The most common letter in the English language...

For whatever reason, this group had about the least appeal to me.  The French were looking impressive, Honduras didn''t, and Ecuador and Switzerland were enigmas.

Expecting the French to win handily, I opted to watch the Swiss game, although I was paying much less attention than to other games.

But it started out pretty quickly, with the Swiss getting the ball in the box in the second or third minute, but they were unable to get a good shot off.

But it didn't take long for another Swiss attack to materialize; Shaqiri finally justified my faith, putting it in with an impressive curving shot to the far side from the top of the box only a few minutes later.  It was very similar to Messi's goal from the top of the box that beat Iran, except that it didn't go quite all the way to the far post, and did hit the crossbar.

Shaqiri delivered again in the thirty-first minute.  A long pass to Drmic gave he and Shaqiri a 2-on-1, and they quickly made it a 2-on-none with a quick pass just out of reach of the defender.  Shaqiri drifted across from right to left, then put the ball back across to the right, with the goalie having no chance.  It was just a perfectly executed fast break with the only two defenders around barely missing intercepting it.

From there, I paid a little attention until halftime, but it didn't look like Honduras was going to seriously threaten, so I missed Shaqiri completing the hat trick in the seventy-first minute.  Kudos to him for a fabulous game when the team needed him most.  I hope he plays like that again in the knockout (unless they somehow end up facing the US, though that would require several very unlikely upsets).

Anyway, France won the group on the strength of a scoreless draw with Ecuador adding to their two earlier, convincing wins.  And Switzerland moved on, with their two wins.

And then group F

Wednesday opened with Group F finishing its pool play.  Argentina was facing Nigeria, while Bosnia was taking on Iran.  Expecting a blowout in the Argentinian game, I opted to see if Iran was able to advance for the first time.

The game started with Iran being content to be tight in the back and look for counterattacks, which worked for both teams, as Bosnia is much better in the build-up.  But Iran was giving an awful lot of space, not looking to pressure until the Bosnians were fifteen to twenty yards into their side of the field.  So much of the game was taking place in a very small area, where Bosnia would bring it down, give it up in the midfield, and then squash the Iranian counterattack.

And that's how much of the game went, although each team got occasional glimpses of the net.  The first good look at the net from Bosnia actually looked pretty innocuous, as Djeko had the ball at the top of the box, and elected to shoot from there.  It wasn't a terribly hard shot, but it was placed with pin-point accuracy, on the ground, but an inch or two off the post, and the goalie just couldn't reach that far (it was only a few inches out of his reach).

Earlier, the announcers mentioned Argentina scoring, and I flipped over to see Messi's nice goal on replay.  Well, the Nigerians responded by also scoring before the replay even finished, so I saw that goal as well.

The Iranians didn't respond quite as quickly as the African team did, but they weren't far off, either.  However, their shot rang off the crossbar, and nearly straight down.  So it bounced up quite a bit, and the Iranian following up waited to kick it, rather than heading it, which gave the goalie time to get in the way.

They were opening up a bit, both offensively and defensively, and that seemed to be paying off.  They got close again in the thirty-first, with a nice play to chip it over the defense to one of three waiting forwards.  But the forwards were caught by the offside trap for no damage.

The Bosnians took advantage of that space with a run of their own in the 41st.  A pass ahead from the long run went to Vrsevic, but his pass across to Djeko, in the middle of the box (his home away from home, it seems) was a bit off-line and went out of bounds.

Dejagah (who had the bulk of the Iranian chances in the tournament, it seems) almost had a chance in the fifty-fifth, but was a hair off-sides.  There was no excuse for it, though, as he was all the way at one end, and could watch all the defenders.

Four minutes later, Pjanic thanked the Iranian defense for a terrible turnover by depositing the ball into the net.  Six minutes later, the Bosnians almost scored several times, but their players kept getting in each other's way.  Funny sequence to watch, though.

Play went back and forth for a quarter of an hour after that, until Iran got another corner kick.  The kick went to the back side, and was cleared out and further to that side.  It was immediately crossed back to the center, and cleared.  Then yet another played chipped it back into the center, where the only Iranian to stay onsides controlled it and passed it backwards across the net to Ghoochannejhad for an easy tap-in.

And in less time than it took for me to write out that sequence to a friend, the Bosnians came back and Vrsajevic put it in the net.

From there, the rest of the game was a formality.

In the other game, Messi had scored a second, as had Musa, before Rojo had provided the winning tally.  So the Argentinian game ended up being the closer of the two, though the Argentinians showed no fear of losing, subbing Messi out in the 63rd minute.

The results ended up putting both Argentina and Nigeria through, with Argentina winning the group.  No big surprises there, although I certainly wouldn't have been disappointed had Iran managed to win by two and advance.  But that was a long shot, to put it mildly.

Just pick 'C'

In Group C, with Colombia guaranteed to be moving on, I thought the game between Greece and Cote d'Ivoire, who were both fighting to move on, would be more interesting.

And it certainly was.  Greece was missing their captain, of course, suspended for his red card in the previous game.  And Ivory Coast made a small change, bringing Drogba in right away instead of as a later substitute.

And things did not get off to a great start for the Greeks, with Kone going down very early with an injury (though I missed what caused it).

In the thirteenth minute, both teams had decent chances to breaking players, forcing the goaltenders to come out and take the ball just before those breaking players could get a touch.

And I missed what happened again, but in the 18th, the Greek goaltender got a chiropractic adjustment (on the field) to delay the game.  Whatever it was, six minutes later he was unable to continue, and subbed out (back spasms, maybe; those can be seriously debilitating).

Just before he went off, the Ivorians had a decent scoring chance, but Drogba's pass in the box was off, so they didn't even get a shot.

In any event, Karnezis going off meant that the Greeks had used two subs in the first twenty-four minutes.  That definitely wasn't looking encouraging.

That didn't stop the Greeks from having a very nice counterattack that was headed into the bottom of the crossbar and out in the thirty-third minute.  That sequence resulted in a close-in free kick as well, which got past the wall but was an easy save as it rolled to the keeper.

A couple minutes after that, Drogba continued his uncharacteristically ineffectual play by getting a yellow card.  His defensive challenge did win the ball, but it was a dangerous challenge that could have easily broken the other guy's ankle.  I must admit, though, that I don't think I understand what the standards are for cards, now; I thought getting the ball meant everything was ok (unless your cleats are directed into the other player).  This was a case of solidly getting the ball, but getting the player afterward.  I'm not saying it was ruled incorrectly (I don't know), but it wasn't ruled the way I expected.

One thing that surprised me was that the bulk of the offense seemed to be coming from, and through, Gervinho, rather than Drogba or Yaya Toure.  He had one hell of a game, for sure.  In any event, I wonder if that was fluke or design.  I hadn't noticed him as much in the earlier games, but that might be entirely due to not having previously heard of him.

Be that as it may, the Greeks were the ones to score next, with Samaris capitalizing on a turnover from the Ivorian defense.  That left the Greeks up by one at the end of the half, and put the Africans' backs against the wall.

In response to that, they started the second half by opening up a bit in the back.  That helped them get the bulk of the chances, but not necessarily the best of them.

In the sixty-seventh, Kalou had a nice drive from the top-left portion of the box, but pushed the shot a couple of feet wide.

One minute later, the Greeks put a knuckleball of a shot off the crossbar; that one could have easily gone a foot higher or lower, and the goalie wouldn't've been able to do anything about it.

After several nice tries to get scoring chances, Gervinho does come through, and feeds Bony for an easy score, in close on the left, in the seventy-fourth.

But it only took five more minutes for the Greeks to ring the ball off the post again, and six more for the Ivorians to get it close.  Two minutes after that, the Greeks were close again, with a pass going right across the wide-open goal mouth, but there was no one there for the tap-in.

And the Greeks got really close again in stoppage time, with Sio stopping the chance but getting called for a foul to give a Grecian penalty shot.  And Samaras (not to be confused with Samaris, who'd scored earlier) calmly converted it for the goal, and the win.

So the Greeks are moving on, for the first time ever.

In the other game, surprising no one, Colombia crushed Japan to win the group.


Group D follows

Yesterday started with Group D, with Costa Rica facing England and Italy facing Uruguay.  Costa Rica was in, England was out, and Italy and Uruguay were fighting for scraps.  Speaking of groups not following the pre-tournament script.

So, given that the Costa Rica/England game had little chance of impact, and was featuring an almost-completely revamped English side, I decided to watch Italy and Uruguay.

And man, whoever named soccer 'The Beautiful Game' did not have to suffer through this game.  It had the most fouls in the first half, 23, of any game in the tournament.  And while I wasn't counting, that wasn't a surprise.

Just about any time there was contact, one or both players took a dive.  Balotelli, Chiellini, and Suarez were fighting for the crown of most (egregious) dive.  As much as it pains me to say it, I'd give the first-half title to Balotelli.

Of course, part of the reason they kept trying it was that it was working.  Italy had a fairly close-in free kick in the twelfth following one of those dives.  Pirlo, of course, took it, and shot directly for net.  It was a very nice shot, and the goalie was doing very well to deflect it over the net.

Ten minutes after that, Balotelli got a yellow for a really dangerous challenge from behind.  He was flying over another player, and hit him in the back of the head with his shin; he was lucky not to get a straight red for it.

And that card was important; probably because of the diving, Italy worried about Mario getting sent off, so he was subbed out at halftime.

In the second half, Uruguay got the first good scoring chance in 58th, but Rodriguez, running down the left, near center, put the shot off to the side.

Only a minute after that, Marchisio, taking the ball upfield, kicked over the ball and into the leg of a South American defender, and was given a straight red.  And that was a huge change in the complexion of the game, as the Italians stopped trying to win, and settled for just playing for a draw.

