World Cup 2010 Day 7, A Brief Recap

Argentina 4-1 South Korea
Park Chu-Young (og 16′) Gonzalo Higuain (33′ 76′ 80′) Lee Chung-Yong (45′)

An unfortunate own goal off a freekick and off the foot of Park Chu-Young, who didn’t really know much about it, was an early omen for the Koreans. Argentina controlled and managed the ball better and showed some of the best attacking plays of the World Cup, through their usual star names. The aforementioned led to the second goal but just as half time was approaching Demichiles made a blunder and allowed the Korean to carry the ball in for a 2-1 half time score. The Korean goalie, Jung Sung-Ryong, deserved some credit for keeping the score low but that is not to say that Korea didn’t have their own chances as the Argentine defense looked iffy at times. Of particular note was the 57th minute glorious chance totally wasted by Yeom Ki-Hu. Amid some nervy moments for both teams the newly arriving Aguero worked well for Messi to deliver a simple tap in for Higuain and soon after another well worked play led to the hattrick for Higuain.

Greece 2-1 Nigeria
Salpingidis (44′) Torosidis (71′) Uche (16′)

Both teams needed a good result to get back into contention after opening game defeats. The game started with a glimpse or two of promise and it was Nigeria who scored first when Greek goalie, Alexandros Tzorvas, simply missed the ball off of a freekick. Then late in the first half Sani Kaita showed his studs in a kicking motion, got himself ejected and handed an advantage to Greece. Instantly the Nigeria goalie, Vincent Enyeama, came back into focus as Greece brought on Samaras and piled on the pressure. The move paid off as the Greeks managed to score off of a deflection just before half time. The game continued to have a totally different look after the sending off, Greece was more alive than ever and missed a glorious chance with Enyeama making one of the saves of the World Cup. Nigeria missed one of their own right after but could not cope with being one man down and conceded another not long after. At the end Nigeria proved their own worst enemies and Greece took full advantage.

France 0-2 Mexico
Javier Hernandez (64′) Cuauhtemoc Blanco (pen 79′)

France dropped Gourcuff and handed a start to Malouda while keeping both Diaby and Toulalan in the starting lineup. From the creative standpoint this solved little as the game was not impressive. Mexico seemed the better team but not by much, as they had to search and search for a decisive play. As both teams had started the World Cup with a draw a result was needed but the match trodded on reversing some of the exciting results starting to emerge. Substitute Hernandez made a nice run, however and evaded offside to dribble past Lloris and shoot into an empty net. Not long after that Blanco, the elder statemsman of the Mexican team and himself a substitute, converted a penalty that was delivered to Mexico via a clumsy Abidal tackle. And so France’s chances faded, as with their midfield creativity and freekick takers.

World Cup 2010 Day 6, A Brief Recap

Chile 1-0 Honduras
Jean Beausejour (34′)

Honduras’ squad, for the first time at a World Cup, featured 3 brothers. Wilson Palacios in the starting line-up with Johnny and Jerry on the bench. Chile missing Humberto Suazo to injury and therefore less of an scoring threat, Honduras missing a good scoring chunk as well with Carlos Costly and David Suazo missing. And therefore the offense left in the hands of veterans Carlos Pavon and Jorge Valdivia for Honduras and Chile respectively. Early possession and half chances were almost exclusively for the attacking Chileans with Alexis Sanchez and Matias Fernandes doing some good work. The 65%+ possession paid dividends with Beausejour scoring from a low cross. The domination mostly continued and had the Honduran goalie, Noel Valladares, making one of the nicest saves so far in the 63rd minute. In the end Honduras produced little and Chile came reasonably close on many occasions, dominated possession and showed more attacking intent than most, as promised by coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Spain 0-1 Switzerland
Gelson Fernandes (52′)

The game had Frei and Behrami missing for the Swiss while Torres not starting for Spain. For the second game in a row one team had a good lock on domination as Spain controlled the ball for long stretches. Early in the second half we witnessed one of the bigger shocks of the World Cup when the Swiss, through Fernandes, scored first. Iker Cassilas, Pique and the whole Spanish defense made a meal of a high ball. The Spanish were then forced to bring on Navas and Torres for Silva and Busquets. Of the many close calls that followed Xabi Alonso’s crossbar was perhaps the closest. Not long after the Swiss themselves were a post away from making it 2-0 and the game turned into one Puyol and Pique would want to forget. Iniesta left the field due to injury and was replaced by Pedro but half and full chances amounted to little as Switzerland changed the face of group H. Criticism of Spain’s starting line-up followed.

