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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Football League at World Cup 2010: Update 1

We're keeping tabs on this summer's World Cup as we focus on the 11 Football League players who have made their way to South Africa.

The first round of matches have almost been completed in what's been a generally slow start to the tournament.

We've seen all of the teams who feature players from the Football League - with eight of them playing some part for the country.

This is how they've done.

In Group A, hosts South Africa have one player in the tournament as they aim to progress from a group including Mexico, Uruguay, and France.

Aaron Mokoena

The Bafana Bafana skipper had a mixed bag in the opening game of the tournament against Mexico.

The hosts struggled early on and were fortunate to go into the break on level terms. Mokoena was under a lot of pressure at the back.

However, South Africa were much improved in the second half and were leading with time running out. However, a Mexican cross into the box found Rafael Marquez in space to equalise - he was being played onside by Mokoena.

A simple error from the experienced Portsmouth man that cost his country two crucial points.

Final score: South Africa 1 Mexico 1

Neither of the two Nigerian players from Group B featured in their 1-0 defeat to Argentina.

In Group C, the USA faced England - including their one Football League man. Algeria's Football League representative also featured in his side's game against Slovenia.

Jay DeMerit

The US earned a valuable point in a 1-1 draw with England in Rustenburg. However, despite the impressive result for the Americans, they did exhibit some defensive frailties.

DeMerit and his defensive colleagues were caught out very early on by Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard as England took an early lead.

However, a howler from Robert Green in the English goal allowed a shot from Clint Dempsey to squirm in.

England controlled the second half and DeMerit was under great pressure as the USA battled to hold onto a share of the spoils.

Final score: England 1 USA 1

Nadir Belhadj

Despite a solid personal display, Portsmouth's Belhadj ended up on the losing side in Algeria's opening game of the World Cup against Slovenia.

Playing as a left wing-back, he was typically dangerous going forwards, delivering some good balls into the box. He also had a free-kick from 25 yards tipped over by the Slovenian keeper Samir Handanovic in the first half.

However, Algeria began to lose their way in the second period and, after being reduced to 10 men, a mistake from 'keeper Faouzi Chaouchi - allowing Robert Koren's shot to slip past him - gave the Europeans their first ever win at a World Cup.

Final score: Algeria 0 Slovenia 1

Onto Group D, where two players - one from Ghana and one of Australia's two players, featured in their respective country's first group game.

Kevin Prince-Boateng

Prince-Boateng got off to a winning start as Ghana overcame Serbia to become the first African nation to record a victory at the continent's inaugural World Cup.

In a tight game where the Serbs showed little ambition, Ghana played the better football - with Prince-Boateng impressing in the middle of the park. He kept a talented Serbian midfield including Dejan Stankovic very quiet.

The Ghanaians played the more fluid and positive football, and took charge of matters in the second half. However, they first required a sending off, and then a handball in the box from Serbia's Zdravko Kuzmanovic, to win them the game.

Asamoah Gyan stepped up to tuck away the penalty five minutes from time and give Ghana a hard-earned three points. Boateng was substituted to a standing ovation in injury time.

Final score: Serbia 0 Ghana 1

Richard Garcia

Australia got their campaign off to the worst possible start as they suffered a crushing 4-0 defeat at the hands of an impressive Germany team.

Things could have been different had Garcia taken an early chance. Tin Cahill won a header from a corner and the ball fell to the Hull-man, but he could only direct his shot wide of the post.

It was a let off for the Germans who responded in devastating fashion. Lukas Podolski crashed home an effort from just inside the box and then Miroslav Klose headed a second before the break.

The game was up for a limited Aussie team when Cahill was sent off and further goals from Thomas Mueller and Cacua wrapped up an emphatic win. A disappointing night all round for Garcia, replaced in the second half by Nikita Rukavytsya.

Final score: Germany 4 Australia 0

The final group to feature Football League players is Group F, where New Zealand have three in their squad. They hope to help the Kiwis through in a group including Slovakia, Paraguay and defending Champions Italy.

Tommy Smith

Smith operated as one of three centre halves in the All Whites opening game against Slovakia.

He put in an assured display overall as Rickie Herbert's men punched above their weight to live with the Europeans.

He made a crucial block after a mistake by Kiwi keeper Mark Paston had provided their opponents with a possible goalscoring opportunity.

He could also do nothing about the goal scored by Robert Vittek in the second half.

Chris Killen

Killen was a dangerous threat as one of three forwards played by New Zealand against Slovakia.

An early long range effort went over the bar and then the Middlesbrough man had a headed a chance from a free kick saved by the Slovakian keeper Jan Mucha.

Later on he dragged another shot from distance well wide, but his hard-work ensured he remained an aerial threat until being substituted midway through the second half.

Rory Fallon

Fallon was still on the pitch in the 93rd minute when New Zealand grabbed a stoppage time leveller against Slovakia.

The 1-1 draw was the Kiwis' first ever point at a World Cup finals, and Fallon played a crucial role as one of the front men in their 3-4-3 formation.

He was a danger in the box from the numerous high balls and set pieces played into the Slovakian area. He set up a Shane Smeltz shot with a nice one-two in the first half - forcing a good save from Mucha.

He also sent a half volley of his own over the bar late on, and
was a defensive presence in his own box.

Final score: New Zealand 1 Slovakia 1

We'll have another look at how the players from the Football League are getting on in South Africa soon.

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