Thursday, June 29, 2006

World Cup 1/4 finals, the tension builds

A day away from what could prove as a great 1/4 round for the world cup. Aside from the Ukraine-Italy game, the other three matches should prove fascinating football. Some early thoughts:

  • Germany-Argentina - 5 world cups between them. One team playing at home, one team displaying a wealth of talent. Germany has proven many wrong by making a good run to the 1/4 finals, after a lackluster pre-World Cup campaign, Klinsmann has appeared to focused his team and have them playing inticing football. With Klose and Podoloski clicking up front, they have proven dangerous going forward. Ballack has demonstated some creativity in the midfield. Frings has demonstrated his ability to bomb the net from the outside. Their defense has not really been tested, outside the two goals from Costa Rica they have not really been threatened (missed PK aside). However, they have yet to play a team like Argentina. Will they be able to control the game when Riquelme et al are running at a very suspect defense? I think this game will be very entertaining, Germany will take much energy from the home field fans. However, I think that the offensive talent on the Argentinian side will overwhelm the poor German back line. Those that point to the Mexico game say that Argentina looked vulnerable, I would say pay attention to the end of the first half of that game and parts of the second, Argentina looked like they were moving the ball at will. Prediction - Argentina 2 Germany 1.
  • Italy-Ukraine: On paper this is the worst of the 4 matches. And I have to agree, I think that Italy have not had a "perfect" game yet. They did play the Czechs well, but they had a man advantage for much of the match. Needed a fortunate penalty against a tough Australian team. I think that Ukraine does not have the bloodline needed to challenge Italy. Granted Shevchenko remains a top 5 stiker and overall player, he will be dangerous no matter how much knowledge the Italian players have of him due to his years at AC Milan. Italy has too much talent and experience: Italy 2 Ukraine 0
  • England-Portugal: This one should be a great match...were it not for an irrational referee forcing Deco and Costinha to sit out this game. I think that Portugal will still give England fits. England has done just enough to progress, but at least they are progressing. Rooney is fully fit, but might still remain rusty in the flow of the game. The English midfield has not found its rythm yet, and the defense has been shakey. Portugal still have some heavy hitters in their midfield - Maniche, Ronaldo, Figo. The loss of Deco is huge, and cannot be underestimated. He gave Portugal a midfield general who could control the middle of the pitch, allowing Figo to play wide and giving Ronaldo a carte blanche to run free all over the pitch, without Deco we will have to see how Big Phil manages his strategy. I still think that Big Phil is much more intelligent that Sven. While on paper England has more talent, Portugal has a better game plan. Prediction: Portugal 1- England 0.
  • France-Brazil: A mouth watering match up, many would have predicting this to happen in the finals. Alas we will have to see one of the recent world cup winners out after the 1/4 finals. I need to step away from my bias and look at this objectively....well as objectively as possible. Brazil has appeared to be sleep walking to this stage, granted they have sleep walked to score 10 goals in 4 games...scarey. They still have a wealth of talent and at least 2-3 more gears, has Adriano really showed us what he is capable of, how about Ronaldino? On the other side, France has been building, at least appearing to build each game, and not just on the score sheet (scoring 0-1-2-3 goals progressively). Les Vieux (the old ones) appear to have kicked it up a notch. Vieira has been a monster the last 2 games, Zidane looked solid last game. Yet their remains some issues - Henry needs to have the ball fed to him sooner, as well as staying on sides more. Zidane will need to play quicker balls as well. This game will be won at the midfield, no surprise there. Similar to 1998, when Deschamps, Djorkaef, Petit and Zidane controlled the midfield against Brazil....the French will have to do so again to have any chances of winning. I think the French defense will be tested by the individual talent of the Brazilians, but I think the Brazilian defense which is suspect will also be tested. Both goalies do not instill the greatest confidence.....Predictions: I think this game will be back and forth, both teams testing the other. France played a great game against Spain and will be asked to do so again versus Brazil, Brazil are living off their individual talent and we are all waiting to see them kick it into the next gear. I think France keeps playing at a high level, and I think the competition gets Brazil to kick it up a level making for a great game - France 2 Brazil 2 goes to penalty shots....which I rather not fathom a guess stomach cannot take it....

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