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Sat. 20th June:
Japan v. Croatia
Belgium v. Mexico
Holland v. South Korea
The Japanese fans found about ticker tape from the Argentineans in their previous game, and their players seemed to have cottoned on to shirt pulling too.
A thirteenth minute free-kick by Suker curled past the top right hand corner. In answer to that, the Japanese number 3, Naoki Soma, almost scored Japan's first World Cup finals goal at the other end.
Stanic wasted a golden chance in the nineteenth. Again the Japanese tried to reply, but Nakata was not so good today either.
A minute later, a Japanese free-kick was lifted over the wall and a nippy little Shoji Jo rounded the Croats to receive the ball on his head -- knocked on too far under pressure from Ladic, the Croatian goalkeeper.
The first corner for Croatia came on the half-hour. Both sides gave away possession needlessly, and let the others in with a run on goal. From all of these half chances, Suker came closest; the penalty appeal rightly turned down.
An entertaining first-half, despite the scoreline. (Half-time: 0-0).
The Croats looked very disorganized at the start of the second-half.
When the blue shirts were too far up, Kawaguchi came right out of his area to head clear. Up front for Japan, Jo should have scored, but none of the team moaned or grumbled.
The Japanese gained strength as the match wore on, and the Croats started to wilt. Okano, the Japanese substitute, tried to look lively on both wings, with his mane flying left and right, but stood like a pansy in a flower box when a real chance was crossed into the area for him.
Nothing seemed to go right for Suker either, a tempting lob on the bar was the closest he came for all his efforts to send a shiver up the watching Glenn Hoddle; England may well have to face Croatia.
At last, relief for Suker and another mental note for
Hoddle. The Croatian captain took a deep cross on his left foot in the 76th minute, and
fired in off the unfortunate goalkeeper's hand.
Thirty seven degrees in Bordeaux, and a hot match to go with it.
Oliveira found himself engulfed by Mexico when he had his first half-chance in the fourth minute. Belgium started more positively than they did against Holland.
A corner to Mexico in the ninth minute. Sanchez headed against the bar, and with De Wilde on the floor, Hernandez tried to struggle the loose ball across the line; hoofed away by Danny Boffin. Sanchez was quickly called upon to keep out the Belgians at the other end.
A sizzling first fifteen minutes.
Blanco changed his boots, around the 26th minute, like a tennis player changes rackets. And two minutes later the Mexicans were down to ten men. Prado was shown the red card for a sliding challenge from behind on Borkelmans.
Even with eleven men, Mexico could have done little about the Belgian goal. A curling corner from Oliveira dipped over the rising defenders to be thighed in by Wilmots. (Half-time: 1-0).
From the restart Wilmots was on a buzz. Scifo laid a square-ball to Wilmots, and the Schalke midfielder ploughed through the Mexican defense, and slammed the ball home to the right while stumbling.
Seven minutes later, and drama in the Belgian area. Blanco threaded a ball through to Ramirez who was tripped by Verheyen -- red card number two, and Garcia Aspe slotted the penalty to the right.
Mexico were back in the game; only one goal down, and both a man short. They had the momentum, and the heat wasn't affecting them. A fast fluid Mexican raid ended with a cross from Ramirez, and a flying scissor volley into the back of the net by Blanco. What a star this man is.
Gordan Vidovic brought down Hernandez on the right wing, and in the heat of the moment could have expected the worse. The Belgian number 4 sat resigned on the floor -- relief on his face when he was only booked.
De Wilde scrammbled a save in the final minutes to keep
hold of a point for Belgium.
Dennis Bergkamp must have seen Blanco change his boots and return to score a stunning goal in the earlier game, and decided to change his shorts on the quarter hour. It seemed to work: a minute later an unsighted Byung Ji Kim saved well from the flying Dutchman. Shortly after, super shorts received a one-two and floated the ball narrowly over the bar.
The Dutch fans had not much to sing about for the first 30 minutes in Marseilles. The Koreans do a good job of frustrating teams and silencing their supporters. Bergkamp appealed to the referee for being held back -- the man in black seemed to have fallen asleep too.
Out of nothing, Cocu cracked a shot from the D in the 36th minute. Byung Ji Kim had feet of concrete and didn't move; even the fans in orange couldn't believe it.
Five minutes later, with all the Koreans up for a free kick near the Dutch goal-line, the Dutch broke out three against two. Overmars turned inside Sung Yong Choi, and claimed the second for Holland. (Half-time: 2-0).
The players in the Dutch brass band were having a little more fun early in the second-half; striking up a few bars of the Can-Can.
Korea needed a minimum of two goals to stay in the tournament. Although they tried valiantly, the hill was too high to climb. At least they are already guaranteed of a place in the 2002 World Cup finals as co-hosts with Japan.
The Dutch started some possession football. Across the pitch to Aron Winter, and through to Dennis Bergkamp. Min Sung Lee cut out the ball, but was easily robbed by Bergkamp, who turned and dribbled through three defenders like a teacher with enthusiastic schoolchildren.
Another Lee entered the arena with a look of total horror on his face. What was the nineteen year-old supposed to do?
Van Hooijdonk came on for
Bergkamp and headed in a cross from Overmars in the 79th minute. Two minutes later Ronald de Boer completed the rout.
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