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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tunisia v Saudi Arabia, Germany v Poland

I hadn't managed to see the Spain v Ukraine game live, nor the highlights, so I cannot comment on that game. But the one after of Tunisia v Saudi Arabia provided late drama. Front man Ziad Jaziri caused a stir in the Saudi defence when he went down under a challenge but the Australian referee Mark Shield had no indication of a penalty. Jaziri wasn't deterred. Twenty three minutes gone, Adel Chedli chipped a ball into the box, Redha Tukar headed at players, and the ball bounced up for Jaziri to unleash a sweet mid-air volley past Mabrouk Zaid. The Saudi Arabians showed more vigour in the second half while I suspected the Tunisians looked at their one-goal lead as a comfort zone, about which they would be proven wrong. Saudi Arabia fashioned out little one-twos' and found Mohammed Noor running along the right, clearly not tightly marked. Noor went on to square across goal and Yasser Al Kahtani came running in to stab the ball high into the net. Game on on 57mins.

Al Kahtani later on dummied then latched on to fashion an effort that was blocked by keeper Ali Boumnijel, the keeper called into action again when Hussain Sulaimani's shot needed to be gathered and held. This showed good intent from the Saudis' that they had not fallen back on securing a draw, even more so when the veteran Sami Al Jaber came on for scorer Al Kahtani with 6mins remaining of normal time. Al Jaber is into his fourth consecutive World Cup appearance, the only Saudi player with some experience of football outside the Arab nation with a small duration at Wolves, and was given his international debut under the guidance of Brazil's current coach Carlos Parreira. So he came on to rapturous applause and ninety seconds later he scored sensationally. Fellow subs Mohammed Ameen and Malek Al Hawsawi, replacing Noor and Nawaf Al Temyat respectively, combined to send Al Jaber through on the left, the veteran running on to slot coolly into the net.

It didn't seem likely the Saudis' would get anything, much less come back, yet they were on the verge of causing a big upset to the Tunisians coached by former France manager Roger Lemerre. But focus went down as into the last minute of injury time Tunisia injected the stunning venom they failed to strike with since going behind. The tenacious moving of Jaziri near goal managed to produce a chip into the box and as the Saudi defence watched in panic, they failed to pick up goal poaching Bolton man Rahdi Jaidi, with a typical header downward that Ziad should have stopped. I would say it was close and not agonising for the Saudis'. No one expected they would win, and they surpassed expectations, so it was fantastic they were so close to disproving their doubters. For Tunisia, credibility was marred and I imagine there is a relived Frenchman pondering about his side's next strategy.......against Spain.

Germany v Poland. This was a fight between an Alsatian and a Jack Russell. The Jack Russell seemed to be overawed by the Alsatian yet took the knocks and came back, time and again, and at times looked close to applying a telling blow. The fight looked more or less one sided but with renewed determination to get something on the alsatian, the Jack Russell ducked and weaved, took bites here and there and remained confident that somehow, somewhere, the Alsatian would be broken.

Enough analogy. Germany didn't have the run of the mill as they did against Costa Rica but they can look at the numerous times they attacked the Polish goal and came up short and wonder how could that have been. Miroslav Klose was closer (excuse the pun) when he came to meet a Phillippe Lahm cross totally unmarked but glanced his header wide of goal with Artur Boruc advancing. Poland's attack consisted mostly of coming at the Gemans then going sideways then back, which frustrated me as I wanted the Poles to show resistance as the underdogs after a debacle against Ecuador. Germany were allowed space to move into and accept the pass, and their movements off the ball allowed for ease of creating attacks quickly and I thought why was it Poland actually came into the finals in the first place. I know the Poles have good players, better than this and they would gain process in attacking the German goal only to wane in any application towards Jens Lehmann.

But once the time had began to close Germany became desperate. Arne Friedrich came off for David Odonkor and the pacy Borussia Dortmund winger almost caused chaos on the wing. Lucas Podolski came off for Oliver Neuville, who almost had an impact immediately himself, but the telling moment came via a 75th minute self-destruction. Having been on the back foot for the majority of the game, Poland were then reduced to ten when Klose picked up the ball on the right and came inside to go on a run, only to be stupidly and needlessly checked by Radoslaw Sobolewski. Having been booked on 28mins, Sobolewski received his second and was off. Jurgen Klinsmann made his final change of Bastian Schweinsteiger for Tim Borowski with 14mins remaining. Germany kept attacking Poland to no avail and the glimpses when Poland could clear the ball they did so very quickly, rendering the possibility of a draw ever more.

