Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I don't usually recommend it since he's not funny at all but check out the Late Show with David Letterman tonight.
U.S. star Landon Donovan will be a guest and he'll talk about the 2010 World Cup.
I might be a bandwagon Portugal fan (they are my heritage but I never really pay attention to them except for the big tournaments) but I will admit that for as great as their defense is, their offense is pretty pathetic if they're playing real teams (sorry North Korea). Against Ivory Coast, Brazil and Spain they didn't score a single goal and that clearly won't get it done.
Basically Portugal are frauds until they can develop a few more goal-scorers. Cristiano Ronaldo might be one of the best players in the world but he can't run all over the field and beat multiple defenders every time.
My boys survived the Group of Death (G) along with Brazil but it's only because they're front-runners that ran up the score on hapless North Korea. Awesome. They played well against Spain but once Villa scored, you knew it was all but over.
Best moment: The second half vs. North Korea when they scored six goals.
Worst moment: Ricardo Costa's red card late against Spain was undeserved but his bad karma (from a ton of earlier dirty plays) caught up with him and sealed his country's fate.
Best result: Tying Brazil and Ivory Coast 0-0. Both were as boring as watching paint dry or grass grow but it allowed them to leap over the Elephants and get to the round of 16.
Worst result: Call me crazy but running it up on North Korea gave them a false sense of confidence that they could score whenever. Didn't happen ever again so I guess I'm right.
Final tally: 1 win, 1 loss, 2 draws. 7 goals scored, 1 goal conceded.
Best player: Goalkeeper Eduardo plays for Braga, a Portuguese club that I'd never heard of until today, but you better believe he'll be getting paid soon. He made a handful of Grade A stops on Villa and Spain. He had three clean sheets in the group stage and ended up allowing a single goal (that he made the initial save on).
Worst player: The Portuguese offense outside of the North Korea slaughter. With the talent that they roll out, they have to find a way to score some more goals. If they could put a few in, there's no reason they couldn't win a World Cup final. That's fact, not opinion.
This wasn't a fluke, Spain won 1-0 because they're a better team than Portugal. My three favorite teams are all out (Portugal, England and U.S.) and they were all deserved exits. You can only defend so much, you have to be able to score when you play a top team like Spain and for the most part, Portugal didn't even make Iker Casillas work too hard even though he looked shaky in the first half.
18(8) Shots (on Goal) 9(3)
13 Fouls 18
6 Corner Kicks 3
0 Offsides 3
65% Time of Possession 36%
1 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 1
3 Saves 7
Spain will play Paraguay on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. Everyone and their mother will be picking Spain and David Villa and rightfully so, they shouldn't have any problems with Paraguay.
There are no more matches until Friday when the quarterfinals begin. Don't fret though, Shimer and I will be posting some injury updates and other news before we're back in full force on Friday.
We're in extra time now (3 minutes are expected).
Ricardo Costa has been playing dirty all game and he just paid for his bad karma by getting a red card even though he didn't really do anything.
Tiago received a yellow card for tripping Villa. He'd miss Portugal's next match if there is one.
1-0 Spain in the 81st minute, Portugal has to go for it, time is running out!
Villa with another laser, saved by Eduardo. The Portuguese goalkeeper is playing out of his mind, it would be nice if his teammates could reward him with a goal.
1-0 Spain in the 78th minute.
Like clockwork, as soon as I wrote about the great save by Eduardo, David Villa gave Spain a 1-0 lead.
Taking a pass in close to an offside position, Villa's first shot was stopped but he stayed with it and was able to muscle off a defender while slotting home the rebound. 1-0 Spain in the 63rd minute.
Ramos just had a great shot that Eduardo tipped wide.
1-0 Spain in the 72nd minute, now we'll see if Portugal can score on anybody other than North Korea.
Last two subs for Portgual: Pepe out for Pedro Mendes and Simao out for Liedson.
0-0 in the 52nd minute and Portugal nearly got a lucky strike as Almeida's pass for Ronaldo was deflected by a Spanish defender and almost dropped in.
9(3) Shots (on Goal) 7(3)
6 Fouls 8
3 Corner Kicks 2
0 Offsides 2
67% Time of Possession 33%
0 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
3 Saves 3
The possession looks bad but Portugal definitely has found the formula to beat Spain, they just need to connect on one of their chances. Spain on the other hand has to keep pounding Eduardo and hope that something can go in or maybe he'll give up a juicy rebound.
First Casillas had to race far out of his box to kick the long ball intended for Simao. Then Tiago made a run into the box and headed a cross but it was well wide.