Buffon, the Italian goalie (and captain), got lucky he didn't get thrown out also.  He ran most of the way down the field and really aggressively got in the face of the ref, and stayed there a while, yelling and pointing at the ref.  I was amazed the ref didn't at least give him a yellow.

Anyway, that got the South Americans charging in, a lot, mostly trying for high crosses to headers, but it wasn't working for a long time.  But in the 81st, it finally did work, as Godin headed in a corner kick, forcing the Italians to open up in the back a bit.  And maybe that was the trick, as they could bring the big defender up for the corner, but he wasn't otherwise around.

Well, when the Italians started attacking, the Uruguayans mostly started bunkering down, and not challenging much.  That gave the Italians a lot of room, and they started playing high balls into the box as well.  And Godin won quite a few of those, as well.  The rest went out of play.

The South Americans did get a couple of chances on the counterattack as well, though.  One had Suarez and a couple other Uruguayans on a fast break.  Luis made the right play, the pass, but when it was blocked back at him, he then tried to go through the whole defense by himself.  Shockingly, that didn't work.

He got another chance just after, when the ball was kicked to him at midfield, and he saw Buffon well off his line.  His 40-50 yard shot, though, missed to the right.

There was almost six minutes of stoppage, but that wasn't enough for Italy to equalize.  So this group ended up as one of the biggest shocks of the tournament.

And speaking of shocks, I didn't say anything in there about Suarez's apparent attempt to, literally, take a bite out of Chiellini in setting up for a free kick.  It was just a wretched display by both players (both immediately dove for the ground); I have no idea what went through Suarez's mind before he did that.  It just makes no sense to me.  I'm pretty sure he's more than two years ago, and that's the highest age for that to make sense.

I hadn't previously heard about his previous incidents.  He'd apparently talked about how tough that was to explain to his young kids.  I wonder what his explanation will be, now.  Sad, really.

I haven't heard anything about him being suspended for that, but you've got to think it's being considered.  And it's deserved; much as I like him, generally, that's just an awful, awful thing to do.

Be that as it may, Costa Rica ended up in a scoreless draw, so they win the group, and Uruguay takes the second spot.

And then Group A

Group A was one where nobody was guaranteed to be in or out, going into the final game, although Brazil and Mexico definitely had the bull by the horns.

But since I thought that the chance of the refs allowing Brazil to lose was zero (assuming that their abundant talent wasn't enough, which was also unlikely), I turned on the Croatia match with Mexico.

It started out as a very tough defensive match-up, with neither team finding much room in the midfield.  Croatia got the first two corner kicks, but couldn't do anything with them.

Shortly after, Mexico tried to go over the top straight off a midfield free kick.  It didn't work, but was a nice attempt.

I was somewhat amused when, soon after that, the Croats tried grabbing both shoulders of a Mexican and then kicked over top of him.  No foul.

The Croats then got the third corner kick.  It didn't work, but the strategy was interesting; they went all the way to the opposite side, then centered again from that side for a header attempt.  Again, it didn't work, but it was cool to watch.

In the fifteenth minute, the North Americans put it off the crossbar, right by the corner of the goal, but it went out.  That was their first good chance, and it came off a 20-25yd shot.

They got another chance in the nineteenth, with a long ball to a player running down the right side.  But it was foiled when he went to kick it into the middle, as his plant foot slipped and the ball bounced off of that foot and out of play.

The Mexicans got a couple of corner kicks in the 39th, but it didn't work out for them.  The first was immediately played out and the second was played upfield to start a counterattack.  Of course, that play out came from a defender at minimum distance, and he used his hand to send it out.  And if the ref had been looking, he would have seen that player grab his hand afterwards to assuage the hurt.  But the counterattack did no damage; the shot wasn't taken terribly close, and was fired over the crossbar.

A couple minutes later, there was a massive pig-pile in front of the net following a Mexican corner kick, but the Croats managed to clear just as a Mexican was called for interfering with the goaltender.

Early in the second, the Croats got away with murder, as there was a very deliberate take-down of a forward in the box, followed by blocking a cross with a handball.  Not exactly the prettiest sequence.

But Mexico finally scored in the 72nd minute.  Not a complicated play; just a centering from a corner kick, heading it into the net from close range.

It didn't take long for Mexico to increase their lead; only about three minutes.  The Croats back line gave the ball away before midfield, and Chicharito brought it down nicely.  Then he passed outside, and, going back to the middle, let the cross go to the far side for an easy tap-in.  Nicely played.

And karma came back to him, a couple minutes later, on a corner kick flicked on by another Mexican and right to him to head in for the goal.  There being only ten minutes left, that was enough for me to turn the game off, so I missed Croatia's goal just before the end.

So Brazil won the group, with Mexico also moving on.  Group B might have been a big surprise, but this is the result most would have predicted, before the tournament started.

Update: I forgot to mention one item of amusement.  I did flip across to the other game a couple of times; the first two, I flipped only a second or two before a score (the first two scores).

Group B resolution

On Monday, the World Cup went into the final round of games in the round robin.  Due to collusive results in earlier world cups, the two final games in each pool are now played as close to simultaneous as possible.

So it's impossible to watch all games live from this round (pity), but the plus side is that there are only two kickoff times per day, rather than the three to four seen previously.

The first, oddly, was Group B, where Spain and Australia had already been eliminated, and the Dutch and Chileans were fighting to win the group.  Since it was the only game that mattered, I opted for the Netherlands/Chile match-up.

Early on, the Dutch seemed content to let the South Americans keep the ball, and weren't even pressuring them until they crossed midfield.  I guess that was an attempt to draw them in and open up counterattacks (or maybe a sign that the Dutch didn't care much about the result and didn't want to tire themselves out; also a possibility).

Whatever the reason, it made for a fairly boring game, with the first scoring chance I wrote down coming in the 39th minute.  That was off a nice run by Robben, coming down just left of center by himself, but finally pushing the shot wide.

I think I must have not been paying really close attention, because that's the only scoring attempt I noted in the first half.  And I don't have any for the first half-hour of the second half, although I did note that the midfield was contested much more tightly, by both sides, in the second half.  To the point that there was an immense amount of contact between players.

The Dutch finally opened the scoring in the 77th minute, with an interesting corner kick strategy.  They played it straight back from the corner, then centered it from further back, and won the ball in the air just at the far side of the net.  The goalie, of course, had no chance at it.

That pushed the Chileans to desperation, and they opened up a bit, allowing some Dutch chances, but I had to turn the game off (around the 88th minute) before the Dutch scored a second time.

Though it didn't really matter, the Spanish crushed the Aussies 3-0 in the other game, salvaging a little bit of their pride.


NHL Awards amusement

I don't pay a lot of attention to end of season awards, in any league, no matter how much attention I might be paying to the games in that league.  But I'm a little amused by a couple things I'm seeing on Twitter.

Somehow, OV managed to finish tied for 23rd in Hart Trophy voting (one fifth-place vote).  That's pretty absurd.  I figured that was the lowest for a 50-goal scorer by a country mile, but I was wrong about that.

I only went back to 1980, but the only one close was Bondra, who managed to be 22nd in voting in 1995.  But he was one of eight 50-goal scorers that year.

Well, until I looked at scoring leaders each year.  Back to 1995, that was right, but every year before that there was at least one 50-goal scorer who didn't even rate a Hart vote.  I suspect that has to do with a combination of there being fewer guys voted on (currently there are five-man ballots), and certainly with there being a lot more 50-goal scorers back then.

The lowest finish I can find previously for the only 50-goal scorer (Perry: 2010, OV: 2008, Iginla: 2001, Bure: 1999) in the league is Bure's third-place finish.  The other three each won.

To be clear, though, I'm not saying OV should have won.  I agree that Crosby deserved to win.  I'm not even sure where I would have put OV if I were to make a list.  But I find it ridiculous that there was only one writer who thought OV was in the top five (and him (all the voters are men, right?), barely).

Sirens on full volume

Weirdness continued, Sunday; the middle game between Algeria and South Korea was also on ABC, and was completely missed.  The late game, though, despite having the US in it, went back to ESPN.  Good for me, but weird, in general.

So I was able to watch it very late, which was much better than not at all.

It started out very poorly for the Americans, with a very poor defensive play by the right back giving Nani an easy goal in the fifth minute (his first goal of the year, across all competitions; I knew he'd had an off year, but didn't realize how much so).

And for a few minutes thereafter, the Americans looked as bad against the Portuguese as they had for most of the Ghana game.

In the fourteenth, there was some contact weirdness.  First, Mereira went down in a really terrible dive, rightly ignored.  But while the staff came out to look at him, Postiga had to leave the field with an injury.  No contact there, so I assume it was a hamstring pull, or something similar.

But the US settled down (important for a team that had never won after surrendering the first goal), and by the 36th minute, possession was only 56-44 in favor of Portugal.  Not to imply that was a big surprise, the US was only finding offense by going over the top.  And their shots were mostly from distance; the only in-close ones were blocked by the defenders.

Shortly after that, we had the first ref-called water break of the tournament that stopped play for a couple of minutes.

In the forty-fifth, Howard was called on to make a pair of saves.  The first he made well, tipping it off the post, but was offbalance, and had to stretch to tip the ball over the net on the second.

I had to laugh, right after that, when stoppage time was announced at two minutes, since there were at least two stoppages that were individually longer than that (Mereira's "injury" and the water break).

But nothing happened during that time, so they went into the half with the US down a goal still.

