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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Germany grab 3rd place finish

Germany grabbed bronze in the World Cup 2006 with a stern effort against Portugal last night. There was some decent footbal in the first half, with Oliver Kahn in goal, Michael Ballack injured, Torsten Frings back after the semi-final suspension and new faces in place of Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich. Portugal had began without Luis Figo and Ricardo Carvalho due to suspension. Figo was said to have fallen out with Luiz Felipe Scolari why he did not start, leaving Pedro Pauleta to captain the team. This was the 127th opportyunity for Figo to represent his country and it was to potentially begin and end on the bench.

Sebastian Kehl made a start and with neat ball control he fashioned an opening for a dipping chip which forced Alexandre Ricardo into a tip-over save. Lukas Podolski shot a tremendous freekick straight at Ricardo to further employ the Portugalkeeper's services. What marred the first half were a number of dives yet again. Early in the game Simao Sabrosa was approached down the left side corner by two German players and once a foot came out it touched the ball off for a corner, yet Simao jumped in the air and landed on the ground, looked up and got up and jogged away. Pauleta again was aproached and the challenge made no contact with player nor ball yet Pauleta went down. Once again the biggest dive went to Christiano Ronaldo as he went on a run across the defence, Christoph Metzelder stuck out a foot, it made no contact with player nor ball yet Ronaldo jumped and dropped to the ground. The referee, Japanese Toru Kamikawa, was in excellent position and gave nothing, when he should have given a yellow card.

The second half was much better, with more attacking and less diving. Ronaldo was Portugal's main threat all game and it was his run that found Pauleta, who took on the ball and turn Jens Nowotny in the box, with two German players by the six-yard line yet Ronaldo waiting alone just by the penalty spot, eagerly awaiting a perfect pass. Instead Pauleta feebly aimed a left-foot grasscutter into Kahn's arms, Ronaldo understandably frustrated. However, with 10mins played, Bastian Schweinsteiger collected on the far left, cut inside of Paulo Ferreira onto his right foot, pushed pash sub Armando Petit, and with the angle of a shot shortening took the effort nonetheless. With Ricardo already moving to his right, the Sporting Lisbon keeper continued to do so when the ball was struck and was then caught out as the ball turned slightly to the right then the left and zipped past the keeper's left ear.

The attack stemmed more from the host team. Miroslav Klose picked up on the left and then crossed past all for Philipp Lahm, who volleyed just over the goal, which would have surpassed his own effort against Costa Rica with ease if he had indeed scored. But the Germans doubled their lead when Podolski was fouled on the left by Ferreira and Schwein steiger tookt he freekick. I felt he would aim it over all towards goal but Ricardo would have been expected to save it so instead the Germany midfielder struck a low effort that eluded Ricardo Costa but cannoned off the left leg of Petit past Ricardo. Portugal continued to come forward, producing a Deco shot that Kahn got a left hand to to palm away well. Ronaldo went on another run across the box and looked to be impeded by Metzelder but nothing was given.

Two goals down, Scolari had already brought on Petit at half time for Francisco Costinha, and Nuno Gomes for Nuno Valente, so one final substitution was allowed, and it was Figo, on for Palueta. The man eventually came on to take his final bow for Portugal. Yet a minute later another midfielder added more to Portugal's woe and Germany's lead, and to his own display. Schweinsteiger. With sub Oliver Neuville on for Klose, the Borussia Monchengladbach striker ran across field to find Schweinsteiger on the left. Portugal had not taken heed of the midfielder's fortune from the left side and again allowed him to cut in and shot on his right foot, this time the ball curled tot he right out of reach of Ricardo and nestled in the corner of the goal.

With two goals and an assist in a Petit own goal, Schweinsteiger celebrated with his shirt off and a booking on. On 79mins he departed, clearly saving his best ability to the last in this tournament, coming off for former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger. The goal scoring had not finished and 9mins on Figo help gain a consolation for the Portuguese. Kahn had had a good time in goal, and in the second half he kept out a potential Metzelder own goal, a Ronaldo freekick and other timely efforts but he was left ungauarded. Figo cross from the right, where he had teased Marcell Hansen during his time on the pitch, curled behind the defence and found Gomes with a diving header, which Kahn had no chance of stopping. Kahn could not end his international career with a clean sheet display, but it was a minute mark on a great career for the keeper.

Two others called time on their international careers, Figo and also Pauleta. If Scolari does not continue as Portugal coach (indications are that he will), then Portugal will also face appointments for a new coach and captain. For the former, I have no immediate notions, but for captain I would install Carvalho, I think overall he has been a good defender, if not an excellent one. Meanwhile, Ronaldo appears to have called time on his career at Old Trafford.

"I should get out of Manchester as the circumstances are not right. Nobody stood up for me and my desire is to play in Spain. Will it be Real [Madrid] or Barcelona? It will be one of them.

"For some time I haven't had any support from my chief executive or my coach [Ferguson]. They should have come out in my defence but no-one did."

I wish to add my observations of Jurgen Klinsmann on the bench, and passion does not sum it up. Every goal, every chance, freekick, foul, decision, he kicked them, walked past them, took them. When Klose, Podolski and Schweinsteiger came off, he greeted them all and they all reciprocated, no frustration in coming off, no disgruntlement. Maybe it would have been different if Germany were losing, heavily even, but even during the semi-final Klinsmann was upbeat in defeat and it came across to the players too, however heartbroken they were. And Klinsmann lives abroad from Europe. His wife is not extravagantly glamourous, and nothing is seen of those of his players. It was not the salary that spurred on Klinsmann, it's the passion and that came across during the tournament.

To think the German media criticised Klinsmann before the tournament, my goodness they would have ostracised Sven-Goran Eriksson. Steve McClaren, at forty-five years old, maybe the nearest England have to a younger mind, younger approach to formulating a good playing squad for the future. Klinsmann, forty-two at the end of this month, is inspirational for Germany, if he stays. The same can be said of Marco Van Basten too, also forty-two years old, as he looks to inject a more youthful context into the Dutch national side. I just hope McClaren is not inlfuenced by the media and the FA, yet works in tandem with his players.



Blogger T said...

More excellent reading, Redsman.

A few brief points of my own:

1. Fitting for Germany that they bow out with bronze. Their country has been excellent hosts and their team has played with a really refreshing attacking mentality. Good also to see Kahn come in and keep a clean-sheet... I remember that before the pen shoot-out with Argentina he went over to his adversary Jens Lehmann and offered him warm encouragement. This was good to see- and karma must have come back around on Kahn yersterday as he repelled all Portugese shots aimed at his goal.

2. Luis Figo is a legend of football and despite being on the pitch just fifteen minutes still managed to create one last telling contribution on the international stage: a beautiful cross for Gomes to finish. Earlier in the tournament I was thinking how Beckham displaced Figo at Real Madrid and that is it any wonder that with decision-making like that Real have plummetted in recent seasons. Figo is simply miles ahead of Beckham in a number 7 shirt.

3. Jurgen's passion on the sidelines is fantastic, and I'm glad you have highlighted it Redsman. All the more he does it not in a tracksuit, but in immaculate smart-causal attire! This is what we can expect if Pearce becomes the future England manager- minus the good dress sense!??

7/09/2006 1:44 pm


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