0-0 in the 45th minute but this has been some scintillating action.
Meireles played a beauty of a ball to Almeida in front of the goal. He got up for the cross but almost completely whiffed on the header. Portugal is mostly playing defense against Spain and they have to cash in on the chances they get like that.
0-0 in the 42nd minute.
Portugal has conceded only one goal in its last 12 international matches so they got that going for them.
Haha just after I lauded Casillas for a good play (albeit after a bad first touch by him) he almost gave up a weak goal to Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Man U. star took a free kick from 37 yards away and put it on goal, right in Casillas' stomach but for some reason (swerve?) he didn't catch it and it bounced out. Luckily for him and Spain, nobody from Portugal was on the doorstep.
0-0 in the 30th minute.
Tiago just had the first real chance for Portugal: his shot from outside the box was hit in the air by Spanish goalkeeper Ikea Casillas.
Rather than safely put it over the bar, his save deflected almost into the goal so he had to hit it away before a Portuguese player came crashing into him.
0-0 in the 24th minute but this is great stuff. Two heavyweights going blow for blow.
The last match of the round of 16 is a tasty one: Spain vs. Portugal. A date with Paraguay in the quarterfinals awaits on Saturday (2:30 p.m.) for whomever survives this.
Either way, a very solid team capable of winning the 2010 World Cup is going home tonight.
0-0 in the 8th minute but Spain has already had three quality shots: two by David Villa and one by Fernando Torres, forcing three good saves by Eduardo.
Quietly Japan had one of the best performances of the 2010 World Cup that you didn't hear a word about, unless you were in Asia. They survived a tough Group E and were the runner-up behind Netherlands. The Blue Samurai made history by winning their first World Cup game outside of Asia. Losing in penalty kicks is always heartbreaking but this is an up and coming national team with a lot to be happy about.
They proved that an Asian team can get out of the group play stage, even when the World Cup isn't held in their backyard. The Japanese played an attacking style and it's too bad that was neutralized so much in the last match against Paraguay. They were also the best at free kicks and restarts since they scored two free kick goals vs. Denmark in the winner take all third match.
Best moment: The two sweet free kick goals vs. Denmark couldn't have come at a better time as they needed to beat the Danes to get through.
Worst moment: When Komano's penalty kick hit the crossbar and stayed out vs. Paraguay. That turned out to be fatal since Paraguay hit all five of their PKs.
Best result: Beating Denmark 3-1 was great but I'll go with knocking off Cameroon 1-0 in the first match. A sign of what was to come from both teams in the 2010 World Cup.
Worst result: Losing 5-3 in penalty kicks to Paraguay. That's one that will sting for a long, long time. No two ways about it, they could have won that game although they likely would be beaten handily by Spain or Portugal.
Final tally: 2 wins, 2 losses. 4 goals scored, 2 goals conceded.
Best player: As much as anyone so far in the 2010 World Cup, Japan's Keisuke Honda earned a big pay day. He plays for CSKA Moscow right now but don't be surprised to see him get a transfer to a bigger European club soon. He just turned 24 so his best playing days are probably ahead of him.
Worst player: Life isn't fair as Japanese defender Yuichi Komano could tell you at this moment. 20 minutes ago, he was an anonymous player who had never scored in 53 caps. Now, he'll be the goat for the next four years. It's a cruel world, sorry Yuichi.
Benfica striker Oscar Cardozo hit the game-winner to the lower left hand side, giving Paraguay the 5-3 win over Japan in penalty kicks.
It's the first time that Paraguay has made the quarterfinals and they'll get the winner of Spain-Portugal on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. so they'll obviously be huge underdogs.
Of the eight teams in the quarterfinals, four of them are from South America (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay).
It was a snoozefest of a match but that was more than covered up by the unforgettable finish. Nothing like PKs, especially in the World Cup. You have to feel bad for Japan, especially Komano.
Riveros picked up a yellow card in the 118th minute.
0-0 in the 118th minute.
Japan made their last substitution to start the second extra time session: Keiji Tamada in for Yoshito Okubo.
0-0 in the 107th minute.
0-0 in the 99th minute as Paraguay is turning up the heat on Japan.
A free kick by Honda was deflected out for a corner kick by Villar.
0-0 after regulation, we're headed to extra time (two 15 minute periods, followed by penalty kicks if it's still tied up).
Stats in regulation:
7(3) Shots (on Goal) 9(2)
16 Fouls 20
5 Corner Kicks 3
1 Offsides 1
62% Time of Possession 38%
0 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
2 Saves 3
0-0 in the 73rd minute and this is getting late, any goal now as Ian Drake just said could prove decisive.
