Holland v Ivory Coast, Mexico v Angola
Arjen Robben shone for the Dutch against Serbia, Robin Van Persie took the reins against the Ivorians but it was short-lived. Emmanuel Eboue started where he left off in Paris in the Champions League final, tussling with Giovanni Van Bronckhurst in the box and then going down looking to the referee, Colombian Julian Oscar Ruiz Acosta, for a decision which was rightly ignored. Holland took the lead through RVP, after he had been stopped by a Kolo Toure leg just outside the box. This was ideal David Beckham territory and for someone like RVP and his dnagerous left foot shooting, it seemed ideal for himself or even Robben to convert. RVP simply lashed it with considerable force that curled round the wall and shot past keeper Jean-Jacques Tizie. Three minutes later Robben was on the ball, looked to feed Ruud van Nistelrooy who was offside so instead found Mark van Bommel, van Bommel returned the ball, by this time with RVP lurking on the right Arthur Boka came back to defend, playing on VNR, and Robben threaded through to VNR who coolly deposited the goal.
The Ivory Coast dont know about sitting back. Didier Zokora came forward and unleashed a ferocious 25 yarder that came off the post as a little reminder the game was not indicative through the goals. Robben then went on a run into the Ivorian box and then went down to be booked so he needed to tread carefully, but the threat then turned to Edwin van Der Sar. Bakari Kone constantly teased and ran at van Bronckhurst and as he picked up the ball from midfield he ran diagonally at the Dutch defence and unleashed a fierce drive himself past van Der Sar to pull one back on 38mins. Now it was thoroughly game on. Three mins later a Dutch attack was intervened by Didier Drogba and he ran on towards goal, with only van Bronckhurst in defence keeping level with Arouna Kone, two on one, but as the Chelsea man ran on, the Barcelona full back made an excellent move to close in on him and Drogba's attempted pass to Kone was blocked for a throw.
Both sides shared the chances on goal, but the score remained the same at the end, wrapping up the Ivory Coast World Cup campaign for 2006. Coach Henri Michel, former French international who has managed France, Morocco and Tunisia, was sad in exit but he has a squad of players who have tremendous talent, courage and battling tenacity and with some more time can forged them into a global force. African Cup of Nations runners-up, they have great spirit. Impressive for me was Bakari Kone, who must be up for consideration from a number of clubs with his burst of pace at defenders and Yaya Toure, of whom his brother Kolo speaks of in high esteem.
The expectations were Mexico would have enough to beat Angola, enough experience and playability following an impressive Iran victory previously. But they were left firing blanks as the Angolans offered enough resistence to gain an unlikely draw that now puts them within a chance of qualification for the 2nd round. Mexico should have been looking for three points going into the final encounter with Portugal, but this now puts Angola a win away from them. Portugal defeat Mexico and Angola go on to defeat Iran, mathematics will reveal the rest. Why was it that, in keeping out the Mexicans, Andre Macanga stupidly stuck out his arm to deny Mexico captain Rafael Marquez ten minutes to go??
Fortunately Angola still held firm, Joao Ricardo aiding to keep out Marquez, as Guillermo Franco and Omar Bravo failed to make any impact on the Angolan goal. Angola was stated to be a team mostly of part-time players against a Mexico side placed 4th in the FIFA World Rankings, again there is no sentiment via reputation. Ricardo doesn't even play for a team at all, so, with no disrespect to the other teams, I will cheer for Angola to beat Iran and Mexico to lose to Portugal. Then again, Portugal face Iran today and could end in an upset to render Group D into topsy-turvy mode.