Serbia & Montenegro vs. The Netherlands
Arjen Robben celebrates his goal against Serbia & Montenegro.
While Yugoslavia had participated in many World Cups, this was the debut of Serbia & Montenegro. However, due to a recent referendum, Serbia and Montenegro are parting ways and will attempt World Cup qualification seperately in the future. The team splits up on July 28th. It's not a huge deal for Serbia as only two members of the team are Montenegrin.
This morning's match featured two teams that made it through European qualification without a loss. The Netherlands were 10-0-2 and Serbia finished their campaign 6-0-4 while only allowing one goal. The Serbian feat is even more incredible considering they were in a group with Spain!
The Dutch were all over the Serbs from the start making it look as if Serbia's miracle run through qualifying might've been due more to divine intervention than it was to technical prowess. The pressure on the Serbs increased after brilliant Dutch playmaker Arjen Robben slid one home past a diving Dragoslav Jevric on a breakaway to put the Dutch up 1-0.
The remainder of the first half found the Serbs struggling to get much of anything going. and if it weren't for occasional flourishes of brilliance one wondered if they were conceding defeat already.
Serbian coach Ilija Petkovic must've given a heck of a halftime speech because the Serbs came roaring out in the second half like men possessed. The passes were more crisp, the general play more creative and the Serbs created several dangerous chances. In the end though, the Serbs weren't able to breach Edwin Van Der Sar's goal and the game ended 1-0.
Too bad the Serbs weren't firing on all cylinders for 90 minutes instead of 45 because they might've gotten a result. It'll be interesting to see if they can regroup and get a result against Argentina on June 16th or if they'll merely be playing for pride when they line up against the Ivory Coast in the last game of the group phase.
Update [2006-6-11 14:43:47 by Nico]:
Mexico vs. Iran
Gotta love the Mexican fans and their wrestling masks.
Mexico defeated Iran 3-1 in a game that had as much off the field activity surrounding it as it did on the field activity. Starting Mexican keeper Oswaldo Sanchez had to return to Mexico for the funeral of his father who suffered a heart attack on Wednesday. Sanchez's father was supposed to attend the World Cup. Sanchez's availability was in question, but he decided to fly back and played all 90 minutes today. Before the game, Iranian keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour presented Sanchez with flowers.
On the other side of things, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to attend his team's match today but was told by the German government that he wasn't welcome. US Senator John McCain came out and said he didn't believe Iran should be allowed to play in the World Cup.
Thankfully, the game was just as interesting as the sideshows. Iran came out early showing no signs of hesitation and had several good chances. Mexico fought back though and finally pierced the Iranian back line when Omar Sanchez scored in the 28th minute. Iran equalized eight minutes later in a scramble after a corner kick. The ball was deflecting all over the place and Yahya Golmohammadi finally poked it in.
Mexican manager Ricardo Volpe (who always cracks me up when he smokes on the sidelines) made two subs at half and when star striker Jared Borgetti had to leave the game with an injury in the 52nd minute, Mexico had no more subs to make with 38 minutes left.
Mexico began to assert themselves in the 76th minute when they punished some lazy defending from Iran to go up 2-1. Credit must given to Mexico for pressing on to get another and finish things off 3-1.
There's been a remarkable lack of "anti-futbol" (scoring one goal and defending like hell) so far this World Cup and we can only hope this trend will continue all the way to the final.