Slovakia 0-2 Paraguay
Yesterday’s Cameroon v. Denmark game showed that a fight for survival between teams of contrasting styles could lead to an exciting display of attacking soccer. This was the opposite. Slovakia were content to concede the midfield, and coach Vladimir Weiss did not get a particularly nice Father’s Day present when his similarly named son caused the turnover that led to first Paraguay’s goal. If there’s a Slovakian equivalent of BigSoccer.com, people are surely accusing Weiss, Sr. of nepotism. But even after the South Americans scored, Slovakia seemed tentative to open up and didn’t put a shot on goal until second half stoppage time. Paraguay, who are no stranger to defensive play, deserved all three points for looking to attack throughout and for taking advantage of two of the few chances given to them.
Prediction against result: Last night I did some laundry, but didn’t fold it because I knew i would need something to keep me awake during this game. I was right, but figured Slovakia’s defense would be airtight.
Italy 1-1 New Zealand
I woke up an hour late and went to the TiVo to catch up on the games, watching them in order. But something went wrong with the recording of this one and I missed the opening 23 minutes, getting there just in time for the shock of seeing New Zealand up 1-0 to wear off before Italy’s penalty turned things level. This led to something I was hoping to never to do: rely on ESPN’s studio team for the analysis of the game. Turns out that New Zealand’s goal was a blown offside call which, because it was against Italy, nobody really complained about too much. In the second half, the world temporarily changed the Kiwis’ national anthem from “God Defend New Zealand” to “Goddamit, New Zealand, Defend!” which they did with incredible heart, and led by my old D.C. United buddy Ryan Nelsen. Maybe the All Whites followed their rugby-playing brethren and did the Haka before the game to intimidate Italy, who can only take solace in the knowledge that they are not France.
Prediction against result: If Algeria’s draw with England was unexpected, this was basically unprecedented in the modern era.
Brazil 3-1 Ivory Coast
How good is Brazil? They made the Ivory Coast look like England (although they were likely headed in that direction when they hired Sven-Goran Eriksson as coach). Kaka played up to expectations, and his assists on the first and third goals were the stuff that makes, as Tony Kornheiser says. the Soccer Poets more annoying than the Baseball Poets. But even if Luis Fabiano used his arm twice to control the ball on the second, you could hardly complain about his moves to elude two defenders on the play. Didier Drogba got a late consolation goal thanks to a perfectly timed run, but even with Kaka’s sending off, it was still too late. Coincidentally, Kader Keita’s, um, theatrics in getting Kaka sent off was exactly what a former Brazilian #10, Rivaldo, did against Turkey in 2002. I’m looking forward to hearing their reaction when/if they get called on that.
Prediction against result: Never bet against Brazil in the group stages.
Matchday 11 Previews
Portugal v. North Korea 7:30 AM ET, ESPN
As with Tuesday, look for North Korea to tire around the hour mark and give up a goal. Then again, if Portugal haven’t scored by then, their notorious tempers could get the best of them. After all, Brazil were clearly frustrated by North Korea, and Portugal are not nearly as composed as their former colonial subjects.
Prediction: Portugal 1, North Korea 0
Chile v. Switzerland 10:00 AM ET, ESPN
After the way they played on Wednesday, I would love to see Chile put on an attacking display like the one they had against Honduras. But if Spain couldn’t score against Switzerland, why should I believe that Chile can?
Spain v. Honduras 2:30 PM ET, ESPN
If Italy will be out for blood, then Spain will…well, let’s just say that they might actually break a sweat in easily disposing of Honduras. The Central Americans might prefer the slower pace of the game, but they will still be overmatched and overrun.
Prediction: Spain 3, Honduras 0