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Saturday, June 26, 2010



The Americans are one of the eight remaining unbeaten teams in the competition. They have performed creditably so far, without really being at their very best. After two draws against England and Slovenia they beat Algeria 1-0 and finished top of their group. Both the draws were achieved after the Americans went behind, 0-1 to England and 0-2 to Slovenia. This, along with their last-minute winning goal against Algeria only goes to confirm one thing – this American team will fight right up to the final whistle.

In Tim Howard (1) of Everton, the USA have a very experienced and skilled keeper. In front of him captain Carlos Bocanegra (3) of Rennes, Jay Demerit (15) of Watford, Steve Cherundolo (6) of Hannover and Oguchi Onyewu (5) of Milan are four experienced defenders. Of these Onyewu was rested against Algeria, but he was undoubtedly the most effective defender in the first two matches, and is likely to play against Ghana, if fit.

In midfield the Americans rely heavily on Landon Donovan (10) of LA Galaxy. He is their principal playmaker and also capable of scoring vital goals, as he did in injury time against Algeria. He also scored a stunning goal against Slovenia. Alongside him Clint Dempsey (8) of Fulham is another dynamic midfielder who can score goals with ease and regularity for club and country. He got the equaliser against England. But the American midfielder who is emerging as their man of the tournament is young Michael Bradley (4) of Moenchengladbach. The son of the coach Bob Bradley. He seems to improve in each game, and could be a key factor henceforth. He scored the equaliser against Slovenia.

In attack young Jozy Altidore (17) of Hull City is a real handful for opposition defenders. He is yet to find the net in this competition, but perhaps the Ghana game will end that goal drought. Robbie Findley (20) of Salt Lake was suspended for the Algeria game, but could come back for this match.

Ghana are also a side consisting of some supremely talented players. Under Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac they are developing into a very efficient unit. They started with a clinical 1-0 win over fancied Serbia. However, they were then held to a 1-1 draw by Australia, who played with 10 men for most of the game. They then opened up the much heralded German defence but somehow failed to score and finally lost the match 0-1.

In Richard Kingson (22) of Wigan Ghana have a skilful if temperamental keeper, equally capable of pulling off stunning saves and then committing awful mistakes! The defence looks solid, led by the strong and talented John Mensah (5) of Sunderland and John Paintsil (4) of Fulham. Isaac Vorsah (15) of German club Hoffenheim is another splendid defender, if fit. Side back Hans Sarpei (2) of Leverkusen loves to overlap.

In midfield, Ghana have one of Africa’s most talented youngsters in Andrew Ayew (13) of Arles of France. He is the son of the legendary Abedi Pele. Anthony Annan (6) of Rosenborg of Norway is a defensive midfielder, along with German born Kevin-Prince Boateng (23) of Portsmouth, while Udinese’s talented Kwadwo Asamoah (21) is an attacking midfielder. Veteran Stephen Appiah (10) of Bologna and Sulley Muntari (11) of Inter Milan may also play, if only as substitutes.

In attack Ghana’s principal striker is Asamoah Gyan (3) of Rennes, who has scored both Ghana’s goals in the finals. He should be assisted by Prince Tagoe (12) of Hoffenheim.

Thus the USA v Ghana match seems to be evenly poised. The Ghanaians will probably get most of the home support, but the Americans will fight right up to the death. For the neutral observer, this match promises to be full of exciting possibilities.


Uruguay were the very last team to have qualified for the 2010 World Cup finals, but so far under coach Oscar Tabarez they have looked one of the most organised teams in the competition. After a goalless draw with France, they beat hosts South Africa 3-0, and Mexico 1-0 to have reached the pre-quarterfinals without conceding a goal.

The backbone of the current Uruguay team are the four Diegos - Diego Godin (3) and captain Diego Lugano (2) in central defence, Diego Perez (15) in midfield and Diego Forlan (10) up front. The mercurial Godin of Villarreal of Spain has emerged as one of the best defenders on show in South Africa. He was rested for the final group game against Mexico but is expected to return for the Korea match. Lugano of Fenerbahce of Turkey is also a splendid defender. They will probably be assisted in defence by the Portuguese based pair of Maxi Perreira (16) of Benfica and Jorge Fucile (4) of Porto. Mauricio Victorino (6) of Universidad de Chile may also play. Behind them Fernando Muslera (1) of Lazio is a young but experienced and skilful goalkeeper.

