Oct 162014

Pippo Inzaghi started his reign and hopefully a bright new era with a somewhat unexpected win vs Lazio. Keisuke Honda provided early hope for the team and his form as well. The 3-1 win provided further hope for a good season for Ignazio Abate and may be even Sulley Muntari. Diego Lopez’s debut was assured.

The second week game provided lots of goals and revived old question marks for the defense in particular. The 5-4 win away at Parma featured a goal by newcomer Giacomo Bonaventura (aka Allegri jr!), a fantastic highlight reel goal by Jeremy Menez that made headlines around the football world and on the negative side some concern for Mattia De Sciglio’s (early season) form.

Jeremy Menez

Jeremy Menez has had a good start back in the Serie A

Inevitably the home match vs Juventus had its share of controversy and was the season’s first loss. The overall performance of the team was one of giving too much respect to the opponent. The players weren’t alone in the underperforming, the formation probably needed tweaking from the 4-3-3  better counter face Juventus’s three man defense and packed midfield which was without Andrea Pirlo. Carlos Tevez often had and was given space to move. A midfield consisting of Muntari, Nigel de Jong and Andrea Poli seemed destined to perform poorly. Indeed as the weeks went by the formation seemed to be evolving into something else, perhaps a slow return to the 4-2-3-1 that was often a handicap with Mario Balotelli.

A come from behind 2-2 at Empoli had the team starting very poorly and featured Fernando Torres’ first for Milan. Christain Abbiati again started in goal for the injured Lopez, Abate rapidly becoming the team’s assister in chief continued his fine form and Daniele Bonera made Milan fans wonder why he is still starting for what seems like the 100th time more than he deserves.

Bonera was on the bench in the 1-1 tie at Cesena, the disappointing result exposed the obvious defensive and midfield weaknesses and perhaps tiredness. Cristian Zapata was sent off for the first red of the season.

The 2-0 win vs Chievo featured three players with a Milan connection. All of Valter Birsa, Maxi Lopez and Alberto Paloschi started for the Verona based team. A better overall performance provided another ray of hope for Inzaghi’s coaching. Honda and Menez in particular showed more and convinced some fans that attacking transfer targets should not be a priority in 2015.

Off the pitch Silvio Berlusconi paid regular visits to training and gave his backing to Inzaghi whenever he could. But he seemed to keep alluding to bad decisions by Galliani – without mentioning him of course. He also talked of his dreams for the 2016 Champions League final that is set for the San Siro. Of course he never hesitated to highlight his own importance and in the process exaggerate the financial contribution he needs to make to keep the team afloat. While he claims to want to build a team that is at the summit of the European game in 2 or 3 years one can bet that this team will not be in the Champions League final in 2016 and probably not soon after either. Massive transfer spending will be needed to become competitive against current European powers and even if that does happen the new set of players will need time to reach or to become a team to match the likes of Chelsea or Real. Milan are probably better off mixing investments – in a stadium and filling specific squad needs with smart transfers – with nurturing youth. Doing both will pay off in the form of consistent success later, but not in time for 2016 or even 2017. One example of a questionable transfer target is Liverpool’s Suso. While the young Spaniard is highly rated – some Liverpool followers prefer him to Coutinho – there are more important needs in defense or midfield. A young defender or box to box midfielder that provides a better link up the pitch will almost certainly be more beneficial to this team.

Forza Milan

Sep 222014

Today brings the news that Theo Zwanziger, the former German Football Association president and current FIFA executive committee member, has expressed an “opinion” that Qatar will lose the 2022 World Cup because of heat or weather issues.

I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar, Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions. They [the Qatari organisers] may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there.

qatar-2022Heat is of course difficult to play in and it can be dangerous but Qatar’s bid has included expensive plans to keep stadiums cool from the start and the hosts have started testing the system too. Indications are players will be even more comfortable than other World Cups and fans might even enjoy the same cooling while inside stadiums too (due to costs and feasibility it may be that cooling will be limited to pitch level).


There are plenty of other reasons to want Qatar stripped of the World Cup. There are bribery allegations, working conditions are way below normal if not down right inhumane and have led to slave labour accusations. Security considerations are important as well as the middle east region is not and has rarely been the safest and this can get even get worse by 2022.

It must be noted that this doesn’t mark the first time a World Cup is awarded to a controversial host or staged in questionable circumstances. History notes World Cups being staged with brutal military leaders in the background and hosts being awarded via controversial voting.