0-0 in the 66th minute.
Tanaka just had a header go wide after a deflection but it was incorrectly ruled a goal kick.
0-0 in the 63rd minute.
First substitution: Benitez out and forward Nelson Haedo Valdez is in.
0-0 in the 60th minute, time for a goal.
57th minute, still 0-0.
Matsui picked up a yellow card for a handball, no need for the call. He might have gotten it for kicking the ball away.
4(1) Shots (on Goal) 5(1)
9 Fouls 7
2 Corner Kicks 1
0 Offsides 0
63% Time of Possession 37%
0 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
1 Saves 1
You have to remember how dangerous Japan is on free kicks, that could be a factor in the second half or extra time.
Japan just had its best chance as Matsui drove down the right side, drew a defender then laid it off for Honda at the top of the box.
He wasn't balanced so his shot curved wide but it was an impressive buildup from Japan and proof that they can counterattack if Paraguay isn't careful.
0-0 in the 42nd minute.
After a corner kick by Paraguay, the ball came out of a scrum with a bunch of players and went to the foot of Roque Santa Cruz. He had plenty of space but he botched it by shooting wide.
0-0 in the 31st minute. Paraguay is carrying play right now.
Paraguay tries to keep South America's outstanding showing in the 2010 World Cup going and Japan is the last Asian country alive.
14Paulo Da Silva
3Claudio Morel Rodríguez
9Roque Santa Cruz
4Marcus Tulio Tanaka
They've each had good chances so far: Barrios forced a nice save by Kawashima and Matusi clipped the top of the bar with a long range shot.
South American teams are 12-0-2 all-time vs. Asian teams at the World Cup.
0-0 in the 27th minute.
Monday, June 28, 2010
We've dogged him plenty but for once, former U.S. player and current ESPN bobo Alexi Lalas brought up a good point following Chile's 3-0 round of 16 loss to Brazil.
He said Chile was proof that you can play attacking, exciting soccer and still get results. I hope the coaches and players of Greece, Switzerland, Italy, etc. were listening and watching Chile in the 2010 World Cup because indeed they stuck out like a sore thumb with their style.
They went down playing their game against the best team in the world (year after year) and that's much more admirable than the cowardly styles favored by the aforementioned boring squads.
Chile came in second in Group H, losing out on first place in their third match and a 2-1 loss to Spain. The loss to Brazil was the only time that Chile was shutout in the four matches. With some more luck, namely a better draw, they would have gone further.
Best moment: Winning their first two matches and clinching a spot in the round of 16 as early as anybody.
Worst moment: The two quick goals by Brazil in the first half today was enough to send them through to the quarterfinals.
Best result: 1-0 win over Switzerland sent them to the round of 16 and thankfully was enough to trip up the Swiss as they missed out on the round of 16 despite beating Spain in their first match.
Worst result: Getting beaten by Brazil is a feeling that everyone around the world knows, however Chile had to expect a better showing. If they had popped a goal in the first half, maybe it would have been a different story.
Final tally: 2 wins, 2 losses. 3 goals scored, 5 goals conceded.
Best player: Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who had back-to-back clean sheets to start the 2010 World Cup.
Worst player: This was a teamwide award but Chile received 13 yellow cards and a red card in its four matches. They led the field in cards and that lack of discipline cost them since three key players had to sit out vs. Brazil. I'm not saying it would have made much of a difference vs. Brazil (cause it wouldn't have) but you can't be that dirty and hope to get away with it.
The match that just concluded with a 3-0 Brazil win over Chile needs as little analysis as any game in the tournament, other than maybe Portugal's pasting of North Korea.
Chile is good but Brazil is great, simple as that. Brazil made the most of their chances and Chile had some as well but they couldn't put one past Julio Cesar. And if you fall behind a superpower by two or more, goodnight it's over.
Brazil will meet Netherlands on Friday at 10 a.m. in the quarterfinals, another extremely delectable matchup.
17(6) Shots (on Goal) 14(1)
14 Fouls 18
8 Corner Kicks 6
1 Offsides 1
47% Time of Possession 53%
2 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
1 Saves 3
3-0 Brazil in the 89th minute.
Robinho stayed onside barely and had his shot saved by Bravo. Nilmar just came on for Luis Fabiano.
Humberto Suazo, who came into the 2010 World Cup with the most goals in qualifying, showed why as he made a nice move on Lucio but his shot was saved by Julio Cesar (even though it looked like it was going wide).
3-0 Brazil in the 78th minute.
