N Korea give Brazil tough time
Swiss stun Spain
Chile end 48-yr drought
Old foes Maradona, Huh renew battle
Sehwag, Gambhir guide India to easy win
Rusty France face Mexico
Nigeria ready to end Greek odyssey
Johannesburg, June 16
The full back ran onto Elano’s pass and somehow managed to blast his shot into the net from the acutest of angles in the 55th minute of the Group G match as Dunga’s team scraped a win in the opening match of their quest for a sixth world title.
Elano added another 17 minutes later for Brazil who were hugely disappointing with playmaker Kaka out-of-sorts.
Ji Yun-nam pulled one back for the North Koreans, going past two players and crashing home a left-foot drive in the 89th minute for a deserved consolation.
Until Maicon's strike, North Korea, making their first World Cup performance for 44 years, had looked capable of pulling off a result.
Maicon said his career flashed before him when the ball went in. “I though of everything which I went through to get to this moment,” he told his reporters. “It was my first World Cup match. I didn’t cry but I was very happy with the goal I scored.”Dunga said: “It’s not easy to play against teams which close up shop like that. I am satisfied but I want more, I want us to score more goals.” North Korea coach Kim Jong-hun was also content with his team’s display. “We were very well prepared to fight, we defended very well,” he said.
In the first half, Brazil looked clueless as to how to unlock their defence and the Asian team had looked threatening going forward. It all started very brightly for Brazil, Robinho taking less than a minute to produce a dazzling run with his trademark step overs and set up a shooting chance for Kaka.
But the former World Player of the Year took too long over his shot and An Yong-hak took it off his feet. A goal at that point could have taken the game on a very different course.
Instead, North Korea quickly grew in confidence and produced the first shot on target when Jong Tae-se’s effort was easily saved by Julio Cesar.
Brazil depended on isolated moments of individual inspiration as Robinho tested Ri Myong-guk with a shot on the turn and another with an outswinging Maicon shot which the goalkeeper parried away.
The five-times champions committed more men forward after the break and broke through when Elano slid the ball into the path of Maicon who managed to find the gap between the keeper and the near post from almost on the byline.
Elano added the second when he ran onto Robinho’s slide-rule pass and slotted his shot into the far corner but there were still anxious moments after Ji Yun-nam’s goal. — Reuters
Durban, June 16
Gelson Fernandes' goal after a mix up in the Spanish defence gave the Swiss a shock 52nd minute lead and Spain, for all their talent and guile, were unable to find a way through the massed ranks of white Switzerland shirts.
"We tried in an orthodox way and in an heroic way but we were not able to source. It wasn't our day. We dominated almost all the match," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.
"This defeat means that we have to win the other two (group) matches," he added.
The Swiss share the lead in Group H with Chile, who beat Honduras 1-0 earlier on Wednesday.
After a forgettable first half, the Swiss looked like spending another 45 minutes defending for their lives until goalkeeper Diego Benaglio's long clearance was allowed to bounce and Fernandes pounced when the ball emerged from a clutter of bodies.
The European champions, many pundits' favourites to win the tournament, enjoyed a near monopoly of possession for much of the game but were unable to convert the chances they created.
Coach Vicente del Bosque, who had started the match with David Villa as a lone striker, brought Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas on after the goal to try and rescue the game but they were unable to find a way through.
Xabi Alonso hit the underside of the bar with a fine strike in the 70th minute, Navas shot lamely at Swiss goalkeeper Benaglio when through on goal about a minute later, and Gerard Pique squandered another chance on the next Spanish attack.
Eren Derdiyok, playing in place of his injured captain Alex Frei, then jinked his way through the defence to almost double the Swiss lead but, to the relief of the Spanish, his shot came bouncing back off the post. — Reuters
Nelspruit, June 16
“We have to enjoy this win, but there’s another tough match coming and we have to win again,” said Chile forward Alexis Sanchez.
Beausejour scored in the 34th minute, rounding off a slick move from the Chileans.
Playmaker Matias Fernandez split the Honduras defence with a delightful pass, releasing Mauricio Isla down the right flank.
His cross from the byline was met at the front post by Honduran defender Sergio Mendoza, with Beausejour in close attendance. Mendoza tried to clear the ball but it cannoned off the Chilean into the Honduran net.
The Chileans deserved their victory at the Mbombela Stadium and almost added a second in the 64th minute when a diving header from centre back Waldo Ponce produced a brilliant reaction save from Noel Valladares in the Honduras goal.
But despite their pressure the South Americans struggled to kill the game off, and at times the Hondurans looked dangerous on the counter-attack.
“The defeat was unfair. The goal was unlucky, they didn’t create any other chances to score,” said Honduras defender Sergio Mendoza.
Chile’s victory came 48 years to the day after they last won a World Cup match - a third-place play-off tie against Yugoslavia on home soil in 1962.
Since then the Chileans had been to four World Cups, played 13 matches and had failed to win a single one.
Honduras are still looking for their first World Cup win.
This is only their second appearance in the finals, their first ending without victory in 1982. — Reuters
Johannesburg, June 16
South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo was the man assigned to stop Maradona when the countries met in their opening match of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, a game long-remembered in Buenos Aires for the Koreans’ strong-arm tactics against their skipper.
“I remember Huh very well,” Maradona said after the draw pairing the sides together was made in December. “In 1986, the Koreans played taekwondo, not football, against us.”
Maradona went into that game in Mexico City nursing a long-standing injury, and the Koreans tactics were to do anything they could to stop him.
Ultimately, they failed as Maradona had a brilliant game leading his side to a 3-1 victory, setting off on the path that led to victory in the World Cup final against West Germany.
