Paraguay tops Slovakia, New Zealand draws with Italy, Brazil dominates Cote d'Ivoire, and the French team walks out on practice

Shane Smeltz and New Zealand Captain Ryan Nelsen celebrate Smeltz's goal against Italy

More turmoil in the French camp

Before the day started there was more controversy in the French camp. This time it came from captain Patrice Evra who insisted there was a traitor inside the French camp. This led to an argument between Evra and France's fitness coach Robert Duverne, and Duverne had to be restrained by French coach Domenech before leaving the field angrily and throwing his whistle down in disgust. But that was not the last crazy twist in the French camp today. After these developments, French players left the field during practice in protest about Nicolas Anelka being sent home. All this makes people wonder if there will even be a French team to face South Africa in its last game.

Despite France's best attempts to steal all the headlines there were games today that grabbed people's attention in positive ways.

 

Paraguay vs. Slovakia

Paraguay started the day off with a convincing 2-0 win against Slovakia. Paraguay was clearly the better team from start to end. The hard work of Paraguay was rewarded in the 27th minute when Enrique Vera used the outside of his foot for an exquisite goal against the helpless Slovakian goalkeeper. Paraguay never was threatened by the Slovakian attacks in the game, and put a huge dent in Slovakia's hopes when Christian Riveros scored with a fantastic strike in the 86th minute. Slovakian captain and playmaker Marek Hamsik was practically invisible throughout the game and Slovakia had no scoring chances until the 92nd minute, when its attempt was dealt with easily by Paraguay's goalkeeper Justin Villar. This game provided a huge three points for Paraguay as it will only need one point against New Zealand to advance to the second round. 

  • Man of the Match: Enrique Vera

 

New Zealand vs. Italy

The second game was a shocking 1-1 draw between World Cup longshot New Zealand and defending champion Italy. New Zealand got off to a dream start when striker Shane Smeltz capitalized on some horrible defending by Italian captain Fabio Cannavarro. But it has to be said that Smeltz was offside. Italy's goal came off of a dive by Daniel de Rossi inside New Zealand's six-yard box and resulted in a penalty kick. The call was horrible especially since referee Carlos Batres clearly could not have seen the infraction and all he could have seen was de Rossi falling. Vincenzo Iaquinta stepped up to take the penalty shot and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, drawing the Italians even with the New Zealanders. The Italians stepped up their game in the second half but were denied incredibly by New Zealand's goalie Mark Paston. The game looked to be heading to a stalemate when New Zealand's Chris Wood shot mere inches wide of Italy's net. The game ended in a stalemate. The Italians must win their next game if they want to ensure qualification to the next round. Italy should not be proud of its performance today as it had to resort to cheating to tie a team that had 1000 to 1 odds at winning the World Cup.

  • Man of the Match: Mark Paston

 

Brazil vs. Cote d'Ivoire

The most anticipated match of the day was clearly Brazil versus Cote d'Ivoire. Brazil made a statement of intent in this game as it beat a Cote d'Ivoire team that many expected to give the Samba Kings a challenge. Brazil opened the scoring with a fantastic strike by Luis Fabiano who was put into the 18-yard box and overpowered goalkeeper Boubacar Barry with a classy finish. Brazil controlled the possesion of the ball for the rest of the first half. It was almost impossible to notice that Didier Drogba had started for Cote d'Ivoire as he almost never touched the ball in the first half.

The second half started off great for Brazil as Luis Fabiano scored another fantastic goal despite handling the ball in the buildup to the goal. It was a great goal from Fabiano but will be looked on with some disdain due to his handling of the ball. The Brazilians were given a deserving third goal when Kaka made a great run down the left wing and made a center pass to Elano who scored easily and sent Brazil on its way to the second round. Three minutes later, disaster struck for Elano as he was stepped on by an Ivorian defender and looked to have broken his leg. Didier Drogba drew a goal back for Cote d'Ivoire in the 79th minute on a fantastic cross from Yaya Toure which was headed into the corner of the net. After this goal the game went from an entertaining attacking soccer match to a hockey brawl as Kaka was booked for pushing an Cote d'Ivoire player.

It has to be said though that Cote d'Ivoire resorted to a "kick them off the park" soccer. Kaka was still steaming from being booked earlier and gave Kader Keita an elbow to the chest. Keita acted as if he had been hit in the face, but it didn't bother the referee as he had had enough of Kaka's petulance and gave him a second yellow card, sending him to the showers and suspending him for Brazil's next game against Portugal. With this win Brazil clinched a spot in the Round of 16, but Cote d'Ivoire needs a win in its last game against North Korea or it will see its tournament end earlier than desired.

  • Man of the Match: Luis Fabiano

 

Player of the Day: Mark Patson

Goal of the Day: Luis Fabiano's thunderous strike that gave Brazil a 1-0 lead

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