Weather should not be politicized, however. If the World Cup needs to be moved it should be because of concerns briefly stated above and recent reports that the FIFA bribery report will never be public may make that less likely.

Sep 022014

The summer started relatively well, by some standards at least, with the capture of Alex and Jeremy Menez from PSG on free transfers. The permanent transfer of Adel Rami from Valencia followed after some petty bargaining – for a supposed long agreed redemption fee – that made Milan look bad in the eyes of many. Some more good news followed when it was made sure that Alessandro Matri, and his free kick wall escapes, was one of many that were not going to be part of the 2014-2015 edition of the team, a loan to Genoa easily a better option than keeping him. The loaned out list kept growing throughout the summer and included Valter Birsa, Antonio Nocerino, Didac Vila, Gabriel and others. Kevin Constant found a team in Turkey and left to the seaside of Trabzon and for once didn’t refuse to leave. After some hand wringing and delay Robinho found a loan destination too. Kaka exercised his option and left for the MLS via Sao Paulo. Milan also lost or arguably gave away Alberto Paloschi by ceding their share to Chievo for relatively little money. On the goal keeping front Adriano Galliani baffled many fans by signing Michael Agazzi from Cagliari via Chievo. At first he was supposed to be the back up to Christian Abbiati but more was to come on the goal keeping front when someone inside the team realized better options were needed and Diego Lopez came from Real Madrid for free and signed for four years. Madrid surprisingly let one of their better players go for free. Pablo Armero also arrived on a year loan deal with probably the same kind of realization but of course for the full back spot.

2014 Summer Mercato

No, Jonathan Biabiany is not a Milan player!

On the youth front some strange things happened, in the middle of the World Cup four 20 year old players - Davide Pacifico, Rodrigo Ely, Simone Andrea Ganz, Kingsley Boateng – were all sold, despite all being considered at least usable prospects, for next to nothing to small teams in an apparent acceptance that at least one generation of youth products were not going to be good enough. Two more youth products followed the exit path. Luca Iotti (18 years old) and Bryan Cristante (19 years old). The latter is considered one of the better Milan home grown products fetched 6 million euros on the last day of the summer window but the departure angered many fans and put Galliani on the defensive. The CEO was forced to issue a statement to say the player had wanted to leave to Benfica and had even refused a loan to the same team.

The Mario Balotelli saga was the bigger story of the summer. The rumblings had started long before the summer that he had no future in Milan and that management, top to bottom, preferred to sell. A buyer was finally found when Liverpool offered 20 million euros and Super Mario was off rather quickly. A mini scramble followed to find a replacement, all kinds of good to poor names were mentioned and there was even a mention or two of selling Rami to raise money for a bigger capture. The team finally settled for a long term Fernando Torres loan, all of 30 years old and a serial sitter misser ala Robinho. In the midst of getting him to agree to come and lower his wages in the process Wulfert Cornelius “Marco” van Ginkel (to mention his full name!) also arrived from Chelsea on a pure 1 year loan without any buyout options.

On the last day of the market following Cristante’s sale it was thought that Jonathan Biabiany was to arrive in exchange for four million euros and Cristian Zaccardo. The latter refused to agree a deal with Parma and the deal collapsed. The often farcical nature of Milan’s mercato was on full display since Biabiany was already pictured in a Milan shirt on the team’s official site and twitter account. Galliani quickly found a pseudo alternative and signed the left sided Giacomo Bonaventura from Atalanta for 7 million euros instead.

As the window has now closed the best we can hope for is a good, successful but also stable season where all players can be properly evaluated, the squad sits at 29 and the goal of reducing the squad size has not really materialized. The 29 players on the books plus those on loan will create another glut next summer and therefore summer 2015 will require more – almost certainly chaotic – player movement. Here’s hoping Galliani and Inzaghi are able to make proper decisions based on a good 2014-2015 season. Forza Milan.

Aug 312014

Keisuke Honda 7, Sulley Muntari 56, Jeremy Menez 64P – Alex 67OG

Milan’s starting lineup:
Diego Lopez; Bonera, Alex, Zapata, Abate; Muntari, De Jong, Poli; El Shaarawy, Menez, Honda.

