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Saturday, June 24, 2006

France emerge as South Korea's chance expires

Switzerland and France it is to meet with the Ukraine and Spain respectively, two good matches for analysis. France v Spain is on June 27th in Hanover, the Swiss face the Ukraine in Cologne on the 26th.

Spain changed their enitre eleven - Santiago Canizares, Michel Salgado, Carlos Marchena, Antonio Lopez, Gutierrez Juanito, David Albelda, Antonio Reyes, Andres Iniesta, Joaquin, Cesc Fabregas, Raul - to face Saudi Arabia and made excellent work of the Saudi keeper Mabrouk Zaid, who denied on several occasions. Spain's only goal, that of the game too, came via a Reyes freekcik that curled for Juanito to head in. I suppose with the Ukraine's thumping of the Saudis', Luis Aragones was confident of another stern performance from a second string yet on balance of the result could have come stuck. The coach is at least aiming for the kill and that has to be applauded when you compete amongst the best in the world.

Tunisia held a slim chance of qualification and almost provided a fighting finale to threaten the Ukrainians, but throughout the match they generally failed to show the necessary touch near goal to take the lead. Crucially Radhi Jaidi was becoming susceptible at the back though at one point came in with a great tackle to deny Andriy Shevchenko. Yet when you seek a win and no less to progress, one must remain sensible and, more importantly, on the pitch. Within nine minutes Ziad Jaziri was booked for a blatant dive while being watched by Andriy Rusol, superb decision made even more so through the replay, but Jaziri may feel he was harshly sanctioned for a challenge on Anatolii Tymoschuk that occurs readily in the Premiership. Tunisia down to ten.

The Ukraine never pressed their numerical advantage in the second half and the game turn slightly droll with either side not producing quality passing and possession to entertain the watching numbers. Tunisia did win a freekick yards from the Ukrainian box, and as it was taken by Ania Yari the ball deflected off an raised arm from Andriy Voronin for a corner, quite a clear change of direction that was overlooked. That could have been a telling moment. Shevchenko went on to challenge for a long ball missed by Jaidi, leaving the Ukraine front man with keeper Ali Boumnijel and defender Karim Hagui. Shevchenko bustled through the confusion and then tripped over his own leg, the decision given was penalty. Shevchenko converted the kick, Ukraine went on to earn their meet with Switzerland.

The Swiss went light work of their qualification with a 2-0 win that sunk South Korea's chances of going through, provided Togo beat or drew against France. Park Cho-Young pulled back on Tranquillo Barnetta that allowed Hakan Yakin to deliver into the box, Phillippe Senderos making a colossal thump of a header to gain the lead, and a gash on the forehead. At times I feel Senderos panics and becomes rash or overeager to challenge, but he has the tenacious energy at times where he refuses to let anything get by him, and this header showed he meant business. Textbook defender header, like John Terry. I can forsee Tomas Rosicky delivering such balls, one to watch out for.

Switzerland increased their lead on 77mins, through slight controversy. Sub Xavier Margairaz aimed to pass across but the ball was intercepted by the foot of Seol Ki-Hyeon into the path of Alexander Frei, who was in an offside position. As the ball came off a South Korean player, Frei was within the laws and went on to round the keeper to score. It can be argued that the South Koreans stopped playing after the linesman flagged offside but they should have played to the whistle. The decision was 100% correct. The sad news is Senderos is likely to miss the clash with the Ukraine with a dislocated shoulder injury.

France needed to win, no less. Had the South Koreans drawn, France would need two clear goals to supersede into 2nd place via goal difference. As it turned out the French made strenuous work against Togo. Franck Ribery and David Trezeguet missed excellent chances to score while the Togolese keeper Kossi Agassa was in inspiring form with a number of saves and catches from corners and crosses. The anoying thing was Togo were eager to get forward and then labour on the ball as France regained numbers, at one point of attack there were three Toglese players and at first three France players which then quickly increased to six France players. You had Abdel Kader Coubadja then Moustapha Salifou trying to bustle their way through into the box but Togo didn't look like scoring. It was only a matter of time before France did, albeit they had the respite to re-think their efforts.

