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Sunday, June 11, 2006

England v Paraguay, T&T v Sweden, Argentina v Ivory Coast

The moment has come and gone, England's first participation in the tournament ending with a win and three points. There have been mention of 'just', and indeed it was precisely that. While we allowed Paraguay little possession in the opening seconds, we took control and gained the freekick from which clearly Paraguay captain Carlos Gamarra made contact as the ball glanced off his head past the keeper. How this remained the only goal for England during the first half is something considering the possession and runs, passing and control we had. Steven Gerrard went in on two occasions in succession with block tackles on Nelson Valdez and Cristian Riveros and was unduly booked by referee Mexican Marco Rodriguez, whose professionalism I applauded but at times flexibility seemed not to be a point at all in his decisions. Peter Crouch fell foul of his tussles with Julio Caceres under high balls as the referee considered Crouch was too imposing! My goodness, he should officiate in the Premiership and increase his fan club.

The second half was something different and it did show the England players were being affected by the heat to which the Paraguyans were practically at home. Constant menaces Valdez and particularly Carlos Paredes, who clearly tried to influence the referee with his rolls when hitting the ground, almost equalised. Michael Owen came off early in the 56th minute as part of a tactical move to have Stewart Downing on the left and Joe Cole behind Crouch. Not only did it not work but Paraguay were using the advantage of the lone man up front to push one up and incessantly came forward with more vigour. Carlos Bonet and Roberto Acuna worked very hard in the same area where Frank Lampard and Gerrard were intended to dominate, the two Englishmen for me had a quiet game, more so Gerrard. Bonet ran down the right and should have been closed down better by Downing, managing to cross for Paul Robinson to palm out in the direction of Paredes. Paredes was put off by Robinson's leap to block and skyed the ball over when he could have kept it low.

However, play as you like but if it means three points, so be it. It could have been different if the scores were level, perhaps England would come out more often in the second half instead of being on the back foot, and Paraguay were little far off from equalising. It is also good sense to gain the advantage first and hold it, provided your opponents do not get the better of you too often, otherwise there is the old cliche of them eventually breaking through, as we saw with Argentina v Ivory Coast.


Next kick off England is 5pm in Nuremberg against Trinidad & Tobago, and I think it is unfair we had to endure the heat at 2pm and the Swedes do not in the group stage. Whether the Trinidadians would be accustomed to the heat is another question, but they certainly endured a different kind of heat from the Swedish pairing of Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. These two tuned in on each other particularly better than Thomas Brolin and Martin Dahlin some 12 years previous. Constantly the Trinidadian defence faced the constant knocking on their barriers by Sweden and watched as replacement keeper Shaka Hislop pulled some good saves. Preferred keeper Kelvin Jack suffered an injury on his way back to the dressing room after warming up. Particularly for the Swedes, other than the front two, was Christian Wilhelmsson, who at one point weaved away from three challenges but couldn't avoid contact on the third one by Avery John, who was booked.

Early into the second half Wilhelmsson came to the ball on the right and met another John challenge that was, for me, legitimate enough but referee Shamsul Maidin of Singapore deemed it another booking and John left to bring the Trinidadians to 10 men for almost the entire second half. this gave the Swedes the advantage but the Trinidadians were relentless in keeping out the goal threats, Hislop called to yet again produce good form to aid that quest. At the end of what was quite emphatically a better point for Trinidad than Sweden, with 10 men, celebrations started as if it was the quarter finals next.

The commentator mentioned that Group B could be decided on how many goals the respective teams gain against Trinidad, and I thought that was disrespectful, and here we have seen how expectations can sometimes go contrary to beliefs. This result means that England will go through at least to round two with a win in their next game. IF the Paraguayans hold Sweden, which is possible if both sides play as they did in their respective second halves, we can top the group though that's immaterial as long as we go through. Trinidad did us a favour, and that of football in general, in showing spirit, heart and rugged determination to deny the odds. Well done to them, but not for their next match!