The second half started with the Portuguese giving the US a bit more room, perhaps to keep their shape at the back better, and prevent shots over the top.  Thinking back on one of the other games, I wonder if stopping the long ball works better by being tighter at the back or pressuring the kicks more.

The US did get a 5-on-2 break in the 51st minute, but Bradley's pass ahead was a half-step behind the forward, and they lost the momentum.  Very disappointing.

Two minutes later, Bradley again did less than well.  He had an open chance two minutes later, with the goalie completely out of position, but shot it directly into the defender, Costa, who was in the goal.  Not his finest moment.

Ronaldo broke free, finally, about six minutes later, but fired the shot high and wide before the defense caught up.

A couple minutes later, the US finally equalized on a shocker.  There was a pretty bad corner kick, but the ball went out to Jones, ten yards outside the box, and a bit off to the left side.  He took it a little bit to his right, then fired a shot around Costa (in good position again) and into the far side of the net.

Play continued pretty even for quite a while, then.  The US finally found some space with a great run down the right hand side in the 81st minute.  Then there were three quick, nice passes, to Bradley to Zusi to Dempsey, going across the goal one way, then back for Dempsey to finish from the near side goal line.

That got the Portuguese to push forward, at one point managing to have five men offsides in one play.

As stoppage time went on, it looked like time was going to run out for Portuguese, but Bradley misplayed a ball at midfield, and the ball got kicked up to Ronaldo, who made a run down the right field side.  From well back, he crossed into the box and hit a diving Varela for the header to tie the game.

Once the celebration was done, the ref only allowed a few seconds of play, so the game ended in a flabbergasting draw.  A second center-back was subbed in in the last minute or so, and he signally failed his only charge.  Disappointing doesn't even begin to cover it.  A win would've cemented the US into moving on, and even given them a good chance to win the group.

Now, they'll need to beat Germany to win the group, though a draw would be good enough to get them into the knockout.  Knowing the riskiness of playing with desperation, I suspect the US and Germany will play a very desultory game, with both teams looking for a draw.

Russians show soft spot for Belgian

Sunday got off to a weird start, from my perspective.  The Belgium-Russia tilt was on ABC, instead of ESPN; I'd misprogrammed the DVR, so I missed the first thirty-ish minutes entirely.

It pretty quickly became clear that both defenses were better than the opposing offenses, and that it was going to come down to who had the defensive breakdown or lucky bounce.

Belgium did get one chance in the thirty-sixth, by going over the top on the right hand side, but the goalie stopped the shot.

One thing noted is that this World Cup has had far more scoring than the previous one; something like 50% more (it was 84-54 at one point, I don't have a more up-to-date comparison).  I think that's why there's been fewer draws (at one point, at least, there was a big difference there).  I wonder if any of that difference is due to the ball; the Jabulani ball in South Africa had much different characteristics in turbulent air than the ones before or since.

Anyway, getting back to the game, that was about it for the first half.

I was happy to see Origi coming in in the 56th minute, although was disappointed to see him take a big dive in the box a couple minutes after his entrance.

In the eightieth, Russia had a good chance, but shot the ball about three feet wide.  One of the defensemen had made a run into the middle, and got a good feed (he was open), but he just couldn't put it on net.

One thing that surprised me was that the Belgians were showing almost no creativity; Russia wasn't either, though the Russians were generally looking a bit better (not much, call that the damns of faint praise).

A few minutes after that Russian attempt, the Belgians got a free kick at the top of the box, and put it off the post and out.

A minute or two later, Origi had a very good possession, showing good ball-handling and strength, but couldn't put the shot on net.

But it was only a brief respite for the Russians, as Origi scored in the 88th minute.  Surprisingly, it didn't come from using his blazing speed to lead the rush.  He brought it most of the way down, on the left, then passed off to another forward right by him, and then found a soft spot in the box.  When the pass came back to him, he was open for a clinical finish (it was pretty awful defense by the Russians, though, not picking him up at all).

That pushed the Russians to desperation, and opened them up at the back.  The Belgians almost took advantage in the 92nd minute, but put the shot right into the goaltender.

But the game ended half a minute after that, so no harm done, on their part.

The loss leaves Belgium likely to win the group, and puts Russia behind the eight-ball, needing to beat Algeria in the final match.  We'll see if they can do it (sorry, OV, I'll be cheering for the Africans).

Bosnia just off from draw or win

The last game Saturday was Nigeria facing Bosnia-Herzogovina (sorry Herzegovina, hereafter just Bosnia).

And this was a very interesting game, tactically, as the Bosnians looked very good on the build-up, but the Nigerians looked very good on the counterstrike.

It looked like the Bosnians scored first, with Djeko on the tail end of a pretty passing play to score in the twentieth, but it was called back for being offsides.  Video replay, apparently (I didn't see it), said that that was bupkus.  In fact, not even close, according to the commentators.

Djeko almost had another in the 23rd, when he had a clean breakaway, but the goalie managed to stop him.

But Odemwingie put the Nigerians on the board only a few minutes after that, with a counterattack down the right hand side to a cross.

Both teams got good saves between the fifty-fifth and sixtieth minute, with Enyeama coming all the way out to the top of his box to stop Djeko, and Begavic making a great save to deflect a ball off-net.

Bosnia got one more very good chance just before stoppage, with Djeko's shot being deflected by Enyeama just enough to hit the woodwork and go back into the field of play.

But that was it; Bosnia certainly deserved better, and now needs to win, and for Argentina to win, to move on.  We'll see how that goes.

Surprise addendum

The surprise continued in the second game, as Germany faced Ghana.  Ghana was in red, this time, with Germany again in white with red trim.

With Germany ranked in the top four, and Ghana down at 37th, this was not expected to be a terribly competitive game.

Germany started out very conservatively, taking the ball and feeling their way around the edges for a while.  In fact, Ghana got the first real chance in the sixth minute on a counterattack.  Seven minutes later, Ghana managed a bit of sustained pressure, but the goalie was able to get across to get their one really good chance.

In the 28th, Germany finally tried to go over the top, and made a good run, though the only result was a corner kick.  And the goaltender caught the cross on that corner.

In the 32nd, they had another decent chance.  It was a long shot, from outside the box, but it was still a tough save for the keeper.  In the next few minutes, the Germans got Oezil and Goetze behind the defense, but neither one was able to get a good shot off.

At the end of the half, it looked inevitable that the Germans would score, probably in buckets, but nobody had yet managed it.

In the second half, it seemed that the Ghanaians were pressuring much deeper, perhaps to make it more difficult to get those long shots over the top.

But it didn't work all that well, as it only took six minutes for the Germans to take the lead.  There was a long cross to the middle of the field, where Goetze was charging in from the left, and he headed it in calmly.

It didn't take long for the Africans to equalize, though.  And they did it on a very similar cross to the German one, except that there were three targets waiting, and the third, Ayew, put it in.  It was interesting, though, as all three were tightly covered; so much for the German height.

In the 62nd minute, Ghana shocked everyone by taking the lead.  It was a really terrible turnover by the German defense, leading to an easy score by Gyan.

Five minutes later, the Germans showed some desperation, bringing in Schweinsteiger and Klose for more scoring punch.

And that worked almost immediately, as Klose scored off a corner kick.  But not with his normal header; he was waiting at the far post as Hoewedes flicked it on to him, and Klose tapped it in for his fifteenth career World Cup goal.  It was also his fourth World Cup in which he scored.  Both put him among the leaders, all-time.  Kudos to Miroslav, and Poland (he's an ethnic Pole, and where he was born was part of Poland, prior to WWII).

One bit of weirdness in the 76th minute; the Germans had a free kick about ten yards outside the box, and they had three people run over the ball before Schweinsteiger finally kicked it over the net.

The Germans almost scored again in the 86th, but Oezil's cross to Mueller was deflected just before getting to him.

For the last few minutes, both teams were looking very tired, and that was the end of the close chances.

Ghana put up quite a showing, and probably got rid of any chance of German complacency.  It also gave the US a pretty good chance to move on, as long as they could beat Portugal.  It does mean that Germany needs a result against the US to be assured of moving on (and would win the group with a draw).

Saturday surprises

Saturday was definitely a day of surprises in the World Cup, and it started with Argentina facing Iran.

It started out about as you'd expect, with Argentina holding the ball a lot, and kind of feeling their way around the Iranian defense.  And that defense was giving them quite a bit of play, only pressuring in their own half.

That slow build-up didn't result in anything until the thirteenth minute, when one of the Argentines got a point blank shot.  But the Iranian goaltender was ready for it, and stopped it (though he appeared to be hurt a little in the process).

In the eighteenth minute, it looked like the Argentinians were going to get a great chance on a counterattack with numbers.  But one of the few defenders managed to cut off the pass to the middle, and allow the other defenders to get back into position.  That had come on the heels of the Iranians getting a decent chance on a corner kick.

In the thirty-third minute, Messi had a fairly close free kick, and bent it past the wall, but put it over the net as well.  The Iranians built up to get a corner kick on the ensuing play, and then did a nice job of dispersing the counterattack that followed.

Mostly it was just a matter of watching the Argentines build up and try to score, and the Iranians work hard to prevent the score.  It took until the 52nd minute before the Iranians forced a good save from the Land of Silver's keeper.  It came off a good header from a cross, but went right into the goaltender.

It took another ten minutes for the Iranians to generate some offensive pressure, but they still didn't manage to get a good scoring chance out of that.

It took another twenty-five minutes after that for the Iranians to get another chance.

But meanwhile, the Argentines, despite a lot of offensive pressure, found the Iranian back line unyielding (and a bit lucky, to be sure).  So the Argentinians were definitely feeling pressure to win the game; after all, this wasn't even supposed to be a game.

