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Friday, June 16, 2006

Ecuador v Costa Rica, Sweden v Paraguay

Ecuador v Costa Rica would clearly decide if Germany would go through to the 2nd round, and who would follow them. Poland were out before the game and as Ecuador began, they did so in similar fashion to their first game. Agustin Delgado is showing form that he somehow didn't produce at Southampton, his shot was blocked but he picked up the rebound and passed down the right for the ever pressing Luis Valencia, whose perfect ball into the box was headed in by Carlos Tenorio on 8mins. Costa Rica were bit-parts. They came forward at times but never pressed Cristian Mora into any sweat, Ecuador were in control, were cool, were patient. In the second half, Ivan Kaviedes came on for Tenorio, and added more attacking flair that found Costa Rica in dire straits. Man of the Match for me was Edison Mendez as he constantly played and dragged down the right, this time he linked up with Delgado with one-twos' before he nodded the ball forward for Delgado to fire past Jose Porras for 2-0 on 54mins.

At this time I felt Ecuador would settle with playing the ball about, deny Costa Rica possession, and it was simple for the Central Americans played because they were there, not with any hope. This Ecuadorian superiority claimed yet another goal at the end of normal time when Mendez was involved again, crossing for Kaviedes to volley in. It was, in a sense, a complete round up of Costa Rica, my tip to qualify with Germany yet my colleague T stated that Ecuador had a stronger sense of play, so good call there, T. The only thing now is who goes in 1st and 2nd in Group A. Job done.

Sweden v Paraguay was the proverbial Germany v Poland, only that both sides were more or less in the same predicament and both played out of their skins last night. Little to point at in the game other than the amount of chances Sweden had to score through marcus Allbeck and Henrik Larsson, which had Paraguay clinging on by the fingertips. The game swayed in Sweden's favour but they endured the same lck in front of goal that theyhad against the Trinidadians and I was rooting for Paraguay to hold out for a draw, if not a win, as the underdogs. But eventually the South Americans caved in and just looked dejected when in the last minute of normail time sub Johan Elmander crossed over for Allback to head across and Freddie Ljungberg rushed in to head down past keeper Aldo Bobadilla, who had held off Sweden severals times prior. This was a scrap and it looked a draw but the concentration has to last until the final whistle otherwise tiredness sets in and mistakes can invariably happen.

Germany v Ecuador kicks off at 3pm on Tuesday to decide the winner of Group A, with England v Sweden later on at 8pm that evening. With Ecuador, they close down and are strong in tackles, the Germans may not enjoy the time and space they utilised before, whereas at the back the Germans should tighten up or risk a breakthrough they experienced against Costa Rica on a more dangerous level, with Carlos Tenorio and Augustin Delgado on form, along with Luis Valencia, Ivan Kaviedes may start and Edison Mendez. Crucially Michael Ballack and Bernt Schneider may be the key to the creativity for the Germans, and a better game from Bastian Schweinsteiger than that against Poland.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not that impressive last night and I wonder if the Sweden coach would be bold to drop him and allow Allback and Larsson to start. Christian Wilhelmsson and Kim Kallstrom are clever attack-minded players and we know of Ljungberg. In the Swedes' favour is their presence to come at you and carve and then wait to see what drops their way, so England should look to possession and sharp attacks to keep the Swedes on the back foot. We shouldn't afford too many missed chances as the Swedes are potentially able to snatch a goal under any lapse of concentration. They came at Trinidad and Paraguay, that's their style and it can open them up on a quick counter, something which Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney should look to thrive on.



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