South Africa 0-3 Uruguay
Diego Forlan (24′, pen 80′) Alvaro Pereira (90′)

Uruguay started with more of an attacking line-up in this their second game as all three of Forlan, Suarez and Cavani started. The advantage of the earlier exchanges went to the South Americans but Tshabalala wasn’t shy to shoot when he could. The game wasn’t the most exciting but Forlan did his part with a long range shot that showed that the Adidas Jabulani ball is not all bad. Uruguay had the better of chances with Cavani in particular very wasteful with those few chances. In the last quarter of the match the South Africans became more desperate knowing a loss would make second round very unlikely. Soon after however a debatable penalty and red card resulted from Khune’s slight contact with Suarez, the South African goalie perhaps too harshly judged. Forlan scored and as the crowd was leaving in dismay Alvaro Pereira finished it off right at the whistle.

World Cup 2010 Day 5, A Brief Recap

New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia
Winston Reid (90′) Robert Vittek (50′)

The pattern of timid matches continued with neither team dominating. Slovakia showed glimmers of better technic but Hamsik and others were rarely dangerous. The game didn’t change much as it went on but Vittek managed to score on one of the few real forays into any of the penalty boxes. New Zealand came alive, slightly, towards the end and Slovakia didn’t react much and as happens often were punished with a the late goal by the young New Zealand player.

Ivory Coast 0-0 Portugal

Drogba made only the substitutes bench and Simao couldn’t start due to a training knock. Cristiano Ronaldo showed glimpses of his power and hit the post early on. The teams seemed to cancel each other out with a few probing forays. Ivory Coast held a slight advantage throughout, however. The Africans started the second well but Portugal responded well soon after as well. Drogba came on in the 65th minute for Kalou, sporting the FIFA approved elbow cast. He was greeted with some of the loudest roars of the this World Cup. Among the notable incidents were Drogba and Keita, another substitute, getting close in added time amid several players suffering cramps.

Brazil 2-1 North Korea
Maicon (55′) Elano (72′) Ji Yun-Nam (89′)

This match will be most remembered for the defensive resistance and even few half chances that the North Korean unknowns created, especially by the player dubbed the Asian Rooney, Jong Tae-Se. Brazil seemed to be headed for a historic failure. But early in the second half Maicon rescued Brazil with a goal from the tightest angle possible, one that some may claim was only a cross. Instead the ball made its way between the Korean goalie, Ri Myong-Guk, and the near post. Minutes later a classic through pass from Robinho found its way on the foot of Elano who shot past the goalie. As the game was ending with a sigh of relief for the Brazilians Ji Yun-Nam ran through the Brazilian defense and scored a nice goal. Brazil have a lot to think about and need to show more variety offensively, but can they?

World Cup 2010 Day 4, A Brief Recap

Holland 2-0 Denmark
Daniel Agger (og 46′) Dirk Kuyt (85′)

Holland, as expected, were fluid at times but Denmark, also as expected, held their own. Denmark however lacked the skills shown by their opponents and were undone by the own goal. The Second Dutch goal exemplified at least one case of enthusiasm and work rate difference when after the ball had come off the post Denmark defender Kjaer only walked and watched the ball without any apparent urgency allowing Kuyt to run around him to tap in the rebound and finish off the game.

Japan 1-0 Cameroon
Keisuke Honda (39′)

The match continued the run of early World Cup matches that most have characterized as boring with even some cries of anti-football. Japan, much like their fellow Asian qualifier South Korea, showed stamina and some determination and managed to score through the rising star Keisuke Honda. Cameroon and in particular Eto’o were more alive in the second half and managed some chances, notably hitting the post late on. The overriding conclusion from this game was that Eto’o needs to play a more offensive and direct game if Cameroon are to avoid an early exit.

Italy 1-1 Paraguay
Daniele De Rossi (63′) Antolin Alcaraz (39′)

Marcelo Lippi fielded a slightly more youthful squad than expected, Perhaps the absence due to injury of Pirlo forced the hand of the Italian. Therefore the line-up included Montolivo and Pepe. The Italians dominated territorially for long stretches and the Paraguay goal came off a bounce and against the run of play. Both teams showed some vulnerability to speedy attacks but, despite continued Italian dominance, perhaps the crucial part of the game occurred when the experienced Paraguay goalie, Justo Villar, misjudged the ball from a corner allowing De Rossi to tap in the ball to tie the game. Buffon, the Italian goalie, was substituted at half time for Federico Marchetti and any absence may prove decisive in future matches.