Well, in stoppage time, Argentina finally broke through.  No surprise, the score came off the boot of Messi.  He was cutting across, just above the box, from right to left, and just before getting to the goal face, he fired a curling shot across that snaked its way between several defenders, and hit the far side of the net.  Quite an impressive shot.

So Argentina didn't give up any points, but they were pushed to the limit by a very game Iranian team.  Kudos to the Persians for hanging in there as long as they did.  I must admit, I thought they'd be punching bags in the tournament, but they certainly haven't looked out of place.  They even have a chance of moving on, if they can beat Bosnia.


A note on Hasek

I remember Hasek being awesome, in his prime.  I knew he was the best in the league, but still wasn't aware of just how good he was.  This graphic, via twitter, points out a couple of things.

First, for six years in a row, Hasek was number one.  But more than that, his worst year was his only one that was worse than the best of the rest of the league, over that whole time span.

And that ignores how far above average he was, which is also pretty amazing.

Update: During Hall of Fame induction speech, Hasek gave a shoutout to the Caps new goalie coach, Mitch Korn.  Knew a bit about Korn's work in Nashville; hadn't realized he was Hasek's coach during that insane run.  Looking forward to seeing what he can do with Holtby and Gru.

Honduras sent away, with some controversy

The final game Friday finished up the second round in Group E, with Ecuador facing Honduras in a South/Central American matchup.

Judging by the first few seconds, it appeared that Ecuador's way of dealing with Honduras' very physical play was to just go to ground and hope for fouls.

Honduras opened the scoring (for the game, and for their country) in the 31st minute, with Costly taking advantage of a terrible misplay by the Ecuadoran center back.

It took only a couple of minutes for Ecuador to equalize, though, when a shot from the top-left of the box deflected off the inside of the leg of a defender and straight to Valencia for an easy tap-in.

Honduras had some great free kick attempts at 45 minute mark, and bigger controversy came about in stoppage time, as they scored, but was disallowed by refs.  Unclear exactly why, although might have been a handball.  For sure, Bengtson got a yellow card out of the mess.

One thing that was interesting was that Honduras had just about no chances via gradual build-up.  It was pretty much all counterattacks and attacks over the top.  In the 63rd, they actually scored again (arguably, for the third time in the game), but it was disallowed for being offsides.

Ecuador missed one just after, when Guagua's header went way off-base.  But it only held them up for a minute, as they scored for real on a mirror-image play that did make it into the net.

One semi-game-related thing that came up from the commentator.  They said that Honduras was not a good team playing from behind, and wasn't good at scoring.  Those were mentioned separately, but I think they're inextricably linked.  I think, to be a good team playing from behind, you must be very good offensively.

A little bit more controversy came in stoppage time, when Ecuador also had a goal disallowed, perhaps because of a handball call.  But not as big a deal as the earlier ones, as it affected the team already about to win.  On the replay, there was a handball, but it didn't seem at all deliberate, so a little bit weird.

Regardless, like mentioned, it didn't have any effect on the outcome, so not a big deal.

So yes, the final favored Ecuador, 2-1.  So Honduras will be going home, but certainly didn't look like they didn't belong in the tournament.


Francophones, disunite!

I don't have a whole lot to say about the France/Switzerland game that followed.

It started out pretty even for the first fifteen minutes or so (aside from Swiss von Bergen needing to be subbed out in the fifth minute due to a bad cut around his eye).  But then all hell broke loose, as France scored two goals in about seven seconds (less time to celebrate, then move the ball back to center, of course).  The first was a pretty decent play, but the second was execrable execution by the Swiss.

Griezmann took the pass back from the circle, and went to pass back to the defense, but passed it directly to a Frenchman.  Matuidi ran it straight down, just left of center, and fired it past a still-shocked goaltender to double the margin.

From there, I was only paying half an eye's attention to the proceedings.  It seemed that Switzerland got a couple of ok chances (one of which Shaqiri blew by not getting a shot off soon enough), but not a whole lot.  But in the fortieth minute, the French scored a third goal, and that was enough for me.  I turned it off.

The final was 5-2, but when I turned it off was as close as it ever got, so I definitely didn't miss anything (particularly as I've never liked Les Bleus).  Very disappointing.

It just about assures France of moving on, and means the Swiss need to defeat Honduras.  I think it puts France in the top spot, so far, as well.

Trapped offside

The first game, yesterday, involved the two winners of Group D, Italy and Costa Rica.  As against Uruguay, the ticos were not expected to be much more than a speed bump on the way to Italian domination.

Well, Costa Rica went with a five-man back line, and planned to be very dependent on the off-side trap.  And that was working pretty well for them, the Italians were almost completely unable to play over the top to Balotelli.  He was caught twice, just in the first fifteen minutes.

But beyond that, the Italians were just not finding a lot of space in which to play.

They did manage to play over the top in the twenty-third minute, for the first time, which got Balotelli the ball in the box.  But he was immediately dispossessed, and almost got himself a card, as he threw one of the defenders to the ground, bodily.

The trap worked again in the 25th, but failed in the 31st, as Balotelli had one touch to try to chip the goaltender.  But his soft shot went wide.  It didn't save the ticos for long, though, as Balotelli put a great shot on goal in the next minute.  The goaltender saved it, but it went to another Italian who couldn't put it in.

Costa Rica threatened a bit in the thirty-ninth, but Ruiz took the shot himself from a long ways out, and it was an easy save.  Bad choice; he had several better options, including carrying it in deeper himself.

Ruiz did set up a good chance a couple minutes later, as his cross was flicked straight on by Duarte, but a hair over the net.

A minute after that, and Campbell finally got a good chance.  He was mugged, trying to get between the two defenders, but no call (in the box; I'm fairly sure a call would have been made outside).

Basically, all those chances came from the Italian defense doing a bad job trying to move the ball up into the midfield, and the Costa Rican midfield was dispossessing them.

Just before halftime, the Costa Ricans finally broke through on a long cross to a header by a streaking Ruiz.  The header went into the bottom of the post, bounced almost straight down, and out of the net.  It was immediately ruled a goal, but I was leery until the goal camera confirmed that it made it a couple of inches over the line.

The second half, for a long time, was nothing more than Costa Rica playing defense; I imagine for the first 20-30 minutes of the half, Italy had close to 90% possession.  The only Costa Rican possession was on counterattacks, which weren't leading to good chances.

But the Costa Ricans held on, and even started breaking up the Italian build-up earlier towards the end of the half, as the Italians got more desperate.  Junior Diaz, on the left back, deserves especial praise for cutting off a lot of crossing shots before they could get close to the middle.  (We'll ignore that his throw-ins were really terrible, with huge amounts of side-to-side spin, since no call was made on that.)

The Italians basically got one more good chance right at the beginning of stoppage time, but again were unable to convert.

So Costa Rica became the surprise of the tournament, officially eliminating England (who were on life support after their loss the day before) and pushing Italy and Uruguay into a must-win game in the third round.  Both games should be interesting; one because the teams have nothing but pride to play for, the other because it's an elimination game.

Hats off to Costa Rica; their side has played brilliantly defensively, and just well enough offensively.  I hope they score at least one more upset in the knockout rounds.  Unless they're playing Germany or the US; then I'll be torn.

Japan dominates; fails to measure up

Japan and Greece was the final matchup, two days ago.

One thing that struck me, very early in the game, was that the Japanese were much smaller (though a little faster) than the Greeks, and it seemed like an advantage the Greeks would be able to exploit.

Throughout the game, the Japanese definitely had the better of the play, solidly dominating possession, though early on I don't think they had an advantage in chances.

Japan had a glorious try off a free kick in the 28th minute.  Honda had an outstanding kick that bent around the wall on a very hard shot, but the goaltender barely managed to keep it out of the net.

But it really looked like the Greeks lost out in the 38th minute, when their captain, Katsouranis, got his second yellow card (the second challenge might not have been that bad, but the first was so bad that, on balance, it was reasonable) of the match.

That didn't end the game, though it came pretty close to ending any chance of Greece winning the game.

After that, their strategy seemed to largely devolve into fouling the hell out of anyone who got close to the box.  And they were given quite a bit of latitude by the refs, so maybe it wasn't a bad strategy; they should have given up a lot more free kicks than they did.

In the sixtieth minute, the Greeks mounted their last serious attempt to win the game, when they ended up with three corners in a row, but were unable to convert on any of them.

Japan got their best chance of the game in the sixty-eighth minute, but the forward breaking alone into the box didn't take advantage of the space he had for a second touch.  But the one touch he allowed himself went almost straight up in the air and well over the net, even though he was only kicking from six or seven yards out.

Much of the rest of the game was Japan building up to bring the ball down the side, and go for a cross to a header to put it in.  But that's where their lack of height was killing them; the Greeks got to most of those crosses.

One thing that felt a little weird, and might have been related to the height differential, was that the Japanese attempting almost no long passes.  Pretty much everything was within twenty yards.  They needed to stretch things a bit more, especially being up a man.

My last note is that Maniatis was lucky to not get a card (a red would not have been unreasonable) for some nonsense he pulled in the 81st minute.

Despite that, Greece held on for the scoreless draw; a clear victory for them, given that they were down a man for most of the game.  Japan has to be hating life; that didn't eliminate them, but they missed a very clear opportunity and I wouldn't be surprised to see them knocked out before the knock out stage.

Pros in England score three; Brits lose 2-1

At the beginning of England's game against Uruguay, I was surprised to see Suarez in the lineup for the South Americans.  Not because of talent, of course, but just because he didn't play in the first game due to a lingering injury.  (And Forlan was on the bench; probably relatedly.)

