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Strike Anywhere – Ghana v. Uruguay Preview

GHANA – URUGUAY

“Strike Anywhere”

Preview

July 2nd, 2010

Soccer City, South Africa

Seemingly one of the more underwhelming Quarterfinals, the Ghana – Uruguay game has as much potential excitement etched

Gyan will need to be on point to get Ghana through to the Semi's.

into it as any of the other ties.  Both sides overcame the odds to make it here, advanced out of very tough groups and are not to be underestimated, as so many have and paid for it.  Just like every Quarterfinal, a clear cut winner is anything but certain, and this will be a game of inches.  The winner will be the one who takes advantage of their chances in front of goal and defends as a unit.

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The only remaining African team will be hoping to have the crowd behind them as they take on 1 of 4 South American teams at Soccer City on Saturday.  It must be bittersweet for Michael Essien to have to watch this game from the sidelines, but he will be bursting with pride at his countrymen’s efforts so far.  Plus, he will probably still be a member of the 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil and he will be doing everything possible to make sure he’s fit for it.

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The Ghanaians have an injury scare with star striker Asamoah Gyan, whose stunning winner against the United States saw them to the Quarterfinals, picked up an ankle injury.  Despite this, he is still expected to play, and the Elephants will be desperate for him to be fit.  His goal against the Yanks in the first knockout round will have him brimming with confidence and he will be giving the Uruguayan back line some trying moments.  However the South Americans are prepared for that threat with Martín Cáceres (Barcelona) and Captain Diego Lugano (Fenerbahçe) anchoring the back four.

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With a powerful midfield, Ghana will be looking to flex the muscle of Kevin Prince-Boateng, Andre Ayew and Anthony Annan.  Sulley Muntari might be called into action to try and throw a wrench in the gears of the Uruguayan midfield’s attacking moves. What Ghana forces teams to do with their busy midfield of 5 players, is play the long ball over the top to try and cut out the African’s middle men.  The problem is that the Ghanaian team is tailor made for such tactics as we saw in the United States game and they are content to out muscle the opposing strikers, let their midfield claim possession and knock the ball around for a few minutes.  The problem with this game is that they are facing two red hot strikers in Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan.

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Uruguay didn’t surprise too many by advancing from their tough group, so don’t expect them to roll over and die for a very talented

Diego Forlan: Too hot for Group A. And too hot for his jersey apparently.

and young African squad.  The South Americans’ biggest asset is their strike force of Suarez and Forlan, and they will be looking to utilize that as much as possible, especially on their right side of the field where Hans Sarpei (the oldest member of an incredibly young squad) will be playing.  The 34 year old is capable but looks weary towards the end of games and will be prime for punishment when the game gets down to the grind.  If Ghana are ahead at 80 minutes, expect the South Americans to channel their attacking drive towards Sarpei, or at least until Milovan Rajevac, the Serbian manager, replaces him which he is wont to do.

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If Uruguay tries to play how Ghana want them to, then expect the African side to advance to an unprecedented first ever Semifinal appearance.  However, coach Óscar Tabárez has been around the block a few times and will be wary of how Ghana intend to play this game.  Edinson Cavani and Alvaro Pereira hold down the midfield with Diego Perez and won’t be susceptible as the Americans in midfield, especially if Tabárez opts to play the gritty Nicolás Lodeiro alongside them.  He’s small but he’s physical, which could be exactly what they need to overcome the hustle and bustle of the Ghana midfield.  If both he and Muntari play, it will be an interesting match and not a question of who will win the physical battle but who will receive a red card first?

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Ghana has allowed a goal in every one of their games except their opener, whereas Uruguay has only conceded a single goal and shut out all of Group A.

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Both sides can win this game and both know it full well.  Uruguay has more experience, but Ghana has more energy and the homefield backing.  The midfield will toil, but this game will be made in the striking department.  You only get a few clear chances a game, and the winner will be the one who can capitalize on theirs.

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Prediction

Uruguay  1 – 0  Ghana – though, extra time is not out of the question.

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Sub Prediction

Diego Forlan will at some point be shirtless.

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Uruguay vs. South Korea Preview

Not the most dazzling first round matchup, but it should definitely be a tight one.  Uruguay possesses talent up and down the pitch, and Korea is no slouch either.  Both teams have been fairly surprising thus far in the tournament and progressed from tough groups into this stage of the tournament.  Now that all the group matches are over, we can catch our breath, step back and look at our knockout round match ups.

Uruguay – Finishing top of a tough Group A, Uruguay are two time World Cup champions…too bad those titles came in 1930

Dug up this beauty. Intimidating? You bet.

(the first ever World Cup) and 1950.  Not to mention, Uruguay hasn’t won a first round knockout game since 1970.  Statistics and history aside, this South American team looks like a real threat to the South Koreans, especially in their front line of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.

Uruguay runs a tight ship in the back and hasn’t conceded a single goal in their first three matches of the tournament.  Anchored by Martín Cáceres of Juventus and Diego Lugano of Fenerbahçe, the back four is a tough nut to crack.  Moving up the field 21 year old Nicolás Lodeiro plays with a lot of flair and could be key to unlocking the South Korean rear guard.

The front line doesn’t need much said about it, other than they are not to be taken lightly.  Diego Forlan is one of Europle’s hottest striking talents, and since his renowned flop spell at Manchester United, has become a revelation at Atletico Madrid.  Luis Suarez’s goal record for Ajax speaks for itself, but it IS the Eredivisie.  Interestingly, all of Uruguay’s goals have come since Edinson Cavani was inserted into the lineup as a third striker alongside Luis Suarez for the second match against South Africa.

