As Switzerland vs. Ukraine kicked off, I have to admit I was rather excited. I had enjoyed both sides’ performances up until that point, and I was getting a rare glimpse of Johan Djourou up against Chelsea’s new Â£30m striker Andriy Shevchenko. After 33 minutes, Djourou was withdrawn due to problems with his abdominal muscles (the BBC commentators having the temerity to suggest it was due to “nerves“), and my interest waned. Over the next 90 or so minutes my interested plummeted, died, and was cremated, as the poorest game of this World Cup ebbed out onto the pitch. Unfortunately, the Swiss penalties were almost as poor as their performance, and it was the Ukraine who slithered through into the next round.
I haven’t seen that much of him, but I have no idea why everyone thinks Emerson is so good. Although he played in Brazil’s unconvincing wins over Croatia and Australia, Gilberto Silva was very impressive in the 4-1 demolition of Japan. Against Ghana, he replaced the injured Emerson at half-time, and helped turn the tide in what had been until that point a very even game. Though not the greatest of technicians, Gilberto provides a better link between the defence and the midfield, and is more aerially proficient than the Juve man. Although he was dreadful in the first half of last season, as our form improved so did Silva’s, and I happen to believe we probably only need to buy somebody to stand in for him, not replace him.
Congratulations to Ronaldo, who became the highest goalscorer in World Cup history, reconfirming his status as a big
game player. Ronaldo is said to be delighted with the record, and has announced that his next ambition is to become the first footballer visible from space.
The evening brought what was on paper the tie of the round: France vs. Spain. There was so much background to this game: Thierry Henry‘s chance for revenge on Luis Aragones, Patrick Vieira getting another go against his heir Cesc Fabregas, and potentially Zinedine Zidane’s farewell to the game. The old guard of France faced off against the effervescently youthful Spanish, and it was the latter that took the lead through a David Villa penalty.
However, just before half-time, reputed Arsenal-target and pin-up-in-waiting Franck Ribery rounded Iker Casillas to equalise. Both sides appeared to be playing for extra time until when in the 83rd minute Patrick Vieira nodded in his second goal of the tournament. With Spain searching for an equaliser, Cesc was left in the quarter-back role looking for that vital pass. Fantastically composed up until that point, Fabregas was isolated and dispossessed, with Zinedine Zidane breaking away to score a third and set up a mouth-watering Quarter Final against Brazil.
The occasion was slightly marred for us Arsenal fans by Thierry Henry’s Rivaldo-like dive. Whilst it’s clear there’s unfinished business between Titi and Puyol, as captain of our club he doesn’t need to be doing anything as distastefully dramatic as that.
I suppose he would say he now has revenge over Aragones & co. The Spanish coach complained after the game that, “Football is unfair sometimes“. Luckily for Thierry, it seems that the fates are not.