2nd Round of Matches - Group A & B


Written on 6/17/2006 04:13:00 am by sikapitan

Germany 1 – 0 Poland
Germany became the first team to qualify to the second round after beating a Polish side still demoralized by a surprise defeat to the Ecuadorians. The return of Ballack to the side eased the attacking responsibility of Frings, thus making sure that the German backline was not as exposed as they were against the Costa Ricans. Unfortunately, this also caused the German team to lose their attacking verve so evident in the opening game.

It appears that the team was wary of irking Captain Ballack, as they were not brave enough to attack without going through Ballack. This slowed the pace down considerably, though Germany was always in control of the game. In fact, if Podolski and Klose were a bit sharper in front of goal, Germany could have won comfortably. At the other end, Germany’s defense looked better, but Friedrich is still easily beaten and most often out of position.

The introduction of Odonkor on the right wing gave the German something they were lacking – true pace down the flanks. The man noted for his 10.9 second 100m dash was a constant menace, though his dribbling skills left much to be desired. It was his cross after another lung busting run down the right which cut through the Polish impressive backline and reached the lunging feet of Oli Neuville, another Klinsmann substitute.

Germany would have been confident of taking the lead of Group A, if it weren’t for the impressive Ecuadorians…

Ecuador 3 – 0 Costa Rica
I was one of those who dismissed Ecuador as a nation who benefited from their less than friendly local environment to qualify to the World Cup. But if I was suitably impressed with their performance against Poland, at the end of this game I was a convert to the Ecuadorian cause.

What impressed me was not the scoreline, but the manner it was obtained. The Ecuadorians simply outran the Costa Ricans, showing great physical strength and stamina along the way. It could all have been a lot different if the Costa Ricans showed a bit more bite in attack. Ecuador has, in Tenorio and Delgado, two of the more exciting, threatening and on-form partnership in the tournament so far. I see them as two Drogbas, but with a bit more modesty and honesty in their play.

Kavides, who came on for Tenorio in the second half, had a good game as he broke through the defense countless times showing that the Ecuadorians do have strength in depth. I was suitably impressed with the No.8, Edison Mendez, whose combination with De la Cruz tormented the Costa Ricans left side.It was Mendez pinpoint cross that was converted by Kavides. It was a great goal, but I was not too suitably impressed with anyone who could celebrate wearing something that he kept in his shorts for 45 minutes!

England 2 – 0 Trinidad & Tobago
I somehow wished that England wouldn’t score, but then they scored two. It is not like I no longer support England, but it frustrates me that their tactical deficiencies are being glossed over by undeserved wins. I understand if they struggled in their first game, but by the second game, against perhaps the easiest team in this group, they were still lackluster and tactically inept.

Unlike most people, I do believe that the both Gerrard and Lampard can play together in midfield. But I think Sven has not utilized their talent to adapt to the more tactical international game. It was too easy for T&T as they packed up their defense with 11 men. England stuck to their long diagonal balls played down the flanks, and this T&T dealt with by simply not pushing their fullbacks forward. This resulted in both Lampard and Gerrard pumping balls to no one in particular.

I believed that England would play better if they were more patient in building up possession. Push the backline slowly and work the triangles in the middle of the park. Instead, the midfielders prefer staying in their own half and using the long passes to open up the defense. This would have been great if Crouch is not such a clumsy header of the ball. For a man that tall, he is not the most fearsome striker in this tournament so far simply because he is not strong enough.

The game changed considerably with the introduction of, not Rooney, but Aaron Lennon. It is not difficult to see why, as by being a bit more willing to take on the fullback, Lennon allowed Beckham more room to operate and deliver his crosses. Not only that, the tactics were also changed to a more appropriate 3 man backline and short passing game that allowed England to control possession better.

I think that this English squad could have been, and should have been stronger, if Sven was a bit wiser in choosing his squad. Downing is there simply because McLaren’s loves him, because he is not in any form to be in any World Cup squad. I would have preferred bringing someone like Kieran Richardson and why Hargreaves when you have players like Scott Parker? The most woeful decision was to bring along Walcott, especially since it appears that Sven himself is not willing to let him play. Why bring a player whom you don’t feel confident could turn around a game? Before I forget, could anyone remind Rio that he is not the FREAKING playmaker!!!

Sweden 1 – 0 Paraguay
What if Sweden had Nelson Valdez in their squad instead of Zlatan or Allback? This game simply highlighted that Paraguay would have been worse if it weren’t for the pocket dynamite who is plying his trade in Werder Bremen. He was their only threat, though I was impressed with Acuna, who tried valiantly and succeeding most of the time in stopping the less than effective Swedish midfeld.

Sweden, on their part, contributed to the dour game by not being adventurous enough in attack. Only Ljungberg showed his true worth, while the rest content with passing the ball around without purpose. Kallstrom had a mixed game as he showed a lot of flair and willingness to attack, but often made one too many mistakes in giving up possession.

I am amazed at how boring the games from Group B were. England v. Paraguay, Sweden v. Trinidad, England v. Trinidad, and Sweden v. Paraguay would not leave any fond memories in my mind. In a tournament filled with great goals, Group B contributed a total of FOUR GOALS coming from only TWO teams. One was an own goal, while the only truly good one was Gerrard’s last minute curling shot against T&T. They should have named this group Group Zzzz…


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