Argentina and South Korea, who have only played each other once since then, go into tomorrow’s match buoyed by victory in their opening games last Saturday with the Argentines beating Nigeria 1-0 and the Koreans overcoming Greece 2-0.
South Korea will need to succeed where far more illustrious teams have failed this past year in trying to foil the at times unstoppable Lionel Messi. Messi, the 2009 FIFA world player of the year, made a major impact on day two of the World Cup with a dazzling performance in a 1-0 win over Nigeria.
He failed to score, but only because Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made some spectacular saves. Maradona has just one doubt over defender Juan Sebastian Veron, who strained his right calf muscle against Nigeria. Although he is expected to play Veron, Maradona will probably wait until the last minute for a decision on his fitness, otherwise the team should be unchanged.
South Korea, who need to raise their game another notch to compete with Argentina, have no fresh injury worries. Huh could also welcome striker Lee Dong-guk back into the lineup following his recovery from a thigh injury.
Huh has previously hinted he could employ a more conservative 4-5-1 formation against Argentina, which could see Lee at its apex with forward Park Chu-young pushed out wide. — Reuters
Dambulla, June 16
Virender Sehwag emerged as India's unlikely bowling hero with his first four-wicket haul, while Gautam Gambhir (82) struck his 20th ODI half-century as India cruised to a facile win at a strikingly empty Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium.
Having skittled out Bangladesh for a meagre 167 inside 35 overs, India had a modest total to chase and they overwhelmed the target with 19.2 overs to spare to collect a bonus point.
India will have to beat either Pakistan or defending champions Sri Lanka by a convincing margin to qualify for the June 24 final.
India injected artificial life into the lop-sided match when Virat Kohli (11) and Rohit Sharma (0) fell to successive deliveries from Al Hasan in the 15th over.
However, Gambhir (82), who enjoyed a reprieve at 48 off Shafiul Islam, and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (38 not out) ensured that four-time champions sailed home without much ado.
Sehwag (11) failed to fire as a batsman on his return to international cricket from injury but amply showed that he could be employed as an off-break bowler when either Harbhajan Singh or Ravindra Jadeja have a lean day.
Given the ball as Dhoni desperately needed a part-time bowler to cover up for an injured Ashish Nehra (2 for 28), Sehwag struck successive blows to decimate a listless Bangladesh.
He had Mushfiqur Rahim caught by Dhoni before picking up the scalps of Suhrawadi Shuvo, Shafiul Islam and Syed Rasel. His figures read 2.5-0-6-4.
Bangladesh disappointed as a batting unit. Sitting pretty at 59 for one in 10 overs, they inexplicably lost nine wickets in 24.4 overs, barely adding 98 runs during their struggle at the square.
Opting to bat, Bangladesh got off to a brisk start with Tamim Iqbal (22) and Imrul Kayes (37) producing 35 runs in 17 balls. But once Tamim perished to a low catch by Suresh Raina at short extra covers off Praveen Kumar, they just could not force the pace against a disciplined Indian attack.
Zaheer Khan bowled with verve and zip while moving the ball disconcertingly to the bewilderment of Kayes and Mohammad Ashraful.
The fast bowler conceded 16 runs in his first over but had the batsmen in spot in the rest of his five-over spell.
Nehra struck twice in four overs before he limped off the field. Intriguingly, there was no clarification from the team management about his fitness.
Harbhajan and Jadeja too bowled impressively but it was Sehwag who stole the bowling honours. — PTI
Polokwane, June 16
France’s household names hold no fears for a side who upset champions Italy 2-1 in a warm-up game before holding the hosts to a 1-1 draw in their first Group A match.
“At the end of the day, we’re not playing against their stars, we’re playing 11 against 11,” Mexico midfielder Gerardo Torrado told reporters before facing the likes of Franck Ribery and Thierry Henry. “We have to be warriors.”
The intriguing fixture in northern Polokwane looks a lot tighter than the sides’ contrasting pedigrees suggest and France, who looked harmless in their 0-0 draw with Uruguay, can expect a fierce challenge from coach Javier Aguirre’s men.
“They’re an excellent side who can give any team a hard time,” France coach Raymond Domenech said. “I watched them against Italy and I was impressed. You must make sure they don’t get too much possession, otherwise you’re in trouble.”
Another key to the match will be whether France’s high-profile forwards, who have not scored an international goal since last November, will hit the back of the net at last.
“We can’t put our trust in the fact that it has been a long time since they scored,” said Mexico’s defensive stalwart Rafael Marquez, who plays for Barcelona but knows French soccer well having had a three-year spell in Ligue 1 with Monaco.
“They’re maybe not in the kind of form that we’re used to seeing them in but that can change in an instant,” he added. Such are the 1998 champions’ worries up front that Domenech might decide to bring back Henry, their most prolific scorer with 51 goals from 122 appearances, in place of Nicolas Anelka at centre forward.
Domenech, who boldly introduced an attacking 4-3-3 system during his side’s preparations, is expected to revert to his preferred, more cautious 4-2-3-1 system with Jeremy Toulalan and Abou Diaby in front of the defence. — Reuters
Bloemfontein, June 16
Both sides desperately need points from the clash in Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium to keep alive their hopes of reaching the second round. The omens do not favour the Greeks.
Nigeria have largely kept their own counsel at their camp at Richards Bay north of Durban, founded as a British army base for their campaign against the Zulus in the 19th Century.
The Super Eagles could take some encouragement from Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against an adventurous Argentina side in Johannesburg.
For Greeks, the fact a side built on solid defence let its guard down in a 2-0 defeat by South Korea in Port Elizabeth on Saturday is a worry. Coach Otto Rehhagel has warned his players they cannot afford another lapse in concentration. “We have got to examine the last match carefully and then we will try to improve in a very sober manner and learn our lessons,” he said. — Reuters