Randers Dominate

Editorʼs Note

We have covered many sports that do not receive the recognition that they should. Among them is womenʼs handball. The speed and agility and active time in the sport compares well to other sports, notably football. The Magazine will be relaunched shortly. We will resume our coverage of a sport that tests the legacy of Londonʼs Olympic Games. For that reason we republish some of our articles on the sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 25th 2011)

Ambitions

We are looking to win the league,” Randersʼ goal-keeper, Chana Masson told us. “If we stay in the top two we get two points for the play-offs.” FC Midtjylland pose the only realistic threat and it is a long shot as they need Randers to start losing – something they have shown no sign of doing. Viborg offer a more realistic target, but they will be difficult too. Midtjylland play tomorrow afternoon, knowing tat anything less than victory is not an option.

The business end of the season is tight for play-off spots. Three points separate fifth from eighth. Odenseʼs slim hopes of making the play-offs needed nothing less than a win tonight, but Randers was in no mood to roll over.

Masson believes that Denmark has the best handball league in the world. She was part of the first wave of Brasilians to come to Scandinavia to learn her trade. She stayed and earned the respect of team-mates like the German Nina Wörz.

Different Class

Randers outclassed HK Odense with a sterling display of defence and attack too, 37-17 in Odense. Masson kept the home team at bay with a string of top-notch saves. She cost them at least five goals in the first half. Meanwhile, Denmarkʼs Camilla Dalby enhanced her reputation with four first-half goals, as Randers established a commanding lead, 20-7.

They made a strong and rapid statement of intent. Wörz opened the scoring in the third minute and Mette Melgaard doubled their lead, almost immediately. Within two minutes Wörz had completed a hat-trick. Odenseʼs trainer, Jan Laugesen had seen enough and took a time-out. Odenseʼs Pernille Larsen and Susanne Madsen then earned the displeasure of referee Ole Blok, receiving yellow cards before Larsen finally beat the impressive Masson to make it 4-1.

Mie Augustesen and Melgaard extended Randersʼ lead before Wörz capitalised on penalty opportunities for fouls on Augustesen and herself. With 13 minutes gone Randers had a commanding 8-1 lead. Cecilie Pedersen beat Masson for the second time, but not before the goal-keeper had kept Odense at bay a few times. Katrine Frueland scored a brace separated by another from Augustesen. Randersʼ tenth was scored by Augustesen after slick and probing passing between Wörz, Dalby and Melgaard created the opportunity.

Madsen and the impressive Gitte Andersen exchanged goals before Spaniard Eli Pinedo opened her account for Odense after 21 minutes. Wörz replied immediately. Dalby helped herself to three more while Andersen scored two and Berit Kristensen added another. Meanwhile, Pedersen and Janni Gade conceded penalties for preventing shooting opportunities. Dalby converted the opportunities.

Randers were dominating at 18-4 before Pinedo and Pedersen clawed two back.

Andersen conceded a penalty, but Massonʼs dancing around in her area distracted Pinedo enough to cause her to strike Massonʼs right-hand post. Gitte Aaen punished the lapse by scoring Randersʼ 20th goal of the half. There was just enough time for Pinedo to make amends, but Randers had established control by then, leading by 13 goals at half time.

The False Dawn

Laugesenʼs team-talk obviously struck the right note. In the first six minutes of the second half Nikoline Nielsen scored a hat-trick, but Masson saved her penalty, although Anna Sophie Okkels and Dalby scored for Randers too. The hard work had been done by Randers in the first half, during which Masson also showed how to turn defence into attack with a long throw to Andersen who gratefully accepted the chance.

Maria Fisker seemed to have left her shooting arm behind in the first half, missing when it seemed easier to score and striking the woodwork, before Wörz spared her blushes. In the second half she found her arm, scoring a magnificent break-away goal – her teamʼs 35th. The match was all but over by then. Randers completed the win 37-17.

Dalby top-scored with seven. Eleven players netted for Randers with Wörz and Augustesen netting five apiece. Fruelund and Andersen scored four each. Nielsen and Pinedo shared the honours for Odense with four each, but the score didnʼt lie. Randers deserved their win, consolidating their position at the top of the table.

