It's A Knock-out! - Little Boy Blue's World Cup Diary

Last updated : 28 June 2010 By Little Boy Blue
I suspect we are about to discover that Brazil and Argentina are the genuine article, Holland, Spain and Portugal still have questions to answer and, of course, we will soon find out if either England or Germany are serious contenders.   The second round kicked off with Uruguay v South Korea and I saw this as a fairly straightforward Uruguayan victory.  While the Koreans are good to watch, I've felt they lacked a bit of savvy, the sort of cynical know-how which has been a Uruguayan trademark for decades.  Just as they had ruthlessly ripped South Africa apart, I reckoned we were about to watch an action replay.   And after Park Chu-Young's early free-kick hit the post, it was all panning out just as I had expected.  A cross from Diego Forlan, some dreadful goalkeeping from Jung Sung-Ryong (was he blindfolded?) and an opportunist strike from a tight angle by Luis Suaraz and Uruguay were in front after only eight minutes.  It was surely just a matter of how many.   It looked like Uruguay were in control for the bulk of the first half but the second goal just wouldn't come.  South Korea came more into it towards the interval but tended to rely on long range shots so, for all their superiority, La Celeste knew they still had work to do.  Two minutes before the break, Maxi Pereira burst into the box and fired in a fierce right foot shot was blatantly blocked by the arm of Ki Sung-Yeung, known around Glasgow as Wan Chinky-Tim, but amazingly the German referee Wolfgang Stark waved play on.  Maybe he's heard about what happens when penalties are awarded against FC Semtex players and opted to protect his double glazing.   The Koreans were a different proposition entirely in the second half.  Obviously coach Huh Jung-Moo had read the riot act, the were first to every ball, started to pass their way behind their opponents instead of shooting from distance and Uruguay struggled to enjoy any significant spell of possession.    If South Korea felt let down by their own goalkeeper in the first half, they had cause to be grateful to Uruguay's keeper for their 68th minute equaliser.  After a long period of pressure, a free-kick pitched into the box was headed straight up in the air, defender Diego Lugano did enough to put Lee Chung-Yong off his header but goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had gone walkabout and the ball bobbled into the empty net.   The play then swept from end to end as both sides sought to do the business within the regulation 90 minutes and the initiative was certainly with the Koreans.  But just when I began to contemplate extra-time and maybe even penalties, Uruguay won it.  In the 81st minute, after the South Koreans had failed to clear a corner, Luis Suarez, who was a revelation at Ajax last season but has tended to be in Forlan's shadow in the national side, picked up the ball at the corner of the box, cut inside and curled a superb right foot shot into the net off the inside of the post.   Towards the end Lee Dong-Gook got behind Uruguay's defence but didn't make clean contact with his shot, Muslera blocked it, the ball squirmed across the goalmouth for a second or two before Lugano stepped in to sweep it clear.  Three minutes of stoppage time gave the Koreans some hope but, in truth, they saw little of the ball during this period and Uruguay are through to the last eight for the first time since 1970 in Mexico.     Ghana and the USA weren't quite so reluctant to work the extra half-hour for their place in the quarter-finals and, while I was hoping the Yanks would do it, I can't begrudge the Africans their win.  Bob Bradley's side have made a habit of coming from behind and of snatching vital late goals but their luck ran out in Rustenburg   Kevin Prince Boateng clearly won't be spending too much longer fretting over the penalty he missed for Portsmouth against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.  He pounced on some slack play by Ricardo Clark and burst through the middle and into the box where he crashed a great shot past the helpless Tim Howard.  In the driving seat after only four minutes, Africa's sole remaining representatives looked irrestible in the early stages.   Clark had looked uncomfortable throughout the first half-hour so it was no surprise when he was replaced by our very own Mo Edu.  If Mo had been in the side from the start, would the ball have been given away so cheaply and Ghana presented with such a gift of an opening goal?  Methinks that thought will torture Bob Bradley over the remainder of the summer and maybe beyond.   The change certainly seemed to lift our Transatlantic cousins.  Robbie Findley took a pass from Clint Dempsey but keeper Richard Kingson stuck out a foot to block his shot as they began to get back into the game and, although still behind at the interval, there was signs that the tide was turning.  After a bright start to the second half, they finally drew level in the 62nd minute when, after John Mensah had brought down Dempsey, Landon Donovan cleverly clipped the penalty kick in off the inside of the post.   Now for the winner?  Well, not if the Ghaneans had their way...and they were far from willing to roll over.  They too didn't lack character and their response to the disappointment of being pegged back to level terms was to dig in deeper, chase a bit harder, run a bit faster and it served up an excellent last half-hour.  Neither nation figures in the list of football's elite but give me this level of skill, pace and commitment over the crap served up by Brazil and Portugal 24 hours earlier.   Still locked at 1-1 at the finish, I looked forward to extra-time and, as they had done at the start of the game, it was the Africans who burst out of the blocks.  Just three minutes into the additional period, Asamoah Gyan collected the ball from Andre Ayew and held off a couple of challenges before rattling home what proved to be the winner.  Predictably, the USA threw everything at Ghana in a bid to restore parity, with keeper Howard even joining in the late assaults, but it just wasn't their night.   From a Rangers point of view, although used more sparingly than I thought necessary, Mo Edu's reputation has benfited from this World Cup and the worrying point is, in our grim financial position, if somebody was impressed and comes in with an offer, can we afford to hold on to him?  Sadly, the Asset-stripper has created a situation where finance comes first and foremost, even leaving us with little alternative but to lose the talents of a young man with such immense potential.  There has to be a better way.  Grrrrr.   So it will be Uruguay v Ghana at Soccer City on July 2 and, as the closing stages begin to take shape, I feel that, after blowing hot and cold during the group games, the quality of football might be about to scale the heights and we'll see some classic confrontations.  Fingers crossed.   Tomorrow:  England v Germany, Argentina v Mexico.