Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup 2010 Games 39 and 40: Group D

Germany 1, Ghana 0
Australia 2, Serbia 1

As thrilling as the end of the U.S.-Algeria game was, the last 10 minutes of Australia-Serbia was just as intense. Before moving to the knock out stage lets take a moment to praise Australia, a team that could have folded its tent after a 4-0 drubbing to the German side and playing two games with 10 men. Instead they scored two quick goals and suddenly the impossible seemed to be gaining momentum. They went for it, pushing forward, trying to make up a goal differential that weighed heavily against them. Then, in the desperate push forward, they left the defense vulnerable to a counter attack. Serbia scored and suddenly they went from dead in the water (down two goals in the second half) to needing only a tie to pass Ghana on goals scored).

Suddenly both teams were desperate for goals and that meant back and forth play like you don't never see.

Oh, and hey, lets throw a little controversy in the mix. On a Serbian corner kick a deflection hit Australian Paul Cahill in the hand. The referee (rightly, in my opinion) determined the hand ball inadvertent and did not award the penalty kick.

Like Group C, Group D turned out to be very evenly matched. Although the referee decisions weren't as dramatic as those in the U.S. games, consider that Ghana got all its points on penalty kicks, that Germany played half a game (and all the next game) without their best player. Australia won every game that they got to keep all eleven players on the field. That said, Serbia didn't push when they had a man advantage against Germany and Ghana did not put more pressure on Australia when they had a man advantage.

One side note--Germany certainly seemed to be playing a less aggressive game. Cynically, I might think that the U.S. result meant they may have preferred second place in the group (which would have happened with a tie), but a tie combined with a Serbia win would have knocked the Germans clean out. Once the Australia/Serbia game went into the 90th minute with Australia up a goal, I have expected Germany to let in a howler to get a more favorable match up in the knockout round.

Or is it? The U.S. scored four goals to England's two. Still, once you get to one and done stage, the World Cup is filled with teams who have looked less than great during the pool stage and manage to gain momentum and improve as it goes along.

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