In midfield Perez of Monaco sits right in front of the defence and controls the game from there. Alongside him Egidio Arevalo (17) of home based Penarol has also been having a great campaign, solid in defence and fluent in counter-attack. Alvaro Pereira (11) of Porto takes up the role of an attacking midfielder. He scored one goal against the hosts.

In attack, Uruguay have two world class strikers in Forlan of Atletico Madrid and Luis Suarez (9) of Ajax Amsterdam. Between them they scored over 70 goals during the 2009-10 European season! Forlan scored twice against South Africa, while Suarez got the winner against Mexico. Edinson Cavani (7) of Palermo of Italy will probably assist them.

The South Koreans will obviously be up against it when they take on this clinical Uruguayan team, but they themselves are having a fairly good campaign. They started with a bang, defeating Greece, another well-organised team, 2-0 in their opener. A comprehensive defeat by Argentina ensued, but the Koreans recovered in time to hold powerful Nigeria 2-2 and qualify.

The Koreans have a good young keeper in Jung Sung Ryong (18), who has performed adequately so far. In defence Lee Young Pyo (12) and Cha Du Ri (22) are both veterans from the 2002 team that stunned the world and finished 4th. Both are solid in defence and ever willing to overlap. The central defenders Cho Yong Hyung (4) Lee Jung Soo (14) are dependable. Lee Jung Soo is also a scorer – he has already scored 2 goals against Greece and Nigeria. He is one of the few defenders to have scored in this year’s Cup, which is extremely creditable.

The captain Park Ji Sung (7) of Manchester United is the midfield dynamo for Korea. He scored one goal against Greece. He will be assisted by Kim Jung Woo (8) and the two 21-year-olds Ki Sung Yong (16) of Celtic and Lee Chung Yong (17) of Bolton. Lee Chung Yong scored the only goal against Argentina. The veteran Kim Nam Il (5) appeared in all three group matches as substitute, and he may well be called up against Uruguay.

Up front Korea have a superb striker in Park Chu Yong (10) of Monaco. He scored from a free-kick against Nigeria. Another veteran Ahn Jung Hwan (9) is yet to play in these finals, but he might be recalled for this game, especially as he is known to be a big-match player.

All in all, Uruguay v South Korea promises to be an exciting encounter. Though Uruguay start as favourites, the Koreans are sure to make things difficult for them with their industry and their commitment.


(With due apologies to Rudyard Kipling - and to Bill Shankly)

Oh, East is East, and West is West,
And never the twain shall meet,
Unless it is the World Cup time,
When men kick balls with feet.
There is neither East nor West,
Nor border, breed or birth,
When two teams kick-off face to face,
From different ends of earth.

Twenty-two men, all fit and strong,
And mostly slim and tall,
Go helter skelter o’er the field,
Chasing a single ball.
They push and strive and sweat and toil,
They collapse on the mat;
‘Tis not about just life or death,
But so much more than that.


We’ve now entered the knock-out stage of the 2010 World Cup. To many, this is now the “business end” of the tournament, where one “off-day” may shatter your dreams and render all your long preparations meaningless.

After 48 matches, 16 of the 32 teams have been eliminated. These include the two finalists from 2006, Italy and France. All the five South American teams in action have qualified for the knock-out stage, four of them as group champions. Of these, Brazil and Chile meet each other in the pre-quarter finals, which means that there could be as many as 4 South American teams in the quarter finals.

Of the 13 European teams in fray, only 6 have survived. In general, this has been a dismal tournament for Europe, albeit a few exceptions. Strangely, each of the 6 remaining European teams play other European teams in the pre-quarter finals! The most intriguing contest should be the one between Germany and England, while Spain play their Iberian neighbours Portugal. The Netherlands take on Slovakia. Thus there will be three teams from Europe in the quarter finals, come what may.

