Soccer Night In South Africa: Group of Death

The fifth day of the World Cup brought us the moment we were all waiting for. It was the debut of New Zealand in the World Cup. Oh, and the Group of Death started action today with a pair of closely fought matches. Three quality teams in Group G were fighting for two spots in the knockout stages. But the biggest surprise of the day was the underdog.

New Zealand 1 vs. Slovakia 1 – New Zealand is known for their dominant All Blacks rugby team. Now their football team, the All Whites, are getting their own recognition on the world stage. After having the attack taken to them early on, the Slovakians managed to get the game’s first marker. Robert Vittek headed in a goal in the 50th minute to give Slovakia an early lead. The All Whites would make the comeback, though. Three minutes into stoppage time in the second half, the All Whites’ Winston Reid headed home the tying goal to salvage a point for New Zealand.

Ivory Coast 0 vs. Portugal 0 – The Group of Death got underway with two attacking sides facing off. Well, I thought they were attacking sides. After today’s match, I’d question whether either of these teams to advance from the Group of Death. After all, they combined for 12 shots with only 3 actually troubling the keepers. The first half was an evenly fought affair but the second half was back and forth. Probably the most important note from the game was that Didier Drogba saw the pitch only two weeks after breaking his arm in a pre-tournament friendly against Japan. Drogba was subbed on in the 66th minute but was largely ineffective as rain slowed the pace of play as the teams played out to the end.

Brazil 2 vs. North Korea 1 – It was the #1 team in the FIFA World Rankings against the 105th ranked team in the world. Not surprisingly, it was the #1 Brazilians who were on the attack. More surprising was the lack of quality chances as the North Korean defense stifled Brazil in the final third of the pitch. It wasn’t until the 55th that Brazil scored when Maicon curled in a goal from a ridiculous angle. In the 72nd minute, Elano slammed home a stellar a Robinho pass to double the lead. The game appeared over but in the final minute,  Ji Yun-Nam drove a strike home to cut the lead in half and score North Korea’s first goal in 44 years in the World Cup. Amazingly, the North Koreans are the first side to score and lose during the World Cup tournament. Who throught they’d be saying that when the tourney started?

Man of the Day: Maicon (Brazil) – 1 goal

Group F Standings:
1. Paraguay 0-1-0, 1 Pts.
2. Italy 0-1-0, 1 Pts.
3. New Zealand 0-1-0, 1 Pts.
4. Slovakia 0-1-0, 1 Pts.

Group G Standings:
1. Brazil 1-0-0, 3 Pts.
2. Ivory Coast 0-1-0, 1 Pts.
3. Portugal 0-1-0, 1 Pts.
4. North Korea 0-0-1, 0 Pts.

Wednesday’s Schedule:
Group H: Honduras vs. Chile
Group H: Spain vs. Switzerland
Group A: South Africa vs. Uruguay

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