Another Lahm ball found Klose yet again unmarked but he aimed to dip the ball in off the back of his neck that looped and came off the crossbar, Neuville followed up with an effort off the crossbar, Michael Ballack's shot was blocked and then he received the ball in an offside position, so when he passed it to Odonkor and Odonkor scored, celebrations were cut short. Yet with two minutes of injury time remaining, when there should have been hours of it considering the injury cause to Poland from Germany's relentless attacks, there was a breakthrough. Odonkor raced down the right and cut a low cross into the box for Neuville to come between two defenders and touch into the net. After keeping out the Germans for 92mins, the Polish defence switched off. I think coach Pawel Janas could have employed a sweeper in front of the four-man defence in a 4-1-4, when he made all his changes in the last seventeen minutes, the last in the 91st minute.

While the defeat has not mathematically ended Poland's World Cup, they need a turnaround of goals while keeping an eye on Ecuador v Costa Rica, hoping for a Costa Rica win. Yet a Costa Rica win could be the downfall for Poland when these two meet, so effectively, or realistically, Poland are out. A strong Ecuador win will definitely kick out both Poland and Costa Rica, alternatively a strong Costa Rica win could continue against Poland. We'll see. At the same time, Germany have booked their 2nd round place, the hard way but nonetheless their performance was very good to have watched.



Anonymous Striker said...

Spain surprised all. No one would have expected it beforehand. They looked tight.
But lets get back down to earth. Ukraine lacked imagination & with 10 men , Spain naturally looked good.
Lets see how they do against Tunisia, who look to play better.
Spain should qualify from Group, but the business begins thereafter, & we will see if they have what it takes.
Having said this, positive start, encouraging & good vibrations.
The road is long & I wish our local media remember this, as some are already chanting victory...typical Spanish, which can lead to a very disappointing & violent crash to reality, if the side lose.

Cheers Team

6/15/2006 8:21 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman, two more magnficent match commentaries!

I saw the second half of the Saudi/Tunisia match... and the Saudi's played beyond my expectations as I was expecting a comfortable Tunisia victory. I was kicking myself when Al-Qitani scored because I have been meaning to mention on EFT that this is a player to watch out for having seen a profile on him on an Asia football weekly programme last winter. When I saw him back then I thought he resembled Raul in style of play... and his well-timed finish yesterday was very Raul-like.

I also really liked Saber's goal and celebration- the awe in his face summed up what I feel it should be like to score a massive World Cup goal!

I too enjoyed the Germany match Redsman. It was played at a good tempo and you could tell the players on both sides were buoyed by the atmosphere of the stadium and the occasio. I felt for the Poles when Neuville scored- it looked to me by the tenacity of their play that a draw against their historic rivals would have meant a lot to them. The main thing I like about this German team is that they have a very attacking mentality.

Thanks Striker for the Spanish perspective on your comprehensive win! Like Redsman I was unable to view the match so I can't comment on your play. But a 4-0 win should be excellent for your team's confidence... which I often feel has been missing in past tournaments for the Spanish. I'm happy to see that Villa scored two- when I have seen him play for Vakencia I have liked his determined attitude on the pitch. Alongside the maturing Torres- who scored emphatically! - Spain have a strike partnership that looks to have big potential. Definitely a team to keep a close eye on...

6/16/2006 12:30 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thanks again redsman, and for comments Striker and T.

I really find I can't keep up with every single match now...although goals and scores are easier to remember!

It's turning out to be something of a anti-climax with skin of teeth wins by Germany (and England you could say) I'm still waiting for the big upset!

Ecuador have really surprised everyone...and I have no doubt they will play well against Germany - the difference was in their finishing...good work from Delgado and Riveiedes (spelling?).

Bad luck for the Polish and T&T supporters...a crushing blow right at the well as for Paraguay for that matter...with Gunner Ljungberg scoring on 89mins...

The World Cup website is fantastic for the highlights by the way...check it out...and best of all it's free!

I'll comment on England when the excellent article is done (i'm sure it is coming Redsman!)!

6/16/2006 8:41 am


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