Missed day 6? No panic, it’s here
I live my life purely by what group is playing. Today is Group E & F day, except the scheduling of this insane tournament sees group H jump the queue and they are with us today. I’ll let you into a trade secret, there’s only meant to be one Group H game today but I’m not making things hard for myself and splitting groups across different days. So it’s Group E & Group H day and we’ll just have to like it or love it.
Only the one human competitor in Group E and it’s Tom Reed. Tom’s a Northampton Town fan but he’s a good football writer so cut him some slack. His Spain side beat Sweden in the first game which gave them every chance of reaching the last 16, a feat which could be sealed today if they can beat Japan and the other result goes in their favour. Alfonso is banned so his Betis buddy Oli is in, whilst Manjarin’s tournament is over after a training ground injury. De La Pena’s goal off the bench is rewarded with a start for him, with Mr Versatile moving to the right. In the words of Des’ree, oooh I get the shivers.
Japan have the dangerous Miura up front but are mostly made up of fictional players. In the preview we predicted they’d battle Sweden for 2nd but a win here would also seal their qualification, lest we forget.
After just two minutes, Oli has a fit of rage and throws a Japanese player to the ground. Why? It’s a straight red. That wasn’t in the script. Spain stick with the formation but with just one up front it’s a struggle to get the clear chances. Japan though don’t seem bothered. A point here would be lovely. It looks like they will reach half time without incident but Luis Enrique gets on the end of a free kick and it’s a vital goal on the stroke of half time. Spain have something to hold on to…that is is Japan actually try to take it.
No surprise that Enrique is the star performer. He can be your hero, baby.
He will kiss away the pain. I’m not sure any amount of early 00s Spanish ballads can make Japan feel better, they can barely muster an attack against the 10 men of Spain. If anything Spain look more likely to score again, and despite two wayward Japanese shots, Raul climbs off the bench to wrap it up 6 minutes from time. You can run, you can hide but you can’t escape Raul. Japan have Akita sent off late on for a 2nd yellow to round off their miserable day.
I’m done now. Obviously he gets man of the match but there’ll be no more Enrique puns today.
Score board for you
In the other game, a draw does neither team any favours and Spain are through! They have passed this very easy test but there’ll be greater challenges ahead – it’s likely to be England or Argentina next unless one of those two make a mess of the last fixture.
Let’s see the group table
If Group E is straight forward, Group H is full of spanners.
Not in an insulting way, like a spanners in the works kind of way. This for me is the group of death, mainly because it’s one of two 3 human groups and I really don’t know who will come through it. Germany lost to Mexico last time out so facing Chile here, who lost to Belgium, means a loss for either team would be fairly fatal. Belgium hold all the aces here. Let’s focus on Germany vs Chile, as Ross and Dan lock horns.
Ross has brought in Bierhoff for Klinsmann who, despite converting a penalty, looked his age in the Mexico loss. Bierhoff and Dundee will be a different type of threat. Younger, if you will.
Dan is still sticking to his all out attack mentality. They did score 3 times against Belgium but they also conceded 5, so swings and roundabouts.
Here’s the game. As ever you can scroll past it and see the screens and such if you prefer.
What a start to this game! Rozental put Chile into a 5th minute lead as he scored at the third attempt after Kahn kept out a series of efforts. However, the lead lasted barely a minute before Bierhoff’s shot from distance was spilled by Ramirez and Lars Ricken equalised. The game was played at a remarkable pace with chances aplenty for both sides, but it was Germany who took the lead when Sean Dundee was put through one on one and he lobbed the ball over the advancing Ramirez.
What a half of football, one of the best of the tournament so far. Chile’s front 3 will always be a nuisance but it’s easy to give up chances when you’re only playing 3 at the back.
The second half wasn’t quite as good, though there was controversy when Babbel stopped a promising attack with his hand and wasn’t even booked. Germany lost Sammer to injury and it seems likely he will miss the remainder of the tournament, but it didn’t stop Lars Ricken scoring his 2nd and Germany’s 3rd 12 minutes from time after Dundee played him in. Germany win to keep their hopes alive, whilst Chile’s hang by a thread.
A healthy amount of shots in this one, Chile’s accuracy is incredible. Kahn was much better here than he was in the Mexico game.
Great stuff. So much so Kahn gets man of the match. Lars Ricken looks on, forlorn.
So then, Belgium vs Mexico. Chile would be eliminated if it’s a draw. Probably also through other connotations I don’t want to think about. But if Belgium win I guess they survive, which is good for Dan and hopefully for public interest.
Adam keeps the same side that beat Chile so impressively. It’s got a good balance this team. Hat-trick hero De Bilde will fancy himself for the golden boot at this rate.
I recorded both matches in this group, so again you can view it below or skip on down to the screenshot version.
Mexico are becoming my least favourite side in the competition. I make no bones about it, I want as many of the lads to get through as possible, I don’t want to have fake Mexico winning this World Cup. They’re stubborn and seem to be able to counter at will, but it’s 0-0 at the break.
Belgium have edged it but it’s goals we need. Nothing to shout about in the ratings.
Into the second half and still Belgium prove. Emmers and Wilmots are pulling the strings and Mbo Mpenza is thrown on to try and find the breakthrough that doesn’t look like coming. That is until Forrest spills a shot and super sub Mbo is on hand to send Belgium wild. That goal keeps Chile in the tournament, though they need a mathematical miracle to get through.
On the plus side, and this is nothing against Mexico as a nation, it heightens the chances of them not going through. When there are 3 human players in a group of 4 it would be rough to lose two of them.
The important bit:
The group is great viewing for Belgium. They should go through but if Germany beat them by a couple of goals they become vulnerable to a Mexico win knocking them out. Chile need snookers but their goals scored is useful, if Germany lose to Belgium by a goal or two a Chile win by 3 or 4 goals would send them through. Unlikely, but here we are.
Whilst Dan packs his bags I’m licking my lips that just about all the groups so far have a story to play out in the final round of fixtures. Tomorrow it’s Groups F & G, where you’ll see Italy and Romania go head to head whilst my Scotland side face Russia in a pivotal game. See you there!