Suazo just hit a weird mishit strike the top of the crossbar and go over. It's been that kind of night for Chile.
Chilean midfielder Jorge Valvida almost cut it to 3-1 with a lovely volley. Chile isn't giving up as they send everyone forward and they deserve a goal with that attitude and all the skill they possess.
Chilean defender Ismael Fuentes picked up a yellow card.
3-0 Brazil in the 69th minute and they're playing with the ball like only they can.
Don't worry America, your favorite bandwagon team is just starting to find its stride in the 2010 World Cup.
After a delightful run down the middle by Ramires, he laid it off to Robinho, who scored with a side-footed shot in the 59th minute.
Chile is the only team to play so far in the round of 16 that hasn't scored yet. Danny Alves just took a long distance shot and that almost went on, the Brazilian machine is up and running now.
Chile made their last change, midfielder Rodrigo Millar in for Mauricio Isla.
3-0 Brazil in the 63rd minute. Looks like all the true favorites will be in the quarterfinals.
Chilean midfielder Arutro Vidal picked up a yellow card in the 47th minute for basically running over Kaka.
2-0 Brazil in the 50th minute.
Chile can score some goals themselves but they'll need to get one early in the second half or it's over. Brazil will probably get another goal too at some points.
9(4) Shots (on Goal) 7(1)
6 Fouls 8
6 Corner Kicks 2
0 Offsides 0
49% Time of Possession 51%
0 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
1 Saves 2
I had thought of writing earlier how this Brazilian team wasn't of the same unbeatable quality of past ones but that looks silly now that they're up 2-0 on Chile.
After some classic Brazilian passing: Robinho centered it to Kaka who touched it to Luis Fabiano. He dribbled around Bravo and bingo, it was 2-0 Brazil in the 38th minute.
Brazil beat Chile twice in World Cup qualifying and that streak doesn't look to change here.
Just as I wrote that I want Brazil to lose, they scored off a corner kick in the 34the minute.
Maicon took the corner and Brazilian defender Juan rose up to meet it and put it past a leaping but helpless Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
1-0 Brazil in the 37th minute.
Sorry for the delay, I had to get out of the house since it's 90 degrees and get to my air conditioned Planet Fitness.
Brazil and Chile are scoreless in the 32nd minute. Kaka just picked up a yellow for a lazy tackle. It wasn't that bad but at least it had much more substance than his red card vs. Ivory Coast which was a travesty.
Here's your starting 11's:
I'm rooting for Chile to win this one. I'm sick of Brazil always dominating, it's time for some new blood although Brazil-Netherlands in the quarterfinals would be quite tasty.
Just by taking out Italy alone in the 2010 World Cup, Slovakia will always have the respect of Shimer and I and all the other people around the world that can't stand Italy.
More importantly, for a small country that was playing its first World Cup as an independent nation, this was a very positive showing. They lost to one of the true powers-Netherlands-and played to the final whistle as every youth soccer coach will tell you, losing 2-1 after scoring a PK in the last seconds.
Being the runner-up in Group F, ahead of Italy and New Zealand, was a huge accomplishment for Slovakia and something they can definitely build on in the future.
Best moment: Going up 3-1 on Italy in their crazy back and forth match, one of the most exciting matches so far in the 2010 World Cup.
Worst moment: The second goal by the Dutch was a terrible breakdown by Slovakia as they weren't ready for the quick restart while Dirk Kuyt and Wesley Sneijder ended the Slovakian dream ride.
Best result: No question, it's the 3-2 win over Italy. Probably the greatest result in Slovakian history, no big deal.
Worst result: Losing 2-0 to Paraguay in their second group match. It didn't end up costing them too much but it forced them to have to beat Italy.
Final tally: 1 win, 1 tie, 2 losses. 5 goals scored, 7 goals conceded.
Best player: Another no-brainer since forward Robert Vittek is tied for the Golden Boot with four goals. His pair against Italy was vital and he had the lone goal in loss to Netherlands.
Worst player: Martin Skrtel is a top notch defender (see: his work at Liverpool) but his performance especially today left a bad taste in my mouth. His team gave up seven goals in four games and since Mucha wasn't the problem, I'll lay the blame on the heavily tattooed defensive leader.
Once Sneijder scored and it was clear that the Dutch were on to the quarterfinals to play Brazil or Chile, it's obvious that they'll have to pick their game up to another level.
Simply put, if they play on Friday like they did today, they won't win again especially against Brazil.
Robben is the X-factor since he made his first start today and he was the difference-maker. When Netherlands are on, their offense is flowing and they're always pushing the pace. Today, they seemed resigned to a more conservative gameplan which almost allowed Slovakia to come clawing back.