With Mattia De Sciglio not available it was still was strange to see Daniele Bonera on the left side in place of Pablo Armero. Fernando Torres was in the stands not yet ready to suit up. Early on an outlet from the top of the box was picked up by Stephan El Shaarawy who ran down the left touch line, cut in and passed to the fast rushing Keisuke Honda who beat Etrit Berisha in the Lazio goal. A classic counter attacking goal. Game was too often start stop with few direct threats and little creativity. Milan’s midfield three necessitated El Shaarawy and Honda’s help. The pressing game was pretty good however and Lazio didn’t get too close to Milan’s goal or trouble Diego Lopez too much. Lazio took more control in the second half though and worked the ball around as Milan struggled to do anything other than counter attack, but it worked again when Sulley Muntari poked in Ignazio Abate’s cross. Jeremy Menez converted a weak penalty call a bit later and Alex was given credit for an own goal for Lazio’s first soon after. Armero and M’Baye Niang offered a different look but mostly just more speed and Lazio kept Milan busier and threatened. Lazio’s last chance was blown when Diego Lopez saved the Antonio Candreva added time penalty. Interesting to see what Pippo Inzaghi’s 4-3-3 will look like when Torres is ready.
Lots more about the game in the forums at http://www.milanmania.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=753

Jul 282014

The 2014-2015 Serie A schedule is now available. Milan’s start is different from many recent seasons, it features bigger teams. Not that playing smaller teams has helped much before and in any case it remains to be seen if this team will be ready to compete from the start.

The season starts with games vs Lazio, away to Parma and vs Juventus. The derby games are in November and April.

Jul 022014

tim howardBelgium 2-1 USA

Kevin De Bruyne 93 Romelu Lukaku 105 – Julian Green 107

Jozy Altidore was again available but not in the USA starting line up. Divock Origi started for the Belgians. Origi tested Tim Howard inside the first minute taking a Kevin De Bruyne pass and shooting from an angle. The first threats to the Belgium goal arrived in the 20th minute from a header off a corner and moments later a Clint Dempsey shot troubling Thibaut Courtois. Three minutes later De Bruyne wasted a good chance on the counter when he shot just wide. An Eden Hazard shot/cross was saved almost off the line by DaMarcus Beasley. Belgium had more shots on goal and corners but were never overly dangerous. The half time had many wondering if Belgium will be caught on the break. The 55th minute provided the next good Belgium chance as a Jan Vertonghen cross was missed by both De Bruyne and Origi. Belgium kept trying and Origi got another chance as his header hit the top of the crossbar and a Vertonghen volley went wide. US countered and provided uncomfortable moments in the Belgium box. Tim Howard kept USA in the game when Belgium’s possession resulted in shots on goal. Sub Kevin Mirallas injected good speed and forced Howard to be at his best again. Time and time again either Howard was there or Belgium just missed. Into added time Chris Wondolowski had the chance to steal a win but he shot way high with only Courtois to beat. It was one of the bigger misses in memory. Early in extra time Romelu Lukaku, only just on for Origi, beat the defender ran over 30+ yards and crossed to De Bruyne. De Bruyne turned and shot past Howard into the far corner. With the US pushing forward Lukaku finished off well. Youngster Julian Green was thrown in to provide some offense, the Bayern Munich player almost immediately scored when he collected ball shot into the box and beat the offside trap, this game was only his third cap. A late flurry didn’t lead to further goals. The US did well but it was mostly due to Tim Howard.

Argentina 1-0 Switzerland

Angel Di Maria 118

The first half was relatively eventless with Argentina mostly disappointing. The best chances of the first half were probably by the Swiss and in particular Josip Drmic wasting a chance to run at the Sergio Romero goal. Argentina then began to take more control but wasted chances with missed headers in particular. Lionel Messi was often covered well. Xherdan Shaqiri gave Argentina defense a few small scares and Romero did look tentative. Angel Di Maria wasted a good chance to cross. The second half was somewhat more open but had few shots on goal. Argentina controlled more but didn’t threaten the Swiss goal too often. A few poor fouls and tackles and a relatively quiet Swiss threat meant the game needed extra time. The game trotted along with more of the same wasted and not good enough chances for Argentina. With less than three minutes to penalties Stephan Lichtsteiner could have done better but he let Messi start a run and pass right to Di Maria. The latter shot into the far corner. The Swiss had a chance to equalize when a corner found its way to the other side where Shaqiri crossed back into the area. Blerim Dzemaili headed off the post and the rebound bounced off him just wide. A last second free kick just outside the area offered a last chance for the Swiss. Shaqiri hit the wall and the whistle sounded.

