Archive for the ‘World Cup’ Category

I think I said Quarter finals for the Dutch. I don’t care about being wrong this time though. When I realised that the Dutch would be facing Brazil, I thought they’d surely get knocked out. I wasn’t the least bit happy with Van Marwijk’s chosen style of playing either, so I had given up hope for the Oranje.

But they beat Brazil!

The game started off in explosive fashion for the Brazilians and in about 5 minutes Robinho had found the net. Unfortunately for the South Americans, the goal was ruled offside and correctly so. It didn’t matter because five minutes later Robinho knocked the ball into the net again. The ball from Felipe Melo was pure class. (I think I wouldn’t be calling it that if Brazil had managed to win though). The weight on the pass was perfect for Robinho to slot past Stekelenburg.

Stekelenburg impressed further when he kept an effort from Kaka out. What a brilliant piece of goalkeeping. To be honest, the Dutch really struggled in the first half and we were having a fantastic display of football from the Brazilians. They somehow managed to take the game to half time trailing by only one goal.

I don’t know what van Marwijk said to the players at half time but it obviously worked. Sneijder comes up with a beauty of a cross which goes off the head of Felipe Melo. I honestly think Cesar would have got to the ball had Melo not blocked him off/knocked it into his own net. It will probably go down as an own goal, but Sneijder deserves full credit for the goal.

Arjen Robben was meanwhile tormenting Michel Bastos. The full back had already been yellow carded for repeatedly kicking at Robben’s heels. The goal originated at a free kick awarded to Netherlands after Bastos took Robben down. He was really lucky to continue after the foul.

Sneijder doubled the lead for the Oranje in the 67th minute when he headed in Robben’s corner that was flicked on by Dirk Kuyt at the near post. Dirk Kuyt worked his socks off this game and unlike most Dutch players, was also good in the first half and not just the second.

Van Persie continues to suffer from a drought but he’s still playing decently. He still draws a couple of players towards himself and has a fantastic touch and good passing ability, so if he creates space he can still play in someone else, as he played Kuyt in during the first half.

Brazil was clearly getting frustrated by the way things were going and Felipe Melo was sent off for stamping Arjen Robben. Definitely merited a direct red card. The Oranje were getting a bit complacent towards the end when Kuyt broke into the penalty box he seemed a little hesitant to pull the trigger. Another moment occurred in injury time when three Dutch players were in the box and they made a complete mess of the situation.

Van der Wiel and De Jong will both miss the semi-final against the winner of the Uruguay versus Ghana match. I’m sure the Dutch won’t under-estimate their opponents in the next round although I’m sure they fancy themselves to get to the final.

Could this be the year they make it back to the finals for the first time since 1978 when they played hosts Argentina?

I hope so.

I ought to add this. More of an after thought. I think the Japanese referee who officiated the game was pretty good. He’s handled a few other games before and he’s been good for those as well. I don’t think the referee handed the Dutch the game

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French Revolution

Posted: June 21, 2010 in World Cup
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Wow, the French national team is in complete disarray. Maybe they should have sacked Domenech some time back. Whatever the reason is, Laurent Blanc, who’s taking over after Domenech, will be kept busy trying to restore normalcy to that sorry excuse of a football team at the moment.

Evra came out and claimed that there is a traitor in the French camp and apparently narrowed in on him the next day, the fitness coach Robert Duverne. An argument followed and apparently the two of them had to be separated by the Spawn of Satan (Domenech).

The French players are ticked off with the decision to send Anelka back home and they decided not to turn up for training. They’re instead chilling in their luxury hotel (one of the few teams to take up such a place) and passing the bill to French taxpayers.

After the argument between Duverne and Evra, the team director Jean Louis Valentin resigned because of the disgrace it brought about. What an upright guy! Instead of trying to fix the problems of the team, he resigns before he gets any more shit from anyone.

The French players also said that they would “play for honour” in their last group game against South Africa.

So I didn’t watch England’s game last night against Algeria. I decided that sleeping might be a more interesting option than staying up late to watch an England game. I was proven right, or so said most people, and many newspapers.