Of the 5 other teams still in action, there are 2 each from North America and Asia, leaving Ghana as the only team carrying the banner from Africa. The 5 other teams from the home continent have all been eliminated, most of them without much flourish. The 2 Asian teams both play South American opponents in the pre-quarter finals, and it would be interesting to see if either of them manage to reach the next round.

The 48 group matches have produced 101 goals at an average of 2.10 goals per match. (At this stage the 2002 tournament produced 130 goals, and the 2006 version saw 117 goals.) Argentina and Portugal have scored 7 goals each, while South Korea, Germany, Netherlands and Brazil have scored 5 each. Of the 32 teams, only Algeria and Honduras have failed to score. Of the 16 teams that have qualified for the knock-out stage, Ghana and England have scored just 2 goals each. Three players, namely Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina, Robert Vittek of Slovakia and David Villa of Spain are currently the joint highest scorers in the tournament, with 3 goals each.

Defensively, Uruguay and Portugal have emerged as the best teams so far, not having conceded any goals in their group matches. Argentina, England, Germany, Netherlands, Paraguay and Switzerland have conceded just 1 goal each. North Korea have conceded 12 goals, while South Korea, Australia and Denmark have conceded 6 each.

Of the 16 surviving teams, 8 are as yet undefeated. Of these, Argentina and the Netherlands have the best records, with three wins in three matches each. Brazil and Uruguay each have two wins and a draw. England, Paraguay, Portugal and USA have one win and two draws each. Of the remaining 8 teams, Germany, Spain, Chile and Japan each have two wins and one defeat, while Mexico, Ghana, South Korea and Slovakia each have a 1-1-1 win-draw-loss record.

Monday, June 21, 2010


After yesterday's Spain v Honduras match, all 32 teams have now played 2 matches each. Two of the pre-quarter finalists (Brazil and the Netherlands) are already confirmed, while two teams, Cameroon and North Korea, are out of contention and their third match shall be their last.

All this means that 30 teams (including Brazil and the Netherlands) are still alive at this stage, which is quite incredible! Here is a look at the 8 groups:-

Group A

URU: Pts = 4, GD = 3
MEX: Pts = 4, GD = 2
FRA: Pts = 1, GD = -2
RSA: Pts = 1, GD = -3

Matches remaining (Jun 22, 19-30 IST): FRA v RSA, MEX v URU

Here nothing is confirmed yet. All four teams can still go through (theoretically). Of course, if Mexico and Uruguay draw, then they both go through (with Uruguay winning the group), and France and South Africa shall be both eliminated, irrespective of the result in their game. However, if there is a result in the Mexico v Uruguay match, then the winner goes through as Group Champions, while the loser may end up with the same number of points as the winner of the France v South Africa match, and goal difference comes into play. South Africa will have to win by a huge margin to be in contention, and Mexico (or Uruguay) will have to lose badly for the hosts to have any chance. France's chances are marginally better, if they win.

Still, Uruguay and Mexico seem to be the most likely teams to progress from Group A

Group B

ARG: Pts = 6, GD = 4
KOR: Pts = 3, GD = -1
GRE: Pts = 3, GD = -1
NGA: Pts = 0, GD = -2

Matches remaining (Jun 22, midnight IST): ARG v GRE, KOR v NGA

Here too, theoretically, all four teams can qualify for the knock-out stage. Argentina have produced some superb football in their two games, but if they lose badly to Greece, and Korea win big against Nigeria, then there may be three teams finishing on six points each, and goal difference might just eliminate Argentina. For that, Greece will have to beat Argentina by 3 clear goals (which will make their GD 2, and Argentina's GD 1), and Korea will also have to win by 3 clear goals (which will make their GD 2, too). That scenario looks most unlikely, but it is possible.

