Traditional powerhouses fill up the ranks of the quarterfinals
CAIRO: An intense level of world-class football was exhibited throughout the round of 16 at the World Cup 2006, where traditional powerhouses in the world of football have booked their place in the upcoming quarterfinals.
The quarterfinals will witness six of the former world champions, Brazil, the defending champions, Germany, Italy, Argentina, England and France, alongside Portugal and Ukraine.
Host country Germany was the first nation to book its place in the quarterfinals following an impressive display against a well-disciplined Swedish side. From the start, the Germans took full command of the game by pressuring the Swedish into their own half. Promising striker Lukas Podolski opened the scoring for Germany as he successfully followed up Miroslav Klose s shot within the 18-yard area. The Germans kept pushing forward in an attempt to seal an early victory, and once again it was Podolski who extended the lead for the Germans to make it 2-0 following a great one-to-one pass with Klose that ended with Podolski firing a brilliant shot at the edge of the 18-yard area. Despite the early lead, Sweden couldn t respond, as the quality of the German midfield, guided by Michael Ballack, allowed Germany to dominate the game. Sweden s goalkeeper prevented more goals throughout the rest of the game, as the great partnership between Klose with Podolski was wreaking havoc on the Swedish side. Things got worse for the Swedes as their defender, Teddy Lucic, was sent off minutes before the interval. Despite playing with 10 men, Sweden could have narrowed the score line as they earned a penalty early into the half. However, veteran striker Henrik Larsson lost his nerve and his penalty kick sailed wide of the goal. It was a well-deserved victory for the Germans, who have proven to be a solid team that possesses a quality midfield as well as a gifted attacking partnership: Podolski alongside Klose.
In a close match in Leipzig, Argentina managed to advance to the last eight after a highly competitive game against a resilient Mexican side. Surprisingly, Mexico took the lead five minutes into the game as Rafael Marquez poked a cross into Argentina s net. Argentina responded quickly, equalizing through striker Hernan Crespo. Mexico moved forward and pressured Argentina through a well-balanced midfield.
Argentina, a side that impressed during the first round, looked quite conservative regarding their attacking tactics despite playing with two gifted strikers, Crespo and Javier Saviola. The pace of the game improved as it moved toward the end, with each team pushing hard for a win. It was only during the first extra-time that Maxi Rodriguez of Argentina made the difference between the two teams after a brilliant left-footed volley that evaded Mexico s goal keeper. In return, Mexico had no choice other than moving men forward, although Argentina s defense stood firm until the end of the game to seal a memorable victory following an enthralling game.
England won a hard-fought victory against an extremely determined Ecuadorian side. Ecuador could have pulled off a surprise, as their solid defense managed to keep most of England’s players under control. Furthermore, Ecuador could have taken the lead early on as a lapse of concentration within the English defense left Carlos Tenario alone against England s goalkeeper; a last minute intervention by left-back Ashley Cole saved the day for England. The pace of the game was relatively dull, with Ecuador applying rigid defensive tactics accompanied by a very slow rhythm of play from England. Only David Beckham s curled free-kick in the second half separated the two teams and earned England a place in the quarterfinals.
In a harsh, physical game, Portugal defeated the Netherlands to progress to the quarterfinals. From the outset it was evident that the match would be a highly competitive game with star-studded squads on both sides. Both teams had almost an equal share regarding ball possession. However, in regard to goal attempts, the Netherlands had more chances. Maniche of Portugal broke the deadlock between the two teams following a powerful shot within the 18-yard area. The Portuguese had a huge set back as attacking midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo was taken off after sustaining a thigh injury. Early into the second half, the Netherlands should have equalized through Phillip Cocu, who fired a great strike that was denied by the Portuguese cross bar. The Netherlands began to speed up the game, allowing more space for Mark Van Bommel to attempt repetitive long shots, all of which went off target. On the other hand, the Portuguese seemed to lay back in defense and move forward in counter-attack cycles through the renowned Luis Figo alongside Deco and Maniche. As of the 63rd minute, the match began to adopt a physical style of play; the Russian referee raised the red card four times. Ten minutes from full-time, the Portuguese were already nine men against 10 for the Netherlands, thus the Portuguese had to resort to more defensive modes of play against the flow of attack. Both teams had an even number of players shown the red card, as Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was sent off at the last minute of the injury-time to make a total of four expulsions, two from each team.
Read The Daily Star Egypt tomorrow for the rest of the analysis of the World Cup’s second round