Saturday, July 29, 2006

World Cup Wrap up

Okay the world cup finals happened 20 days ago, so why am I revisiting the World Cup, especially after les bleus lost? Mainly because I started to get over my malaise from France's lose as well as needing to vent before the start of the club season.

So some final awards, others have created their own best of, most overrated, biggest dissapointments etc I decided why not, so here are my "lists"

I will give you my all tournament team, all overrated team, and the good bad and ugly of Germany 2006

All Tournament Team:

Goalkeeper: Buffon, Italy. What can you say about the Italian, gave up 2 goals all tournament (granted had to face the power houses of Australia and Ukraine in the knock out stages). Without some solid goalkeeping against France, we might have had the parade on the Champs Elysee, the save on Zidane's header was a spectacular reflex save.

Honorable mention: Dida, Brazil. Surpising to see a Brazilian keeper shine, but that is an indication of how poorly his defense and team did.

Fullbacks: Miguel, Portugal and Grosso, Italy. Miguel was huge for Portugal, tremendous pace and defending ability. The only Portugese that was not diving everywhere. Grosso was a revelation, winning the penalty against Australia and scoring a memorable goal versus Germany.

Honorable mention: Sagnol, France. Sagnol was huge for France in the knock out stage. His offensive contributions have never been in question and he demonstrated a solid defensive ability as well. Lahm, Germany. Scored an amazing goal in the first game and continued to play a vital role in the German run to a 3rd place finish.

Centerbacks:Cannavaro Italy, Thuram France. The Juventus teammates both showed their outstanding abilities during the tournament. Cannavaro and Buffon were the stabilizing forces on the back line for Italy, his positioning and recovery ability were world class. Thuram, who many had questioned whether or not should even be selected proved everyone wrong. He was a rock at the back, were it not for Thuram Italy might have put the finals away in the first half, against Portugal in the semis, Thuram was absolutely dominating, not bad for a 34 year old!

Honorable mention: Gallas, France. Gallas and Thuram formed a dynamic duo, France should not miss too much when Thuram retires.

Midfielders: Pirlo, Italy. Vieira, France. Essein, Ghana. Zidane, France. Okay so my French bias is showing. But how can you question Zidane? Headbutt aside, he made us all dream starting with the Spain game. For those who called for him to be dropped (myself included) he made us all eat crow. His game against Brazil will live in World Cup lore, he completely dominated and was the only "brazilian" on the field. Pirlo was the maestro for Italy. A magical pass against Germany sealed their fate, a great cross gave Italy the equalizer against France...overall he was the one Italian player that showed the necessary flare and imagination to give Italy the necessary offense to win the tournament. Essein and his Ghanian teammates opened many eyes this tournament, unfortunately he missed the Brazil game which could have made things much more difficult for Brazil. Released from the Mourinho shackles, Essien was allowed to demonstrated his enormous work rate all over the pitch. Vieira, much like Zidane, also showed all those questioning him that the Pat we knew and loved was still there. He willed France during the Togo game, played a monster game against Spain (setting up Ribery and scoring the winner) his understanding with Makelele proved to be rock solid. Pat still has something in the tank!

Honorable mention: Makelele, France. Kaka, Brazil. Ze Roberto, Brazil. Hargreaves, England. Cahill, Australia. Appaih, Ghana. Cesc, Spain. Yes lots of folks get honorable mentions. Makelele was the engine for the French, doing all the dirty work every team needs to be successful. Kaka and Ze Roberto were the lesser known of the Brazilian midfield yet they both turned in solid tournaments. Kaka did dissappear a bit against France but still was one of the reasons Brazil got as far as they did. Ze Roberto was a dynamo, running all over the pitch, too bad his Brazilian teammates forgot how to follow. Hargreaves was much maligned after being selected, but proved to be the best midfielder for an overrated English midfield. His efforts against Portugal were amazing, he seemed to want to win that game singlehandly, too bad his fellow teammates were more worried about what their wifes were purchasing. Cahill helped push Australia to the knock out stage, his goals against Japan were a lighting bolt for the Soccerroos. Appaih was a huge threat for Ghana's opponents, teamed with Essein he formed a formidible duo for Ghana. Cesc showed glimmers of why he could be a top 5 player for years to come. He did not show any intimidation being on the largest stage of football, his pass to Torres against Tunisia was clinical.

Stikers:Klose, Germany. Henry, France. How can you not select the "golden boot" award, Klose and Podolski carried the German offense. Henry still did not break out on the big stage, but was dangerous in every game, scored 3 vital goals and was influential in each game. With the retirement of Zidane the French will now build around their talesman.

Honorable mention: Podolski, Germany. Tevez, Argentina. Torres, Spain. Podolski and Klose formed a strong stike duo. Podolski demonstrated why he is an emerging star. Tevez was the work horse up front for Argentina, while he was not scoring like Crespo he was the player that was influential with his incredible talent and work rate, the future for Argentina is bright when you combine him with Messi. Torres showed that he can finish, and that he is the world class stiker Spain has looked for. His combination with Cesc bodes well for Spain.

Okay now onto the overrated!

Goalkeeper: Kasey Keller, USA. Okay this might be a little unfair, Keller was not the reason the US looked terrible, but after hearing all the American pundits wax about how Keller was a top 3 keeper in the world yaddy yaddy yadda, he was not able to steal any games for the US. Keller did have some superb saves against Italy, but again I think he was a victim of all the pre tournament hype. I thought about Barthez but how can one say he was overrated? No one thought he should really start, except for the French coaches!

