Thursday, June 30, 2005

Confederation Cup

After the tragedy that occured 4 years ago in France, this confederation cup was well worth your viewing. To recap, Brazil went out and demolished Argentina yesterday to win the "Cup." Seeing the starting line ups that both teams put out there, this was no exhibition, this was the real deal for both teams. The third place game saw a 7 goal explosion from Germany and Mexico. A couple of observations:

Greece - What a disappointment from the reigning Euro champion. Granted they lost to Brazil but exiting the tournament in such a manner was terrible. After they demonstrated some better play during the WC qualifiers, this tournament makes us all scratch our heads as to how they won in Portugal.

Germany - Is the great futballing power of central europe back to their traditional ways? With the emergence of Podoloski, his goal yesterday was a thing of beauty, Germany look to have some solid attacking players - Podoloski, Ballack, Kuranyi, et al. But the Germany that won 3 World Cups were not built on strikers (granted they had some great ones, Mueller, Rummineger etc) but rather built on a solid defense, midfield and goalkeeping. This teams defense is adequete at times and shakey most of the time, and the goalkeeping is still up in the air. Klinnsman seems to have lost faith in Kahn and those of us who watch Arsenal realize that Lehmann is no Toni Schmacher. Mexico, a solid soccer power but not a first tier power, was resilient in their match and kept coming back on the score until finally succombing to a MBallack free kick (Mexico almost leveled it again a few minutes later however). I have mixed feelings about Germany's chances at the next World Cup. granted they are hosting, but if you look at their run in the prior major tournaments they have not shined.

They crashed out of the last two European cups, got demolished by Croatia at France '98, made the finals in 2002 but did not look convincing, drawing the USA and South Korean on their way to playing Brazil. It could be argued that they should have lost the 1/4 final game against USA...they still have major defensive issues and will not play in any competitive games the rest of the year to truly fix those problems. Maybe the home field advantage will stimulate the defense to play like the Beckenbauer teams of old....

Argentina - Until they got demolished by Brazil, they looked very strong. Especially considering they defeated Brazil 3-1 in WC qualifying. I still think they will be a team to contend with in a year. They have already qualified so they can start expirementing with different players and combinations to truly determine the best team they can bring to Germany next year. They have the talent and the drive to go very far in Germany.

Brazil - What can you say when a team can put Ronaldiho, Robinhno, Kaka, Adriano, and Ronaldo (who missed the Confed Cup) all on the pitch together, you can get a 4-1 demolishine of a world class team such as Argentina. Does this mean we hand Brazil a 6th WC title? I will say, no, by far. Brazil still did not convince me that they can defend, much like Germany. In addition, with all this talent , I still see Brazil struggling at times figuring out what system to implement and who needs to be on the bench and who needs to be on the pitch. You can never count out Brazil, but the Mexicans showed that you can beat them, as well as Argentina a few weeks ago.

Mexico - I think they looked very good coming out of this tournament. They defeated Brazil in the first round, played Argentina very tough only to lose in a shoot out, and they lost to host Germany after playing them even for most of the match. They have a sense of team and of working together that comes from a team where the majority plays in the domestic league. They are virtually guaranteed to qualify. I think they have a chance of going further than the 1986 Hugo Sanchez led team that lost to Germany in the quarterfinals of the Mexican World Cup (after penalties).

Overall I think this tournament was a success, lots of goals, great finals, some great upsets. The one factor that is of concern is the number of fans that were allowed to run out onto the pitch, something that will have to be resolved prior to the WC. A warning to Brazil, the last time the defending WC champion won the Confederation Cup in the next WC host nation they ended up crashing out of the WC....that was my beloved French National Team that won the Confederation Cup in 2001 in Japan, only to score zero goals in the World Cup (before you say that can never happen to Brazil don't forget that France went into that WC with Henry, leading score in the Premier League, Trezeguet, leading scored in Serie A, and Cisse leading score in Ligue 1...with a Zidane that had just won the champions league with Real Madrid - france left with 2 losses, 1 draw...zero goals scored, 3 goals conceded)

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