Argentina go through as Belgium is Found Wanting

 

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 5th 2014)

Higuaín Shines

Argentina reached the semi-final of Brasilʼs World Cup with an efficient 1-0 victory over Marc Wilmotsʼ young Belgium side making their first appearance in the World Cup Finals since 2002 courtesy of Gonzalo Higuaínʼs excellent 8th minute strike. The build up was fortunate – the finish masterful. After twisting and turning Lionel Messi fed Real Madridʼs Ángel di María on the right.

Di María tried to put Manchester Cityʼs Pablo Zabaleta through on the overlap and was fortunate that a massive deflection off Jan Vertonghen took it into the path of Higuaín. The Napoli striker deserves all the credit for the goal which turned out to be the historic winner. Higuaín had been distinctly underwhelming in the tournament previously.

This was his first goal – an instinctive shot to goal-keeper Thibaut Courtoisʼ right. The Belgian keeper who had never tasted defeat for his country until this afternoon could do nothing about it. It proved enough to set up a semi-final clash against either the Netherlands or surprise package Costa Rica who meet tonight. Higuaínʼs winner was the first time that Argentina had reached the semi-final in normal time since Diego Maradonaʼs prime.

Fear

It took Wilmotsʼ side over 40 minutes to fashion their best opportunity. Vertonghen was released on the left by Chelseaʼs Eden Hazard. His cross deserved a better header than Evertonʼs Kevin Mirallas provided. Sergio Romero was not required to make a save. Fifteen minutes earlier VfL Wolfsburgʼs Kevin de Bruyne at least forced Monacoʼs reserve goal-keeper Sergio Romero to make a save, but it was a long range effort that didnʼt seriously test the keeper. The rebound eluded Lille teenager Divock Origi – Romelu Lukaku remained on the bench despite finding form against the USA.

Di María was unable to continue after just over half an hour. He may be out of the tournament. Messi had yet to shine. After 38 minutes Messi was felled by Manchester United misfit Marouane Fellainiʼs persistent fouling. He picked himself up to take the free-kick, but Courtois, whose future will be resolved after the World Cup was not required to make a save.

Messi had a chance to put Belgium away in added time when put through by substitute Fernando Gago. With just Courtois to beat Messi tried to caress it past the La Liga winner with the outside of his foot, but Courtois saved well to keep Belgium in contention – just.

Officiating

Less than ten minutes into the second half the largely ineffective Hazard was fortunate that he only received a yellow card for a high tackle on Lazioʼs Lucas Biglia.

Two minutes later Enzo Pérez broke on the right wing before passing to Higuaín who blazed a trail through the Belgian defence, nutmegging Kompany before unleashing a powerful shot that not even Courtois could keep out. Fortunately for him it hit the crossbar and bounced over. Belgium had little choice, but to attack as time began to ebb. Fellaini headed Vertonghenʼs excellent cross over with an hour gone.

Shortly afterwards Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli initially gave a corner to Belgium, but after consulting his assistant changed his mind and gave a free-kick against Fellaini for fouling Ezequiel Garay. Despite this, Rizzoliʼs performance was a lesson for other referees as he kept control without showing undue leniency – apart from Hazardʼs offence – or it ever threatening to become a card-fest.

End-Game

Belgium had to press harder for an equaliser, but their attacks lacked quality. It wasnʼt until added time that they seriously threatened and even then Romero was not called into action. Their last attempt was also their best, but it came after Messi should have ended the small chance that they had.

In the centre of Argentinaʼs half Zenit Saint Petersburgʼs Axel Witsel found Mertens to his left. Mertens played it forward to Lukaku. The Chelsea striker squared it, but Garay snubbed out the danger and it eventually broke to Witsel who shot over from 23 yards. It was their last chance. Argentina were through to face either the Netherlands or surprise package Costa Rica.

It was the first time in almost a quarter of a century that Argentina had reached the semi-final of the World Cup in normal time.

 

The Beautiful Game

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)

RIP

Luiz Felipe Scolari once declared that the beautiful game was dead. He also said that he wanted his team to foul more. Tonight Colombiaʼs talented play-maker was hacked off the park with referee Carlos Velasco Carballo little more than a spectator as shameful so-called challenges went unpunished. Scolari got his wish. The beautiful game died tonight – RIP.