I didn't give the Ivorians a chance in this group, much less the tournament, but my word they showed a different form of class against Argentina, the South Americans were practically stretched at the back on occasion and it was down to sheer bad finishing or contact that prevented the Ivory Coast from scoring. Yet when on the ball the Argentinians showed true class themselves, and while a lot seemed possible with Didier Drogba up front powerhousing the defence, equally Juan Roman Riquelme was cool and accurate in his distribution and poise to slow the play down and take the sting out of any attack on Argentina. His 24th minute corner swung over and caused a little confusion for Hernan Crespo to score the opener. Riquelme picked up a pass in midfield and then slotted quite simply a sublime through ball for Javier Saviola to just about beat the offside trap and poke the ball past keeper Jean-Jacques Tizie.

Yet I refer back to above where I said if you let a team continuously come at you and you are not competent enough to deny them and shut them out, eventually they will score, and that was the case with the Ivorians. The strength and pace of the Ivorians continued to give major stress fractures on Argentina's defence walls until it broke when Bakari Kone ran down the right and chipped over for Aruna Dindane to head down for Drogba to knock in left-footed. This was within the first minute of three minutes injury time and still time to play, but it wasn't to be and Argentina became the next side to record a first win. Superb debut games for the Trinidadians and the Ivorians.


RedsMan.

11 Comments:

Blogger T said...

More fantastic commentaries Redsman...

I also saw all three matches (it's an endurance test!) and really enjoyed both the Trinidad and Ivory Coast matches.

I can accept that England suffered under the heat in the second half and having come through the extreme 30 plus centigrade heat they will now be acclimatised and more ready for such conditions if they were to face them again. Their next couple of games will be played later on in the day so I expect England will be stronger for longer.. which will help the quality of their performance.

England's other problem was that they sat back in the 2nd half- with Gerrard in particular playing like a fifth centre-back for most of the 2nd half. Downing was not impressive when he came on... and I would like to see Lennon come in on the left if Eriksson decides again to shift things round and put Cole in the hole. In particular, I thought England lacked someone with real pace in the 2nd half and Lennon can provide this.

I also feel for the other sub, Hargreaves- he lacks composure on the ball and I think suffers from a lack of confidence due to the regular criticism he faces by the English media.

Redsman, I agree that Valdez (liked the fact that he screamed after his narrow miss in first half injury-time... shows real passion for the game!) and Parades were impressive for Paraguay. The South Americans can take heart from the second half performance and I think their match against Sweden will be brilliant because both know that a win will probably be enough to grab the second qualifying position.

I didn't think Sweden played that bad a match- and agree that Wilhelmssonn was a livewire on the right. It's just that Sweden could not play ruthless football in T&T's 18 yard box. I liked Glen's reaction after he hit the post in the 2nd half... he was on his knees and he was in awe at his own effort!

Argentina played a solid game and in Riquelme have someone who has the ultimate composure on the ball. Crespo's goal was a typical clutch shot, and Argentina's smart running off the ball created the space for Riquleme to put in Saviola for a cool second. At the other end, Ivory Coast were relentless in the drive and I felt they deserved their goal through Drogba. Bakari Kone made a big difference when he came on- great straight running from midfield and the goal came from one of his surges forward.

I expect England to triumph comfortably over tenacious T&T.. I just can't see that Hislop and Co have enough in the tank to repeat their heroics of y'day. The Paraguay/Sweden match will have so much riding on it- and I find it hard to make a call either way. I think Valdez will trouble Lucic and Mellberg, but similarly I don't think its possible that Larsson and Ibrahimovich can go successive matches without making a mark. For me this match is too tight to call... but if forced to make a decision I would say Sweden... just!

P.S I'm signing off just before the Mexico/Iran match. My instinct's are telling me that Iran can cause an upset in this match...

6/11/2006 5:03 pm

 
Blogger T said...

P.S. Sweden should start new Lyon signing, Kim Kallstrom, against Paraguay. He impressed me and my brother during Euro 2004, and his left-footed passing made a big difference when he came on late in the game y'day.

6/11/2006 5:07 pm

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

Superb comment, T, and spot on in tandem with my own. Paraguay and Sweden is too tight to call and this is why I draw on the 2nd half performances from both sides as a possible indication of the result. I sense a draw and we could well find the South Americans going ahead in that game first.