Fullbacks: Cafu and Carlos, Brazil. What were these two dinosaurs doing on the pitch??? Roberto Carlos is useless, he cannot even taken effect free kicks any more, nice to see him watch Henry stoll into the 5 yard box to score the winning goal in the 1/4 finals...what a waste. Cafu is too old and showed his age....he could not keep up with anyone and was worthless attacking.

Centerbacks: Terry, England. Puyol, Spain. Not sure why Terry was selected for all tournament teams. He did nothing for me all tournament, the most memorable moment was when his gaff forced Cole to back track and save his team. Terry was no threat on any set pieces, something he does for Chelsea. Ferdinand looked better in my eyes that Terry. Puyol did not have a horrible tournament but he must be called out as a central defender when you allow a free kick to float into the middle of your goal box with 10 minutes left of a knock out game! Players like Puyol are suppose to take charge on set pieces.

Midfielders: Beckham, England. Ballack, Germany. Ronaldino, Brazil. Beasley, USA. Donovan, USA. Totti, Italy. Again a long list but all deserving! Beckham remained lethal on set pieces, but did very little otherwise. He has become a shell of himself, while I was never convinced that Beckham was as good as his marketing team made him appear, he was able to threaten teams with his crossing ability, something we never saw in Germany. Ballack was deemed the only German Superstar, too bad his head was in London thinking on his riches awaiting him with Chelsea. He took a back seat to the German stike combo, he never controlled the midfield. A nice pass to get the equalizer against Argentina but otherwise completely overrated. Ronaldino, zero goals! That is all that needs to be said, what happened to the world's greatest player? Not sure if it was the system, Nike marketing hype, or a long club season but Roro was a complete disappointment. A statue of him was even burned in Brazil....I guess providing videos for Nike commercials was more important than playing hard at the WC.

Beasley and Donovan, again this comes from the pre tournament hype. But both players were useless this tournament. Against the Czech's both players looked scared, granted Beasley was being played completely out of position...what was Arena thinking? Donovan once again demonstrated what being an overhyped American looks like. Donovan showed no heart and no killer instinct. If he had any of the heart that Reyna or Dempsey demonstrated he could live up to some of the hype that surrounds him. A telling moment was when Donovan had the ball on the right of the goal box against Ghana, no one picked him up and rather that attacking the goal him wimpishly sent the ball into a gaggle of players. I cannot blame Donovan entirely, this goes back to the American Media pre tournament hype machine....Finally there is Totti, after he injured himself this season everyone was wondering could he make it back in time. While Italy was not hurt by his inactivety, and Totti did score the winner against Autralia, one has to wonder what exactly did Totti bring the Italian team???? Pirlo was clearly the one running the midfield, Gattuso was the one doing much of the dirty work....Totti who was also suppose to be the spark proved to be completely absent.

Strikers: Ronaldo and Adriano, Brazil. Kuyt, Holland. Ronaldo made the all tournament team...why? Because he broke Mueller's goal scoring record? Otherwise he was completely fat, out of shape and useless this tournament. He scored against has become the athelete that has achieved the pinnacle and has become lax and has not demonstrated any drive to stay there. Adriano was a dissapointement as well, he did not take over games and show his wealth of talent. Anyone who watched the Confederation Cup saw what Adriano could do for Brazil, he was lethal during that tournament (granted a minor tournament), but much like the entire Brazilian team a major dissapointment. Finally Kuyt, he proved to be a pedestrian striker one that cannot play alone at top. How could Van Nistelrooy be left on the bench for this stiff? Rumor is that he will soon be appearing in the EPL, curious to see what he can do.

Other Thoughts: Best up and comer - Ribery, France. (Podolski and CRonaldo are well known in International circles). Ribery was not even suppose to be on the squad, he was a last minute selection for France. He proved to be the spark plug and catalyst France was looking for. His goal against Spain was the turning point for the French. I look forward to seeing him develop along side Henry, Malouda, Trezeguet, etc......Looking out to 2010, I see Argentina and Spain as potential favorites, they both have some great young talent that got a taste of the big show in Germany. I think that if Spain has a good showing in the Euro they will have the confidence needed to challenge in 4 years. Argentina have Messi and Tevez...scarey......Germany, played better than anyone expected, but I do not foresee this as a long term trend, their defense is terrible, midfield is pedestrian, strikers are lethal but Klose is no spring chicken, and what to do in goal, neither Lehmann or Kahn are youthful.....England is a mess, they have a ton of talent but no system......Brazil, hired Dunga to manage the team, interesting decision. He was the "hard man" for Brazil, we will see if he instills some of that mentality to this team, he still has obscene amounts of talent to work with........The US has a ton of work to do, and I don't think Freddie Adu is the answer......More Mexican national team players are heading to Europe, this could bode well. While the Mexican league is not that bad, getting exposure to the European game will do them a world of good.....So we now wait for another 4 years for the madness (2 years for those Euro fans, but not the same as the WC), I think that the next WC we might see an African team make the semi finals, Ivory Coast and Ghana looked very strong, Cameroon and Nigeria who did not even make the WC could field solid teams, especially Nigeria, playing on their Home Continent my be what is needed to get to the next level.

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