England couldn’t score apparently and Rooney was amongst the worst players on the pitch. After the match, Wazza comes on the air and says,

‘Nice to see your home fans boo you. That’s what loyal support is’

There are really two sides to this. Sometimes footballers can have a really frustrating day and it isn’t really possible for them to do anything on the field. Nothing works. And on top of that if your own fans boo you it can be really frustrating, I’m sure.

The other angle to this is that when you’re playing in a tournament like the World Cup, there’s very little room for error. Within two games you can either qualify for the next round or be on the next flight home. And England are close to doing the latter. They still have a game left to play against Slovenia, but as we’ve seen, Slovenia is a tough nut to crack. They’ve pulled off a win against Algeria and drew against USA. They are top of the group as of now. They’re still not guaranteed a place in the Round of 16.

If England beats Slovenia and USA beats Algeria, then both England and USA will progress to the next round. I digress.

I was talking about fans booing. Yes, the fact of the matter is that fans pay a lot of money for airfare, accommodation, beer (how can you forget beer) and not to mention tickets for these matches. These poor delusional fans actually expect England to make it to the final (forget about getting out of the group). They do not draw the same salary as you, Wayne. Nor are they endorsed my multi-million dollar enterprises that pay you about a 100,000 pounds for every second you’re on the screen. I exaggerate of course, I have no idea how much they pay him, but we can certainly agree that it is a considerable sum.

And if they don’t like what they see, they will boo. Deal with it.

No one really saw this one coming. Tournament favourites Spain yesterday lost to Switzerland 1-0. Inspite of having plenty of possession Spain just couldn’t manage to score. Credit to Switzerland though. They defended really deep and they hit Spain on the counter which is certainly the best way to play against Spain. Spanish supporters will be fearing the worst. They have seen this many times and will be hoping they will be able to bounce back which I think they will.

Fernando Torres was not fit enough to start so David Villa played as the lone striker. Del Bosque decided to go with 2 defensive midfielders which was a very strange decision. It was very obvious Swiss were going to defend for most of the game so it didn’t really make sense to play both Alonso and Busquets. These two did not have a bad game but they just couldn’t provide that attacking edge even though Alonso came really close to scoring.  Spain didn’t have any goalscoring midfielders yesterday and Del Bosque in the absence of Torres should have gone with Fabregas who scored 19 goals for Arsenal this season.

Wondering what he needs to do to get into the team

Spain started the game really well with Swiss hardly touching the ball. But it took them nearly 20 minutes before they got a shot on goal. Iniesta was looking really lively and had to face several crunching challenges from the opposition. Pique got the best chance in the first half but his shot was well saved by  Benaglio.

Spain started the second half with a lot more urgency. They created plenty of half chances but failed to convert them. Spain got plenty of corners and free kicks in the second half but their set pieces were disappointing to say the least. Swiss then scored through a simple long ball and some terrible defending. Alonso didn’t track Dedriyok back and his effort was saved by Casillas but Gelson Fernandes somehow managed to bundle it home. Del Bosque then decided to bring Torres and Navas on for Silva and Busquets. Torres clearly didn’t look completely fit and didn’t make much of an impact. Navas started brightly  but then struggled towards the end. His crosses were pretty poor most of them hitting the near post defender.

Man City fans the world over celebrated

Iniesta then suffered an injury and Del Bosque strangely brought on Pedro instead of Mata or Fabregas. Pedro failed to make any impact. Except for Alonso’s effort which hit the bar and one effort from Navas Spain never really came close to scoring.  Spain nearly conceded a second towards the end when Derdiyok brilliant run ended up in his effort hitting the post.

You could see from their performance that they were very over confident. There was a touch of arrogance in the way they played. They were trying to score the perfect goal with most of the players opting to pass when a shot at goal would have been a better option. David Villa’s chip in the first half summed it up. Switzerland are a tough team to beat but Spain made it hard for themselves by complicating things. In a way this defeat could do them a lot of good. It will help get rid of complacency. It is definitely a wake up call for them. They will need to be a lot more direct and clinical  and playing Torres and Fabregas will certainly help. Lesson to be learnt from the game against Switzerland? Goals win you matches and not possession.