FIFA wanted referees to be more lenient so cards and suspensions didnʼt pile up. This evening the consequences became obvious. The Colombians noticed that their influential play-maker, Monacoʼs James Rodríguez Rubio had plainly been targeted. Brasilʼs tactics were for Manchester Cityʼs Fernadinho and Tottenham Hotspurʼs Paulinho in particular to prevent him playing by foul means – fair didnʼt even compute.

Neither Brasilian was even booked, let alone sent off as they deserved. Had they been shown the yellow card when it was warranted – after 14 minutes in Fernandinhoʼs case, the referee would have retained control and a potentially mouth-watering tie may have had a chance to blossom. Instead the prodigiously talented Rodríguez and later Barçelonaʼs Neymar were used as kicking bags.

Disgraceful

Napoliʼs Juan Zúñiga Mosquera is public enemy number one in Brasil now and that wonʼt change for a long time. He claims that his 88th minute so-called challenge was not intended to injure Brasilʼs talisman Neymar. The evidence proves otherwise. He kneed Neymar in the back with the ball nowhere near. It was a shocking and disgraceful challenge that deserves appropriate punishment – a long ban.

Zúñigaʼs protestations that he meant no injury to Neymar ring hollow. There was no credible effort to play the ball. It was almost certainly retribution for the treatment that Colombiaʼs talented attacking players had been subjected to earlier. Almost a fifth of Brasilʼs fouls – brutal ones – were committed to ensure that Rodríguez could not play.

They were meant to leave a mark and make him liable to be clattered whenever he had the temerity to try to play. This was anti-football at its worst. Brasil committed 31 fouls out of a tournament record 54 with Rodríguez the number one target in their sights. Fernandinho, Paulinho, Paris Saint-Germainʼs Thiago Silva and David Luiz and Championʼs League winning Real Madridʼs Marcelo all had a crack at him.

Anti-Football

Fellow attacking options, Fiorentinaʼs Juan Cuadrado Bello and Cagliariʼs Víctor Ibarbo Guerrero were also hacked to pieces. The trio had been the victims of almost a third of the fouls committed on their own in the first half. Brasil had clearly adopted a novel interpretation of the phrase ʻthey shall not passʼ!

And where was the referee while this carnage was going on? Velasco Carballo is an élite level referee in Spain. Ironically he has the reputation of a disciplinarian. His reputation will now be in tatters. After yet another foul had been committed on Rodríguez, the play-maker was deliberately prevented from taking it quickly.

Yet again Fernadinho was on hand. When he finally took it confusion reigned and Brasil got possession. There was no question of retreating ten yards or even trying to. Not a word of reprimand, let alone a long overdue yellow card emerged and later when Rodríguez prepared to take another with his sights set on goal the wall encroached again without consequences. With the spray available to prevent this, why was that free-kick not taken again? Why were the offenders not booked?

Ludicrous

It took over an hour for Velasco Carballo to brandish a yellow card – astonishing given the extent of brutal fouling adopted by Brasil in particular. Colombia committed 23 fouls themselves, but theirʼs was a reaction to the knowledge that Brasil had chosen to ensure that they would not be allowed to play football and the referee was content to allow them to get away with it. Eventually they retaliated in one case in a particularly brutal fashion.

While Neymar deserves sympathy and protection Brasil do not and they may yet pay a very high price. They are through, but must face Germany without Neymar – the man they built their team around. They had a plan to neutralise Colombiaʼs attacking threat by foul means and they stuck to it. They were allowed to do it by officials who lost control as early as a 14 minutes into the match.

Rudely Interrupted

Prior to the carnage Brasil took the lead. Fernandinhoʼs long pass to Neymar was intercepted at the expense of a corner. The Colombian defending of Neymarʼs corner was woeful to put it mildly. With just 7 minutes played Elcheʼs midfielder Carlos Sánchez Moreno switched off and allowed Thiago Silva an untracked run to the back post where he kneed it past Niceʼs impressive goal-keeper David Ospina Ramírez to give Brasil the lead. It was the first time Colombia had gone behind.

