Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup round of 16 - first half is set

A great weekend of football - good goals, heartbreaking games and controversy - what else would one want? So we are set for the first half of the 1/4 finals

Uruguay v Ghana
Argentina v Germany

How did these teams get there:

Uruguay: In the first game of the round of 16, the South Americans played the surprise Asian side South Korea. What was one of the least hyped game turned out to be a good match between two well disciplined and well organized sides. The combo between Suarez and Forlan looks like it is starting to click, which is dangerous for the other nations. Both sides had chances, an early South Korean free kick, from Chu Young Park, smashed into the post having successfully found its way around the wall. But poor defense and inexplicable goalkeeping from South Korea allowed a cross from Forlan bypass at least 3 defenders and the keeper (who mush have thought the ball was destined to go wide) only to see Suarez come in and smash home the shot.

The South Koreans fought back to level but were done in by a wonder strike from Suarez. The Uruguay defense (only 1 goal conceded all tournament) and combination of Suarez - Forlan - Cavani is proving lethal.

Ghana: For the second time in 4 years the Black Stars knock out the Stars and Stripes...yes I stole that from some TV talking head. After the World Cup is over and when the US players get a chance to reflect I think they will rue this missed opportunity. While I think the talk of a semi final run were a but premature, there is no doubt that the way the opponents were being set up, there was a legitimate chance for the Americans. Let us face it, had they finished second in the group does anyone really believe they could have taken out the German team we saw today? Or an Argentina team in the 1/4 finals? However Ghana took their chances and deserve to go through. The first 20 -30 minutes it appeared that Ghana could score another goal or 2 after opening up the score through Boateng after a terrible turn over in the midfield by Clark. However at the half the US brought in Feilhaber and changed the complexion of the match. The US controlled the midfield and put some real pressure on the Ghana back 4 earning a deserved PK that Landycakes banked in.

But the problem that haunted the United States bit again in extra time when a harmless and blind clearance from their own half feel to Gyan who cut between Demerit and Bocanegra and lashed on to a pile driver of a left foot sending Ghana to a 2-1 victory. This encapsulated the problems with the United States team - shoddy central defense. Demerit, Onyewu and Bocanegra all struggled at different stages of this World Cup, the wide players did not cover themselves in glory either. This lack of strong defending forced the United States to chase 3 out 4 games this World Cup, not a formula for success. A second big issue were the strikers. Altidore's touch let him down all tournament. He had some good situations when he was holding up the ball or knocking it on as he did on the second goal against Slovenia. However he had a chance in the second half against Ghana but his heavy touch allowed the keeper to cut him down. He did almost score a spectacular goal with 10 minutes to go, but too often lost possession trying to do his best Messi impersonation. Add to this Findley's first half attempt from 18 yards out when he could have taken another touch or tried to dribble the keeper - not a shot an international level striker needs to settle on. If the US had a striker like Gyan they might still be playing...

Germany: In a much anticipated match up against hated rival England the game turned into a rout exposing England for what it has become - old, slow and without creativity. Of course we had another controversial refereeing decision when a Lampard shot clearly rebounded behind the goal line, at the time it would have made the game 2-2. Instead the Germans headed into the half time with a 2-1 lead. As England pushed in the second half to equalize they were badly caught out gifting Mueller a brace. In the end the better team did win, Germany demonstrated as usual, a great organization and discipline. With World Cup veterans like Klose, Podolozki and Schweinsteiger supported by the youth of Ozil and Mueller it became academic after Germany maintained their 2-1 lead to start the second half.

What was disappointing were the Three Lions. Entering the competition, as it happens every World Cup, the calls for winning the ultimate crown for the first time since 1966 was thought withing reach. With an "EASY" group, many in the notoriously overzealous British press had the English making a serious run, granted I think Sports Illustrated had the English in a semi final as well. Even thought the English had a very positive qualifying campaign and apparently the right man in Capello, they never convinced during their 4 games. They clearly had problems in central defense - Terry looked like a beaten man and they could never figure out who to replace Ferdinand. The Klose goal resembled the Gyan goal a big boot down the park, striker splits the central defenders and slots home... Rooney was completely lost. Even the French scored more goals than Rooney - 1 vs 0! Not sure if the Manchester United striker was still battling the effects of his ankle injury, but he clearly had a tournament to forget. Of course the necessity to have Lampard and Gerrard on the pitch together still does not work...sad part is the world has known this for years yet manager after manager feels the need to shoe horn both into the starting XI. It seems that this side could have used a Theo Walcott at some point during their 4 games. Otherwise there was no apparent width or pace, Joe Cole having been used sparingly...Finally still not sure how a football nation such as England cannot develop any quality holding midfielders. It is shocking. Germany had their way through the midfield, no on wearing a red shirt could even feign being able to check the German attack. England will have to rebuild, the nice thing for the Three Lions is this should mark the end of Terry, Lampard and Gerrard as internationals. All strong players individually, but especially in the case of the two midfielders - cannot coexist on the same pitch.

