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Monday, June 12, 2006

Holland v S&M, Mexico v Iran, Angola v Portugal

Group C got off to its expected start with Argentina emerging from their Ivory Coast test and now with the Dutch just about beating Serbia & Montenegro with the one goal. Arjen Robben clearly made a difference, almost playing in the role Ruud Van Nistelrooy found himself out of during the first half, you would think Robben was the lone striker. Robin Van Persie played well yesterday and provided the sweet ball for Robben to run onto after simmering on the edge of the defence. The nearest defender with any hope was Goran Gavrancic, who half-heartedly pulled at Robben's back but couldn't fully or risk being dismissed. Robben went on with his searing pace to slot past the Serb's top keeper Dragoslav Jevric, who had only conceded once during his time in the qualifiers.

The Serbs had the energy and industry to come forward and create opportunities but failed in any application to threaten the Dutch goal. The Dutch themselves made excellent way in attack with lovely one touch football between Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Philip Cocu. VNR came into the action at times but he had no answer in front of goal and was replaced by Dirk Kuyt, the 25yr old Feyenoord target for Liverpool. Kuyt had little to do yet with VNR's form not sharp from the outset, he could be replaced by Kuyt. Another player I earmarked for Liverpool's defence was Hamburg's Khalid Boulahrouz, who came on with 5mins remaining for the impressive Joris Mathijsen in defence. The Serbs brought on 6' 8" Nikola Zigic for captain and former Aston Villa man Savo Milosevic at half time, presumably with the Crouch approach in mind but his height and presence was hardly targeted throughout the second half.

Mexico v Iran may not have excited a number of neutrals here in England but football is football and this match kicked off Group D. Both sides began making proceedings tight as attack after attack created openings for both sides but to no avail. Barcelona's Rafael Marquez marshalled the Mexican defence, at one point he had to block out Ali Karimi near goal, while Iran had a number of options created by the work-rate of Mehdi Mahdavikia. However, first blood went to Mexico from a cunning set-piece. Pavel Pardo crossed his freekick from the right, Guillermo Franco flicked it on and Omar Bravo simply added the touch from close range. The Iranians' pleaded offside but the young looking 26 yr old was clearly on. The Iranians were not done, certainly not owerawed. Eight minutes on, Mahdavikia delivered a corner, Rahman Rezaei headed but was denied by Oswaldo Sanchez' hand but the ball fell down for Yahya Golmohammadi reacted first to poke the ball high into the net.

So it ended 1-1 at half time and seemed too tight to call whether there would be a victory and who would win. I sensed a draw would result from this as it entered into a slower tempo, neither side looked to open up too much and concede, for a third goal in the game at that time would potentially be the winner. And so it proved on 76mins when keeper Iran keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour didn't clear the ball that found its way to Rezaei, who then dwelt on the ball too long and was closed down quickly by Antonio Naelson Matiasar, otherwise known as Zinha. Zinha then spotted Bravo emerging into the box and the forward deposited his and Mexico's second goal of the game. Bravo, indeed. Three minutes later the wind was defintely squeezed out of Iran's comeback when Zinha again was involved, skipping two challenges and then passing right for Mario Mendez, who went down and then chipped into the box for Zinha to meet with a down header for number three. Zinha came on for Franco at half time, a shrewd investment by coach Ricardo Lavolpe. The players hugged keeper Sanchez, who was emotional after the passing of his father recently.

Angola v Portugal was for me a disappointing game. Whereas I criticised the Costa Ricans for, at times, a low level form of attack that killed potential chances of scoring, Portugal almost equally provided the same. An early start brought the game's first chance some seconds from kick-off, Simao Sambrosa fed Pedro Pauleta whose effort went just wide of the far post. Portugal broke through eventually via captain Luis Figo and Pauleta. Figo gained possession near the Angolan box and knocked the ball pass defender Joao Pereira Jamba, beating him for pace before providing a low cross for Pauleta to tap in. Angola came back through their skipper Fabrice Akwa with an overhead kick, Antonio Mendonca then Andre Mateus both struck from distance to force Portugal's Ricardo into action. So the Angolans were very much still in the game, in contrast to their previous meetings with the Portuguese which ended in 6-0 and 5-1 defeats.

Much was made of Angola being a former Portuguese colony why the game would be very spicy. Perhaps someone mixed the preview of this match with Ready Steady Cook. The second half then came to a slower droning pace that I didn't expect from the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Armando Petit and Cardoso Tiago, and the attcking runs of Nuno Valente. Ronaldo was booked in the first half and subbed on near the hour, to his clear frustration in the dug-out but he wasn't energetic enough in this half. With the one goal margin, Portugal began to look as susceptible under attack as they looked threatening coming forward. Angola played almost like Costa Rica, breaking forward on the counter and then pulling the ball back and further back allowing the Portuguese to retract in numbers. But the Black antelopes took excellent plaudits from this defeat, they held a strong looking Portugal side to a single goal, not the expectations of the Portugal fans.

Deco (Anderson Luiz de Sousa) and Francisco Costinha, who replaced Ronaldo, started on the bench, Deco didn't even come on. That could change come the match with Iran, with Ronaldo's disgruntlement in the dug-out. Former Chelsea man Maniche Ribeiro also came off the bench for Petit, and he has the drive that was missing in the second half. Luiz Felipe Scolari may consider another test for this starting XI or introduce it into the chop shop.



Anonymous Nturtle said...

As always good stuff do you get around to watching ALL the games?!?!?

6/13/2006 3:24 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks, Nturtle, I record them and go over them, which is helpful when I can replay back moments in detail.


6/13/2006 1:04 pm

Blogger T said...

Redsman, you are a legend of this World Cup with your commentaries for EFT...

Want to write a couple of lines on each match.

Holland were impressive- excellent pace through Robben which made me think that England son't have anyone in their starting line-up with similar speed. Heitinga also played some superb cross-field passes... and Van Persie's through ball for Robben showed excellent technique. Like their Barca-like 4-3-3 formation... and I look forward to seeing more of them.

Very impressed with Omar Bravo for Mexico. First time I have ever seen this player, and look forward to seeing more... he has smooth movement and pace similar to Owen before the Egnland striker's hamstring problems. Thought Iran were looking solid for the draw before a loss of concentration in their defence.

Agree Redsman that Portugal/Angola was disappointing. Angola never looked likely to score- while Portugal lacked cohesion. Bright note for Portugese is that Figo still looks like he has a big tournament in him.

6/14/2006 1:54 pm


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