The Colombians did not play to their potential – they werenʼt allowed to. Brasil showed the ugly side of their game to render the potent Colombian attacking threat neutered. The first yellow card came when Silva impeded Ospinaʼs clearance and then put the ball in the net. Incredibly given the brutality that had preceded it was hardly a transgression in the greater scheme of what had gone before, but certainly a yellow card offence.

Normal Service

Before long it was evened out as Velasco Carballo shamefully booked Rodríguez for what was at best a minor offence as Rodríguez plainly withdrew his leg prior to contact if there was any. Adding insult to injury David Luizʼ fantastic 30 yard free-kick beat Ospina to give Brasil their insurance goal – one they would need. He was yet another who deserved a card for a brutal first half foul. Slightly before that goal two other major incidents happened.

A free-kick was taken and rebounded off David Luiz. A scramble followed. Atalantaʼs Mario Yepes Díaz bundled the ball in. It was chalked off for offside – a marginal decision. In another incident Thiago Silva looked injured. Unfortunately he was the culprit, yet another foul that warranted a booking – this time on Borussia Dortmundʼs Adrián Ramos Vázquez. That would have been his second and a sending off. It would also have sent a message to Brasil that they had to defend by fair means – one that should have been sent far earlier. Colombia began to retaliate. Cuadrado should have been booked for a foul on Neymar, but this was long after Rodríguez had been refused protection. 

Finale

With just over ten minutes left Rodríguez put Sevillaʼs Europa League winner Carlos Bacca Ahumada through on goal. QPRʼs goal-keeper Júlio César Soares de Espíndola, currently on loan to Toronto FC, took him out to concede a penalty. Luiz was covering, so Velasco Carballo decided that a yellow card would suffice despite denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Rodríguez kept his nerve to beat Júlio César and set up a nervous finale.

At least three Brasilians had committed enough serious offences to deserve sending off, but that did not happen. And then Velasco Carballo ignored Zúñigaʼs assault on Neymar. Undoubtedly, Zúñiga should have been sent off. Either the referee and his officials saw that and much more and ignored it or they missed it. As free-kicks were given, but not more for most of Brasilʼs transgressions FIFA cannot and will not act retrospectively. Zúñigaʼs offence is a different matter.

If Fernandinho had received the card he deserved then Velasco Carballo would have retained control and this match would not have disintegrated into a relic from the past. Velasco Carballoʼs failure to take and maintain control had sadly predictable consequences. Neymar was targeted too and he paid the highest price – an undeserved exit from the World Cup. His team are considerably weakened now. It could and should have been so different. Deprived of both Thiago Silva and Neymar, they face Germany in the semi-final.

RIP the beautiful game.

U-S-A! – The Aftermath

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)

The Tour

The USA topped their group to reach the semi-final of the inaugural World Cup. It was against Argentina, whose enforcer, later to become a World Cup winning Oriundo – an immigrant of Italian or Spanish descent – Luis Monti played hard and injured opponents. The USA lost 6-1, but that was in the days before substitutions. The Argentinians put their boots in and within four minutes goal-keeper James Douglas was hurt, but forced to play on. He wasnʼt the only American who played hurt. Argentina won easily, but the Americans were put at an early disadvantage.

Raphael Tracey suffered a broken leg with just ten minutes played. He bravely continued playing until forced off at half time. Argentina were 1-0 up at the time thanks to Monti. The US had to play the rest of the match with ten men – two of whom were also injured. They lost 6-1 – an early example of the failure of the officials to protect players from ugly play exemplified by the Argentinians and Monti in particular. He repeated the role for Vittorio Pozziʼs Italy

Argentina lost the inaugural World Cup Final to hosts Uruguay, then the best team in the world – a nation that punches ridiculously above its weight in terms of population. The USA stayed in South America and toured the continent. Bizarrely only their 4-3 defeat against Brasil at Rio de Janeiroʼs Estádio das Laranjeiras – the former home of Fluminense – on August 17th 1930 was recognised as an international.

Betrand Patenaude scored a brace for the Americans and Adelino (Billy) Gonsalves – one of the best players the USA ever produced – got the other. It was his only goal for his country. Before Pelé broke his record Carlos Alberto Dobbert de Carvalho Leite was the youngest footballer to play in the World Cup Finals – a record he set in 1930. He had only just turned 18. Carvalho Leite also scored in the friendly against the USA. Teóphilo Pereira, (João Coelho Neto) Preguinho – Brasilʼs captain at the 1930 World Cup and scorer of his countryʼs first goal in that competition – (Alfredo de Almeida Rego) Doca scored the others for Brasil. All of the Brasilians were part of Brasilʼs squad for the World Cup. Only Doca didnʼt play.