I must say that it felt very natural seeing him in a sky-blue jersey again.  Liverpool's red still looks a bit weird to me.  One thing we did see, although I didn't make a note of when, was he and Gerrard had a full-body collision, and Luis had no trouble staying on his feet.  Gerrard, on the other hand, went down.  So we see how much crap it is that he goes down at the lightest touch (incidentally, I never noticed that when he was playing at City.  Did he not do it, or did I just not notice).

One thing that jumped out, right at the beginning, was how deep Uruguay was pressuring the ball, defensively.  At one point, they were pressing all the way back to the box.

England, on the other hand, was only pressuring to just past the midfield stripe.

In any event, Godin of Uruguay was lucky that he only got a yellow card on his handball play in the ninth minute; that close to goal, a red is not unlikely.

Christian Rodriguez had the next pretty good scoring chance at the fifteen minute mark, but he put the shot a foot over the crossbar.

The game stayed pretty tense, as both teams were hurrying the ball up the field.  Uruguay somehow didn't get a card for applying the defense of "put a forearm to the throat of the opposing player".

And I didn't note who did it, but there was a shot where a header went off the underside of the crossbar and back out.

But in the thirty-ninth minute, Suarez definitively makes his presence felt.  A fellow Uruguayan was bringing the ball down the right side, and served a cross right to Luis for an unopposed header that went in.  A very nice job on the serve (and I wish I had noted who placed it); wretched defense to leave Suarez so wide-open.

I didn't note any more chances in the closing minutes of the half, but there was definitely a lot going on in that lack of opportunity.

The second half started the same way, with the south americans getting the first chance.  The Uruguayan got the ball into the box, but outran it by a half-step, which forced him to push it wide.

In the fifty-third, Rooney continued his World Cup frustration by shooting directly into the goalie from about six yards out.

Somehow, that's where my notes end.  But Rooney did end that frustration in the seventy-fifth with one of the easiest goals he's ever scored.  The defense was focused on a run down the right hand side, which gave him a tap-in from a couple yards out when the kick ended up being a pass across instead of a shot.

But things only went well for England for another ten minutes.  Then, the Uruguayan goalie punted the ball downfield, and two midfielders went for the header.  They both missed, and the ball bounced all the way past the defenders, and Suarez took off for the ball before any of the defenders.  That gave him a clean breakaway, and nobody was surprised when he planted it in the back of the net.

Did I say it was wretched defense on the first South American goal?  Yeah, that was iron-clad defense by comparison to the second.  The defense generally was very good, but Suarez, right now, is good enough that there's almost no margin for error in covering him.  Those might well have been the only two times he got loose, but he buried both of them.

Frustration continued for England, as they did have more chances, but nothing was converted, so they finished the game winless, leaving them in a precarious position for moving on.

For Rooney, you have to imagine that he had very mixed feelings.  No win, which had to hurt, but he finally scored, which will greatly cut down on the amount of flak he gets in the media.  Not that he's played poorly in the World Cup; I remember saying that I thought, despite the lack of goals, that he was excellent in the last tournament.

Regardless, the game did not leave the Brits in a good place.  And they have to be hating that the winning goal in both of their games came from people who played for Manchester City last year (or maybe two years ago; I don't know exactly when Balotelli left, but I think it was in the middle of the season right before the one that just ended).

Futile fight

Next up was Colombia and Cote d'Ivoire, which was a game right at home in Brazil, with yellow going against green (my son would have loved it, as those are his two favorite colors).

Colombia got the first scoring chance in the fifth minute, but the shot went a couple feet wide on the left.  A second came only a couple of minutes later, but an Ivorian defender managed to break up the pass in the box.  And a good thing he did, as it would have been an easy goal.

The Ivorians finally got a chance only a minute later, as a decent header off a corner kick was put on goal, but it went right into a defender who somehow headed it out.

By the fifteenth minute, it was looking pretty even, though perhaps with a slight advantage to the Colobians.

A nice Colombian counterattack in the 27th minute fizzled when the pass came across the box to a striker, and he failed to kick, or even deflect, the ball on-net.

After that, it was pretty quiet until a ways into the second half.  In the sixty-fourth minute, Colombia finally managed to score on a nice header off a corner kick.

A couple minutes later, Drogba, who came on an hour in, makes his presence felt by drawing a free kick just outside the box with a really terrible dive.  Indirectly, it led to a very nice goal attempt when the kick was a dud, but the Ivorians worked the ball around to the right side, where they got a decent shot.

More interesting was that Yaya Toure was yelling for a handball call on that free kick, and had a decent case.  It was certainly blocked by a hand.  Which was probably accidental, but did keep the ball from going to an undefended portion of the goal.

Be that as it may, Colombia scored again a minute later when a really bad midfield turnover led to a three-on-one counterattack.

It only took a couple of minutes for the Coastal team to get back into it.  Gervinho got the ball around the top of the box on the left hand side, and drove through three defenders (two of whom fouled him) before striking the ball into the net.  Phenomenal individual effort on that one.  I wouldn't call it a pretty goal, but it was an impressive one.

But there was really only one good chance after that; Quintero caught the Ivorian goalie a bit far out of his net, and took a very long shot.  What was interesting about it was that the goalie deliberately didn't catch it; he knocked it down right in front of the net while his momentum carried him into the net, then came back out to get the ball.

But that was basically it for the last twenty minutes or so; there just wasn't much of anything going on outside the midfield.

That pretty much assures Colombia of moving on, but Ivory Coast will need to beat Greece.

Go card-crazy

Finally starting to catch up on write-ups from the last several days, starting from Cameroon and Croatia in the second game for that group.

I was pretty amused with this game, as it started, as it made for a very colorful, maybe even festive, matchup, with the red/white checkerboard on one side and the green and yellow kit on the other.

From the outset, it was clear that Cameroon had more speed, but Croatian passing was very precise.  And both teams were quite physical, though Cameroon much more so.  And in classic bully mentality, the Cameroonians went down like bowling pins when they were touched.

With Croatia up one, the game got completely out of hand in the fortieth minute, as Song was ejected for taking a swing at a Croatian player who got between him and the ball.  Oddly, the play was blown dead immediately, even though Croatia had the ball and was taking it upfield.  But there was nothing odd in Song being sent off; it was a well-deserved red card (and Cameroon's eighth in the last seven World Cups).

At that point, givern that Cameroon hadn't managed any really good chances with equal men, I was expecting an ass kicking to commence.  And it did, in the second half.

Only a couple minutes in, Perisic took the Cameroonian goalie's kick on the left hand side, and ran it all the way down and kicked it in.  The goalie was leaning towards the center of the pitch; I think he was expecting a pass rather than a shot.  And none of the defenders tried to head off Perisic's run, for reasons that are beyond me.  The only defender close was the one to whom the goalie was originally kicking the ball, and who was therefore chasing Perisic.

Only a minute later, the Croatians got another chance, but the shot went wide by a foot or so.

Cameroon finally got a decent chance a minute after that, as they tried a mirror-image replay of the Cahill goal, but put the volley a couple yards over the crossbar.

The Croats just missed again on a free kick following a corner kick in the fifty-fourth.  Which reminds me; I keep forgetting to mention that I love that spray they use to mark the ten-yard line for the defensive wall.  That's genius, and something they should have been using for years.

In the sixty-eighth, terrible defensive marking led to Mandzukic getting a third tally for the Croats, coming off a header from a corner kick.

And that was enough for me; I think the only drama remaining for Cameroon is figuring out whether they can prevent any more red cards in their remaining game.  Well, and whether they'll finish last for the tournament; they're in good position to do that.


The rain, in Spain....

... goes mainly in the goal, it seems.

Yesterday's game between Spain and Chile was potentially determinative for both teams.  That is, Chile winning would mean them advancing, and Spain being eliminated.

One thing that surprised me, even before the game started, was that Casillas was in goal again.

When the game started, the Spanish were definitely dominating possession, but the Chileans managed several chances (and blew their best one by missing the open net on the shot).

But both teams kept trying, and Chile got on the board first goal in 20th, moved the ball down right side, through the defenders, and got Vidal alone in front.  He deked Casillas and kicked it in just before the lone defender back could interfere.

Desperation did not help the Spaniards; they still played well, but not as cohesively.  Things didn't completely fall apart, but they definitely were not playing as well.  Perhaps each player was trying to do too much (not egregiously so, but it might still have been the case).

In any event, their chances were few and far between.  The next score came just before halftime.  The South Americans got a free kick twenty-five or thirty yards, they took a direct shot, curled over the wall, hard, on goal.  Casillas punched it out, to the center of the field, and right to the feet of Aranguiz.  Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he kicked it home to set off some raucus celebrations in Santiago, I'm sure.

From there, the Chileans put together some serious defense, with every man committed to getting to every ball around.  And the Spanish looked very flustered, showing some individual flair (especially Iniesta), but nothing as a team.

There were a few scoring chances in the second half (probably more from the Chileans, even though they were focusing on defence), but not very many.

So the Spaniards went down in flames matching their jerseys, and the Chileans, with their first-ever defeat of Spain (were 0-8-2, previously) will be moving on to the knock-out stage.

The only questions left to be answered in this group are whether Spain can manage to finish in last place (unlikely, especially with Cahill out for the game), and whether Chile can beat the Dutch to win the group (also unlikely, but not unimaginable).

Aussie can?

Yesterday's game between Australia and the Netherlands was very interesting.  It didn't appear likely to be; it looked like the Dutch would hold the ball, and hold the ball, and hold the ball, and the Aussies (pronounced "ozzies", I just found out) would get crushed.