Germany 2-1 Algeria

Andre Schurrle 92 Mesut Ozil 119 – Abdelmoumene Djabou 120

Odd makers gave Algeria almost no chance. The first minutes were much more even than anticipated. The German central defense was not exactly solid and lacked pace. Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng left a lot to be desired and Mats Hummel was perhaps missed. Playing a bit too high meant that Manuel Neuer seemed to be needed as a sweeper. Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani starred for the North Africans. Thomas Muller was the main target for Germany and Mesut Ozil created for him. Andre Schurrle came on at half time to add another dimension to the German attack. Rais M’Bolhi remained solid when called upon. Algeria continued to threaten too. A lack of finishing meant that both teams were inevitably heading to extra time. Extra time was quick to produce a goal. Andre Schurrle was assisted by Thomas Muller. Algeria kept trying but the game was pretty much over but not before Ozil shot in from Schurrle and Abdelmoumene Djabou from a Feghouli cross.

France 2-0 Nigeria

Paul Pogba 79 Joseph Yobo 90OG

Laurent Koscielny started in place of Mamadou Sakho. The opening minutes were balanced with perhaps Nigeria doing better. The game opened up when first Emmanuel Emenike and then Karim Benzema were called offside. Shortly after those offsides a Mathieu Valbuena cross found its way to Paul Pogba who forced a good Vincent Enyeama save. Both teams had chances and Nigeria could had a penalty because Patrice Evra was virtually hugging the Nigerian when late in the half the Africans had a corner. Early in the second half Blaise Matuidi was lucky to stay on as he went in hard on Ogenyi Onazi. At the 70th minute an exchange between sub Antoine Griezmann and Benzema led to the latter almost beating Enyeama. The ball continued towards the empty goal but was shot away by Victor Moses before it crossed the line. Minutes later Yohan Cabaye hit the crossbar. Benzema forced a good punching save but some of credit Enyeama had accumulated was lost when during the resulting corner he let himself get stranded and Pogba headed in. Griezmann had a chance to double the lead soon after. Into added time a simple Peter Odemwengie mistake led to a corner for France. The resulting corner was relatively easily sent into the box and a Valbuena pass/cross was deflected in by Joseph Yobo. Griezmann wanted to claim it but it went down in history as an own goal.

Jun 302014

James RodríguezGreece 1 (3)-(5) 1 Costa Rica

Sokratis Papastapoulos 90 – Bryan Ruiz 52

Not the likeliest round of 16 match up. The first half didn’t feature many chances or shots on goal. The early part had Costa Rica looking more comfortable. Joel Campbell, in particular, continued to show flashes of brilliance. On the Greek side Georgios Samaras found himself offside on more than one occasion. The first shot on either goal didn’t arrive until the 28th minute. The half’s best chance fell to Dimitrios Salpingidis whose shot from a cross hit Keylor Navas’ leg. The first goal came when a Christian Bolanos cross was half shot, half diverted into the far corner. The Greek goalie didn’t move. Soon after a Vasilis Torosidis handball in the box was not spotted by the referee. Konstantinos Mitroglou came on for Greece. In the 67th minute Costa Rica’s Oscar Duarte was sent off for a second yellow. Greece tried to create, the extra man gave them more space so the last minutes were often spent in the Costa Rica zone. Right at the 90 minute mark Greece scored. A high ball into the box was shot by sub Theofanis Gekas and saved, the rebound came to Sokratis who shot past Navas. Mitroglou had a chance to end before full time but his header was pushed over. Any chance Costa Rica had to mount an attack evaporated, it was plainly obvious they had ran out of gas, especially Joel Campbell. Deep into extra time Greece had the chances to seal the win. First via a counter but Lazaros shot at Navas when he had other options. Second Mitroglou had his shot diverted into a corner. The game headed into penalties and Gekas’ was saved so Costa Rica advanced.

