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Goalkeepers make the difference

During the quarterfinals of the World Cup, teams relied on them to save the day The quarterfinals of the World Cup proved that quality goalkeeping can make the difference between two evenly-skilled teams. During the knock-out stages, a heart-breaking penalty-shoot may be the only way to decide on a winner. In the highly anticipated game …


During the quarterfinals of the World Cup, teams relied on them to save the day

The quarterfinals of the World Cup proved that quality goalkeeping can make the difference between two evenly-skilled teams. During the knock-out stages, a heart-breaking penalty-shoot may be the only way to decide on a winner.

In the highly anticipated game between hosts Germany and Argentina, German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann made the difference, saving two penalties during the penalty-shoot out following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes of exhausting play. In England and Portugal’s match, the score was 0-0 before the Portuguese goalkeeper’s heroic display, blocking three penalties and booking Portugal a berth in the semifinals.

During the match between Germany and Argentina, the hosts were behind with barely any time to spare when a determined German team bounced back 10 minutes from the end, leveling the score and eventually securing victory during the penalty shoot-out. From the onset, Argentina s coach Jose Pekerman employed rather conservative tactics, in particular along the flanks, both right and left, in an attempt to curb the German strategy of attacking the flanks. Playing three defenders and five midfielders, whose strength lay in their defensive skills, assured that the Germans had a difficult job ahead of them. After just 15 minutes, the only real chance of the first half came as Germany s right midfielder Bernd Schneider sent a cross that was headed by Michael Ballack, with the ball just missing the target. For the remaining time, it seemed that the Argentineans had successfully contained the German team.

Early into the second half, the deadlock was broken as Roberto Ayala leapt up and headed Juan Riquelme s swerved corner into the goal. Following the goal, the Argentineans retreated into their defensive shell in a serious attempt to protect their slim lead. Juergen Klinsmann, head coach of the German team, resorted to introducing David Odonkor and Tim Borowski, whose speed posed a real threat to the Argentinean goal. Ten minutes from full-time Germany equalized, as Borowski s header set up a perfect ball to Miroslav Klose, who headed the ball past the goalkeeper. The game ended with a 1-1 draw for both teams, sending them into extra-time. In the end, it came down to a penalty shoot-out, with no misses for the Germans and two penalty-kicks taken by Argentina blocked by Lehmann, Germany’s goalkeeper.

Italy followed, beating the Ukraine 3-0 in a rather one-sided contest. The Italians had a perfect start, with Gianluca Zambrotta s blistering shot sending the Italians into the lead after just six minutes. The Ukraine team tried to bounce back but failed miserably to infiltrate the Italian’s solid defense. The Italians put immense pressure on Ukraine s defense, with Francesco Totti alongside Mauro Camoranesi and Luca Toni. Into the second half, the mobility of the Ukraine midfield posed a threat to the Italians, but Gianluigi Buffon stood firm against these attempts, maintaining his side’s lead. Inevitably, the Italians moved forward to ease the pressure and their efforts paid off quickly, as Toni extended Italy s lead. Ten minutes later, Toni all but secured the victory with his second goal, earning the Azzuri a place in the semifinals.

England once again failed to reach the semifinals of the World Cup, as they were ousted by Portugal following a disappointing penalty shoot-out. For the third consecutive time, Portugal s coach Felipe Scolari had the upper hand against England s coach Sven Goran Eriksson, guiding Portugal to the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time in 40 years It was a typically nervy game that didn t live up to expectations, as both teams lacked the necessary finishing skills around the goal. The first half saw no real attempts upon either goal. In England, it was Wayne Rooney all alone up-front, with minimal support provided from Steven Gerrard, David Beckham and Joe Cole. Portugal, in spite of the excess of attacking players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo supporting strikers Maniche and Pauleta, gave away ball possession regularly.

Early into the second half, as England s injured captain David Beckham limped off the field, the turning point of the game occurred when Wayne Rooney s boots struck Portugal s Ricardo Carvalho before he pushed Ronaldo. Rooney was consequently sent off and England was left to play with 10 men for the rest of the game. Most people believed the Portuguese would step up their game, but surprisingly that wasn t the case as England fought back bravely with Peter Crouch introduced as the sole man upfront. Surprisingly, the English defense contained the Portuguese, whom were looking for a late goal to seal the win. With the introduction of the fast Aaron Lennon, England was able to exert pressure on the Portuguese keeper. Even into the extra-time period, it wasn t a one-sided contest, as England could have snatched a win if Crouch had aimed Gerrard s cross a little better. This match also went to a penalty shoot-out.

The shoot-out proved to be a nightmare for England, as they failed just as they had two years ago against Portugal in a quarterfinal match in the European championship. Ironically, two of England s best penalty takers, Frank Lampard and Gerrard, missed. Portugal s keeper Ricardo also kept out Jamie Carragher s penalty, while Owen Hargreaves was the only England player to score. Portugal’s Simao Sabrosa scored before Hugo Viana missed followed by Petit, then Helder Postiga converted his penalty kick into the net, but it was Ronaldo s penalty that officially sent Portugal to the semifinals.

Brazil, the defending champions, left the tournament following an enthralling game against France. The French unveiled an extraordinary performance, successfully downsizing the gifted abilities of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka, Adriano and Robinho. Raymond Domenech found the right balanced tactics to use, with Thierry Henry upfront allowing support from Zinedine Zidane and Frank Ribery. As for the rest of the team, six players were always set back to combat Brazil s attacks. Henry made the difference between the two teams early into the second half, as he tipped in Zidane s floated set piece into the Brazilian net. With the introduction of Robinho and Adriano, matters didn t improve for the cup holders as they struggled to play against a powerful French defense.

In fact the French continued to pose a threat to the Brazilian keeper Dida through well-planned counter attacks. Notably, this defeat is their first in the World Cup since the finals in 1998, when they lost to France 3-0 .

As the tournament marches into the semifinals, it has become a fierce European contest, with Germany facing-off against Italy and France playing against Portugal, all dreaming of reaching the final’s in Berlin on July 9.

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