Second Round of Matches


Written on 6/20/2006 09:35:00 pm by sikapitan

Argentina 6 – 0 Serbia
Serbia came into this game carrying a reputation as one of the toughest team to break down. They are not noted for scoring goals, but they are certainly known not to concede that many. This is why this scoreline emphasized how truly wonderful Argentina was.

It is a bit too early actually to say that they would go on and win this tournament. There is always the danger of peaking too soon. Nevertheless, let us just enjoy this one as being one of the best team performances, I have ever seen, and that is not limited to this World Cup or even any World Cup.

The key to this performance was that Argentina had the right tactics, the right “imbalance” (more on that later) and the right personnel in the right places. I have written before that Argentina has harnessed the individual brilliance throughout the team to work as a unit, but I never expected it to be manifested in such a performance.

With Villareal, if you man-mark Riquelme, the whole team will fail to function. With Argentina, if you man-mark JR, then you leave the space open for others to exploit. The problem is that tactically it is difficult to impose your style of play against Argentina. There is an “imbalance” to the side, that makes it difficult for tactically rigid team to adapt.

They say they play with a back-four, but contrast the marauding runs of Sorin with the almost stationary Burdisso and what you get in effect is a 3 man defence and a midfield that is left-biased. Riquelme, Sorin and Rodriguez seldom wander to the right. Teams should exploit their right, as most of the time Burdisso is left without a cover. This would be easier if it weren’t for the fact that Saviola is tenacious in hounding the defenders into making mistakes, leaving them with no time to play the ball down the left. It would be interesting to watch the right side of Argentina cope with Arjen Robben’s more direct style.

Malaysians have this problem of concentrating only on the strikers. I kind of wish they would be a bit more aware of other key areas on the pitch. Even if you were to applaud strikers, I think harping praise on Messi is a bit too much. He came on against a demoralized, tired 10-man defensive unit that has been shredded to pieces. Messi is an exciting talent, but special praise should go to Javier Mascherano, the Argentina Makelele who exhibited great discipline in staying back and not wanting to get on the scoresheet, thus allowing others to weave their magic. The fact that Argentina had FIVE different scorers just shows how talented they are as a team.

Netherlands 2 – 1 Ivory Coast
The Cote D’Ivore again proved that they are one of the better teams in this tournament. They have played against two of the top teams in this world and have proven to be tough to crack and strong in attack as well. They are quick on the break and possess impressive stamina. It is just unfortunate that they are less decisive in finishing off opponents, as their approach play deserve better.

I have always said that Holland is the new Germany. They rely on quick counter-attacks, but most importantly, they are a tough nut to crack. I believe that their back-line is one of the best in this tournament, but Phillip Cocu is a bit too old to marshal the midfield. In fact the central 3 midfielders for Holland is the weakest link in this team, with Van Bommel most often committing unnecessary fouls.

Perhaps Van Der Vaart’s increasing fitness would make Holland more fluent in attack. They are a bit too dependent on the wingers, who so far have carried the team in two games - Robben against Serbia and Van Persie against the Ivory Coast. Closing these two won’t be easy, but possible because the midfield trio is slow to move forward and support the three forwards. This allows for opposing team to double-mark the two wingers.

Mexico 0 – 0 Angola
I wondered how I managed to stay awake watching this game. It lacked direction, with both teams seemingly unable to control the midfield. However, special praise must be given to Angola who again proved what a tough team they are to beat. Their midfield is one of the physically strongest ones in this tournament, as they can run and run without losing steam.

The Mexicans cannot counter this hard-tackling, hard-running display by the Angolans. When they do, they would find one of the unsung stars in this tournament, the Angolan goalkeeper. He is strong in the air, good at shot-stopping, acrobatic as hell…maybe a bit too eccentric to last in a top league, but in knock-out tournaments he would be great.

Angola keep their impossible dream alive of qualifying to the next round with this precious one point. If Mexico lose in the final game, and Angola win big (by 3 goals) against the Iranians, there is every likelihood that Angola would qualify.

Portugal 2 – 0 Iran
Portugal was a bit too cautious in the opening minutes. I have not been impressed with Pauleta in the opening two games for Portugal. He seems anonymous for most part of the two matches, though he did score in the first. I like the shape that Portugal adopts, with Figo and Ronaldo changing flanks at will while Deco holds the attacking impetus to unlock the defense.

