Saturday, 19 June 2010

Australia v Ghana

Australia 1 - 1 Ghana
Holman 11 Gyan (pen) 25

I suspected it might be the case, but after watching Australia, New Zealand and the US in the last week I now know it to be true. Whatever it is that afflicts the England team, it's not a language thing. If there was any kind of sporting handicap in having a mother tongue three parts Saxon to two parts Latin to one part Viking, their performances would surely bear witness to its enervating effect. Thanks to our New World control group for confirming our initial hypothesis, you can all go home now. Although you really don't seem to want to.

Ghana played their part as well in what was an excellent match. It was Africa's 100th game in the World Cup, and Ghana are probably the best of this year's crop.

They started awkwardly, with Addy bringing Kewell down in the box in the second minute. The referee said no penalty, I thought it was one of those fifty-fifty challenges that could go either way. To show he was just as capable of clattering into his own players, Addy collided with Kingson in goal a few minutes later as Emerton came in. They were lucky to get away with it.

They didn't get away with the next one. A Bresciano free kick bounced in front of Kingson, he parried it forwards instead of to one side and Holman pounced on it and scored. It was a shame for Kingson, who's done well this tournament, but then sometimes goalkeepers are unlucky. I may have mentioned this before.

The next ten minutes were scrappy, but Ghana recovered from their setback and began to get on top. Ayew and Gyan both had shots, and then the game turned. Ayew took the ball through two defenders on the goal line, either one of which could surely have cleared, and played it back to Jonathan Mensah (not to be confused with John Mensah of Sunderland, who is a different player altogether). Mensah's shot was blocked by Kewell on the line with his arm. He got a red card, quite deservedly despite his incomprehensible outrage, and Gyan scored from the spot.

It was the worst Australia football has to offer. Terrible defending, a misplaced sense of outrage and Harry Kewell. For the rest of the game, they dug deep and found the best in themselves.

It was all Ghana for a while, as the Aussies adjusted to life without charmlessness, and Tago and Asamoah both had chances (name confusion number 372 of this tournament: Matthew Amoah, Kwadwo Asamoah and Asamoah Gyan are three different players). Just before halftime Boateng nearly scored when he nicked the ball off Carney and shot into the corner, but Schwarzer got down quickly and just tipped it round. Bizarrely, a goal kick was given when the save was visible for all to see.

After the restart there was another period of almost constant Ghanaian pressure, with Australia defending strongly and denying them any real chances. In fact the best chance of this period actually fell to Chipperfield, rising to a Wilkshire cross and heading over when he only needed to keep it down to score.

Gyan had a couple of good chances. First he found himself in space on the right and fired in a ball that wasn't quite a shot or a cross, passing between the goal and the onrushing forwards. Then he got on a through ball from Boateng and shot just wide.

Just as Ghana thought they were running away with it, a defensive error gifted Wilkshire with the ball, but his shot in the box was well saved. The rebound fell to Kennedy, who'd come on for the goalscorer Holman, but it bounced high and he couldn't get any power behind his shot.

The camera showed a lovely slow motion of Kingson flying through the air to grab onto the ball, with Asamoah kicking empty air just behind him. These little montages are becoming the signature motif for the TV coverage of this tournament. They're presumably aimed at HD viewers, a status whose technical issues I have yet to resolve, but they work perfectly well for the rest of us.

As injury time loomed, Ghana had two gilt edged chances. Mensah got his head on a free kick and was unlucky to see it flash by the post, while Owusu-Abeyie, moving with great athleticism for a man with that many vowels to lug around, got onto a corner clearance and lashed it back in. Schwarzer pushed it round for another corner, which was wasted, and you felt that was it.

There was just time for a rather unfortunate sandwich. That's how the commentator described the midair collision between John Pantsil, who seems to have lost the I in Paintsil, Joshua Kennedy and another, unidentified Ghanaian defender. Pantsil seemed to get head butted by both of the others at once as they all rose for a ball, and ended up flat on his back and covered in blood. Which would make it rather tasteless to squeeze a sexual innuendo out of it, rather disappointingly for a game which seemed to have everything else.

At full time, Australia were more relieved than disappointed. They've not got a great chance in the third game, but they're still in with a mathematical shout of making progress, and after playing three quarters of the game with ten men that's some achievement. Do none of these guys have English grannies?

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