The weather in Germany currently is beautiful, just as it is in regions here in England. I recall on FiveLive and TalkSport the respective presenters and pundits stating pre-match that England do not want to be in the position of chasing the ball too much in the heat, and that was the crux of the 2nd half. As T stated, and I indicated above, there is more advantage in starting in the evening. I hope there is more fortune in Owen's movements, he didnt have a good game and on occasion, when played in, mis-timed his control and that's worrying. Should be fit but indicatively is off-form. Eriksson looked into shutting up shop in keeping Crouch alone, but Downing's introduction should have made way for bursting runs down the left and support from midfield as appropriate. Beckham's effort across goal was tantamount to the lack of this, no one at all in the box when it came across. Neville's ball to Crouch with three men around him and no England player behind was another example.

Many are saying that there is no need to panic or worry or complain as we have three points. I doubt they would be predicting that on the hour or 70mins. We have three points because the game ended, the three points are not in the bag until then and its that period where we need to come out and sweep back the attack, certainly have more of a contingency plan under attack than backs to the wall. We had the first half well and could have conceded in the 2nd, so the concern is to not be in that situation again and potentially give way to a goal.


RedsMan.

6/11/2006 10:31 pm

 
Anonymous Nturtle said...

Well Redsman and T - a lot of great analysis there! I read somewhere that even the England PLAYERS had trouble figuring out why Walcott wasn't brought on instead of pushing Joe Cole into the Striker position. A bit of youthful running the sweltering conditions might have done the trick...but oh no...HARGREAVES and Downing...interesting Sven... One comment was that this configuration was NOTHING like they ever planned for or trained for...so no wonder it didn't really work out. Sven needs to play some footy management games I reckon!

Onto the T&T v Sweden - top effort by T&T - I would now rate them over Costa Rica, and even though Wanchope had a great game...the rest of the team didn't have a lot of quality.

A few draw would have done nicely to open up the group of death...but both Holland and Argentina managed to get their necks out in front...what struck me was that all teams rightly deserved to be there...and they fought tooth and nail all the way. Serbia and Montenegro really came out firing in the second half and were unlucky not to draw I thought.

On a more recent match...Mexico v Iran...well...I thought I'd skip it...but it was really VERY entertaining...end to end stuff for the first half! Finally...a defensive error committed Iran to a tough defeat...before lax marking resulted in another...and flattered Mexico in the 3-1 final scoreline.

The World Cup is fantastic stuff so far and needless to say, a few upset like Ecuador beating the Polish...we'd have a proper game on our hands. It's a feeling that almost EVERY game is like a final...that is what is so exciting!

Keep it coming!

6/12/2006 6:36 am

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

That's why I sort of yearned for a beginning upset from Costa Rica and Ecuador. Maybe Costa Rica would be too much to ask for a host nation but the Costa Ricans could have actually done it were it not for their constant break in attack to pull the ball backwards, non-productive.

Just wrote on the Holland match and that from Group D. If Holland think they are suited, they have the Ivorians next and that's one to watch.

Today is your day, Nturtle, I understand you are an Australian and I anticipate Kewell and Co to bring out a nice flavour in their match with Japan under the heat. The Americans face the Czechs for which Milan Baros is said to be a non-starter, so I imagine yourself and T will watch Rosicky. I have an interest n Italy v Ghana, I wonder if the Ghanaians will provide a first African win in the tournament.

Football. Can live with it, mustn't live without it!!


RedsMan.

6/12/2006 11:51 am

 
Blogger T said...

Couldn't agree more with that Nturtle... for me each match has been a fascinating contest and I hope this tone continues for the rest of the tournament!

6/12/2006 12:00 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Redsman, ditto that last comment!!

I have been meaning to say on EFT that I am downbeat about Italy's prospects for the World Cup. I'm simply not convinced about the ability and strategy of their present team- and tip the underrated Czech's to finish top of the group with a scramble between the remaining teams for a second place and likely encounter with the Brazilians.

This being said, Italy will probably now go on to win the whole tournament given that I have just written them off!

Yep, good luck Nturtle! To be honest I haven't seen much of the Socceroo's so I look forward to seeing how Hiddink sets out his team against a Japan side that can always be relied on for good technical football...

6/12/2006 12:15 pm

 
Anonymous Nturtle said...

Oh wow...THANK YOU T and Redsman for the luck! We damn well needed it! 3-1 Australia!!! Having NEVER EVER scored a goal against an opponent in the World Cup...(only goal was an OWN goal previously against West Germany 32 years ago)...we managed 3 in the space of 10 minutes! The LAST 10 minutes mind you!