Argentina: The Albiceleste looked very strong once again. Granted the first goal should have been ruled off side, but it was not...however the Tevez - Messi - Higuain front line is deadly. The fact that Di Maria has not really done much and Messi has not scored a goal should give Germany and any other team that might face Argentina food for thought. Mexico fought hard all match but were over-matched.The goal from Hernandez was a piece of beauty...what I thought was comic was the comment on ABC from John Harkes who criticized Romero, the Argentine keeper, for not "protecting his near post." Um hey John, the shot from Hernandez was unstoppable, even had the keeper anticipated that spot he could never have reached it....just because you could not hit that shot in your best days, give the striker credit for a fantastic first touch and finish. Speaking of goals, the 3rd Argentine goal was also a thing of beauty an absolute pile driver from distance.

The one area of concern for Argentina is the back 4...Maradona keeps playing central defenders as all back 4. And the goalkeeping is very wobbly right now. The key for Argentina moving forward will be how Mascherano holds up the defensive responsibilities in the midfield. However their is no doubting the offensive fire power and creative flair from this team, do not forget that Aguero and Milito are available off the bench. Frightening. Finally, it is clear this team wants to play for the sky blue and white kit as well as for their manager (unlike Les Bleus). This is a very good combination heading into the 1/4 finals.

 Finally this weekend was also mired by some terrible refereeing decisions or lack thereof. The least egregious was the Tevez non offside call on the first goal.  However the one that will really created debate for least until FIFA wakes up and does something to improve officiating.

I am sure Blatter is breathing somewhat after Germany won 4-1...but had the goal be allowed, which it should have, it could have and most likely would have changed the game. Why? Not sure England is pushing up the pitch so get the equalizer.They probably do not get caught on a break if the game is 2-2. Of course FIFA released some nonsensical statement about video not being usable to determine goals because it would open up the call to use video for other aspects of the game and that there would need to be training for how to use video which is really complicated and television is still to new....blah blah blah. Here is an idea Sepp, you ignorant moron, you already have all the referees wired with headsets. The 4th official is already sitting by a monitor - how else did the Zizou head butt get caught! For plays dealing with a goal, allow the 4th official to give the referee on the field a hand. In this situation it would have taken all of 3 seconds for the 4th official to get on his little telemarketer headset and say "ball crossed line, goal." But instead we have the bureaucratic, useless, profiteer, Sepp Blatter, making some idiotic statement about technology and the beauty if human error and why "technology" cannot be used to call goal or no goal. Grow a brain Sepp wake up to the 21st century!

Of course Sepp has a Twitter I would encourage EVERYONE to tweet @SeppBlatter for as long as it takes to get him to wake up to this need.

Anyways, 4 more games to come. Brazil v Chile will be very interesting, I think Chile can give the Samba Boyz a scare and of course we have the Iberian derby - Portugal v Spain. Hopefully we do not also have more refereeing issues.


philip said...

I agree 100% you can't argue that you don't want to use technology on the beautiful game if the refs are already using headsets. Put goal line technology NOW! not tomorrow, NOW!

GFC said...

Goal line technology should have been in place years ago! They are already leveraging it for youth tournaments! At least Blatter should have adopted with UEFA did and have an official behind each goal. I really do not know what is the mental block with Sepp and FIFA...tragic.

They use video in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, Horse racing, auto racing even in Rugby they use video to determine if try was scored!

Just so frustrating!

Anonymous said...

and you havent even touched the topic of "Calamity James"... or goal line technology. Had the match been tighter I guess this would have been the focus of your discussion.
Thanks Frog for keeping it real. I've been reading your blog as therapy lately.

GFC said...

Well Calamity James wasn't the biggest issue for the Three Lions. Granted he could have done better on the Klose goal, once the ball bounced into his area he should have come out more aggressively it was clear that Upson was out positioned and was not going to get the ball...and where was Terry? Podolski goal, he cut the angle down but it was a terrific shot from the Polish born striker. The first Mueller goal, in slow motion it is clear that James butchered it, but having faced similar shots it is easier said than done. As a keeper your natural tendency when a right footer blasts one from that angle is to lean to your right, which is where the ball started but it knuckled back straight. So cannot entirely fault James. And hey had the second English goal been given maybe James' defenders would have not been pushed so far up!

As for goal line technology....sigh. That will get its own post soon....bottom line FIFA & Blatter are MORONS