In Raymond Domenech-land, everything is going fine I’m sure. Most supporters of the French team would have started panicking by now. They really look like they’re clueless as to how they’re going to score, don’t they?

Sidney Govou had an excellent chance early on, set up by Franck Ribery. A simple ball right into the penalty box at Govou’s feet, and he squanders the chance. I must say that Uruguay did not do too much during the game either. France really started the better of the two sides, although both teams were pretty scrappy.

Uruguay looked like they were missing their entire midfield at points. Diego Forlan seems to have shouldered most of the responsibility when it comes to shooting. And yet, when the time came, he missed a pretty simple chance by his standards. Suarez was pretty useless throughout the game except for when he set up Forlan for the aforementioned shot. He was caught offside way too often, and a lot of times when he was staring at the defensive line.

Gourcuff was pretty disappointing as well. Apart from the one free kick which Muslera had to scramble to get away, he didn’t do too much. He tried shooting way too often even though he never really created enough space for himself. It was a bit like this

Commentator – It’s Gourcuff….

*He shoots*

*Bang – hits a defender*

Commentator – Gourcuff again …

*He shoots*

*Bang – hits a defender*

Slightly disappointing - Gourcuff

Malouda didn’t start. He apparently came out after the China game and said that France had a lot of problems to fix. Maybe Domenech didn’t really like it and decided to give his place to Diaby. I must say that Diaby played really well, although it does tell you a lot about the game when Diaby is the most exciting player on the pitch. There were times he would dribble past 2-3 Uruguayan players. Hold up the ball and play a simple pass to someone in a better position.

Had a good game, even without kicking Terry

Lodeiro got sent off after a second bookable offence on Sagna. It was quite a terrible challenge and the decision was fair in my opinion. I’m sure he feels like an idiot now.

Although, the positive for France is that they did not concede in this game. Most people (myself included) expected Uruguay to attack this weird French Centre Back pairing and atleast score one goal. However, they failed to do so. If you ask me, I think they showed too much respect to France.

So how do things stand in Group A? Mexico and South Africa played out a 1-1 draw that was more interesting than the France versus Uruguay draw. The opener wasn’t a cracking game by any stretch of the imagination, but for those who watched both – the former was certainly cracking when compared to the latter.

Everyone’s got a point. Uruguay and France spurned a great chance to gain some mileage after watching South Africa and Mexico draw the first game. This group is still wide open, of course (as is natural when only a game each has been played

Player ratings –

France

Lloris – 6 – Hardly had anything to do throughout the match

Sagna – 7 – Lot of crosses, and solid defensively

Gallas and Abidal – 7 – Kept the duo of Suarez and Forlan really quiet

Evra – 6 – Had an okay game, but knowing Evra’s potential even he would admit it wasn’t his best.

Toulalan – 8 – Played really well. Won the ball gazzillion times and the reason for France to dominate in midfield

Diaby – 7.5 – Showed some really good talent during the game. Not so much in the second half as the first.

Gourcuff – 3 – Read above

Govou – 4 – Squandered the best chance of the match, but that’s okay. Didn’t do too much, didn’t pass the ball, didn’t cross – nothing.

Anelka – 5.5 – Started well. Then again, the system doesn’t suit him as mentioned in the France review. So it isn’t really his fault, more Domenech’s

Ribery – 6 – Started well, ended well. Okay in between. Set up Govou for the best chance of the match

Germany

Posted: June 8, 2010 in World Cup
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If World Cup history has taught us anything then it is never to rule out the Germans. Unlike England, there is never much hype around them but they always seem to do well when it matters. They have won it 3 times and have managed to reach the semifinals a record 11 times.

Joachim Löw has selected a young but immensely talented squad. Injuries have affected them badly with key players like Michael Ballack, Simon Rolfes and Heiko Westermann missing. He has placed a lot of faith on players like Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Mark Marin, Badstuber, Toni Kroos. Bundesliga is on the rise and it has surely done Germany a lot of good.It will be really interesting to see whether they can step up to the plate when matters.

