Let’s lay our cards on the table first of all. We’re more than well aware that we predicted Italy to come second in Group B and go on to play Spain in the semi-finals, but that’s because, like you, we thought Italy would beat Egypt. Just goes to show how wrong you can be, doesn’t it?
Of course it could yet happen, but the Egyptians are now level on points with Italy prior to the last round of games in Group B. Having scored three against Brazil and beaten the Italians, Egypt must surely now fancy their chances of picking up another three points against the USA. Not that we’re making an official prediction, mind you.
Italy easily made the better start of the two teams, Rossi fashioning a couple of good chances in the first half hour. Meanwhile at the other end, Egypt’s goalscoring hero against Brazil, Mohamed Zidan, had been virtually marked out of the game by a resolute Italian defence. It didn’t put off Zidan’s compatriots from attacking, however, and Aboutrika was once again a key figure for the Egyptians.
Five minutes before half time, the deadlock was broken. Egypt had a corner kick and surprise surprise, it was Aboutrika that delivered it direct to the head of Mohamed Homos who powered it into the Italian net.
Keen to avoid a shock upset, Italy ploughed forward with more attacking moves but chance after chance was wasted – most notably by Vincenzo Iaquinta who should have done better with one particular one-on-one with Egyptian ‘keeper El Hadary.
In fact the further the game went on, the more El Hadary was called upon to rescue the African champions on a number of occasions, but ultimately it was the woodwork that saved Egypt from dropping two points. With four minutes remaining, Iaquinta’s speculative shot eluded the Egyptian keeper only to bounce back off the post, and that was pretty much the last chance Italy had of rescuing a point from the game.
Egypt ended the match 1-0 winners and with Italy needing to beat Brazil on Sunday, the smart money will surely be on Spain facing the Pharaohs in the semi-finals. Watch this space to find out more…
Group B USA 0 Brazil 3 Tshwane/Pretoria
Where last time Brazil scored the goals but failed to prevent them going into their own net, this time there was no such otiosity. Against the Americans they were ruthlessly efficient and had the game effectively sown up in the opening half-hour or so.
Brazil flew out of the blocks first and were 1-0 up after just seven minutes. A foul by Michael Bradley gave Maicon the chance to steer a free kick towards Felipe Melo who headed it in.
Brazil could have doubled their lead five minutes later were it not for Onyewu’s vital tackle to deny Robinho scoring his first goal of the competition. Yet the Americans were powerless to stop the Man City forward scoring with 20 minutes on the clock. When DaMarcus Beasely allowed the ball to slip under his foot near to the Brazilian goal, Kaka was nearby to initiate a swift and clinical counter-attack which resulted in Robinho slotting past Tim Howard at the other end of the pitch.
When half time came, a huge victory looked highly likely for Brazil and indeed could have already been achieved, but at 2-0 there was a little more work to be done to snuff out the USA’s chances.
In the second period, Brazil launched attack after attack on the American goal, and Tim Howard was easily the busier of the two goalkeepers. The key moment, however, came when American midfielder Sacha Kljestan was sent off in the 55th minute for a bad tackle on Ramires. After that, Bob Bradley’s side were even weaker and paid the ultimate price when Maicon’s slick one-two with Kaka in the box led to a fine shot past Howard to make it 3-0.
In the interests of balance, the USA did hit the crossbar late on in the game, but it would have made little difference had it gone in. They were well beaten by a much more diligent Brazilian side and an imminent exit from this competition now looks almost certain.
Brazil, however, were impressive in the way they controlled the game from start to finish, and their encounter with Italy on Sunday now looks to be nothing short of a mouth-watering prospect.