But for the first seventeen minutes, not only were the Aussies not crushed, but they were actually dominating.  In that time, the Orange only got within striking distance of the goal once, where Robben had a rare bad touch to kill the chance.  But mostly the Aussies had the ball, and they were working it down and occasionally threatening.  And when the Dutch had it, the Aussies forced them off the ball quickly.

Nothing dramatic happened in the 17th, but possession started evening out quite a bit, then.

And it only took until the twentieth minute for the Dutch to score, on a play that was almost all Robben.  He took the ball around midfield, and ran it all the way down, shaded a bit towards the left side, and didn't let a defender get in his way.  When he got within about eight yards, he shot it across to the far side, and the goalie couldn't react in time.

But it took less than ten seconds from the ensuing kickoff for Australia to equalize.  The kickoff was put across to the right side, only a little downfield, and a serve was put into the box on the far side, about ten yards from the touch line.  Cahill took the serve and, on the full volley, hammered it into the crossbar where it deflected down into the goal.  A solid contender for goal of the tournament; the only competitor, so far, is van Persie's header in the opener.

From there, the Dutch continued to mostly control possession (it was up to 51% netherlands by the 25th minute), but it wasn't like the Aussies were helpless.  One thing I did wonder about was the non-calls against McGowan on Australian throw-ins on the right side.  Every single one (save the one that only went ~5 yds) had serious spin on it, but no call.

But that was how play went for quite a long while.  The deadlock, though, was actually broken by Australia; an Aussie shot was blocked by a Dutch hand in the box.  I was surprised the call was made, however, as the hand was behind the player's back, and he seemed to be trying to raise it out of the way when contact was made.  But the call was made, and Jedinak was the seventh in a row to convert a PK at this World Cup.

But Australia's advantage didn't last long, either, as van Persie snuck behind the defense (not sure if it was a failed offside trap, but two forwards were allowed behind), and had time to corral the ball and kick it past the keeper.

From there, the Dutch had a very solid advantage in play, but nine minutes later, the Aussies had a great chance.  Bad Dutch turnover in the box, two forwards vs one defender, they made the correct play, but the goaltender stopped the shot (the placement of the pass across wasn't good; the shot was a deflection off the chest).

The Dutch then counterattacked, and Memphis put a wild shot past the goalkeeper down under.  It was just a long, hard, curving shot that bounced (with a lot of top-spin) through the 'tender's hands and in.

And with that, went Australia's chances of winning and having a chance to move on.  They played out the string, but they didn't even seriously threaten after that.

It was a bit of a downer for what had been a rousing game up to that point.

So the Dutch move on, the Aussies don't, and van Persie and Cahill will both miss the third game from accumulated yellow cards.  I think the Dutch don't mind that, as it guarantees his availability for the knock-out, but the Wallabees will miss Cahill's presence as they play Spain for pride.


Battle for foreign French speakers

It looked like the battle for French-outside-of-France was going to go the Algerian way.  Despite the Belgians dominating possession, the Algerians scored indirectly off a free kick from near the corner, on the left-hand side.  In defending the cross, Vertonghen fouled one of the Algerians for a penalty kick, and the African side, in the person of Feghouli, converted.

After the goal, the Algerians spent the remainder of the first half impressively packing it into the box.  I was skeptical that they'd be able to make that work, but they got out of the half that way.

In the second half, they stretched a bit more, both offensively and defensively.  And held on long enough for a cameraman to find someone in the crowd with a white shirt that said, "Algerie 1 - Belgique 0" (which was very cool, I must admit).

It took longer than I expected, but the equalizer came in the seventieth minute.  It was a simple cross in to Fellaini (who'd subbed in five minutes earlier) in the box, and he flicked it on to the bottom of the crossbar on the opposite side.

From there, Algeria did try to play more aggressively, but it availed them naught.  The belgians were able to pretty much romp for a while, generating chances at will.  But they did only manage to convert one, when Merten fired a nice shot from the right, near the edge of the box, hard enough that the goalie had no chance on it.  What was especially nice on the play, though, was the feed to Merten, as the entire play was coming down the left, and the other forward fed it into space for him to pick up and shoot quickly.  Very nice vision.

Belgium had one more chance after that, as I recall, but nobody was able to score.  So the result wasn't terribly unexpected, but the road to get there certainly was.  Kudos to the Algerians for hanging in for so long.  Although I never expected their delay/defend strategy to work, I would not have been upset if it had.

Update: I forgot to mention that Origi came on in the 58th minute, and I was very impressed with him.  In particular, his speed is unbelievable.  The Algerians had nobody close.

Battle for Group A

Going out of order here, just because my notes for the Brazil/Mexico game are more accessible than those for the Belgium and Algeria (and there's more of them).

As expected, Brazil controlled the play through long stretches of the game.  There were several times when, for a couple of minutes, Brazil would bring it down, get to the box, and Mexico would clear the ball.  But Mexico did it by pulling so many people back that the Lusos would instantly return the ball to right outside the box and starting again.

It did help that, especially in the first, the foul calling seemed very uneven.  It felt like anything close was a foul by Mexico, while Brazil practically needed to pull a (red!  I know what El Tri means, but it's the first time I've seen them in red) jersey off the Mexican to get a foul.  I think, based on the way things went later in the game, that that wasn't deliberate, but it felt like it for a while.

Despite all that, Mexico did manage to get some close chances, but not many.  Most of them were shots from outside the box that barely missed the goal.

But the story of the game was definitely Guillermo Ochoa.  Although he did have a clean sheet against Cameroon, I don't remember him making any great saves.  Well, he made a number of them in this game.

First, he stopped a Naymar header from in close in the twenty-fifth minute.  It was at the edge of the goal, down low, and, leaping at full extension, he got a hand on it and pushed it out before it could fully cross the line (it was more than halfway there, according to the goal camera).

In the 43rd minute, he had another great save; the defense tried to put the offside trap on, but Maza Rodriguez didn't get it, and left two attackers with no one closer to the goal (one was David Luiz, but I missed the guy who actually struck the ball), and Ochoa somehow made the save.

Much later, Thiago (who, incidentally, was the one who chested the ball through on the earlier failed offside trap) had an undefended header, off a Naymar free kick, from five yards out.  Stopped, and the defense deflected the shot off the rebound.

He had another stop off a Naymar kick from about ten yards out.

Basically, without him, and some luck, Brazil would win this game, going away.  But with him, they were mostly competitive.

But Mexico couldn't cash in on any of their chances either, and the game ended in a scoreless draw (second of the tournament, both in being a draw, and in being scoreless).

The draw put both teams in a good position to move on, although interestingly, it didn't guarantee either.  In fact, if Croatia and Cameroon draw today, it's theoretically possible for both teams to be eliminated (the C's would need to win their last games by at least two; maybe even three).  Very, very unlikely, but possible.

Rather disappointed

Just saw this writeup about Yosemite's handoff feature.  What disappoints me (though doesn't hugely surprise me) is that my iPad and iMac are both too old to support those features.  So I won't be able to use them.  Very annoying.

I guess I'll be able to use them with my phone, just by upgrading the mac.  Bleh.


Group of death, head-line

The US and Ghana also played last night, and I don't have a whole lot to say about that one, either.

The US had a pretty goal in the opening minute, which had Klinsmann extremely excited.  Dempsey got the ball in the box on a good feed, made a nice touch to set up his shot, and put it into the far side clinically.

And the Americans continued to at least look decent for a while (though under pressure) for another twenty minutes or so, until Jozy Altidore pulled up from making a run, grabbing his hamstring.  There was no contact, so it was probably a straight pull, but he had to leave immediately, and likely won't be back for the tournament.

And the play of the US basically went to pot after that.  What followed was an hour-long siege where Howard needed to make a number of good saves and defensive plays, grabbing the ball off the ground.  Unsurprisingly, that strategy eventually failed, with Ayew finding the net (I think off a set piece, but I actually can't remember now).

That didn't really stop the siege, but the US did manage to get the ball down the field and win a corner, several minutes later.  And fortune smiled on the US there, as Brooks was not well-covered, and cleanly headed it down and away (from the corner).  That found the net, giving the US the lead again.

And despite Ghana's best efforts, they were able to hold on for the last few minutes (about four minutes of regulation, and five of stoppage), securing the vital three points.

We'll certainly take it, but by no means did the US deserve that win; they were badly outplayed for most of the game, and got very lucky.

Hopefully they can play a better game, and match the result, in the next game, against Portugal.  And hopefully Germany can also pound Ghana.  Those would be enough to guarantee the US passage through.  We'll see, though; that's a big if and a small one.

Iran and Nigeria, in brief

I watched all of the Iran and Nigeria game, but I really don't have a whole lot to say about it.  Basically, Nigeria had, by far, most of the possession, but wasn't able to complete crosses or passes within the box.  At one point, the TV showed a graphic that said that Nigeria had completed 3 of 24 passes within the box, and 0 of 19 crosses.

I suspect the percentage improved over the rest of the game, but not by much.

Basically, Nigeria kept bringing it down, and turning it over in the box (or it would be cleared easily).  There were very few chances in the game.  In fact, Iran probably had the best chance on an in-close shot that the goalie blocked out, and which the defense was (barely) able to clear quickly.

But that was about the limit of Iran's threats, as the Nigerian players were faster and taller than the persians, meaning that they needed to be pinpoint-precise (no passes into space), and they weren't.

But thanks to those passing issues, Nigeria couldn't do much either.  Neither team had all that many chances, so the 0-0 final probably shouldn't be hugely surprising.

I don't know how predictively accurate the play was; if it was predictive, then there's a decent chance that neither one advances.  But if it wasn't, then both of them have a decent chance (especially given the standings-point advantage both teams have over Bosnia-Herzegovina).  We'll see.