World Cup 2010 Day 3, A Brief Recap

Algeria 0-1 Slovenia
Robert Koren (79′)

The first half featured a bevy of giveaways that suggested two nervous and/or weak teams. The second half was slightly better but seemed to be going nowhere. It featured the Algerian Ghezzal being sent off after a second yellow. Just as the earlier feeling of the game ending as a tie was about to materialize Chaouchi let a not too powerful shot go in. He failed to block and the ball almost went through him.

Serbia 0-1 Ghana
Asamoah Gyan (pen 84′)

Ghana missing Essien were intriguing to watch. Both teams showed some tactical ability and were somewhat cancelling each other out. The second half saw more chances. Krasic, Zigic and Jovanovic had acceptable but not great games and on the Ghanaian side Asamoah Gyan was doing well. Another second yellow game incident saw Lukovic out at the 74th minute. And again the game seemed to be heading for a scoreless tie when Kuzmanovic handled the ball needlessly in the box. It resulted in the only goal of the game. Not for the first time Serbia did not help their own cause.

Germany 4-0 Australia
Lukas Podolski (8′) Miroslav Klose (26′) Thomas Muller (67′) Cacau (70′)

The young Germans were their steely selves and at least for this opening game not only kept their nerves but were disciplined and executed well. The Socceroos were poor in dealing with the superiority of the midfield and offense of the Germans and were time and again running to cover raids by Podolski, Muller and Ozil. Tim Cahill was sent off with a straight red in a somewhat questionable call but nevertheless Australia mustered few and far between chances and Neuer, in the German goal, did not have a difficult night.

World Cup 2010 Day 2, A Brief Recap

South Korea 2-0 Greece
Lee Jung-Soo (7′) Park Ji-Sung (52′)

Greece started a more adventerous style than recent history and reputation has suggested. Coach Rehhagel’s men though seemed disorganized and unprepared to deal with a hard working and counter attacking South Korea. The likes of Gekas and Karagounis were entirely none factors as Lee Jung-Soo and Park Ji-Sung scored for the Koreans. Cha Du-Ri for example exemplified the better Koreans but they still could fall to a more organized, pressing team.

Argentina 1 – 0 Nigeria
Gabriel Heinze (6′)

Argentina left the likes of Milito and Maxi on the bench in favor of Higuain and Di Maria and also started Veron. Nigeria on the other hand left Martins on the bench. The most notable points from this games were the number of chances Messi missed or was thwarted by the competent goalkeeping of Enyeama. This game was a total write off for Veron who even struggled to complete easy passes. The aforementioned Martins made a difference in Nigeria’s shape and attacking intent with his speed and skill when he came on early in the second half. Argentina remained somewhat disorganized tactically and had the likes of Tevez and Gutierrez to thank for some hard work.

England 1-1 USA
Steven Gerrard (4′) Clint Dempsey (40′)

Heskey remains a mystery favorite of various coaches. In his defense is the ability to open paths and space for his striking partner(s) which in this case was Rooney, of course. After England scored early its lineup was tweaked with a relatively early substitution (Wright-Phillips for Milner) in the 30th minute, presumably Capello either saw something or didn’t like Milner’s early booking. Robert Green continued the English goalkeeping troubles by fumbling the ball and letting it trickle in from the Dempsey shot (does anybody doubt the fact that Green and David James are one and two in the English setup only because of EPL’s money bonanza?). England and indeed the US had many chances or perhaps half chances – by Ronney and Altidore for example – but in the end players like Lampard and Dempsey, for England and the US respectively, needed to be more involved if more goals were to be scored.

World Cup 2010 Day 1, A Brief Recap

South Africa 1-1 Mexico
Siphiwe Tshabalala (55′) Rafael Marquez (79′)

Vuvuzelas in full blast Mexico controlled the match early, especially down the wings, but the South Africans soon settled. A Mexico goal was correctly called back for offside. South Africa resisted and showed some good passing – and goalkeeping courtesy of Khune – before Tshabalala scored from a rather tight angle with a fierce shot. Marquez rescued Mexico when the South African defense failed to hold the line. Mexico goalie Perez – along with Mexico’s defense – seemed to struggle often and the South Africans had a few chances, one off the post, to get off to a winning start.