Patrick Vieira was excellent, far better than before, hassling his way through from midfield, regularly feeding Florent Malouda or Ribery, Thierry Henry made a number of bursts at the Togo defence, Ribery himself ran from left and right to creat panic. It was his run that emerged into the box to find Vieira forward, the former Arsenal captain gathering then turning to hit a 55th minute lead. Henry made it the requisite two six minutes later, the current Arsenal captain picking up from his former colleague Vieira's head-on and turning to cut across Agassa. After the initial panic and concern from the first 45mins that made for a potential 0-0 draw, France exuded their class. They will have Zinedine Zidane and Eric Abidel back if need be, to rekindle a Euro2000 flame they blew out against Spain.



Blogger T said...

Its customary but always sincere... thanks Redsman for another excellent set of commentaries!

Saw the France/Togo game yesterday and I must say that I do enjoy watching France play football when they play it well. As you point out Redsman, both the former and the current Arsenal captain plays in this team- and I always hope for them have good games.

It was Pat's 30th birthday yesterday- and as you describe Redsman, he took it upon his own shoulders to make sure that it was a day he could look back upon with happiness. He made a great surge into the box for the first goal, and then minutes later charged into a forward position to head on the ball for Henry who finished in immaculate fashion (incidentally, Pat's contributions again proved false the myth put forward by the likes of Jamie Redknapp that he was primarily a holding midfielder for AFC).

Henry's celebration was excellent: hand to the ear because he has been receiving some criticism in France, followed by Tiger Woods style upper punch when close to the corner flag.... typical Henry anger and passion!!

But the best celebration of the tournament so far may be Senderos' after scoring his power header yesterday to give the Swiss a crucial lead. He remained 'in the zone' as he charged back with finger in the air while blood was pouring down his just smashed face.... for me and my brother this image summed up what character we think Senderos has: a focused fighter for the cause!!

In the TV studio, Shearer pointed out that Senderos and the Korean defender who received a gashed eye in the collision with the Swiss defender went in again for a mid-air challenge just minutes after the goal... and that he was full of admiration for their determination. Ditto me!

Such a shame that Senderos is now out of the tournament with a disclocated shoulder... he has been immense for Switzerland in this tournament. Everyone at EFT knows that I have had extremely high hopes for Senderos since AFC signed him in the summer of 2003... and that very soon after his Arsenal debut in Feb 2005 I saw him in the same mould as a young John Terry. In the past six months he has shown he is well on his way to becoming a future defensive leader a'la Terry... and I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

P.S. I don't know if I'm alone in this (probably am!), but I enjoy Marcel Desailly's punditry on BBC. I like his passion for France and Ghana, his belief in his 'top man' Henry, and the amusing way he reacts to the stick he takes from Lineker and Co!

P.P.S. I'm going away for the next seven days so I don't expect to throw in my pennies worth on EFT until after the quarter-final stage.

Redsman, EFT is in safe hands with you still guiding the ship... I look forward to reading your articles on what promises to be a great week of football on my return!

6/24/2006 7:07 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks, T, enjoy the break. Cannot add to that, though I notice there are more compliments for Arsenal players than others who I felt deserve mentioning too!! Couldn't believe Ribery missed two gilt-edge chances, Trezeguet looked to feed himself at times when he could have played in Henry. But France only had to keep up their pressure on Togo as Togo overall didn't look able of scoring.


6/24/2006 11:13 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Having watched the S Korea Switzerland's unlucky that the Asian team came away with nothing. Lee Chun Soo was outstanding...and unlucky not to get on the scoreboard for his efforts...or at least an assist.

Senderos has really regain some belief...and it is interesting to see that Djourou might replace him then...another young arsenal player.

All in all Arsenal have about 15-16 players involved in the world cup...the most of any club I it's no wonder Arsenal is mentioned in passing quite a bit.

As for France...they are a bit lucky...but hopefully they can push the boundaries a bit more and be braver in attack...that really helps, and it was interesting to see that Vieira was described as taking the ATTACKING midfielder's role...which is not his normal role, even though he did go on the attack a great deal more at Arsenal even as a Defensively minded midfielder.

6/26/2006 7:53 am


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