Done & dusted. The Group Stage coughed up its final death rattle yesterday with an absolute snooze fest between Brazil and Portugal and North Korea took yet another drubbing. How bad was Brazil V Portugal? So bad that whistles over boring play could be heard well before the final whistle and both sides were booed off the pitch. Read that again: Brazil and Portugal booed off the pitch. Absolutely pathetic display. Pity North Korea. I wonder if the players have sought political asylum in order to avoid going home.
In any event, we’re on to the Knockout Stage and teams will have to start playing proper football if they want to advance. There are some quality early match ups and we could well see some surprises in the Round of 16 as some of the big name squads barely squeaked into qualification. Here’s a quick schedule for the upcoming Round of 16 matches:
Saturday – Uruguay V South Korea / USA V Ghana
Sunday – Germany V England / Argentina V Mexico
Monday – Netherlands V Slovakia / Brazil V Chile
Tuesday – Paraguay V Japan / Spain V Portugal
On the Arsenal front, both Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue saw action on the final day of the Group Stage. Blackbeard…err…Fabregas and Spain managed to move on with a 2-1 win over Chile while the Fighting Eboue’s of Cote d’Ivoire thrashed the woeful North Koreans 3-0. Despite the win, Cote ‘dIvoire will not be moving on to the Knockout Stage, coming 3rd in the Group with just 4 points.
Fabregas Again A Second Half Sub
I’ll be honest here: I got a certain perverse enjoyment of having to fast forward the DVR of the Spain match to get to the 55th minute when Cesc came on for Torres. Frustrating, sure, in that once again Cesc was a second half sub. But even more enjoyment because I didn’t have to re-watch the festering gobs of Barca players for the first 55 minutes. Fair play to the DVR for sparing me that. In any event, Cesc was immediately his impressive self, back heeling a through ball to a forward midfield position, then breaking past the Chilean defense and almost collecting the return pass in the box. Intuitive, brilliant stuff from our now well-bearded Captain. A few minutes later Cesc nicely chipped into the box but led David Villa a bit too much to control and get a shot off. With Spain already leading 2-1 when Cesc came on, there wasn’t going to be too much pressure applied in the attack unfortunately. Cesc had some nice passing and midfield generalship, as expected, but again it was mostly mop-up duty to close out the match.
Eboue Shows Well In Elephants Triumph
If you only came to see Eboue, and you know you did, today was the last day to see him at the 2010 World Cup. Bit of a tactical change for the Arsenal man, as he got the start at right back as the Elephants took on North Korea in a battle of Group G bottom dwellers. Facing an almost insurmountable 9 goal differential, Cote d’Ivoire nonetheless went all out to make a good effort. Emmanuel brought his dribbling and passing boots for the day as he had several well controlled runs of distance and if I’m not mistaken, made the pass to Drogba on the disallowed goal. From his right back position, Eboue had opportunities to win some good challenges in the midfield area as Cote d’Ivoire kept a very high line of pressure on the Asian side. The 30th minute saw Eboue shrug off a challenge at midfield quite nicely, drive down the right sideline and make a wonderful cross into the box to Kader Keita. No joy on goal, but well done by Eboue to drive the possession positively. Eboue again badgered the North Koreans on 50 minutes when he beautifully split two defenders, broke into the box and delivered a pass to the far post but his target man was unable to finish. Overall it was a very pleasant game of football for our Eboue: He took care of the few questions asked of him defensively and was positively involved in the attack. As with the other Arsenal players who’ve seen their sides go out, Eboue can now have a nice holiday before preseason training and come in fresh for the 2010/2011 run.
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