Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup 2010 Games 47 and 48: Group H

Spain 2, Chile 1
Switzerland 0, Honduras 0

Yes, that was a shot, not a fluke occurrence. The last set of group games was punctuated by the jaw dropping goal of Spain's David Villa who capitalized on yet another goal keeper error to score from loooooong range.

With the score 0-0 and Chile forcing the action and controlling much of play, Spain had a long pass to a striker making the run. It actually looked like the Chilean defender took an angle and was going to cut off play, but the Chilean goalkeeper streaked out of his box to try to reach the ball first, fearing a break away. He slid into the ball just before the Spanish player and Chilean defender, but he failed to clear the ball out of bounds, so it deflected off both charging players back to the left center of the field and at the feet of David Villa. Villa was staring at an empty (literally) goal. There was just one was 40 yards away. Did I say problem? Nope, Villa made a long, curving ball that started left of goal and arched like a slicing golf drive into the seemingly gaping goal mouth.

Funny, isn't it, how sometimes (like when the U.S. was 0-0 and needing a goal to advance) that goal can look so small and at other times (like when you are a Danish goalkeeper facing a Japanese free kick) the space you have to cover seems so wide.

Chile started the evening with six points and had a man sent off for a second yellow card just before half time. They faced the prospect of forty-five minutes against the number two team in the world while playing a man down, and a seemingly secure position now looked precarious.

Cynics may suspect that Spain took their foot off the gas in the second half. Once Chile scored a short handed goal to close it to 2-1 it was almost as though both teams tacitly admitted they had the results they needed barring two goals from a Swiss team that only managed one the whole tournament. Still, Switzerland was playing a weak Honduras team, so nothing was in the bag. Honduras actually had a few more chances (and an outside shot at qualifying if they could win by three or more goals). Instead both sides played to a zero-zero draw and we were spared yet a third Top 10 team in the world going out before the second stage.

We were also spared the 1 v 2 match of Spain/Brazil in the knockout round, though, honestly, Spain/Portugal will be nearly as heavy. Brazil is the big winner as they not only get a weaker Chilean team but one that will be missing two players from an accumulation of cards. That said, Chile has played Brazil twice in qualifying and while they didn't win, the familiarity of playing that team means they won't be in awe of the Brazilian side. Still, look for Brazil to go through and set up a round of 8 match with the Dutch.

In the knockout stage things rarely go according to seeds, but if they do, one would half to say that America got a much easier draw than the second place team in their group, England. To win the World Cup, America would have to beat (in order): Ghana, Uruguay/South Korea, Brazil, and Spain (which they have done). England would have to beat Germany, Argentina, Spain, and Brazil or the 1, 2, 5 and 6 ranked teams in the world. So while America is bemoaning its bad luck to get the Malian referee in game two, let us remember they caught a break with a fluke goal against England.

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