Holland 2-1 Mexico

Wesley Sneijder 87 Klaas Jan Huntelaar 90P – Giovani Dos Santos 48

The second day of the quarter finals had Holland play Mexico in the extreme heat and humidity of Fortaleza. Dirk Kuyt started for the Dutch. Early on Nigel De Jong had to be subbed off and Bruno Martins Indi came on. The first half had Mexico troubling Holland more often as the Dutch defense looked a bit vulnerable. Carlos Salcido got the start for Mexico and had a good first half in the middle of the park. The heat meant that the World Cup had its first official “cooling break”. The three minute break was one of the highlights of the first half, if it’s possible to call it that. Other than that both team had a penalty shout turned down. First two high Dutch legs brought down Giovani Dos Santos and then Robben seemed to be brought down after a defensive mistake allowed him to get to the ball. Early in the second half Mexico scored. Dos Santos received the high pass, moved centrally and shot in between two Dutch defenders and beat Jasper Cillessen on his left. Memphis Depay came on to find some offence for Holland. Moments later a Stefan de Vrij header from the corner was well saved by Guillermo Ochoa and it rattled off the post. Wesley Sneijder came close when his shot was deflected into the corner. Dos Santos was subbed off, perhaps a bit too early. In the 74th minute Arjen Robben ran with the ball, beat a defender and Ochoa covered the angles and saved his shot well. Just before the second cooling break Klaas Jan Huntelaar made his first World Cup appearance. Ochoa was again the star when the Dutch did manage to use their greater possession to actually get close to the Mexico goal. The goal finally came when a corner was headed back and Sneijder ran to the ball and shot hard and low from the edge of the box. Into injury time Robben made one of his trademark runs into the Mexico box and was eventually brought down by Rafa Marquez. Huntelaar scored the penalty.

Colombia 2-0 Uruguay

James Rodriguez 28 50

The second all South American round of 16 match was missing Luis Suarez. He was of course suspended for his Giorgio Chiellini bite days earlier. Diego Forlan started in his place. As with their group games Colombia had the better of the ball and used their pace to attack well. James Rodriguez who had three group stage goals was again the focal point. He added one of the best of the World Cup with a one touch volley that beat Fernando Muslera just under the crossbar. Uruguay were strong and physical but produced relatively little offense with Edinson Cavani neither getting good service nor executing well when he got any. The second half started with a similar shape to the first and before long Rodriguez got his fifth of the World Cup. A scramble deep in Uruguay’s zone led to Juan Cuadrado cutting the ball back and Rodriguez shot it in. Cuadrado was becoming assister in chief. Uruguay got more chances and possession but David Ospina in the Colombia goal was good enough when troubled. Colombia made the last eight for the first time.

Brazil 1 (3)-(2) 1 Chile

David Luiz 18 – Alexis Sanchez 32

Fernandinho started in place of Paulinho and Arturo Vidal was back in the Chile starting 11 after missing the third group game. The early story was a concern for Neymar who was limping after a foul. Before the 15th minute both teams had a penalty shout denied by Howard Webb, replays showed that the referee was probably correct. A Neymar corner was headed on and then diverted into goal by David Luiz or was it an Gonzalo Jara own goal? With the game proceeding with mostly tackles and fouls a defensive mistake – Marcelo’s throw in was carelessly headed back to him by Hulk – meant Alexis Sanchez was able to collect the ball in the area and hit low into the far side. Brazil came close to retaking the lead via a scramble in the Chile box and a bit later by Neymar, Fred and long Dani Alves shot. Just before half time another defensive giveaway led to a scramble in the Brazil box. The second half featured a Hulk goal called back for hand ball, it was almost a shoulder. Chile had their best chance saved well by Julio Cesar in the 64th minute. Later Neymar headed well but right at Claudio Bravo then Hulk kept the ball well and forced a good punching save from Bravo. Nervous moments for both didn’t produce a goal and the game headed to extra time. Hulk’s low hard shot was the first fifteen’s best chance in an otherwise foul filled time. In the second fifteen Brazil had more of the ball but it was Chile sub Mauricio Pinilla’s 119th minute shot that came off the crossbar. The game headed to the penalty kicks. Chile missed their first two penalties and never really recovered. Neymar took Brazil’s fifth and scored their third. Brazil won 3-2 on penalties.

Jun 272014

algeria footballBelgium 1-0 South Korea Jan Vertonghen 78
Algeria 1-1 Russia Islam Slimani 60 – Aleksandr Kokorin 6

Belgium started a much changed side with Kevin Mirallas (in the forward spot), Steven Defour, Adnan Januzaj, Nicolas Lombaerts and Anthony Vanden Borre getting starts. S G Kim got the start for Korea in goal. Korea showed more urgency and tried to up the tempo but only tested Thibaut Courtois twice in the first half. Belgium had chances too and Dries Mertens wasted the best ones. As the first half was nearing its end Steven Defour was given a straight red for a stamp on the Korean’s leg. As Korea searched for the lead a Divock Origi, on as a sub, shot rebounded off the goalie and a possible offside Jan Vertonghen shot it in. South Korea left the World Cup and Asia was as a whole did worse than it hoped. In the other game Algeria caused a shock of sorts by finishing second in group. Russia disappointed in their first game and didn’t do much better in the second or third. The 2018 hosts will need to improve their young squad and perhaps employ a more offensive outlook, one that is probably not Fabio Capello will be willing to go for.

