Sunday, 20 June 2010

Paraguay v Slovakia

Paraguay 2 - 0 Slovakia
Vera 27
Riveros 86

Sorry I'm a bit behind schedule with this. It took a while trying to get down all the incidents from the Denmark Cameroon game last night. Fortunately, this one shouldn't detain us long.

Slovakia just weren't really at the races today, and were totally outclassed by Paraguay. Their national anthem is called Lightning over the Tatras, but there was precious little flash bang about them today. One look at the clubs the Slovakian players play for should make it clear why.

They do have Skrtel from Liverpool, but otherwise we're really not looking at the giants of world football. Bochum in Germany, Slovan Bratislava, Wolfsbug, Legia Warsaw - they're not terrible teams, but any squad with that kind of pedigree is going to struggle at the highest level. To that extent, it's not surprising they failed to see off New Zealand.

Compare this with the Paraguay team. Santa Cruz from Man City, two from Borussia Dortmund (a club incidentally who have now banned the vuvuzela from their stadium), Boca Juniors of Argentina, a generally much more impressive squad.

So it's really hardly surprising if Slovakia came out and defended. After all, the game was the equivalent Motherwell going to Celtic in the SPL, after they've just drawn a Cup game with Hamilton Academicals.

It meant that most of what chances there were in this game fell to Paraguay. Santa Cruz had a shot well saved after four minutes, as it flicked off Skrtel's thigh and headed towards the top corner, then Valdez turned Skrtel in the box, only to see a poor shot go well wide.

Ribeiros had a go, but his shot was straight at Mucha. Never heard of him? He's the Legia Warsaw goalkeeper, but don't worry, I hadn't either. He wasn't bad actually, I wouldn't be upset if Coppell brought him to Ashton Gate, but that's about the level he's at.

The first goal came on 27 minutes. Barrios passed to Vera in the box, and as the challenge came in he hit it with the outside of his right boot. It curved round Mucha and into the left corner.

Soon after that Slovakia had their first shot. It fell to Vittek, and ended up nearer the corner flag than the goal.

They did a bit better a few minutes later, Salata getting his head on a corner only to see it go over, but then his defensive error gifted the ball to Vera, who passed to Santa Cruz, and only a smart save kept the score at one nil at half time.

The first twenty minutes of the second half really were fairly dull. There's always something happening in football, there's a ball in play and players are kicking it or each other, even a swing and a miss is an event, but in the interests of narrative brevity let's just skip ahead.

Yes, actually let's just skip to the 84th minute. That was when Paraguay got their second. A free kick came in from the right, the Paraguayan forwards rather fell over each other while the defence tried to work out what they were doing with it, it came to Ribeiros and he hit a sweet shot into the bottom left corner. And that was that. Slovakia had one great chance right at the end, when Vittek turned in the box and shot, but it was well saved, and wouldn't have changed anything anyway.

So a feeble display from Slovakia, and the citizens of Kosice and Bratislava know how it feels to be English. Now they have to beat Italy or go home.

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