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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

WC2006: French resistence breaks Spanish Armada

Great encounter, favourable were the Spaniards. Raul joined Fernando Torres and David Villa to add more attack flair as the French gladly brought back Zinedine Zidane. The Spaniards struck first on 28mins as their pressure paid off to ot only keep the French back but moved them to make one mistake in a crucial area, that of the penalty box. A corner came across to the left and as it was knocked back into the box to Ibanez Pablo, he felt the studs down the back of his heel of Lillian Thuram. The referee gave the penalty decision, Villa stepped up to take and squeezed a low shot narrowly inside the post and just out of Fabien Barthez' reach. Impressively, Sergio Ramos took up the right back role and he was a duck to water, much better than at centre half for Real. Control, vision, and plenty of runs made him quite formidable on the right. Thierry Henry had threated many times to break the offside trap but it proved too tricky a task to accomplish even once, for the defence cleverly stayed up enough when France broke on the attack. But the Spanish armada was foiled when Patrick Vieira looked to play in Henry then instead changed direction for the advancing Ribery, and the much-talked about Marseille midfielder rounded Iker Casillas and touched the ball towards goal, Pablo would have got to it had he continued his run as it bobbled past him.

In the second half France were more the eager on the offence, Spain had been subdued and made more running than attacks on goal. Yet both sides seemed equal and therefore without a breaking chance on goal, the game seemed destined to reach extra time. Vieira had a slight remonstration with Spain coach Luis Aragones and constantly indicated the finger to the lips. With his comments in regard to Henry, Aragones is not a favourite with Vieira and Henry, to name two, and throughout the game Henry was in contest with Carlos Puyol as he was in the European Cup final, where Henry blamed the Barcelona captain of harsh challenges. So in the 82nd minute, Henry had revenge. A loose ball amongst the Spanish defence prompted Henry and Puyol to chase it, with Puyol barging Henry with a shoulder charge, ordinary in the game, but Henry indicated otherwise, wincing then going down clutching his face.

The referee came over instantly to give Puyol a booking, and I wonder if Henry had not gone down, would anything have been given at all because it was a fair shoulder barge that is very commonplace in football. From the freekick delivery of Zidane, the ball came off the head of Xabi Alonso and reached Vieira at the back post, who played the ball back across goal. The ball then deflected off Ramos into the net. This surely would be the winner, but France were allowed to go one better. Cesc Fabregas was closed down by three France players and gave the ball away, picked up by Zidane who went on a run towards goal on the left. Puyol and Pablo rushed back in time to cover but I notice Fabregas just tail off from the attack, as if confident Puyol would stop Zidane. But Zidane came in on his right foot past Puyol, and had Fabregas continued, he would have been in the box and given adequate cover. He wasn't, and as Zidane struck low, Casillas had no chance.

France were knocked, came back well and smartly and then took advantage of Spain's lack of defensive marking, and a dubious freekick award, to take the lead. As Spain pushed up for a last gasp equaliser, they were caught out and conceded again. Spain had never beaten France in a competitive match and last night cemented that fact. France could have been out, Spain looked a lethal side from the outset. How things can change. Henry did feign the contact and I was shocked he would do so, though understand he did it to get back at Puyol, and it worked, ten-fold.



Anonymous Striker said...

Greetings Elite:

Spain are not as good as we thought...Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia...not 1st level sides. This created a false sense of confidence.

Spain doesn´t have experience to read the big games, doesn´t know when to create & when to destroy the flow of the ball. They also lack definition & finishing power in front of goal. Torres in Spain is "famous" for missing many many goals...he is a good player but is not world Villa. Most of Spain´s goals came from penalties & set pieces with deflections! Not to mention a goal from a defender - Juanito.

Spain needs a Van Basten, a Nistelrooy, a Henry...if it is to really put their shit together someday.

France ate Spain up with a warying down off play, pressure, strengh, smart game interpretation & jumping on the few mistakes which they capitalised on.

Spain are young, the future is bright, Cesc , Reyes, Xavi, Ramos, Iniesta, Pablo, Puyol ..will be the backline of future teams & can only get better & better. This needs to be built on & nourished, & we will then all see the good results

The changing of the guard has began ...bye Raul & all the players he represents... Salgado, Joaquin, Marchena, Albelda...etc. Disappointing examples they have been to the younger players. Raul has cried about begin a substitute & when his given the chance, he does nothing, a real fraud to all.

Congratulations to France they played better. Spain will be back & better. For the first time in may years they have a new generation that have the potential to go far & they will.

Cheers guys

6/28/2006 6:50 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Salutations, Striker, and thank you.

Spain controlled that game for the first 30-35 minutes and after the penalty came down in their concentration. They were high from the beginning, expressed through their offside trap strength to hold Henry and continously linking Raul with Villa and Torres. I agree that Torres is known for misses as well as hits, and when the media likes you, it LIKES you. When it doesn't, you are a dishrag. But having stayed in that offside trap mode under attack, Spain felt France would continue to find Henry and did not consider the other attacking players, like Vieira, Malouda or Ribery. I mentioned on your site that it would be a battle of Vieira and Zidane using their experienced heads, and Vieira spotted Ribery like he would spot Ljungberg or Pires for Arsenal, instead of the watched Henry.

As for the second goal, France gained an advantage and scored from a freekick themselves, albeit the freekick was not one at all. As for the third goal, Aragones said Spain were already stunned by that time from the second goal, pushed up for an equaliser and were caught, unceremoniously. Yet importantly was Spain's lack of attack in the second half. In the first half, they had control for 30-35mins, but 30-35mins in the second half found they did not have that impetus. If they had pushed as they did in the first half and scored, they could have used that to quell the pressure and push France into mistakes.

The thing is before the game it was France who was under pressure more than Spain, much more. And it is as you said it. While I repsected the Ukraine and was surprised at their defeat, the Tunisia victory came late in the game and a second string were still expected to hit Saudi Arabia for more than one. Aragones was clearly anoyed with the end of that game.

Spain have a nexus of great players to come through, and if Aragones decides to step down, someone like Emilio Butragueno would be a decent choice to take over. And why not, when the Germans have Klinsmann and the Dutch have van Basten, master players of their time. Likewise I think the Italians should have Franco Baresi, the French should have Didier Deschamps. The English should have........

well, Alan Shearer and/or Stuart Pearce, but right now is too soon for these two.


6/29/2006 10:17 am


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