The World Cup Calendar, June 19th. Harry Loses His Kewell

Poor Ghana. Poor poor Ghana. We all know the story. Ghana get the ball in the box, take a shot and find it blocked on the line by the hand of an opposition players hand. Yup, pretty much the whole world agreed that Luis Suarez was a monster for what he did. But let’s back up a bit, thirteen days before Luis Suarez cheated Ghana out of the World Cup, Harry Kewell did the same thing! At least the Kewell incident didn’t send a team out of the World Cup. But we’ll get to that…

Both teams needed the three points here. Australia had been beaten 4-0 by Germany in their first game, while Ghana slogged past Serbia. A win would see the Ghanaians qualify for the next round, a win for Australia would give them a chance going into the final game. The pressure was on for the teams in Rustenburg.

Australia took the lead early on. On the 11th minute, Rosenborg midfielder Anthony Annan put in a reckless tackle on Carl Valeri and the referee blew up for a foul. Mark Bresciano struck it from distance. The shot was on target and Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson dealt with it appallingly. He slapped it upwards so that it landed on the six yard box. Kingson realised his mishap straight away and threw himself forward to make amends, but all he could do was watch in horror as Brett Holman rushed in to fire Australia into the lead.

Ghana were not dissuaded by this horror show from Kingson. Little over ten minutes later and they were back at it. Andre Ayew recovered from a poor corner to unleash a moment of magic. On the touchline he skipped past Luke Wilkshire, nutmegged Brett Emerton and fired a cross low across the packed penalty box to centre back Jonathan
Mensah. Mensah fired his shot towards goal first time, only to see it blocked on the line by Harry Kewell. To the untrained eye, it was a wonderful block by Kewell, but the animated reaction by Mensah indicated that something was wrong. The referee spotted it straight away, brandishing a red card towards Kewell, who was rightly adjudged to have used his arm to block the shot. Up stepped Asamoah Gyan, who placed his penalty low to his right, the second penalty of his tournament, both successful. 1-1.

Australia had looked the stronger side early on, but after Kewells moment of madness 24 minutes in, Ghana had taken control. With a minute to go before halftime, Ghana came agonisingly close to taking the lead. Kevin-Prince Boateng picked up the ball a little over halfway, dribbled with pace towards Australia’s goal, wrongfooted
Craig Moore in the Aussie defence before taking a shot at goal. Mark Schwarzer dived low to his right to push the ball wide for a corner. It was an excellent stop for the aging goalkeeper, who had recently helped lead his side to the Europa League final with Fulham, against Juventus.

The match ebbed and flowed into the second half, with neither side taking control. Both teams had glorious chances to take the lead around the hour mark. Firstly, Scott Chipperfield got a free header in the Ghanaian box, only to sky it over the bar from eight yards out. Then, moments later, Gyan received the ball in the Australian box. He appeared unsure of whether to pass or shoot, in the end firing hard across Mark Schwarzer, missing both the goal and the other white shirt in the box.

Australia, with their ten men, had another glorious opportunity to go ahead again. Panic ensued in the Ghanaian box with no pressure on them. Lee Addy headed the ball away weakly to the edge of the box. The pass was intercepted, then played a perfectly through to the free Luke Wilkshire. Wilkshire did well to remain onside, but did less well with the finish, hitting it straight into the body of Kingson. Joshua Kennedy reached the rebound, but was off-balance when he hit the shot, seeing the ball bounce off the ground and safely into the hands of Kingson.

Mark Schwarzer rolled back the years again with a magnificent save in added time. Ghana had a corner safely headed away, but with all their players back in the box, the ball was recovered by the Ghanaian secondary. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie had so much time that he slipped prior to collecting the ball. He composed himself, took a neat sidestep to avoid the onrushing Aussie defence then struck his shot from long range. Schwarzer kept his eye on the ball the whole way and tipped it wide, at full stretch, to keep the game tied. The 37 year old showed that age was no deterrent to quality goalkeeping.

The referee had decided that enough was enough, blowing time on a relatively entertaining game. I won’t lie to you, valued reader: this wasn’t a great game, all things told. But due to days off in some World Cups, and some underwhelming games in other years, this was the best of the lot, so, yeah… The main talking point here was
undoubtedly the red card to Harry Kewell. I admit I overstated the stupidity of his red card. It wasn’t a blatant act of cheating, in fact he attempted to block it with his chest. It was naive from an experienced player, rather than stupidity. The Socceroos conducted themselves well after going a man down, and would certainly have had aspirations of winning had they kept all eleven men on the field. This was costly, but not as costly as their 4-0 defeat to Germany on matchday one. They finished 3rd in the group, on the same points as Ghana, but with a worse goal difference. Ghana progressed further, all the way to the Quarter Finals. But we’ll reconvene to discuss their game against Uruguay on July 2nd…

Tomorrow’s game: June 20th. Italy v New Zealand. 2010.