With the Netherlands, who already clinched advancement, playing Cameroon, who was already eliminated, in a 99% meaningless match (a match Holland won 2-1), the big focus in this group was on the virtual elimination showdown between those ancient rivals Japan and Denmark. The animosity between these two nations is legendary, so the implications of this match pushed everyone in attendance over the line of hysteria and into mass schizophrenia. In truth, there very quickly was no doubt left as to who the better team was. Japan jumped on the Danes with 2 early goals off of free kicks, and cruised from there to a 3-1 victory, aided by the use of their soccer gloves.
GROUP E MATCH SUMMARY
Netherlands - W Denmark 2-0, W Japan 1-0, W Cameroon 2-1
Japan - W Cameroon 1-0, L Netherlands 0-1, W Denmark 3-1
Denmark - L Netherlands 0-2, W Cameroon 2-1, L Japan 1-3
Cameroon - L Japan 0-1, L Denmark 1-2, L Netherlands 1-2
Well that picture pretty much says it all, huh? The defending Campioni del Mondo, Italy, capped their miserable, France-like title defense with a miserable 3-2 loss against. The first goal came on a molto stupido giveaway , where Daniele de Rossi just kind of dumped it into the middle of the field, pretty much telling anyone on the other team interested in scoring that hey, here you go, there's a goal if you want one. I did the same thing when I was scrimmaging with Dook!e's team a couple of weeks ago, the only difference is I hadn't played soccer in 15 years.
Fabio Quaglierelli was denied a goal on a pretty much lucky save by Liverpool's Martin Skertl, who just happened to be in exactly the right place at the right time, and didn't mind taking one off the nuts for the greater glory of Slovakia. Italy then went down 2-0 giving up Robert Vittek's second goal of the game, preceded by some very lazy defense. Italy fought back late in the match, appearing to have tied only for the goal to be disallowed for offsides. Slovakia then seemingly put it away on a goal by Kamil Kopunek, but Italy got one more goal, from Quaglierelli and just missed getting the equaliser. An exciting finish for Italy, but they go home to shame.
Paraguay needed only a draw against New Zealand to advance, and played like it, muddling to a 0-0 draw with few scoring chances. Let's hear it for the Kiwis though, they were seen as the worst team in the tournament coming in, and although they didn't advance, they didn't lose a match either and definitely outperformed expectations by a lot.
I'm kinda pissed at Italy for going out like this. My grandpa is a big fan, and he's coming up on 90 years old, and at that age every World Cup you make it to is a big accomplishment. He fought in WWII in Mussolini's army, then when they got sick of Mussolini and dragged his corpse thru the streets, he was stranded with his group of soldiers in Albania with no orders, other than to hide from the Germans who if they found them would probably kill them for deserting the cause. He holed up with an Albanian family for 2 years doing work for them in exchange for a place to live, eating pretty much whatever they could kill. Then when the war was finally over and it was safe to come out, he walked it home from Albania back to Italy to a family who thought he was dead. Let's hope his country's soccer team gives him a better show next time.
GROUP F MATCH SUMMARY
Paraguay - D Italy 1-1, W Slovakia 2-0, D New Zealand 0-0
Slovakia - D New Zealand 1-1, L Paraguay 0-2, W Italy 3-2
New Zealand - D Slovakia 1-1, D Italy 1-1, D Paraguay 0-0
Italy - D Paraguay 1-1, D New Zealand 1-1, L Slovakia 2-3
ROUND 2 MATCHUPS
Netherlands v. Slovakia
Paraguay v. Japan