Injury to Rene Adler was a blow but in Manuel Neur who is constantly linked to Manchester United they have an excellent replacement. Their second choice keeper Tim Wiese had a good season with Werder Bremen and is also capable of  doing a good job if needed.In fact Germany have plenty of good keepers and I hope Arsene Wenger buys one of  them because we could certainly do with a keeper who can catch or punch the ball or atleast kick it properly.

In the absence of Michael Ballack, Philip Lahm will captain the side. He will slot in at his customary left back position even though he has played as a right back for Bayern all season. He is absolutely brilliant going forward and his defending is pretty solid too. They don’t have the most talented bunch of defenders but they usually defend really well as a unit. Arne Friedrich will be playing as a right back and he is a really experienced player with 72 caps. Per Mertesacker who looks like more like a basketball player than a footballer will play alongside Badstuber at Centre back. Highly rated Serdar Tasci and Manchester City’s latest signing Boateng provide cover in that position.

Stud for Club and Country

The loss of Michael Ballack is not as big as some think it is. His leadership and experience will certainly be missed. But he really has not been playing well for a long time.Even though Chelsea did the double Ballack had a really poor season. Sami Khedira is likely to replace him. Vastly overrated Bastian Schweinsteiger will be the other central midfielder. He has switched into the central midfield position and has done reasonably well there but he will struggle against top quality sides. They don’t have much creativity in the middle. The responsibility of creating and scoring goals from midfield is on Mesut Ozil and Piotr Trochowski. Mesut Ozil will sooner or later end up with a big club in Italy or England. He has a great left foot along with Trowchowski will prove to be a real threat in midfield. Both of them are also a real threat from set pieces. Marko Marin and Toni Kroos both young and incredibly talented are more than capable of making an impact.

Young Blood - Mesut Ozil

Surprisingly Low has decided to take 6 strikers which is a bit strange. Both Podolski and Klose have not had a great season but then again they always seem to do well for the national team. Even though most managers select players on the basis of form Low has decided to go with these two as their first choice strikers. And now onto my favourite player in this team. Thomas Muller had a smashing season with Bayern and it is a real shame that he will be left out from the starting lineup. He is a bit like Lampard. Has a great goalscoring instinct.Even though he is included as a striker he is more of a attacking midfielder. The kind of role that Gerrard currently plays for Liverpool. Stefan Kießling and Cacau are also options Low has.

Squad-

Goalkeepers: Joerg Butt (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen).

Defenders: Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV), Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart).

Midfielders: Sami Khedira (Stuttgart), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV).

Forwards: Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Cologne)

Prediction- They are in a tough group with Australia,Ghana and Serbia. But they should still make it to the knock out stage. There is a possibility of facing England which certainly will be very exciting especially if they manage to knock England out which will be terrific. It will be a tough ask to go beyond quarters for them but like I said one can never rule them out. If they manage to reach the semis it will be a great achievement and the young players will certainly benefit from the experience. Expect them to be a major force in the coming years

Expected Line Up –

Neuer

Friedrich              Badstuber                 Mertesacker                Lahm

Trowchowsky              Khedira                Schweinsteiger             Ozil

Podolski                Klose

France

Posted: June 7, 2010 in World Cup
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Any coach would LOVE to take up the managerial job of the French National Squad. Forget coach, any football loving individual would love to do it. I’d love to do it, and I’m sure I will do a better job than Raymond Domenech.

Sure, it may only have been a shock defeat to China, but seeing that they were incapable of scoring, especially when they dominated the game reflects low morale more than anything. China apparently were missing a lot of regular first team players

They have definitely got one of the best squads that I’ve ever seen. Some people might be pissed off that Benzema hasn’t been given a call, but then again, he hasn’t exactly had a good season with Real Madrid either has he. He’s been relegated to the bench and rightfully so, with Higuain scoring so many goals. I’m not sure as to why Sidney Govou is in the team instead of Benzema.

In Hugo Lloris, they have a fantastic goalkeeper, who some may say single handedly knocked Madrid out of the Champions League. They have Patrice Evra, who has had a fantastic season for Manchester United and is a terror on the left flank. This is assuming that Domenech doesn’t pull a Domenech and play Abidal in that position instead of Evra.