Gonsalves and three others, including the teamʼs captain Tom Florie, also represented the USA four years later in Italyʼs first World Cup. They beat México 4-2 in Roma on May 25th 1934 three days before the tournament opened to clinch their place in the finals. Aldo Donelli scored all four of the USAʼs goals.

Their stay was not a long one and despite the dark arts used later by eventual winners Italy there was no controversy over Italyʼs first round win – a 7-1 thrashing of the USA that could have been even worse, but for goal-keeper Julian Hjulian. Donelli scored the Americanʼs goal, but they were three down at the time.

Argentine-born Raimundo Orsi got a brace, although he had switched allegiance to Italy in 1929, so unlike Luis Monti he didnʼt play for Argentina in the 1930 World Cup. Bolognaʼs Angelo Schiavio got a hat-trick, and Italian legends Giovanni Ferrari and Giuseppe Meazza.

The Huddled Masses

Immigrants played a great part in the USAʼs success in football in both 1930 and again in 1950. It has its roots in the generation of immigrants who came to America in the two decades before the World Cup. Football had a following in the factory teams and it was reflected in the national team too before the Great Depression destroyed football in the USA. People had other priorities – life and survival was more important.

Six of the starting team for the USA were born in Britain – one Englishman and five Scottish-born players. The next generation of American heroes came twenty years later. They included foreign born players too. Among them was a Belgian war hero and they were captained by a Scot while the iconic goal that made them heroes was scored by a Haitian – Joseph Gaetjens. The current generation has five German-Americans in Jürgen Klinsmannʼs squad. It was controversial before they arrived in Brasil, but Klinsmann has earned the right to take the sport to the next stage.

 

 

Glorious Defeat, but USA Finally Embraces Football

 

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 1st 2014)

Belgium Defeat America the Brave

Everton goal-keeper Tim Howard set a World Cup record of 16 saves in a heroic losing effort against Belgium tonight. The excitement flowed as the USA were beaten 2-1, but the nation finally got excited about football and made headlines for all the right reasons after the notorious Chuck Blazer affair. Even President Barack Obama was watching.

Neither Kevin de Bruyne, nor Chelseaʼs seemingly permanently on loan Romelu Lukaku had set the World Cup alight to date – Lukaku lost his place to Liverpool target Divock Origi – but they found a way past the record-breaking Howard in extra time. They had the assists on each othersʼ goals too.

Lukaku replaced Origi at the end of normal time. His run down the right flank and pull back for de Bruyne broke to his team-mate. De Bruyne shot across Howard to finally beat the American keeper.

In the last minute of extra time in the first period of it de Bryune found space on the left before threading it through to Lukaku who blasted it past Howard at the near post.

But the Americans refused to give up despite Lukakuʼs strike. Substitute Julian Green – one of the German-Americans recruited by Klinsmann – was brought on for the second period. He was put through by Michael Bradleyʼs chip and volleyed powerfully past Thibaut Courtois two minutes after coming on.

The young Belgian keeper who has spent the last three years on loan at Atlético de Madrid has yet to lose for his country.

The Formidable Last Barrier

Howard began his assault on the record books with less than a minute played. De Bruyne surged forward before finding Origi. The 19-year-old Lille strikerʼs shot was saved by Howard with his legs at the expense of a corner. It proved to be the first of many, some far easier than others. Both de Bruyne and Eden Hazard had efforts more akin to practice than the greatest stage.

The second half opened as the first had with a Howard save. Dries Mertens headed de Bruyneʼs cross at goal and Howard tipped over. Meanwhile, Courtois was not really tested. Their first shot on target came after 20 minutes. Clint Dempseyʼs run and interchange with Bradley resulted. Unfortunately the ball stuck under Dempseyʼs foot as he shot, so it was saved by Courtois.

