Day 15 World Cup action round-up - Favourites sail through, Spain and Portugal to lock horns
Day 15 of the World Cup saw the Group stages finally come to an end and signalled the beginning of knockout stages, where the champions are crowned. Portugal and Brazil failed to produce an exciting encounter that everyone had wished for, playing out a goalless draw while Spain showed the spirit of champions to narrowly come through against Chile to top Group H.
A game that many anticipated being the tie of the Group failed to live up to the hype surrounding it - the two nations playing out a dull stalemate as both sides progressed to the second round.Brazil had already secured their place in the last 16 with wins over North Korea and Ivory Coast while Portugal needed just a point to join them.
Understandably, Carlos Queiroz’s side set out to achieve that, getting ten men behind the ball at every opportunity and limiting the time and space that their talented opponents had on the ball.Brazil still had their chances though, the best of the first half coming after 30 minutes when Nilmar latched onto a Luis Fabiano cross only for goalkeeper Eduardo to push his effort onto the post and out of play with sharp reflexes.Portugal went closest to an opening goal not long after the break when the ball broke to Raul Meireles inside the six yard box after good play from Cristiano Ronaldo but the normally prolific midfielder stabbed wide with his right foot That was how it would finish, a rather disappointing encounter for football fans around the world.
NORTH KOREA 0
IVORY COAST 3
Yaya Toure 14, Romaric 20, Kalou 82
The Ivory Coast were knocked out of the competition despite a comfortable 3-0 success over North Korea. The African nation required an unlikely ten goal turn around with Portugal in the final group games for them to progress.The Elephants dominated the game early on and, having already had a Didier Drogba goal disallowed, took the lead just 14 minutes in, Yaya Toure side footing into the bottom corner.
They doubled their tally six minutes later, Drogba’s effort smashing of the crossbar before dropping for Romaric to nod home. The early goals had given Sven-Goran Erikssons side the belief that a similar score line to the one Portugal achieved against their opponents was now on the cards. The second half saw their challenge begin to fizzle out as they realized time had all but ran out for them to achieve the unthinkable. There was still time for a third late on when Salomon Kalou converted an Arthur Boka cross to wrap up the points. It wasn’t to be though and the most feared of the African sides were sent packing, perhaps a little unfortunate to meet footballing giants Brazil and Portugal as early as the Group stages.
Millar 47, Estrada sent off 37
Villa 24 , Iniesta 37
European champions Spain beat ten men Chile 2-1 to set up a titanic last 16 clash with Portugal. A moment of brilliance saw Spain take the lead on 24 minutes when goalkeeper Claudio Bravo beat Fernando Torres to a through ball but could only clear into the path of David Villa, whose first time shot found the empty net from over 40 yards out to give Spain the lead. It wasn’t long before they doubled their advantage, Villa setting up Andres Iniesta who capped a fine move, slotting his first time effort into the bottom corner. Chile were dealt a further blow when referee Marco Rodriguez dismissed Marco Estrada after he picked up a second yellow card for a trip on Fernando Torres in the build up to the second goal.
Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa introduced Rodrigo Millar after the break and he made a sensational impact firing a deflected effort past Iker Casillas into the far corner, having been on the field for just over a minute. It failed to spark a revival though and Spain held on to secure three points that sees them top Group H.
Switzerland saw their World Cup challenge fizzle out as a goalless draw with Honduras saw them follow their opponents out of the tournament. Switzerland entered the final group game safe in the knowledge that a victory by two goals would guarantee them a place in the last 16 and not surprisingly, it was them who controlled the game from the outset. Front man, Blaise Nkufo should have put the Swiss ahead before half time, but couldn’t find a finish after Eren Derdiyok had dug out a cross to the backpost.
After the break, Honduras began to threaten themselves as their opponents left gaps at the back and should have taken the lead when Edgar Alvarez delivered a ball from the right but David Suazo spurned the chance, glancing his header wide of the target. Alvarez then had a chance to score himself but was denied by Diego Benaglio, who produced a superb one handed stop. The Swiss continued to probe throughout the closing stages but rarely forced Noel Valladares into more than a routine stop, the sides eventually exiting the competition with a point a piece.