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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Football League at World Cup 2010: Update 2

It's that time every four years again - the World Cup is well underway, this year taking place in South Africa.

Here at Soccer AM/MW, as part of our dedicated coverage of all things lower leagues, we're keeping tabs on all the players from Football League clubs who are in Africa competing.

The second round of group fixtures featuring teams with Football League players have now been completed.

Here's how they got on in our latest update.

Beginning in Group A, where hosts South Africa have one Football League representative as they attempt to avoid becoming the first ever hosts to crash out at the first hurdle. Mexico, Uruguay, and France are their group opponents.

Aaron Mokoena

South Africa endured a miserable night in Pretoria as the host nation slumped to a punishing defeat to Uruguay.

Mokoena could do nothing about Diego Forlan's stunning opener, but him and his defensive colleagues were in disarray as they gave away a crucial penalty.

The third Uruguayan goal was also poor defending, leaving Alvaro Pereira free to nod in the final nail in Bafana Bafana's coffin.

Their hopes of qualifying for the last-16 now appear over, with South Africa on course to become the worst ever performing hosts at a World Cup.

Final score:
South Africa 0 Uruguay 3

Once again, neither of the two Nigerian players from Group B featured in their 2-1 loss against Greece.

In Group C, both the USA and Algeria have a Football League player in their ranks. Here is how they got on in their respective matches against Slovenia and England.

Jay DeMerit

The Americans staged a second half comeback against Slovenia to keep their qualification hopes alive in Group C.

The USA started off slowly against their European opponents however, and found themselves one down with Valter Birsa having too much time and room to curl home.

They were 2-0 down before the break, as the USA's offside trap was beaten. However, DeMerit's side tightened up in the second half - limiting the Slovenian threat - and goals from Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley earned them a point late on.

Final score:
Slovenia 2 USA 2

Nadir Belhadj

In a great result for the African side, Belhadj had a mixed night in Cape Town against England.

Playing a wing back again, he looked dangerous going forwards as Algeria settled the better of the two teams. He also kept England's Aaron Lennon very quiet.

However, some careless passing in his own half almost presented England with opportunities as a lack of concentration and composure was evident.

Ultimately, a clean sheet against one of the tournament's strongest teams will be a cause for celebration for Belhadj and Algeria.

Final score: England 0 Algeria 0

Onto Group D, where Ghana's Football League player featured in their game against Australia. Neither of the Socceroos's two players were involved though. Germany and Serbia are the other two teams in this group.

Kevin Prince-Boateng

Prince-Boateng had another strong performance as Ghana were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw against 10-man Australia.

After Asamoah Gyan's penalty had cancelled out Brett Holman's early strike, the African side strove to take advantage of their opponent's numerical disadvantage.

Boateng himself had a low shot brilliantly turned around the post by Mark Schwarzer and his driving runs from midfield pressed the Aussies back.

His through ball also released Gyan to fire wide in one of Ghana's best chances in the second period. He was substituted with two minutes of normal time remaining.

Final score: Ghana 1 Australia 1

The final group involving Football League representatives is Group F. Here, New Zealand feature three players as they battle to escape from a group including World Champions Italy, South America's Paraguay, and first-timers Slovakia.

Tommy Smith

Smith can, overall, be very happy with his personal display as New Zealand pulled off one of the shocks of the World Cup in holding Italy.

The World Champions struggled to find a way through an organised Kiwis backline, with Smith a formidable aerial presence in defending balls into the box.

However, he was deemed culpable for giving away the penalty which Italy converted for the 1-1 draw. His tug on Daniele De Rossi's shirt convincing the referee to award the penalty and book Smith.

Chris Killen

With the All Whites consistently under pressure against the Italians, striker Killen found himself having a quiet afternoon.

He often had to help out in a rearguard action as New Zealand battled to protect a point in the second half.

That nullified any of his attacking threat going forwards, but his efforts in dealing with crosses into the box and defending set plays was still crucial.

He was substituted in injury time as the Kiwis looked to wind down the clock.

Rory Fallon

Despite an historic result for the Kiwis, it was a frustrating day for Fallon against Italy.

His physical approach ruffled the feathers of a few of the Azzuri backline. However, after picking up an early booking, he had to watch himself.

With Italy's players often going to ground easily, he was replaced by manager Rickie Herbert in the second half to prevent him from being harshly sent off for another yellow card.

Final score: Italy 1 New Zealand 1

We'll have a final look at how the players from the Football League
got on in the group stages - and whether any of them make it into the knockout stage, next time.

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