South Korea – The Tigers finished runners up in Group B under free scoring Argentina, who are looking more and more like serious contenders.  That said, Korea has more than enough talent to cause problems for the South American’s defense, stingy as

Chung-Yong Lee will keep the South Americans busy tomorrow.

it is.  The Koreans rally behind their talisman Ji-Sung Park of Manchester United and Chung-Yong Lee of Bolton.  Both are technically adept and, in truth, quicker than most of the Uruguayan team and Chung-Yong Lee in particular will have a chance to run at fullback Martin Caceres all game…the matchup of the tie.

South Korean football history doesn’t track back very far, and the apex of their success came in 2002 when they hosted the tournament and crashed into the Semifinals after ousting Italy in the first round and Spain in the Quarters. They would love to emulate that sort of form here in South Africa, but they’ll be hard pressed to do so.  The good news? They don’t face nearly as tough of a route.  You could get a lot worse than Uruguay and then possibly the winner of USA/Ghana.

South Korea will have to try and snap out of its curse against South American sides at the World Cup. The Tigers have lost three matches and drawn one. That drought continued with a 4-1 loss in group play to Argentina, which defeated Uruguay twice in South American qualifying.

Uruguay is 4-0-1 all-time against South Korea, winning 1-0 in the 1990 World Cup on Daniel Fonseca’s goal in the 90th minute that put La Celeste into the round of 16.



Up for Grabs for Group A

GROUP A –

1. South Africa

2. Mexico

3. Uruguay

4. France

Group A could be one of the trickiest groups to advance from, as every team will have a legitimate shot at clawing their way out.  The hosts will feel aggrieved to have the now-hated France squad thrown into their group.  However, home field advantage can do funny things to teams (Cue 2002 World Cup).

South Africa – The Bafana Bafana could come out deceptively strong in Group A with battle tested EPL players Steven Pienaar, Benni McCarthy and Aaron Mokoena (the captain) pulling the majority of the weight for the hosts.  Playing

Steven Pienaar with striker Bernard Parker

on their home turf will be key for South Africa, as the World Cup should work wonders for national pride (as well as the economy).  If you remember 2002, South Korea surpassed about everyones’ expectations by marching into the

semifinals of the tournament with the aid of their countrymen.  Steven Pienaar will be the spark plug that will ignite the South African engine.  His flair and work rate have dazzled at Goodison Park this season, and he will be looking to emulate his form for the Toffees in his national team colors.  It’s always a great thing to make the World Cup finals, but the nation will be gunning hard for one of the spots that sends them into the first round, and, all things considered, could actually be possible.

Mexico –

Nobody needs a second telling that Mexico are typically a card carrying tournament team.  With their recently returned (heavily) seasoned veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco (37 years old) pulling the strings and up-and-coming sensations Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela doing the footwork, El Tri should be favored to grab one of the top spots in Group A.  It also helps that they have a very adept keeper in Guillermo Ochoa.  However, it will still be a tall order as France is gifted in every position and Uruguay’s physical approach may disrupt their fluid build up play.  It won’t be a cake walk for El Tri, but if they stick to their guns and pass the way they know how, I’ll tip them to take top spot in the group.

Uruguay – Uruguay has two titles under their belt (sure they were in 1930 & 1950) and have a squad that may be capable of upsetting favorites Mexico and France.  Easily their top dogs are Ajax hitman Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid Diego Forlan.  Forlan will be coming off a great win over Fulham in the Europa League final and will be looking to build off that.  Martin Caceres is a rising star in defense at Juventus and should sure-up the back line but will have his hands full with Nicolas Anelka, Steven Pienaar and Carlos Vela.  The rest of the back line could be relatively leaky for Los Charruas and could be their downfall.  Suarez and Lodeiro represent Ajax at the club level and are both fully capable of find ways to break down defenses in any group and shouldn’t be overlooked as a serious contender for a top spot.  Suarez is literally gushing goals for Ajax (49 goals this season in 48 appearances) and is one of the players to watch in Group A.

France – It’s hard to say anything positive about France still, as the infamous hand ball got them in the tournament

Gourcuff pulling strings for Bordeaux

and, if that isn’t enough, they get placed in the group where South Africa is the top seed.  The big man must really be looking out for Les Bleus.  That said, they should be the easy favorites for the group, but they failed to impress in any sense during qualifying and could flop as hard as they did in 2002.  France is a wild card and it is hard to predict which team will actually show up.  They won in 98, earned zero points in 2002 and made it to the final in 2006.  Nobody will know truly if they have a shot until kickoff, but it’s just so hard to look past their lineup.  When the spine of a team is Hugo Lloris, William Gallas, Lassana Diarra, Yoann Gourcuff and Thierry Henry, they should be tipped to win it all.  Not to mention, they have attacking dime pieces like Nicolas Anelka and Franck Ribery to tear apart defenses.  In terms of who to look out for?  I’ll put my money on the Gourcuff (Don’t believe me? Watch his goal against PSG), the midfield maestro is only 23, was named Ligue 1 player of the year for 08/09, made Ligue 1 team of the year  for 08/09 and 09/10 and was named French Football’s player of the year for 2009.

Prediction –

1. France

2. Mexico

3. South Africa

4. Uruguay