Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup 2010 Game 12: Slovakia 1 New Zealand 1

Yesterday I suggested that New Zealand was the weakest team in the tournament. I forgot about North Korea, which according to the most recent FIFA world rankings is rated 105th, or about 27 spots below New Zealand. My apologies to the Kiwis. I stand by my opinion, though, that Group E is the easiest group.

New Zealand actually controlled play for the first 15 minutes or so. That seems to be a trend in world soccer as well...a weaker team coming out and seemingly doing okay, maybe even controlling possession, and then the stronger team coming down and scoring on one of their first real opportunities.

Is it better to play a weaker opponent to start or get your hard game out of the way? This group is a classic study. Slovakia did what they needed to get the points. But they know that Paraguay can beat New Zealand, so they would have to get at least a tie against Italy to stay square (and that's assuming no goal differential). Paraguay, on the other hand, could play for a tie against Slovakia, setting up a third round where they simply have to beat New Zealand to go through. I think Slovakia has to play the Paraguay game as though they need a win so that they are going into game three with Italy not needing a result. Then again, one of the vagaries of pool play is that sometimes a team can be through after two game and may not play as hard

Ha! New Zealand scores in stoppage time...literally with time running out. So this group starts with two ties. Nice for the Kiwis since I think Slovakia was offisides on their goal. Incidentally, wow, what a cross on the New Zealand goal. The guy was turned away from the goal. Talk about making something out of nothing.

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