We’re getting down to the bitter end of the Group Stage now, folks. France? Out. Italy? Out. England in a win or go home 3rd Group Stage match. Spain sweating on their 3rd match. South Korea and Japan moving into the Knockout Stage. I’ve watched A LOT of football over the last 14 days, but I’m still on the edge of my seat at how this is all playing out. OK, the quality might not be the best as yet, but we’ve had some awesome results and enough surprises so far to really keep the juices flowing til the end. And, in case you haven’t been keeping track, Arsenal only have three players remaining in this World Cup: Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas (yes…he’s still an Arsenal player, despite what the Daily Fail and those cake holes in Barcelona would have you believe) and Carlos Vela. On the positive side, we appear to be getting our players back in one piece, and isn’t that the really important thing when it comes to Arsenal? 😉
Are the rest of you starting to fall in love with this Japanese squad yet? A flexible & wily defense, a precocious attack and they seemingly can run forever. I’m impressed. Their latest victims, unfortunately for us Gooners, were Nicklas Bendtner and his merry band from Denmark. Once again the Japan side had the tactics right and all but shut down the Danes. We’re not talking about stagnant, plonker defense here. It’s dynamic and intended to not only stop the opponent in their tracks, but transition quite well to the attack once the defense has done its job. Two absolutely cracking free kicks, Keisuke Honda on 17 minutes and Yasuhito Endo at the 30 minute mark, came from a run of play that was as entertaining as the Japanese defense was stifling. Denmark couldn’t muster any answer until Jon Dahl Tomasson notched on 81 minutes, but the blue clad Japan squad fired right back with Shinji Ozaki netting on 87 minutes to complete the first Japanese qualification to the Knockout Stage while outside Asian soil.
With Netherlands already qualified for the Knockout Stage, it would have been easy for Robin van Persie’s Oranje to take their foot off the pedal against Cameroon today. Gaffer Bert van Marwijk wasn’t entirely happy with the two previous performances and Netherlands turned up to fine tune their attack heading into the next stage. Cameroon were up for it though, as early doors saw them playing for African pride. The Dutch did find space behind the Indomitable Lions’ defense on occasion as the first half progressed, and you could just feel a goal coming. As the Dutch continued to build on the attack, the breakthrough came on 36 minutes as Robin van Persie beat the Cameroonian keeper with a shot right between the legs. While the Dutch attack seems to be hitting stride, the central defenders did show some frailty on occasion as crosses into the box led to more threats on goal than they would have liked. Samuel Eto’o put through a penalty kick for Cameroon on 65 minutes to bring the match level, but Klass Jan Huntelaar closed out the scoring on 83 minutes to seal it for Netherlands. Some positive attacking improvement for the Dutch side, but still work to do to get that engine at top performance and they might need to tighten up a bit in central defense as they move forward.
Robin Opens WC Account With Chocolate Leg
Robin van Persie! Clap – Clap – Clap Robin van Persie! Yup. He did it. And with the proverbial Chocolate Leg no less. Robin got a healthy 59 minutes against an already eliminated Cameroon side and was extremely active in the front striker role. I have to say, with as much time as RVP spends drifting out wide right in the Dutch 4-3-3, one has to wonder if we’ll utilize either Chamakh or Bendtner on the right and have them interchange as the run of play dictates for Arsenal. Well, we’ll save that tasty thought for later, though. Frequent runs onto well-placed through balls saw van Persie a real threat from the off. The highlight moment came on 36 minutes when RVP controlled in the box, fed van der Vaart back towards the 18 yard line, then broke free of the defense as he took a beautiful return ball from VDV and slotted it home expertly with the aforementioned Chocolate Leg. Beautiful football all round and you could see the relief at scoring on Robin’s face. RVP was subbed on 59 minutes by Klass Jan Huntelaar. A tidy performance overall for Robin, and great to see him get that first goal.
Super Nick, Danes – Not So Super
A disappointing end for Nicklas Bendtner and the Danes. Met with a fly paper sticky Japanese defense, the Danes could muster only infrequent sustained attacks despite controlling much of the opening possession. Nick made himself an available target on several early occasions, but the connections just weren’t there. The most noteworthy touch Nick had in the first 50+ minutes was an absolutely dreadful free kick that rose about a foot off the ground before slamming into the wall. Whenever the long ball was played towards Nick, he was met with much barging of the shoulders and few positive results were realized. It was just that kind of match for the Arsenal striker. Nick heads home tallying 1 goal in three matches and now gets a nice break before the Arsenal preseason begins.
Song Sits Out Last Match
Alex Song was a very late scratch and sat out with injury for Cameroon’s closing World Cup match. Playing only the middle tilt of the Group Stage, it can’t have been the most enjoyable couple of weeks for Song. I had high hopes that Cameroon would get a nice run of matches into the Knockout Stage and that Alex would gain valuable international experience. Alas, Alex will be returning to the N5 with little to show for his time in South Africa.
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It’s Footbally! It’s Nomady! It’s Andy Weber with EXCLUSIVE video from the Germany V Ghana match at the World Cup! He’ll also be taking in the Brazil V Portugal match later today. Follow Andy’s amazing experience on Football Nomad.
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