On the other hand, if Argentina beat Greece (by any margin), and Nigeria beat Korea (by any margin), then Argentina win the group with 9 points, and Nigeria finish second with 3 points - the same as Greece and South Korea, but a better GD! Intriguing possibilities! Common sense says that Argentina will win this group, and South Korea or Nigeria shall accompany them into the next stage. (But common sense has taken quite a beating already in this World Cup, so who knows!!)

Group C

SVN: Pts = 4, GD = 1
USA: Pts = 2, GD = 0
ENG: Pts = 2, GD = 0
ALG: Pts = 1, GD = -1

Matches remaining (Jun 23, 19-30 IST): ALG v USA, ENG v SVN

This is another group where all four teams are still in fray. A win for Slovenia over England will eliminate the latter, and Slovenia shall finnnish as group winners, irrespective of the result in the other match. A draw in the ENG v SVN match will also mean elimination for England, because whatever happens in the other match, at least 2 teams will have better records than them. Hopefully, England will beat Slovenia and progress, along with the winner of the ALG v USA game. (A draw there will take Slovenia through, whatever happens in their own game with England.) Still more intriguing possibilities!!!

Group D

GHA: Pts = 4, GD = 1
GER: Pts = 3, GD = 3
SRB: Pts = 3, GD = 0
AUS: Pts = 1, GD = -4

Matches remaining (Jun 23, midnight IST): AUS v SRB, GHA v GER

Once again, all four teams are still alive, theoretically, though Australia need to win against Serbia, and hope that Ghana beat Germany. This scenario seems most unlikely, though possible. If Germany beat Ghana, then Australia will have to win reall big to qualify. A draw in the Ghana Germany game will mean Australia requiring a win by a 7 goal margin to pip Germany on GD. Serbia, meanwhile need to beat Australia to qualify, along with the winners of the Ghana Germany game. (A draw there will take Ghana through, whatever happens in the Serbia Australia match - Germany will qualify with a draw if Serbia fail to win (or lose by 6 goals or less!)

Group E

NED: Pts = 6, GD = 3 (through)
JPN: Pts = 3, GD = 0
DEN: Pts = 3, GD = -1
CMR: Pts = 0, GD = -2 (out)

Matches remaining (Jun 24, midnight IST): DEN v JPN, CMR v NED.

This group is one of the clearest groups in this year's competition, as of now. Netherlands are already through here, and Cameroon are already eliminated. Even if Cameroon beat the Dutch, Denmark or Japan (or both, in case of a draw) will still be ahead of them, along with the Netherlands. The winner of the Denmark Japan game shall also qualify. A draw will take Japan through on GD, ahead of Denmark. So everything hinges on the Denmark Japan game as to who will qualify for the pre-quarter finals along with the Dutch.

Group F

PAR: Pts = 4, GD = 2
ITA: Pts = 2, GD = 0
NZL: Pts = 2, GD = 0
SVK: Pts = 1, GD = -2

Matches remaining (Jun 24, 19-30 IST): ITA v SVK, NZL v PAR

Here, too, all four teams are still in contention. If the bottom nation Slovakia beat Italy, and Paraguay beat New Zealand, then they both go through. If italy and New Zealand win their respective matches, then they both go through. A draw would be enough for Paraguay to qualify. A loss for Paraguay may also take them through, if Italy and Slovakia draw, or if Slovakia win and Paraguay lose by a small margins.

Group G

BRA: Pts = 6, GD = 3 (through)
POR: Pts = 4, GD = 7
CIV: Pts = 1, GD = -2
PRK: Pts = 0, GD = -8 (out)

Matches remaining (Jun 25, 19-30 IST): BRA v POR, CIV v PRK

Brazil are already through, even if they lose to Portugal, as neither Ivory Coast nor North Korea can catch them on points. North Korea are already eliminated. Ivory Coast can still qualify (theoretically) but to do that they will have to beat North Korea by a huge margin, and hope that Brazil beat Portugal by a big margin, too. However, it seems most likely that Portugal shall accompany Brazil into the knock-out stage from this group.

Group H

CHI: Pts = 6, GD = 2
ESP: Pts = 3, GD = 1
SUI: Pts = 3, GD = 0
HON: Pts = 0, GD = -3

Matches remaining (Jun 25, midnight IST): CHI v ESP, HON v SUI.