But in the first half, they were stifled by a strong Iranian midfield. I believe that the Iranians have one of the most technically gifted midfield in this tournament. Their first touch is superb, passes sublime…it is just unfortunate that they lack the necessary tactical intelligence to fully utilize their undeniable natural abilities. They rush the pass too often, and were unwilling to attack crosses. Carvalho and Meira are not the strongest partnership I have seen so far.

A wonderful strike by Deco unlocked the Iranians, and you can see how that goal lifted the whole Portugal side as they started to show some flair in attack. I was particularly impressed with the Portuguese right-back who showed himself as a willing runner.

Czech 0 – 2 Ghana
My friends and I truly enjoyed this game as Ghana totally outclassed the Czechs. I did say that the Czechs are over-rated, and this was evident as Ghana outmuscled the Czech midfield. Poborsky, Nedved and Rosicky are the attacking fulcrum to this side, but they are not the most physically imposing players. Essien and Appiah totally dominated the middle, and if it wasn’t for some dismal finishing by Cyan in attack, they would have scored even more.

But perhaps I was being harsh on the Czechs. We must remember that they are playing WITHOUT two of their top strikers, Koller and Baros. It is like Brazil playing without Ronaldo…but they are doing that now anyway. It is like Holland without Van Nistelrooy and Robben, England without Rooney and Crouch (hahaha)…this is apparent as they could not impose themselves in attack with the two forwards losing the ball way too often.

Ghana would do well to qualify ahead of the Czechs if they manage to beat the US...

Italy 1 – 1 U.States
I told you that this is actually the toughest group to see who would qualify. All the teams are dependent on their third game. This game showed that the US is no pushover. In fact, they were probably unlucky to be down to 9 men after another inconsistent showing by a referee in this World Cup. Italy also had to play with 10 men. 3 red cards, and yet the game was never ugly with both sides showing great sportsmanship.

Italy would be disappointed with conceding an own goal, but the U.S earned their one precious point. They were tenacious in defense, not allowing the Italians to dominate the air. Onegwyu had a great game at the back, while Reyna finally showed how under-rated he is. Perhaps after the dismal performance against the Czechs, the US had to respond to the mauling from the press.

I knew that Landon Donovan would shine, and shine he did. He virtually ran the U.S attack by himself, making intelligent runs and showing excellent technique to keep the ball away from the famed Italian attackers. I applaud Claudia Reyna for bringing in fresh faces for this game, as Dempsey ran his socks off and were a menace to the Italians.

I don’t know why, but I really like Italy, Ghana and U.S. I think they have been quite entertaining and they would certainly add to the value of the tournament if they proceed. Right now, only Italy have their right foot in the next round, needing a draw from their last game against the Czechs.

Japan 0 – 0 Croatia
Croatia has flattered to deceive. They are strong defensively, with the two Kovacs putting in tremendous amount of workload. I am impressed with Niko Kranjcar who repeatedly managed to string together passes in the middle of the park to keep the pace up. However, they lack the killer instinct, with the strikers missing chances including a penalty (though Kawaguchi did well to parry it away).

Japan again showed that they are definitely skillful, and technically capable. They can mix it up with the best, and they have the defenders who can handle physical European strikers. But they seemed to lack the stamina, thus I have to question Zico’s preparation of the team. While the Koreans seem to run like the Eveready battery, the Japanese just cannot run for the final 15 minutes. They were hanging on at the end, and their forwards were struggling to even control the ball.

Japan must buck up to salvage this campaign. They must believe in themselves. Nakata and Nakamura are playing better than Emerson and Ze Roberto, so they must take that game by the scruff of its neck.

Brazil 2 – 0 Australia
The whole problem with Brazil is that there seems to be a lack of proper tactics when it comes to their attacking play. The four forwards are allowed to run around, carrying the ball, looking for the killer pass. This is unfortunate as you cannot have that many playmakers running around. There is no discipline in their attack. I would have preferred a “measured chaos” approach.

The forwards are allowed to do what they want, but within the confines of their assigned space. Ronaldinho on the left, Kaka on the right, with Ze Roberto being the link man. The Brazilians are too cautious despite playing 4 forwards. Why? Because the two midfield anchors refuse to attack!

Australia is strong, technically gifted. They just lack the quality in key areas. They are in a good position to qualify.

If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed

No Comment

Post a Comment