Group of death, pt 1

The Iberian Peninsula was already smarting from Spain's humiliation at the hands of the Dutch, several days ago, when Portugal played Germany yesterday in the so-called Group of Death.

As an unrelated thought, I'm not loving the German jerseys.  The 1990 German World Cup jerseys are probably my favorite jerseys of all time, but I'm at best indifferent to the current ones.

Be that as it may, the game started with Germany taking the ball, and engaging in a very long feeling-out period, where they weren't finding much in the way of openings.  And after a few minutes, it got more even, as Portugal got the ball and fed Ronaldo as much as they could.

He had a couple decent chances, but wasn't getting much in the way of support, while the Germans were maintaining their composure and continuing to push, offensively.

They had one pretty good chance when the Portuguese goalie came out to play the ball, and fed it right to Khedira, just outside of the box.  Sami couldn't put the shot on net, though, so a great chance was wasted.

A few minutes later, Pereira was carded for a foul in the box.  It seemed a pretty obvious foul to me; enough that I was surprised it was only a yellow, but the Portuguese still argued it vociferously.  But it was not retracted, and Mueller got a kick from the spot.  Unsurprisingly, he had no trouble converting, and the Germans started celebrating.

The Portuguese got another chance in the 25th, but Nani put it a hair over the top of the net.

Hummels extended the lead seven minutes later; the defender Alves missed a cross coming off a corner kick, and Hummels came in right behind him to head it into the net.

Five minutes after that was where the train went entirely off the rails for the Portuguese.  Going for a header, Pepe struck Mueller across the mouth (probably accidentally).  Mueller went down, complaining (it probably hurt, but he certainly made the most of it).  The ref didn't immediately make a call at all, so I was very surprised when, a minute later, he was showing Pepe a red card.

The replay showed that Pepe saw Mueller down there holding his jaw, and walked over, put his head against Mueller's, and complained about Mueller's complaint.  Very odd, and complete, loss of composure.

From that point on, the Germans basically had the run of the field.  It took them another eight or nine minutes to score, but they were threatening with regularity by then.  The goal came when Mueller, at the top of the box, blocked an attempted clear, and then kicked it past the surprised goaltender.

And that's pretty much how the second half played out.  The Portuguese had the odd threat by Nani or Ronaldo (both played very good games, despite the rest of the team.  In fact, it was the best game I'd seen by Nani in at least a year), but mostly the Germans were controlling the play and threatening at will.  The only thing really odd was that Ronaldo was never subbed out to prevent injury.

It might have had something to do with Coentrao getting injured in the 65th minute; that used their third substitution.  Hard to say.

In any event, Ronaldo did his best, but it wasn't nearly good enough (nor would anyone's best, I think).

The final score came in the 78th, when a cross by Schuerrle deflected off the goalie's hand, and right to Mueller's feet.  Reacting with impressive speed, Mueller kicked it in without worrying that he'd fall over from the effort.

All in all, an impressive effort from the Germans, and a pretty terrible day for Portugal.  As I said, Ronaldo and Nani looked very good, but the rest of the team was quite bad.

And things don't look great for the Lusitanians, going forward, as Pepe and Coentrao will be unavailable against the Americans (and Coentrao might not be for Ghana, either; I don't believe that is yet known).  Portugal's chances of advancing do not look good.

Germany, on the other hand, should win the group pretty handily, barring them taking someone lightly.  I'll talk about the rest of the group's chances in a bit.

Argentina over gold (flag)

I went into the Argentina/Ecuador game looking forward to seeing Messi and Aguero (incidentally, does anyone know why his City jersey has 'Kun Aguero' on it?) working together up front.  I thought they were the only two players I knew on Argentina, but I hadn't realized Zabaleta was Argentine (I did wonder why I didn't see him playing for Italy).  I've also seen di Maria a couple times, but not often.

For Bosnia, I think Dzeko is the only one with whom I'm familiar (I've probably also seen Begovic play a few times, but I don't know for sure).  He's great, but one man (especially one striker) does not a team make.

Given all that, I expected a rout, honestly.

And when Argentina scored on a lucky own-goal in the second minute, that analysis seemed to be borne out.  Basically, a header off a corner kick went right into a defender, who was unable to get out of the way, and into the far side of the net (relative to the corner).

But it felt like Messi was trying too hard for the rest of the half; giving up the ball too much, and trying some too-long passes.  And while Bosnia didn't have any terribly-good chances, they weren't giving up many, either.

One thing that struck me, tactically, was that neither team was pressuring much towards the middle of the field.  Both were waiting for the other team to get close.

The first half definitely favored the Argentines, probably fairly strongly, in terms of possession.  The second half was much more even (maybe even favoring Bosnia), despite Messi playing much better.

Scoring was more even, as well.  Argentina went up by two in the sixty-fifth minute on a surgical strike by Messi.  He was running across the top of the box, and fired a shot that curled in towards the near post.  His shot was so precise that it hit the inside of the post and bounced all the way across to hit the back of the far post.  The goalie, positioned very well, still had no chance at it.  Very impressive.

And perhaps that goal was part of why the Bosnians were doing better; perhaps Argentina was playing more conservatively.  Regardless of the reason, the Bosnians did play better, and scored in the 84th, Ibišević doing the honors (he had subbed in a few minutes after Messi's strike).

But that still didn't really put the outcome in doubt, as those from the land of silver held on comfortably.  Argentina looks to be in great shape to move on, but I could see any of the other three taking the runner-up position.

A call to editors

Just saw this article on the Japanese living so long.  It says, first, that it isn't about the diet, but there's a lot of stress, which would make such long life less likely.

Or maybe it is the diet, but that's unproven.

Then we delve into the diet a little bit (it's a short article), and then we hear that that can't possibly be all of the explanation.

And then there's a whole lot of nothing; kind of a mental "throwing things at the wall".

Of course, they don't even mention one other likely contributor: the fact that all elderly Japanese have access to healthcare.

I really don't know what the answer is; I suspect that both food and healthcare are significant contributors, and I suspect that there's some workplace stress-related contributors.  To whit, there's a lot of emphasis put on showing up for work in Japan, even when sick, but little to no emphasis on getting things done.  There's also mention of how many hours Japanese work, but no recognition that Americans work the most hours in the world.  But this article is just an incoherent mess without any central message.


Boot to the head!

Next, I watched the France/Honduras game, which wasn't terribly interesting.  Although Honduras tried to cover it up with physical play, they were badly overmatched.

It did take France a while to score, but they'd already hit the crossbar twice by the twenty-third minute.  Palacios was sent off for a foul in the box in the forty-third, and that led directly to France finally scoring on the PK.  Think we can attribute lack of earlier scoring on some bad passes in the box (and those two crossbars).

In the forty-eighth, we finally got use out of the goal cam, as another french shot bounced off the woodwork, this time going all the way back across the goal to the goalie.  But the goalie fumbled it a hair into the goal, and the goal cam caught that.  It didn't decide the game, but it was far from obvious that it had gone in, when watching.

The one thing I wonder: they stated that it had gone a couple millimeters over the line; what is the accuracy of that system?  If it's only a couple of millimeters, then the system can't say that that was a goal (not with confidence, anyway).

Regardless, it was pretty neat.

France scored a third time in the seventy-second minute, and I turned it off shortly thereafter.

Basically, the outcome was never in doubt; France was, and played like, the better team.  In a way I'm glad; you want to see the good teams play well, but I would have liked it to be more competitive.  I wonder if the red card will get the Hondurans to play a bit more in control, although I doubt it.  I hope so, though; I'd hate for them to injure players on the other team.  Even on France, despite my long-time dislike of Les Bleus.

I guess we'll see.

And kudos to the blues for keeping their cool when faced with that kind of opposition.

Pelota helvetica

I missed the Ivory Coast/Japan game (second one I've totally missed) late Saturday night.  I'm shocked to see that Cote d'Ivoire won without Yaya Toure on the score sheet.

I did see all three games yesterday, though, starting with Switzerland and Ecuador.  With Switzerland ranked sixth, and Ecuador twenty-sixth, I expected a comfortable and confident win from the Swiss.

But the game was tight, through its entirety, with neither team able to really dominate possession (did the Swiss get where they are via counterattack, maybe?).  And both teams managed to generate a number of chances.  Unfortunately, I missed the Ecuadoran goal in the 22nd minute and the Swiss goal in the 48th due to in-room distractions (better known as children).

It was a pretty sloppy game, though, with a lot of careless turnovers by both teams.

One thing I was looking forward to was watching Shaqiri play for Switzerland.  I'd seen him playing in a UEFA Cup game (for FC Basel, maybe?), and was really impressed (especially as he's built more like a linebacker than a midfielder).  He didn't have a great game, yesterday; not terrible, but he wasn't driving play forward.

Regardless of that, the game stayed tied all the way to stoppage time of the second, when Seferovic (I wonder how Switzerland has ended up with so many eastern european players) cut across the goal to deflect a pass into the net.  It was a very nice goal, although I must admit that I was sure Seferovic was offsides, but the refs didn't see it that way (and they never showed a replay where you could be certain).

It was quite the job of snatching victory from the jaws of indecision.  I imagine that'll be good enough to move Switzerland on, but both their remaining games should be interesting.  France because they're both good sides, and Honduras because they're so physical.  I wouldn't expect physical play to get even noticed by a few of the Swiss, including Shaqiri.

And Ecuador?  They're toast; only question is if they'll be able to go home with a win by beating Honduras.  But they should be proud of playing such a close game against a top-notch team.  I guess, if it wasn't a fluke due to poor play by Switzerland, they might be able to give France a run for its money.

Roman nose win

I wasn't sure what to expect from England and Italy, in their game Saturday, except that it would be tightly contested.

