Soccer Night In South Africa: One Last Gasp

Two more groups were decided in today’s action at the 2010 World Cup. At the start of the day, eight teams were in contention to make the second round but only four could advance. Even more amazing was that one team advanced on a last second goal that brought one nation to its feet and another to tears.

Slovenia 0 vs. England 1 – The sentimental favourites were in the midst of a national crisis only slightly smaller than the French. The Three Lions came in on the outside looking in with two draws to their credit. For both teams, the scenario was essentially win and you’re in, though it wasn’t a certainty for England. With that in mind, the Three Lions were on the attack from the get go. In the 23rd minute, James Milner played a cross to Jermaine Defoe who volleyed home the game’s only goal. England had more than a few chances but Samir Handanovic kept Slovenia in it with save after save but the attack was never there. With the win, England was through to the knockout stage of the tournament. As the final whistle went, Slovenia was through thanks to the scoreless draw between the USA and Algeria but there was still time left in their game.

USA 1 vs. Algeria 0 – A lucky goal for the draw in their first game. A heroic comeback followed by an inconceivably disallowed game-winner in their second game. There could be no mistakes or wasted opportunities for the Yanks in this one. A loss would virtually guarantee elimination. The game was back and forth as Algeria also had a chance to advance under the right circumstances. However, the Americans gradually took control of the game as they searched for a goal and a chance to move on. Within seconds of the final whistle going in the England/Slovenia game, the Yanks broke through. In the 91st minute, a Jozy Altidore strike was parried to Landon Donovan who buried the winner. In the span of mere moments, Slovenia had gone from leading Group C to being eliminated from Group C. With the win, the USA locked up first place in the group and will face the runner-up of Group D which was decided in the evening’s action in South Africa.

Ghana 0 vs. Germany 1 – Like the day’s earlier elimination games, this one had a simple premise. Win and you’re in. Lose and you need help. Germany guaranteed themselves a spot in the knockout phase of the tournament with the win and a date with England. It wasn’t an easy game, though. There was a lot of back and forth action with both teams seeming likely to break the deadlock and gain an upper-hand in Group D. However, it was Mesut Ozil who played a half-volley into the top corner of the Ghanaian net to give Germany the lead. Ghana laid on the attack from their but couldn’t find the equalizer. They had to wait a couple of tense minutes to see if they would advance or if they would be pipped at the post.

Australia 2 vs. Serbia 1 – The two bottom teams in Group D heading needed a miracle to advance. They needed one team to win the day’s other Group D game by a wide margin to have a shot. A close game would make advancing near impossible. The return of Tim Cahill after being dismissed from the Socceroos’ first game of the tournament provided a spark. In the 69th minute, he played a beautiful header on a long cross to breathe life into Australia’s slim chances of making the next round. Four minutes later, Brett Holman ripped a long distance shot low past the keeper to double their lead. Their chances of advancing were short-lived as Marko Pantelic tapped home a rebound in the 84th minute to guarantee Ghana a spot in the final 16 against the USA.

Man of the Day: Landon Donovan (USA) – 1 goal

Group C Standings
1. USA 1-2-0, 5 Pts.
2. England 1-2-0, 5 Pts.
3. Slovenia 1-1-1, 4 Pts.
4. Algeria 0-1-2, 1 Pts.

Group D Standings
1. Germany 2-0-1, 6 Pts.
2. Ghana 1-1-1, 4 Pts.
3. Australia 1-1-1, 4 Pts.
4. Serbia 1-0-2, 3 Pts.

Thursday’s Schedule:
Group E: Denmark (1-0-1) vs. Japan (1-0-1)
Group E: Cameroon (0-0-2) vs. Netherlands (2-0-0)
Group F: Slovakia (0-1-1) vs. Italy (0-2-0)
Group F: Paraguay (1-1-0) vs. New Zealand (0-2-0)


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