Props to Jan Mucha too, the Slovakian goalkeeper, less goalies would have given up a few more goals.
16(9) Shots (on Goal) 14(3)
17 Fouls 19
5 Corner Kicks 2
2 Offsides 2
52% Time of Possession 48%
2 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
2 Saves 7
It's easy to poke holes in their performance today but Netherlands took care of business and they're 4-0-0 in the 2010 World Cup. Nothing wrong with that and with the talent that they can roll out, I think they'll pick it up in the quarterfinals.
Vittek calmly finished the penalty kick with a low, hard shot to the left to cut it to 2-1 Netherlands in the 94th minute.
That gave him four for the tournament, tying him for the Golden Boot with Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina. However, right when Slovakia ran into the net to fetch the ball out the whistle was blown and it was all over.
As Slovakian defender Martin Skrtel argued with the refs at midfield after an obvious high kick by him, the Dutch restarted quickly with Kuyt receiving it in the box and then laying off for Sneijder, who blasted it into the empty net.
Skrtel was still arguing after the goal and he received a yellow card for his troubles. Dumb decision by him all around and it cost his team dearly.
That was in the 84th minute and it was a great example of how an underdog can't let their guard down for a second since a heavyweight like Netherlands can knock you out with one punch.
2-0 Dutch in the 89th minute.
Last two Slovakian subs: Martin Jakubko and Marek Sapara in with Radoslav Zabavnik and Erik Jendrisek are out.
Slovakia couldn't have asked for anything more as their best goal-scorer had the ball on his feet in the box but Robert Vittek shot it over. He stayed onside with the last Dutch defender but couldn't get it on goal.
Van Persie was just subbed out for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Slovakia must not have any depth or something since they've only made one substitution thus far.
1-0 Netherlands in the 83rd minute.
Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt had been invisible up until now but he just unleashed a bullet from outside the box that Mucha dove and hit out for a corner kick.
1-0 Netherlands in the 76th minute.
Slovakia must have finally realized that time is running out in their 2010 World Cup experience and they'll need to score if they want to progress.
Midfielder Miroslav Stoch had a good shot that was pushed over the crossbar by Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. Following the Slovak corner, another breakdown by the Dutch defense led to Robert Vittek being wide open in the middle of the box. His hard shot was stopped by Stekelenburg.
Slovakia had no shots on goal in the first 65 minutes then two in three minutes.
Robben is out for Elia and Slovakia subs Erik Jendrisek out for forward Kamil Kopunek.
1-0 Netherlands in the 72nd minute. Elia earns a yellow card for his first touch after an ugly two-footed slide tackle by Kopunek.
Two wonderful chances by Robben to start the second half. First a bad giveaway by the Slovakian defense gave him the ball in exactly the same spot as his goal. He took a good shot and Mucha deflected it wide by inches of the post.
Later Robben fed Van Persie in the box and his one-timer hit Mucha in the face, it was a great but painful stop.
1-0 Netherlands in the 55th minute, they seemed destined to put it away soon. Slovakia is is falling apart.
I hadn't noticed it during the run of play but center midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who Shimer and I think is the best in the world at his position, dropped a perfect 35-yard pass to Robben before he did his move and unleashed his left foot.
The winner of this match gets the winner of today's Brazil-Chile match on Friday at 10 a.m.
The Dutch finally put some nice passing together as Robben laid off for Van Bommel, who crossed it to Van Persie. The Arsenal star redirected it but he didn't get his body around so it was well wide.
It's halftime with Netherlands up 1-0. They're not playing particularly great, they've basically been kicking it around since they got their goal.
7(3) Shots (on Goal) 5(0)
7 Fouls 7
3 Corner Kicks 1
1 Offsides 0
54% Time of Possession 46%
1 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
0 Saves 2
Hopefully something exciting happens in the second half since this has been rather dull other than Robben's strike. I know my man Elia will bring a spark if he is subbed in for the Dutch.
Van Persie had an opening but he shot right at Mucha.
1-0 Netherlands in the 42nd minute. Slovakia seems scared of sending more players forward because the Dutch will make them pay with a counterattack.
1-0 Netherlands in the 36th minute. How will Slovakia respond?
Arjen Robben is a world class player so this is meant as no disrespect but has any opposing coach or player ever noticed that he only uses his left foot? Plus, he favors one move: cutting back across the top of the box, from right to left.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it I guess since Robben just used that famous foot and his patented move to give Netherlands a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute.