Portugal 2-1 Ghana John Boye 31OG Ronaldo 80 – Asamoah Gyan 57
Germany 1-0 USA Thomas Muller 55

In a game where both teams needed a win – and even that may not have been enough if Germany and USA tied – the pre-game wasn’t the best preparation for Ghana. Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng were suspended by their own team. Disagreements and confrontation stories were added to earlier bonus money problems. The game had Eder, William Carvalho and Amorim starting for Portugal. The best action arrived via Cristiano Ronaldo with a cross/shot hitting the far side crossbar, a bit later Ronaldo had a close range header saved well by Fatau Dauda. The first good Ghanaian chance came when Asamoah Gyan managed to fend off Portuguese defenders and shoot at Beto, who saved well. The first goal of the game came when a cross was deflected or sliced into his own goal by John Boye. Late in the half Boye wasn’t far away from adding a second own goal. Ghana equalized in the second courtesy of Gyan. He headed a long cross behind Beto. The chance to take the lead was missed by Majeed Waris, unmarked and open he headed the cross just wide. In the 72nd minute Portugal had a penalty claim denied when Boye seemed to push Ronaldo. Ghana were extremely wasteful and Portugal took the lead. A cross was punched out by Dauda but he was almost trapped in between two of his own defenders, the punched ball fell to Ronaldo who shot in. Both teams exited the World Cup with Ronaldo one of the match stories for number of chances missed. In the other game Germany won in the rain courtesy of another Thomas Muller goal. Lucas Podolski got his first start. Both Germany and USA reached the round of 16.

France 0-0 Ecuador
Switzerland 3-0 Honduras Xherdan Shaqiri 6 31 71

The French started a much changed side with PSG’s Lucas Digne, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Morgan Schneiderlin and Antoine Griezmann starting. Ecuador’s sole change was Michael Arroyo in for Felipe Caicedo. France were good enough with their so called B team and did create openings if not the best of chances throughout the game. Ecuador needed more than they could deliver and despite some relatively good minutes didn’t seem likely to overcome the deficit that got bigger due to the score of the Switzerland – Honduras game. To add to the difficulty captain Antonio Valencia got himself sent off in the 50th minutes for a poor, but not malicious, challenge. In the other match Honduras enjoyed a surprisingly large percentage of possession by were undone by a hattrick and questionable defensive shape.

Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-1 Iran Edin Dzeko 23 Miralem Pjanic 59 Avdija Vrsajevic 83 – Reza Ghoochannejhad 82
Argentina 3-2 Nigeria Lionel Messi 3, 45 Marcos Rojo 50 – Ahmed Musa 4 47

The Bosnia – Iran match was largely for pride. Iran had an outside chance of qualifying but had to win and then hope Nigeria lose by an equal or greater margin. It was never very likely and Bosnia would almost certainly have their say. The game featured more of the inability of the Iranians to generate concerted attacks and Bosnia more wasteful than not. Bosnia coach Safet Susic deserved some criticism for waiting until his country are eliminated to start both Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic together. Dzeko scored first from outside of the box. Miralem Pjanic added Bosnia’s second and he may have been offside but only by inches. Iran had more intent and managed to get their first via a good control and better cross. The response was quick as Iran were caught up the pitch. The game then got a bit choppy and there was little rhythm. Bosnia claimed the bulk of the possession without being overly clinical. Both teams exited the World Cup.In the other game Argentina again showed their vulnerability and reliance on Lionel Messi. Nigeria gave a good account of themselves and showed some promise for the round of 16th match to come.

