Ghana and the U.S.A. ripped up the form book and shocked the Czech Republic and Italy respectively as Group E was blown wide open after two dramatic and controversial games yesterday in Germany.
Michael Essien produced another towering performance in midfield and was named FIFA Man of the Match as Ghana became the first African nation to record a win at the tournament, defeating the world’s (official) second best team 2-0 in Cologne. Asamoah Gyan drove a low shot past Petr Cech after just seventy-five seconds to rock the Czechs who failed to respond with any real purpose, missing the influence of injured striker Jan Koller up front. Cech produced a series of excellent saves and kept his side in the game on a number of occasions.
Ujfalusi was dismissed in the second half and having earned himself a booking for taking the penalty without the referee’s permission, Gyan hit the post with his second attempt. He will miss Ghana’s crucial final game with the U.S.A. through suspension, surely a huge blow to the Black Stars’ chances of progressing to the last sixteen. Ghana finally turned their superiority into a two goal lead when Muntari beat Cech with less than ten minutes remaining.
The other game in Group E saw a nine-man U.S.A. side cling on for a hard-earned 1-1 draw against Italy. De Rossi was dismissed for the Azuri for a brutal elbow on Fulham’s Brian McBride while Mastroeni and Pope saw red for the U.S. the in the second half, but Bruce Arena’s men held out to leave all four sides with a chance of reaching the second round. AC Milan’s Alberto Gilardino scored for Italy and the U.S.A.’s equaliser came from an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo.
Portugal eased their way into the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time in forty years with a 2-0 win over Iran in Group D. Deco celebrated his return to the side with a superb twenty yard strike in the second half and Ronaldo capped the victory with a late penalty after a foul on Luis Figo. Ricardo Carvalho and former Chelsea midfielders Tiago and Maniche all appeared for the Euro 2004 runners-up.
William Gallas and Claude Makelele will appear for France as they aim to put their disappointing start behind them when they face South Korea in Leipzig this evening. Australia will hope to spring another shock result as they meet holders Brazil, while Croatia play Japan in Group F’s other fixture.