Here Chile are on top, but they can still be eliminated, and Honduras, the bottom team, can still qualify. If Spain beat Chile (by any margin), and Switzerland beat Honduras (by any margin), then both Spain and Switzerland qualify. If Honduras beat Switzerland and Chile beat Spain, then Honduras, Spain and Switzerland all finish with 3 points and GD comes into action. A big win for Honduras shall take them through, if Spain lose. More intrigue!

As seen from the above, of the remaining 16 group matches, only the Cameroon v Netherlands match is meaningless (in terms of qualification and elimination, though it could still decide the group positions, if Cameroon win.) This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that this has been one of the most competitive World Cups ever. One hopes that the competition gets even better in the knock-out stage!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


As you may know from my article from 2006, several Bongs graced the World Cup stage in Germany four years ago. Just as a reminder, here is the link: http://woildcup. blogspot. com/search? q=The+Bong+ Connection

This time around, too, there are quite a few Bongs playing for various countries. With Denmark having qualified, hordes of bodyis from the famous Sen family of Bodyinath Dham are in action. Soren Sen (Jersey No. 1) will keep goal for them while two of his distant cousins are his deputies - Ander Sen (16) and Christian Sen (22). In defence, there are Jacob Sen (6) and Simon Poul Sen (15). The midfield sees the presence of Christian Poul Sen (2), Jen Sen (7), the veteran Jogen Sen (10) (who is now called Jorgen in Danish), Jakob Poul Sen (14), Enevold Sen (20) and young Erik Sen (21) who at 18 is one of the youngest players in the competition this year. The Denmark attack has Lar Sen (18) who scored 5 goals in 5 games during qualification. The team is coached by the round old man Ol Sen, who played with such distinction in 1986, albeit with a sore throat.

Bodyis, as you know, have spread everywhere. Germany has a bodyi in their squad, defender Jan Sen (2), while another defender Mathij Sen (4) is playing for the Netherlands. Yet another defender Nel Sen (6), presumably a descendant of Nellie Sen Gupta, is captaining New Zealand. Why most of these bodyis are defensive is a question that I shall avoid answering as of now.

Other countries have their Bongs too, though they may not be bodyis. The first name that comes to mind is that of the Cameroon defender from the French club Valenciennes – Gaetan Bong (Jersey No. 12). Here is a Bong who proudly announces his awesome heritage.

Ghana has a descendant of Prince Dwarka Nath Tagore in their squad – striker Prince Tagoe (12). (Some obvious clerical error has somehow removed the ‘r’ from his surname.) A scion of the Sonar Bene family of Chetla is also in the Ghana team – defender Lee Addy (19). Ivory Coast has a somewhat retarded Bong in their squad – defender Arthur Boka (3), while another Sonar Bene or Johuri is their number 6 – defender Steve, though he now spells his surname with a ‘G’ and is listed as Steve Gohouri. (La French influence, no doubt!) Another Bong in the Ivorian squad is filmstar Bumbada’s younger brother defender Sol Bamba (22). Nigeria has appointed a Bong as captain - striker Kanu Babu (4). Another Bong in the Nigerian team will try to forget the bitterness and deliver – he is striker Kalu Uchhe (12).

France has left out Saha Babu this year, but they do have two elderly Bongs in their squad, midfielder Malou Da (15) and goalkeeper Mandan Da (16). (As their jersey numbers signify – Bongs do tend to stick together, especially in a foreign country.)

Japan too has three elderly Bongs in their squad – defender Uchi Da (6), midfielder Hon Da (18) and forward Tama Da (11). The three dadas shall adequately look after the three departments of defence, midfield and offence. Another Bong in the Japanese squad is that great disciple of Goddess Kali – midfielder Ma Koto Hasebe (17). 53 year old Oka Da is the Japanese coach.

That perennially lazy Bong is in the Spanish squad once again – he who never even hits a ball. He is defender Carlos Marche Na (4).