Monday, July 5, 2010
The First of our Quarter-Final Games
Holland v Brazil is one of those classic World Cup match-ups that not only has a long & distinguished history at the tournament, but it also promises to always throw up an absorbing and exciting match, and in 2010 it did not disappoint. Brazil started in their usual steam-roller fashion, pinging the ball around with ease and literally walking through the Dutch defence like it was not there. Little surprise when on 10 minutes, Robiniho waltzed right down the middle, slicing the defence in two and lifting the perfectly weighted pass over the keeper for the goal. One-nil.... Brazil played with such exquisite skill and awareness, and the Dutch seemed in such disarray, that surely Brazil were going to bag a handful more before half-time, and it seemed like a miracle when we reached the break with no further goals.
After that, I doubted that Ghana v Uruguay would be able to live up to such a lofty height, but I was wrong. The crowd at Soccer city were nearly 100% behind Ghana, Africa’s last team at this tournament, and the green, yellow & red flags, with their black stars on, flew from every corner of the magnificent stadium. Ghana started very nervously, allowing the Uruguayans the bulk of the play for the first 30 minutes with a few good moves and the occasional shot towards target. But as time moved on so the Ghanaians found they feet and started to mount a few attempts of their own, and just on half time, Muntari collected the ball just inside the Uruguayan half, the defenders stood off, allowing him to move the ball forward a few yards and let loose with a low hard shot that just pinged into the bottom corner of the net. Wow... One-nil, and the dream of an African side in the semi’s was still alive.
Second half and the Uruguayans came out strongly, pressuring the Ghanaians and creating a hatful of chances, before Forlan stepped up to take a free kick some 25m out from goal, and just plant the ball inside the upright for the equaliser. Now it was game on and it was end-to-end stuff with each team coming close, but towards the end of normal time the Ghanaians seemed to gain the upper hand and mounted a full-on assault on the Uruguayans goal, but they were unable to make the breakthrough they needed, and we headed towards extra-time. We hate extra time & penalties, not just because of the perceived injustice or belief that a game of this magnitude should not have to end this way, we hate it because it means all that and that it will make us an hour and a half later getting home... Extra time is usually a cagy affair with neither team rarely willing to commit to winning the game in favour of trying to not losing the game, which results in a dour series of two, fifteen minutes periods, when seldom a result is obtained. This naturally leads to the worst way to settle a game, penalties.
How sad... Ghana had every opportunity and some to win this game, but in the end they just could notc step up and finish the job. We left the stadium somewhat dejected to start our journey home, arriving at 1:30am still pondering what might have been.....