And it was, with Italy mostly controlling possession, but England still getting plenty (maybe even more than Italy) of chances.

One thing that was weird was that both teams were taking an awful lot of long-range (outside the box) shots, and were mostly not putting them on net.  I think it'd've been a better game if both teams had laid off of those shots a bit, although it's true that Italy scored first on one of them.  It somehow threaded through four (!) defenders and the goalkeeper and found the back of the net; lot of luck there.

It took only two minutes for England to strike back, though.  Sterling shot a perfect pass a lot way down the left side to Rooney, who centered it from a long ways out (a yard or two from the touch line), right onto Sturridge.  From a couple feet out, Sturridge put it in to knot the score.

Italy almost took a second lead in stoppage time of the first, when the Hart came out into no-man's-land, and Balotelli chipped it over him.  One of the defenders was able to head it away, but it was a very close call.

Five minutes into the second, Balotelli did manage to give Italy the lead again.  One of the other strikers brought the ball down the right side, and Mario drifted back to the left.  The other striker centered it, and hit him near the far post.  Really terrible defending by England, especially against one of the top strikers in the world (I still think he hasn't played up to his talent.  He's apparently gotten engaged, recently; maybe that will help).  They needed to do better than that.

After that, Italy was mostly content to pack it into the box (plus they subbed Balotelli out, though whether to rest or for fear of his temper, I don't know), and dare England to break them down.  The Brits tried gamely, but were unable to do so.  They got a couple of chances, but no great ones, and none that they were able to convert.

It wasn't a terribly exciting game; I guess the pace was fairly slow.

Sterling looked very good for England; Sturridge did as well.  Rooney looked a bit off; his passes were not as good as usual (he also managed to not put a corner kick onto the field, at one point).

On the flip side, Mario was the only one who really caught my attention, although Pirlo did have one really good free kick attempt.  It missed the net, but not by much.

This will be an interesting group to watch; with Costa Rica managing a win, it's going to be tough on both England and Uruguay (possibly Italy, too, especially if they lose to Uruguay).

Pura vida?

Next up was Uruguay (ranked fifth in the world) and Costa Rica (28th) in Brazil.  And I should have taken more notes on this one, or written it up sooner, because it was a fun game to watch.

Uruguay was certainly dominating play for much of the game, although I'm not sure that I agreed with the call that gave them a penalty kick.  It looked like incidental (rather than deliberate) contact, and I wish there was a less-decisive call available to be made in that circumstance.

Cavani converted on the kick to get the lead for Uruguay, and they continued to play well for the rest of the half.

But in the second half, Costa Rica, and especially Joel Campbell, came on strong.  He scored a beauty of a goal, calm and measured in approach, in the 54th minute, which came after several chances.

Three minutes later, Duarte had a beauty of a goal (and a daring one), going for a header only a foot or two off the ground, with a defender right there.

From there, the play was almost all Costa Rica.  Forlán was subbed out a couple minutes later, which I found odd; he had missed some pretty good chances, but he did get into position to get those chances.  (And as a side note, I always forget that he's Uruguayan; keep thinking he's Argentine, for some reason.)  But maybe there was a tactical side to the move that I didn't see.

Ureña closed out the scoring a minute after being subbed in.  He ran onto a picture-perfect pass from Campbell, and put a well-aimed first touch across his body and into the net.

So the Ticos had the upset of the tournament (so far, at least), cheering 'pura vida'.  I wonder about that; my so-so spanish translates that to 'clean living', which seems like an odd cheer.  I imagine there's some significance that I'm missing.

Anyway, a good game, and fun to watch.  I find myself hoping Costa Rica moves on.

Ode on a Grecian Loss

I was only able to watch bits and pieces of Colombia and Greece, on Saturday; we were eating lunch, and it was on TV at the dim sum place.

I was a bit surprised to see Colombia up one-nil when we got there, although that's partially due to me forgetting how highly ranked Colombia is (eighth; I knew Greece was around 12th).

It was a pretty physical game, but Colombia did look like the better team.  I think I saw them score the second goal, a while later, but missed the third one.

All in all, quite a spanking, and hard to imagine Colombia not moving on.  Each team's game against Chile should be very interesting, and determinative of moving on, I'm sure.

Because it's the Cup

I almost missed Friday's Game Five between the Kings and Rangers.  I'd convinced myself, for some reason, that the game was going to be tonight, and didn't even question that until eleven.

But I finally checked on it then (remembering they were playing in LA, so there was some chance of it still being on), and found that regulation time had just expired without a winner being chosen.  For once, I was glad of overtime.

I noticed, before it started, that the Kings had a large edge in shots; in fact, they held the Rangers to less than seven shots in all three periods.  So it was a bit amazing that the Rangers were tied.  Even more amazing, looking back, Fenwick was staying very close until five or so minutes into the second, but both Rangers goals were scored after that, when possession was solidly favoring the Kings.

So how did things go when play started back up?  Well, the Kings were solidly dominant when they weren't on the penalty kill, basically.  They had a penalty to kill in each overtime, and did so, but the Rangers got a bunch of chances each time.  In fact, it was amazing, both times, that the Rangers didn't score.

But the Kings kept up the continuous pressure, and they had a great many chances as well.  And three-quarters of the way through the second overtime, that pressure finally paid off, when Martinez put in a rebound of a Toffoli shot from the opposite-side point.  He threw his stick in the air, then his gloves, then went to find teammates; great to watch.

Williams (who also had the first goal in this game) got the Conn Smythe award for playoff MVP, which was an excellent choice, I must say.  Gaborik would've also been very reasonable; not only did he score the other regulation goal in the game, but that brought him within a goal of Gretzky's team record for goals in one play-off season (though he did have two extra games).

So, my initial analysis of the Kings winning the Cup as soon as they beat Chicago wasn't hugely off.  It took five games, but only because Lundqvist played out of his mind for game four.  You could even make an argument that the only reason the Rangers made it to overtime three times was because of Lundqvist, even.  They were just so massively outshot (on net is 194-146; I'm surprised to see that Corsi and Fenwick were a bit closer) that it's hard to see the Rangers winning four games without them playing ten or so.  Certainly, it would have been one hell of an upset.

Anyway, hats off to the Kings for winning the Cup for the second time in three years.  And to show the determination to battle their way through three consecutive seven-game series (I believe the first to do so).  And one of the six teams to win a Stanley Cup Final with three or more overtime games (the Rangers, ironically, are one of the others, winning in 1940).

Congratulations to the Kings and their fans for one hell of a season.  I certainly enjoyed watching them in the playoffs, as my tweet-stream would show.

And thank goodness the series didn't go longer; one night of overlap with the World Cup was enough.  I'll have more to say about that, shortly.


Demolition men

I watched all of the second game, although I saw the first hour of it quite a few hours before seeing the last half hour.

It started out like a deadly-serious chess match between two teams that were both out to win the game one-nil.  And for that time, Spain looked like the better team; they were possessing the ball more and doing more with it when they had it.  But what was interesting was just how clogged the middle of the field was; both teams were heavily pressuring the ball to force turnovers.

They managed to get the ball behind all but one defender twice; the first of those resulted in a ball out of bounds as that one defender blocked the pass across.  I think the other resulted in a goal kick when Spain missed the net.  Between those two, they did manage to take the lead on a penalty kick following a pretty-bad call in the box.  Knowing what both teams were playing for, I thought about tweeting, "Game over?" after that, but was glad I didn't.

And that's because, after that, the Dutch started to come back, slowly.  They only really got close to the goal once, but started to hold the ball a lot more and work it down a bit.

That one time close, however, came when one of the midfields, near the sideline and just inside the attacking half, saw van Persie make a run toward the net and lofted it towards the box.  van Persie had to wait for it to get there, but he had lots of time (I'm not sure what the goalie was doing, but I suspect he couldn't make up his mind whether to come out to challenge the pass or to wait for the shot) and calmly lofted it (from a hair inside the 17-yard line) over the goalie and into the net.  That was in the forty-fifth minute, and that considered tweet was already looking ill-considered.

Things seemed to stay about the same with the start of the second half, with a lot of pressure, Spain mostly looking better, and not much really happening.  But about ten minutes in, Robben was found making a run across the middle.  The ball came down in front of him, as he was running, but he corralled it with one foot, and pulled it back toward the middle, giving himself a little space from the two defenders on him.  He got half a step, and pounded it into the net, with a slight deflection from one of the defenders.

And from there, it was almost all the Netherlands.  They had a couple more chances (including van Persie putting a hard shot across off the crossbar right at the sixty-minute mark) before they started finding the net again.

Four minutes later, van Persie got the goalie's attention on a cross into the box.  The ball sailed over both, into de Vrij's head and then one of his feet, finally going into the net at de Vrij hit the post.

A minute or two after it became three-nil, Spain's last real chance came, and it ended with David Villa putting it into the net.  Unfortunately, he was called off-sides, and that was the end of the game seeming competitive.

Seven minutes after de Vrij's goal, van Persie scored again, and Robben finished the scoring eight minutes later on a very long and impressive run, that ended with him running the goalie to ground and calmly slotting it into the net.

That might have been the end of the scoring, but the Dutch had several more chances before the end (including at least one where the goalie went down, but they couldn't put the shot on net).

It ended in utter annihilation of Spain, and made you wonder if it is the end of Spain's dominance on the international level.  My suspicion is that it is, although I still see Spain as competitive for a while longer (perhaps until the next World Cup).  I certainly don't see Iker Casillas getting much more (if any) chance in goal.  We'll see, I guess.

And the Dutch, of course, are flying as high as they can.  We'll see how that carries over into their play in the next game.