Jun 252014

SuarezbiteColombia 4-1 Japan Guillermo Cuadrado 18P Jackson Martinez 55 82 James Rodriguez 89 – Shinji Okazaki 45
Ivory Coast 1-2 Greece Wilfried Bony 74 – Andreas Samaris 42 Georgios Samaras 90P

Colombia already qualified and unlikely to finish anything but first in this group started a much changed side with all of Mario Yepes, Cristian Zapata, James Rodriguez and Teofilo Gutierrez rested. Early Colombian balls soon changed and the game turned into more Japanese control. Keisuke Honda wasted or missed several set pieces. It was Colombia who scored first, however. Yasuyuki Konno appeared to bring down Adrian Ramos and Colombia were awarded a penalty which was converted centrally. Japan finally made their possession count and equalized right at half time. James Rodriguez came on at half time and provided the pass for Colombia’s second. As Japan went forward in search of a needed goal Rodriguez provided the assist for Colombia’s third. Later goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon came on for David Ospina to break the record for the oldest player ever – 43 – at the World Cup. He beat Roger Milla’s record. Rodriguez finished a beautiful pass just before the 90 minute mark.

In the other game Ivory Coast disappointed in the first half and went behind. There was more urgency in the second half and the equalizer came. It was all not to be as a dubious penalty was awarded to Georgios Samaras and he scored it himself to send Greece through.

Italy 0-1 Uruguay Diego Godin 81
England 0-0 Costa Rica

A draw would be enough for Italy. Cesare Prandelli still undecided about his best line up started Ciro Immobile and for a second time Marco Verratti. Italy had the better control of the ball but most of the final ball or two were poor. Both teams had their share of fouls and somewhat rough play. Mario Balotelli was given a yellow and would miss any round of 16 match. To some surprise Balotelli was taken out at half time in favour of Marco Parolo. The second half contained more whistles and complaints by both sides. The first controversial moment of the game arrived when Claudio Marchisio was red carded for a high boot that some thought might only deserve a yellow. For a while it did seem that Italy could actually escape with a poor 0-0 but Diego Godin jumped and headed into the right side. The second and bigger controversy came when Luis Suarez appeared to bite Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez didn’t take any action. After the final whistle Suarez received some condemnation for a repeat – third – biting act. Coach Cesare Prandelli and federation president Giancarlo Abete resigned upon Italy’s early exit.

In the other game a much changed England side with Jack Wilshere, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, James Milner, Ben Foster and Frank Lampard starting played out a somewhat uninspired tie. Two more European teams left for home early.

Brazil 4-1 Cameroon Neymar 17 35 Fred 49 Fernandinho 84 – Matip 26
Croatia 1-3 Mexico Ivan Perisic 87 – Rafael Marquez 72 Andres Guardado 75 Javier Hernandez 82

Brazil achieved what was expected with a bit more style than their first two games. An already eliminated Cameroon withstood the few opening minutes which had Neymar close on two occasion. Neymar finally did score but it was Cameroon who seemed to settle into the game. The reply came when Alves was unable to handle the Cameroon winger and his cross found Matip who tapped the ball in. David Luiz’s nonchalant reaction to the ball passing in front of him – with him facing his goal – highlighted Brazil’s defensive vulnerability. But before long Neymar got the lead back with a somewhat weak shot. The second half settled the match with Fred collecting the cross and shooting into a corner and substitute Fernandinho finishing late.
In the other game Mexico knocked out Croatia with a three goal in 10 minutes span. The Europeans hadn’t done enough and when they did Ochoa was good enough. Ante Rebic got himself sent off late not long after Ivan Perisic had scored a consolation. Mexico coach Miguel Herrera added his name to World Cup folklore with his wild celebrations.

Holland 2-0 Chile Leroy Fer 77 Memphis Depay 90
Spain 3-0 Australia David Villa 36 Fernando Torres 69 Juan Mata 82

A Holland win or tie would have them finish first in group B, a win would be required for Chile. Robin van Persie served his one game suspension for two yellows in the opening matches and Arturo Vidal was on the bench for the Chileans. The start had lots of whistles and a wrong offside call against Chile in the 15th minute. Chile had the better of the ball and a couple of penalty shouts as well. However, neither team really took control of the first half. The deadlock was broken when a cross from a corner was headed in by Leroy Fer. Fer had only come on less than two minutes earlier. Memphis Depay assisted by Robben finished off the game via a counterattack. Chile had several other complaints for fouls and corners and continued to enjoy more of the possession until the end.
In the other match Spain dominated Australia and David Villa, one of many of a changed squad, opened the scoring with a nicely placed goal. Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored the other two. Spain insisted that no wholesale change is needed and declared themselves set for 2016 and 2018.

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