Three Slovakian defenders, including Durica sporting a mohawk, were no match as he pulled it across then shot it across his body and past Mucha who was caught a bit flat-footed.
1-0 Netherlands in the 22nd minute and they flashed a stat after the goal that the Dutch are 17-2-3 all-time in the World Cup when they score first. Their last loss when they scored first was in 1978 to Scotland.
Slovakia will need to hang on and push for a tying goal or else like Mexico and England yesterday, they're in danger of being stomped.
Here are the starting 11's:
5Giovanni Van Bronckhorst
2Gregory Van Der Wiel
8Nigel De Jong
6Mark Van Bommel
9Robin Van Persie
Van Persie has already had a header that almost went in and Sneijder forced a nice save by Mucha. Slovakia's best chance so far was a long distance shot by Hamsik.
0-0 in the 16th minute.
The best engineers in the world are Germans and like a well-oiled machine, der Deutschland was very clinical in its 4-1 throttling of England Sunday.
Not good enough was the general consensus of the English performance from start to finish in South Africa by most of the experts. My favorite biting comment came from famed Liverpool and former English national team player Steve McManaman, who said his home country's players looked as if they were pulling a horse and buggy with every run they made in the German match.
Die-hard English fans will blame the referee and his linesman for missing Frank Lampard's obvious game-tying goal when his chip clearly came down off the bar and over the yard by about a yard, which brings up the endless cries for FIFA to institute technology. I am one of those people by the way, but that's an argument for another time.
Neutral followers like myself and my partner Rich Slate on www.redwhiteandbluearmy.com as well as most of the ESPN experts and the analysts (Andy Gray, Warren Barton, Christopher Sullivan) on the great Fox Sports World show Ticket to South Africa all agree the better team won and deserved to win.
The question then becomes again, why did England fall short again for the 11th straight World Cup since the country's only triumph in 1966?
Player for player, England have plenty of stars from the English Premier League, guys that do very well not only domestically but also in the big European competitions like the Champions League. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), and John Terry (Chelsea) - all these players are the key kogs on their teams, and each one of these players has either won the Champions League or advanced as far as a semifinal on multiple occasions. And I think the argument that the EPL season is too long has no merit because every other big country in the competition has long domestic seasons that were just as long as England's.
On the sidelines, England also had the highest paid coach in the Italian Fabio Capello ($9 mill) for good reason. He was the best available after the epic Euro 2008 disaster (the team didn't qualify for that tournament), and Capello is also on virtually everyone's shortlist as one of the best managers in the game along with the likes of Jose Mourinho (just won Champions League at Inter Milan, however, moved to Real Madrid afterward), Guus Hiddink (currently in charge of Turkey), Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).
In my opinion, the answer starts with the revelation about the affair Terry had with former Chelsea and English national teammate Wayne Bridge's former fiancée Vanessa Perroncel back in late January of this year. At the time Terry was England's captain, but rightly so after the details emerged in the British tabloids, Capello stripped Terry of the captaincy.
For years the English Football Association had battled to piece together a group of players that acted as a team, had chemistry, avoided spats in the media and with the media, and put together spirited performances on the field. In qualification Capello seemed to have finally achieved what Doc Rivers and the 2008 Celtics called "Ubuntu" and the results were quite prosperous as the team flourished easily winning its group with nine wins and only one loss.
But when the crap hit the fan and all the juicy details came out, all the good will Capello had mustered up was fractured permanently, and all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put England back together again.
I think also there has to be some very big questions asked of the tactics Capello used once the Three Lions began their World Cup run. From formations to players used, Capello seemed to be blinded by his own ego.
Forcing a 4-4-2 formation upon a team whose personnel was calling out for a 4-5-1, the English players never looked comfortable on the attack.
You look at a player like Rooney, who was invisible in this tournament scoring zero goals, and you wonder how that could be when he scored 34 goals for Man U in the EPL 2009-10 campaign? Well at Man U, Rooney played almost exclusively as the team's lone striker where for England he always had a partner restricting some of the space he was usually accustomed of running into.
Then there was the problem of Gerrard and Lampard, both attacking central midfielders, who have never played well together because they are essentially the same player. Supposedly they don't get along well personally either, which should be taken into account. Capello chose to push Gerrard out to the left midfield spot, a spot he loathes, when holding midfielder Gareth Barry was ready to return from an ankle injury. What could have worked a lot better was to allow Gerrard to play the free-roaming spot behind Rooney as the fifth player in the 4-5-1 midfield, and then slot a more natural wing player on the left.
