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Upstart Takes on the World (Cup): Day 11

Last night we saw more Shane Smeltz magic as New Zealand stole a point from the defending champions, and Brazil turned on the joga bonito as another referee got duped into flashing the red card, writes Shane Palmer.

New Zealand, a team written off before the tournament by critics and bookies alike, has done it again. The A-League’s top-scorer Shane Smeltz snatched an early goal to take the lead from the 2006 champions, Italy, before giving away a somewhat contentious penalty. While New Zealand was expected to end with less of a whimper than DPR Korea, they still have some hope of reaching the last 16 if they can manage a win over group leaders Paraguay. While coach Ricki Herbert described the result as being ‘choice as,’  the Italians blamed the referee and midfielder Daniele De Rossi for his lack of diving.

Brazil began to play up to the pre-tournament hype in their 3-1 victory over Côte d’Ivoire, Luis Fabiano scoring his first two World Cup goals, along with a third from Elano. Didier Drogba snatched one back, before Kaká was dismissed for a foul as violent, horrid and disgraceful as Tim Cahill’s. The result is good news for Portugal, who will most likely face something of a reserve Brazilian side in their final Group G match, given Dunga’s men have now secured a place in the round of 16.

And Paraguay’s solid 2-0 win over Slovakia left this guy so ecstatic he nearly flew out of the ground. The victory was the latest in a string of strong results for the South American teams – Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay all winning matches – as many of the European nations are letting their traditional World Cup domination ‘slip through their fingers’.

MUST-SEE: These guys managed to slip through the tight border security of North Korea and catch the Brazil – DPR Korea game.

EYEBROW-RAISER: All is well in the French camp, as the players go on strike and refuse to train after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home after his spat with the coach. France’s disarray is starting to make the England squad appear under control and on course. 

REASON TO CHEER ON DPR KOREA: The major underdogs of the tournament, North Korea need all the support they can get, so much so that their Government had to pay Chinese nationals to pose as their fans. Plus you have to feel for the North Korean public, they, more than just about anyone, need something to cheer them up.

REASON NOT TO CHEER ON DPR KOREA: They are pretty bad to watch; their success on the pitch can be spun as a success of their not-so-democratic government; and surely everyone wants to see Cristiano Ronaldo do well so that he can get better endorsements than the Castrol ad.

TONIGHT: The Portuguese should go up a gear from the Côte d’Ivoire match, with Ronaldo finding some explosive form. Don’t expect North Korea to emulate the Kiwis – they’re nowhere near that good: Portugal 3-0 DPR Korea. The Chileans look to continue their strong start to the tournament against surprise packet Switzerland, who are targeting another upset and will look to freeze out the hot-Chileans: Chile 1-1 Switzerland. And Spain surely must beat Honduras comfortably… just like how they beat should have beaten Switzerland easily: Spain 2-1 Honduras.

Shane Palmer is a first year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.

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