.
Si: Ghana continued in the tradition of fearlessness by African sides in this tournament when faced with big name opposition. They came out all guns blazing and never looked to sit back. Unfortunately they didn't have the firepower to threaten a solid Italian defence. Italy's method of attack is unique with almost every pass lofted, their excellent first touch allowing them to beat their defender before he realises the ball is upon him. Italy also excel in playing on the shoulder and timing the run, this performance will strike fear into all but the quickest centre–backs.
Day 4 Summary:
Alcohol Consumed: 18.2 Units