Unfortunately, Capello stuck to his guns and England deservedly went out to a much better organized and prepared German team that should be viewed as a big threat to win this tournament.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Seeing Mexico go down so hard today took a little bit of the sting away from the U.S.' loss to Ghana. Mexico is our biggest rival so you never want to see them do any better than we do.
Mexico was in a decent group (A) and they were the runner-up which is admirable. They also recovered from a poor performance in the first match vs. South Africa (a 1-1 draw) and hung with Argentina for almost a full half. To quote former Cardinals and Vikings coach Dennis Green, Mexico is "who we thought they were." They have a couple young studs up front (Hernandez and Dos Santos) but other than that the cupboard is rather bare.
Best moment: The flourish they started with against Argentina was impressive but it turned out to be nothing but a fluke. They didn't finish any of the great opportunities and predictably Argentina steamrolled them.
Worst moment: Completely losing their cool after Tevez's goal led to another goal by Argentina later in the first half. Going down 2-0 to this Argentina squad is fatal as the Mexicans found out.
Best result: Beating France 2-0 doesn't look quite so awesome now that we know what frauds France were but with that said, it was exactly what Mexico needed to get out of their group.
Worst result: Getting beaten so handily by Argentina. Mexico had to expect a better performance in their biggest game.
Final tally: 1 win, 1 tie, 2 losses. 4 goals scored, 5 goals allowed.
Best player: Javier Hernandez is going to Manchester United for a reason. He is one of the best young strikers in soccer. He had two goals in the 2010 World Cup, including Mexico's only tally today vs. Argentina.
Worst player: This has nothing to do with ability since he's electric with the ball on his foot but Givoani Dos Santos disappered after the first two matches. Too often today and vs. Uruguay, he'd try to take guys on but he'd lose the ball immediately. As he matures (he's only 21), he has the chance to form with Hernandez one of the best striker combinations in the world.
Mark it down on your calendar: next Saturday 10 a.m.-Germany vs. Argentina. The two best teams of the 2010 World Cup play in the quarterfinals.
The Argentines took care of business as only they can with a comprehensive spanking of Mexico. Just as I said, the Mexicans will probably whine about the first Tevez goal (that was clearly offsides) but it won't matter one bit. Like Germany vs. England, one team was leaps and bounds ahead of another. Those calls were dog shit but luckily they didn't affect anything.
It's the first time since 1930 that Argentina has won their first four matches. And like clockwork, for the fifth time in a row Mexico goes out in the round-of-16.
12(6) Shots (on Goal) 17(5)
11 Fouls 26
2 Corner Kicks 5
1 Offsides 2
50% Time of Possession 50%
0 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
4 Saves 3
Martin Tyler points out that like the U.S., Mexico will go down at the hands of the same team from the 2006 World Cup.
3-1 Argentina in the 88th minute.
He might be a bozo but Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze still has something left in his cleats.
He had the clearance off the line earlier and he had another highlight reel defensive play (which I realize is an oxymoron). He laid out and headed a ball away from his goal. It was a couple feet from the Argentina goal so all Mexico had to do was tap it in.
3-1 Argentina in the 83rd minute.
Shimer had just texted me saying "Dos Santos has disappeared." Honestly, I was going to respond with "Hernandez is way better," and my man scored a sweet goal in the 71st minute.
He took a quick touch in the box, spun and then roofed it with his left foot.
3-1 Argentina in the 75th minute, if Mexico can get one more this could get interesting.
Well thanks for playing Mexico. Tevez just hit a missle from the half circle at the top of the box in the 52nd minute.
It was out of nowhere, he had tried to dribble through a couple Mexican defenders but they poked it away. He regathered and in a quick motion turned and blasted it. Surely one of the best goals of the 2010 World Cup.
Argentina is up 3-0 in the 60th minute.
For Mexico, Adolfo Bautista came off for Pablo Barrera. Summing up Mexico's day, Barrera had a shot from a tight angle and took it rather than pass to a bunch of teammates that made the run into the box.
Guillermo Franco is on for Mexico with Andres Guardado taking a seat.
Haha and the teams are pushing and shoving each other as they try to do down the tunnel. Love it.
10(4) Shots (on Goal) 8(3)
5 Fouls 13
1 Corner Kicks 0
0 Offsides 1
57% Time of Possession 44%
0 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
3 Saves 2
2-0 Argentina in the 39th minute. I guarantee Argentina will score again with this shaky Mexican defense allowing them tons of chances.
Argentina has not been beyond the quarterfinals in last four World Cups but they're 23-0-0 in World Cup history when they go up by two goals.