Although, we don’t really need to worry about that because Domenech has pulled another trick out of his bag by playing Abidal as centre back along with William Gallas. This is probably the reason France have been unable to keep a clean sheet in their friendlies. Squillaci is a centre back and has been playing that role for a while, so why not try him out there, Raymond? Sagna who’s had a very indifferent season will most likely start on the right. They also have Reveillere for the right back slot, a more attacking player for that position.

Not too solid - Abidal and Gallas

Domenech is most likely going to play a 4-3-3. This is a very attacking formation and is better than the 4-2-3-1 that he played against Costa Rica et al where the team struggled. Gourcuff will definitely start as playmaker for the French as he is considered the natural successor to Zinedine Zidane (poor Gourcuff, I don’t know how he’ll live up to that). He’s a good player, but I don’t know who will play in that role if (god forbid) something should happen to him. Malouda is also going to play in the midfield instead of his preferred position on the left of the attacking three. This is where he usually plays for Chelsea and he has excelled in this role. Jeremy Toulalan is most likely going to play the holding role in midfield.

Domenech is most likely going to play the combination of Ribery, Anelka and Govou up front. This will not work for the simple reason that Anelka likes to drift into midfield and pick up balls which means that the wingers will have no Blue Shirt (or White, depending on which one they wear) to aim for in the middle. Okay, so what are the other options, now that we know Benzema is not one?

Gignac? In 2008-09, from 38 appearances he scored 24 goals and had 5 assists. In 2009-10 he made 31 appearances and scored 8 goals and had 4 assists (according to Wiki, he was still top scorer for Toulouse). It isn’t a great record especially since playing he plays in the French league which (no disrespect to the French League) isn’t as competitive as Spain, England, Germany or Italy.

I think he might do okay, if all you need is someone to hold the ball and play it on to your fellow strikers and midfielders who arrive late, but I’m not so sure whether he’ll work as an out and out target man, a poacher who picks up everything in the box and given two chances will convert one.

Cisse is another option for Domenech. The Panathanaikos man has scored 20 plus goals for the Greek club in the previous season. He’s okay, but isn’t world class either. Valbuena is an option as well, but I’m not really sure how well he would perform if you just threw him into the World Cup like that. All those who want to see Henry play a major role in this tournament will be disappointed because as far as Domenech (although we know that Guardiola agrees with him on this one) is concerned he’s past his prime.  He’s going to be reduced to a bit part player.

"Alright, Hugo, you play as striker, let's see if that works"

The biggest mistake that Domenech made was to keep playing the same 3 up front in all their friendlies and expecting a miracle. He should’ve tried a different three to test each line up’s efficiency. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure he’ll still go ahead with the same three that played all the friendlies and failed to deliver. That, my friends, is the brilliance of Raymond Domenech and perhaps the single reason that France will not do will this World Cup.

Squad –

Goalkeepers : Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyon), Steve Mandanda(Olympique Marseille) and Cedric Carrasso (Girondins Bordeaux)

Defenders : Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), William Gallas (Arsenal), Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla), Marc Planus (Girondins Bordeaux), Gael Clichy(Arsenal) and Anthony Reveillere (Olympique Lyon)

Gelandang : Alou Diarra(Girondins Bordeaux), Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyon), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Yoann Gourcuff (Girondins Bordeaux), Abou Diaby (Arsenal) and Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

Strikers : Thierry Henry (Barcelona), Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Sidney Govou (Olympique Lyon), Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos) and Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique Marseille)

Expected Line Up (Even though nobody can be too sure other than Domenech)

Lloris

Sagna                         Gallas                        Abidal                    Evra

Gourcuff                   Toulalan                   Malouda

Govou                   Anelka                  Ribery

Predictions – Unpredictable!

No, only joking. I’m not so sure if they will get out of their group stage. Uruguay is a good team, so is Mexico. They should beat South Africa. Nonetheless, with the talent that they have, they had better make it out of the group stages, else it is quite an embarrassment. Maybe they’ll finish two in the group stages and then we’ll have, in the first knock out round, the Battle of the Clueless Managers between Domenech and Maradona. Realistic prediction – first knock out round, although I hope their squad surprises me, because they’re nice to watch when in full flow.