France 0-0 Uruguay

France left Malouda on the bench and neither team could create much excitement. Skills of the likes of Ribery or Gourcuff were very rarely in evidence. Discipline was a factor with a few yellow cards that eventually had Uruguay’s Lodeiro sent off for a double yellow for a bad tackle on Sagna. France coach Domenech tried to change the shape of the offense by bringing on Henry, Malouda and Gignac (for Anelka, Diaby and Govou respectively) but with little success.

World Cup 2010: Five Players 23 And Under To Keep An Eye On

The following five players are 23 (or under) years old. They are not the biggest names in football but are stars at their clubs and are ready to make an impact. Their young careers suggest a big potential to shine at World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

Marek Hamsik
Date of birth: 27 July 1987 Country: Slovakia Club: Napoli

Alexis Sanchez
19 December 1988 Chile Udinese

Mesut Ozil
15 October 1988 Germany Werder Bremen

Luis Suarez
24 January 1987 Uruguay Ajax

Eljero Elia
13 February 1987 The Netherlands Hamburg

AC Milan At A Crossroads

As another football (soccer) season nears its end AC Milan fans are realizing that their beloved club is at a cross roads.
For years financed and saved by billionaire Silvio Berlusconi the financial excesses seem to have ended for the said owner. Expectations however have not and as much as the fans are entitled to demand a continuation of the previous spending ways to compete not only in the Serie A but also in European leagues (Champions League and its wealth) it is up to the owner to do as he wishes and if he is unable or unwilling to do so to consider selling the team.

The major issue and complaint is more than just the (lack of) spending however, it is how the club is run day to day and how the motto of ‘the most successful club’ (in terms of number of domestic and European trophies won) is used as a justification that the team can remain successful. The club is also notoriously stubborn in remaining loyal and to hold on to some players whose best days have passed. Some of those players have high wages which is not helping in these days of restrained spending. At the same time some highly useful assets have been sold (Kaka to Real Madrid) and the threat of further departures (Pato to any one of Chelsea and Real Madrid), to ‘balance the books’ remains.
The 2009/10 season brought a new and inexperienced coach, following the departure of the sometimes maligned but mostly successful Carlo Ancelotti to Chelsea, in Leonardo. The former player who had been at the club as a scout and major negotiator for South American transfers since 2002 was thrust into the coaching position and showed a great deal of intelligence and calm not only in tactics and formation but in dealing with the meddling management and owner wanting to not only dictate lineups but to demand wins despite an aging and weakened squad. Of course there was stubbornness from the coach in insisting on an attacking 4-3-3 formation that resulted in an (early) exit from the Champions League at the the hands of this writer’s least favorite team, Manchester United and an almost as embarrassing wipe out by one of this writer’s other least favorite teams, Inter Milan, in the league. Both teams exploited the team’s weakness and tactics’ naivety to counter attack and kill any chance of a good result.
Recent days have seen reports, not officially confirmed, that the said coach Leonardo might leave because he is being pushed or otherwise and he has admitted to a rocky relationship with the owner. The future of the team is even further in question, the owner is thought to be searching for a yes man type of coach and as mentioned may be tempted into selling Pato and others for even more cash. The squad meanwhile is depleted because of injuries and that has not helped the team when it almost seemed like they may even have a chance at the title this season. This exasperated situation has come despite the daily rumour mill linking highly useful players like Milos Krasic (from CSKA Moscow) and Edin Dzeko (from Wolfsburg) to Milan but it seems unlikely the money for such transfers will be made available and even if they are the team requires more depth and defensive help as well.
It is perhaps time for a new ownership, one that knows the value of investments. It is not necessary to go into a Chelsea or Real Madrid type of spending spree but a more intelligent yet sustained approach at presenting a team worthy of the traditions and value of the club, incidentally one that is still among the top earners in the world. One can name players who perhaps should be let go and others that would serve the team well but above all else this team has the wealth and power to remain among the elites of Europe and the world, if it wants to.

Football (Or If You Like, Soccer) World Cup

A brief post about the World Cup which is now less than eight weeks away.

This reviewer supports Italy but feels that their team is either too old or not very spectacular. Under the guidance of Marcello Lippi, who was the winning coach four years ago, Italy can still do very well. With the likes of Giorgio Chiellini in the heart of the defense, Daniele De Rossi in the heart of the midfield and the likes of Antonio Di Natale moving forward the team has a chance.

It remains to be seen if the fitness of Fernando Torres and others in the Spanish team hurts their favorites tags. And if Brazil can truly deliver with Kaka either injured or disappointing at Real Madrid.