A terrible giveaway by Ricardo Osorio leads to a breakaway by Gonzalo Higuain. He dribbled around Perez with a pretty little move and like that it's 2-0 Argentina in the 33rd minute.
Salcido's long shot was pushed away theatrically by Romero. Mexico is on the ropes, they let that first goal completely ruin their day and you can't do that against a powerful machine like Argentina. Luckily for FIFA, like in the Germany win, the goal that wasn't counted probably won't mean too much since the Argentines will win by a couple.
2-0 Argentina in the 37th minute.
Oh brother, can we get instant replay going before tomorrow's matches?
Carlos Tevez just scored for Argentina in the 26th minute and he was offside by a couple feet. Messi fed him and after his first touch was saved by Perez, Messi fed him again and Tevez headed it in.
1-0 Argentina in the 29th minute. Mexico just picked up a frustration yellow card by Marquez, who had a rough tackle on his Barcelona teammate Messi.
Understandably after the goal, Mexico circled the refs and freaked out. What a mess.
The second match of the day finds us watching a nice rivalry, Argentina vs. Mexico. Argentina is 11-4-10 all-time against Mexico and 2-0-0 in World Cup action.
Argentina also knocked out Mexico in the 2006 World Cup, 2-1 in extra time.
Here's your starting 11's:
7Ángel Di María
17Giovani Dos Santos
It's 0-0 in the 13th minute but Mexico has had two golden opportunities. Salcido's bomb from way out hit the crossbar and then Guardado's curling shot just skipped wide.
Obviously if you're reading this, you know that Ghana beat the U.S. 2-1 in extra time yesterday to advance to the quarterfinals against Uruguay on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Shimer will post some stuff later and I won't bore you with the X's and O's, I'm sure you've seen the highlights a million times by now.
Shimer and I are big boys but it took some time to really talk about this brutal defeat. Honestly, this hurts much more than the Bruins' recent Game 7 loss to the Flyers and the Celtics' Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals because the World Cup only comes every once four years. And who knows if there will ever be another time that the U.S. wins their group and gets such a cake path to the final?
Since starting this blog and after covering their exhibition against Czech Republic, I've definitely never followed a U.S. team more closely. Being the same age as many of the players also helps. This wasn't a team full of stars but a very likable group of players that collectively are doing big things to help American soccer globally by playing in leagues all around the world.
Thankfully, the U.S. didn't lose on a bad call or a lucky goal, Ghana was the better team and the defensive breakdowns that plagued the Americans all tournament long came back to haunt them one last time.
Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan broke through the U.S. defense in the 93rd minute and hit a bullet past Tim Howard, who had no chance to stop it.
After coming back against England and Slovenia and scoring a last-second goal to beat Algeria, the U.S. couldn't pull two rabbits out of its hats against Ghana. They gave up the fifth minute goal to Kevin-Prince Boateng but they tied it up in the second half with Landon Donovan's penalty kick.
The U.S. ran out of gas, Jozy Altidore had been subbed and there was no magic left in a team that had more than its share of luck in getting to the round-of-16.
United States Ghana
20(6) Shots (on Goal) 16(6)
11 Fouls 19
5 Corner Kicks 4
1 Offsides 4
51% Time of Possession 49%
3 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 0
4 Saves 5
Best moment: Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria has been one of the defining moments of this tournament and one of the greatest moments in American soccer history so this is no contest.
Worst moment: Take your pick, either goal against Ghana. The U.S. absolutely couldn't go down again and expect to win.
Best result: Beating Algeria which allowed them to win Group B and set up about as easy a road to the final as you could ever dream about.
Worst result: They did rally from 2-0 down at the half but tying Slovenia was unforgivable. The defensive breakdowns that plagued them all tournament were at their worst against this tiny nation.
Final tally: 1 win, 2 ties, 1 loss. 5 goals scored, 5 goals against.
Best player: Donovan. He disappeared for long stretches of games like usual but the difference was that Landycakes earned a big payday with clutchtastic goals against Slovenia, Algeria and Ghana.
Worst player: This is a tricky choice, there isn't an obvious front-runner. Oguchi Onyewu was awful but he didn't play in the last two matches. Jozy Altidore was mostly invisible but he didn't have any decent striking partners. And Ricardo Clark had about as bad a 30 minutes as you could possibly have against Ghana but the loss wasn't all his fault. Therefore I can't pick one but this award is shared by many (the U.S. defense, Clark and the forwards).
See you in four years. Haha just kidding, Shimer and I are still obsessed with soccer so we'll be watching all the remaining matches. The best soccer is yet to come in the 2010 World Cup, don't make the mistake of tuning out now that the U.S. is gone.