With less than 20 minutes of normal time remaining a mazy run by substitute Kevin Mirallas, but was poked away as he was poised to shoot. It broke to Origi whose shot was saved by Howard. With 15 minutes remaining Hazard tracking back broke up an American attack and unleashed a quick counter-attack. Origi passed to Mirallas on the left of the area. Mirallasʼ shot across Howard was saved the immense keeper with his feet.

Three minutes later Howard was at it again denying Hazard after a superb run and pull back by Mirallas that was touched back to the Chelsea midfielder. Hazardʼs shot was powerfully parried by Howard. With six minutes left Origi shot powerfully from just outside the area, but Howard easily tipped it over. An end to end counter-attack started and finished by Vincent Kompany resulted in yet another save by Howard.

Despite being finally beaten after three minutes of extra time Howard pulled more saves out of the hat denying Lukaku after 6 minutes to concede yet another corner that Belgium failed to profit from. With ten minutes gone Hazard released Lukaku on the left of the area, but yet again Howard blocked at his near post. Belgium tried the right with a nice flick by Hazard releasing Mirallas, but his shot could not beat Howard..

Lukaku was in the mood for more. He latched on to a long clearance and beat both Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler to get his shot off from the left of the area only for Howard to deny him again with his left foot. Howard was simply imperious tonight.

Attack and Counter-attack

Both teams attacked and counter-attacked. While Belgiumʼs had greater quality, the USAʼs defence and Howard held firm. De Bruyne was profligate, although he created chances too. After 25 minutes an excellent move on Belgiumʼs left culminated in Jan Vertonghen squaring it for Marouane Fellaini to tap in, but DaMarcus Beasley had other ideas and cleared with Origi wondering why Vertonghen did not pull it back for him instead.

With just under an hour played Hazard released Origi on the left of the area. Origi got to the goal-line and pulled it back for Dries Mertens who tried something fancy that almost came off – a subtle back-heeled flick went just wide. Further attacks created chances for Origi, Hazard and even Kompany, but perhaps the best of normal time fell to the Americans. After pressing in the final third Geoff Cameron lofted it into area. Jermaine Jones nodded it to right where substitute Chris Wondolowski was clearly onside, but wrongly flagged. He was played onside by Alderweireld, but missed badly from 7 yards out, shooting well over Courtois and the bar – he had to score, but didnʼt. It could have been so different.

They had a chance to tie when the excellent DeAndré Yedlin crossed from the right for Wondolowski to nod back to the right for Jones who struck it with the outside of his right foot. It went just wide. Still the Americans refused to give in. After 23 minutes Michael Bradleyʼs inventive free-kick was touched on by Wondolowski to Dempsey, but Courtois was huge and blocked Dempseyʼs close range effort. The USA certainly added to this World Cup and will be missed. Belgium go on to play Argentina in the quarter-finals, but football has arrived in the USA at last.

 

Germany Beat Algeria at Third Attempt

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2014)

Natural Order

Germany defied historic precedent at the third attempt to finally to see off the challenge of Vahid Halihodžićʼs brave Algeria team, but they required extra time to do it. Joachim Löwʼs introduction of substitute André Schürrle proved effective. While others including Bayern Münchenʼs Thomas Müller failed to penetrate the Desert Foxesʼ defence.

The Germans found CSKA Sofiaʼs Raïs MʼBoli in top form and the Algerian repelling almost everything thrown at them. Müller failed to add to his tally apart from an assist that owed more to Schürrle than Müller. Schürrleʼs sublime back-heel 2 minutes into the first period of extra time broke the dead-lock.

Their second, which proved crucial came late. Arsenalʼs Mesut Özil, who had been largely disappointing, squared for Schürrle to shoot as the match approached its end. His effort beat MʼBoli, but was blocked on the line by Watfordʼs Essaï Belkalem. It rebounded to Özil. The Arsenal man lashed it back. Mʼboli could not keep it out.

Despite time running out Algeria refused to give up and finally found a way past Manuel Neuer. Bayern Münchenʼs final barrier had almost played more as Germanyʼs sweeper than keeper, but was finally beaten in the last minute of injury time.

Valenciaʼs Sofiane Feghouliʼs cross from the right found substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou – one of the few Africa based players in this World Cup – at the back post. He shot across Neuer to score, but it proved too little, too late. Time ran out on the Desert Foxes.