A marginal decision...and certainly controversial if the Socceroos hadn't won...Shwarzer the Aussie goal seemed to bundled out of the way at the moment when his hand was about to palm away the ball from an innoculous cross into the area by Nakamura of Japan...which resulted in the goal which stood...to the amazement of all the Socceroos....there was a cut scene to Hiddink the coach running over to the Japanese bench to look at replays, gesiculating madly!!

Well...for 85 minutes...it looked like Australia had had it...down by a goal...bad luck...seemingly refereering against their physical play...and Japanese players falling all over the place at the slightest (well..some robust and stupid challenges frankly)...

But a goalmouth scramble result in Cahill again scoring to level...then not so many minutes later...a fantastic effort from outside the box result in a ball curling away from the impressive Kawaguchi...striking the left upright...then zooming across the goalmouth to strike the other post and go in!! Wow! The crowd goes wild!

A desperate and last minute substitution by Zico the Japanese coach only allows play to drag into stoppage time...and a badly played ball enable Australia to break and pass to Aloisi...who only has the last defender to beat...and smashes one past the helpless Japanese goalie! And that's 3! I'm breathless even typing! Such a crazy game this...and I'm loving it!

Had Japan taken the few chances they had in the second half...after a tired and reduced 3-man Aussie backline didn't even have strength to chase wide balls...they would be 2 up easily...and it is credit to the critics who argued they were lacking in firepower...they sound like they were right.

Well...one more draw...(or win) against Croatia...and probably a thrashing by Brazil (hopefully not)...and Australia will be into the second round...In any event...this is as good a scoreline as it gets...so credit to the Aussies...fighting to the last!

Come on Socceroos! All the way (ok...that is a LONG LONG WAY as Hiddink said after we qualified)!!!

6/12/2006 4:13 pm

 
Anonymous Abdul said...

Nturtle - just read your breathless summary of Australia v Japan but couldnt see the game. Congratulations. You must fancy your chances against Croatia (who are not a great side im my opinion)to get through. Like T, I also think you will give Brazil a great game - the biggest shock in world cup history?

Thanks for the summaries Redsman.

Yes the World Cup certainly has been fascinating so far. Aside from England v Paraguay which I thought was a quite a poor spectacle, i have been thoroughly entertained by all the matches.

Redsman, like you, I was very impressed with Ivory Coast. If they were a little more clinical up front (although Drogba was excellent) - they could have come away with a well deserved draw.

That said, Riquelme & Co also looked brilliant on the ball. The only question mark I have over them is in central defence. Heinze is a great left back, but to me he doesnt look comfortable at centrehalf. Allied this to the long lay-off he has had - and I think I can see a chink in the Argentinian armour.

Nturtle - I just do not think Walcott is an option at this stage. He is not ready. Staurday's game was crying out for Defoe and I still cant understand why he is not in the squad. But England got the win and that is all imporatant. T&T may have put up a spirited fight against Sweden - but I cant see anything other than an England win and qualification for the last 16.

T- I actually think Itlay will have a good tournament. They are best when their backs against the wall and I think the Czech's are past their best. They have a very old team who peaked at Euro 2004. I think the USA will be the surprise package in this group and go through with the azzuri.

6/12/2006 6:21 pm

 
Blogger SKG said...

indeed all the games have been fascinating, even the england game even if for the wrong reasons. england will be looking for a really positive performance and i think T&T may be in for a hard time on thursday (especially if the 'big man' plays!)

6/12/2006 8:54 pm

 
Anonymous Nturtle said...

A bit calmer now...and I've got to concede that I overlooked the goalkeeping errors on both sides...

Kawacuchi actually flapped at a long throw-in...which is unusual...and that led to Cahill's first goal. Shwarzer should have been punished as he punched out a ball to Takahara who took too long and had his shot blocked...and the other time the Aussie goalie headed straight out to a player who should have lobbed him at first opportunity.

In any event...anything is possible...thanks for the comments Abdul!

SKG - definitely think England's next match is exciting...T&T have a point...and look like a tough opponent. Will Rooney make the difference if he plays?!

6/13/2006 3:23 am

 

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