Finishing Touch

If Algeriaʼs final ball had been up to scratch the result would probably have been different. Feghouli squandered a golden opportunity with just under a quarter of an hour played. Mehdi Lacenʼs pass. He created the space for himself, but the angle was tight. He chose to shoot – wrong choice. found the midfielder on the right but he should have cut it back to the six yard box for El Arabi Soudani rather than shoot from tight angle.

Two minutes later Algeria scored, but the officials correctly disallowed it. Napoliʼs Faouzi Ghoulam had an excellent match causing difficulties for the Germans on the left. His cross was met with a diving header by Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani. It beat Neuer, but not the assistant refereeʼs offside flag.

Shortly after that Internazionaleʼs Saphir Taïder spread play to the left flank. Soudani put Ghoulam through on the left of the area, but he shot wide. Özilʼs defensive work was in tracking Ghoulam and challenging him was awful. It took over half an hour for Müller to get a real chance, slipping his marker Aissa Mandi, but his header went wide of MʼBoliʼs goal.

Bayern Münchenʼs departing midfielder Toni Kroos broke free to unleash a powerful shot that MʼBoli saved well, recovering quickly to superbly stop the rebound by Mario Götze. Ten minutes into the second half – Germany were much improved – a 25 yard effort by Philipp Lahm was tipped over by MʼBoli after good build up play by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Kroos.

MʼBoli denied another header by Müller too and Neuer swept efficiently outside his area when the long ball tactic employed by Algeria threatened. His performance summed up Algeria tonight – heroic, exceptional even, but ultimately not quite enough.

Germany will meet France in the quarter-final – another match with echoes of injustice from 1982. West Germany went all the way to the final then with cynical and shameful methods then – the fix in Gijón and goal-keeper Harald Schumacherʼs disgraceful attack on Patrick Battiston which knocked the defender unconscious. Battiston later slipped into a coma.

Disgracefully, Schumacher was never punished for what he did in Seville – not even a foul – and played a crucial role in the penalty shoot-out that followed it. And we complain about referees now.

 

Colombia Ignore Controversy to make History

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 28th 2014)

Scintillating

Tipped to be one of the stars of the World Cup Monacoʼs James Rodriguez is living up to top billing. Despite their sense of grievance over the Luis Suárez affair Uruguay had no answer to a Rodríguez inspired Colombia. His first goal was the goal of the tournament so far and his second a fine team goal too.

Colombia lost their superstar for this World Cup when Radamel Falcao García Zárate failed to recover from a serious knee injury in time, but others stepped up especially Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Bello and Rodríguez. 27 minutes into the match Álvaro Pereira Barragán headed a cross clear, but Rodríguez was loitering with intent. Toulouseʼs Abel Aguilar Tapias nodded Pereiraʼs clearance forward.

Rodríguez chested it forward, turned and volleyed from 23 yards out, beating Fernando Muslera Micol off the crossbar. A sweeping move from flank to flank ended with Pablo Estifer Armeroʼs cross from the left to Cuadrado at the back post. The Fiorentina winger unselfishly nodded back across goal for Rodríguez to score from 6 yards out.

Pressure

OGC Niceʼs goal-keeper David Ospina Ramírez was virtually a spectator in the first half, but maintained his concentration. After 63 minutes Atlético de Madridʼs Cristain Rodríguez Barotti surged forward before unleashing a 30 yard shot that Ospina saved well.

With just over ten minutes remaining Uruguay committed men forward. An unlikely source almost halved the deficit by anticipating an error. It came and Benficaʼs Maxi Pereira Páez almost profited. Ospina blocked from point blank range. Five minutes later Paris Saint-Germainʼs Edinson Cavani Gómezʼ shot from just outside the area was saved at his near post by Ospina at the expense of a corner.

Colombia won 2-0. They will play hosts Brasil on Friday evening – their first quarter-final in a World Cup, beating the achievements of the class of 1990. Meanwhile, Chile and Uruguay leave Brasilʼs festival of football. Rodríguez leads the chase for the golden boot with 5 goals in four matches – one as a half-time substitute as Colombia rested players against Japan. Lionel Messi and Thomas Müller have yet to play while Neymar failed to add to his tally against Chile. They have 4 goals so far.