Archive for July 2nd, 2010

What We Learned From Uruguay vs Ghana (1-1)

That Was A Bit Full On

Possibly even more so than the Brazil Holland clash, this match was one that both teams went out to win. Certainly, Ghana were a bit tentative at first, but when Kevin Prince Boateng (who is my Man of the Tournament so far – I know, I know even I don’t believe that, but there it is) moved inside they began to dominate the game and really take the match to Uruguay.

Just as with the first game, South Africa v Mexico, where it was vital for the host nation to score first (and what a cracking goal that was), so it was essential to the game that the Valiant Wildebeest got in there quickly, if only to settle everyone’s nerves and ensure that they (and possibly the whole of Africa) genuinely believed they could win. Not hoped. Not wished for. But Believed. And when they did score Ghana were way the better team, had completely neutralised the threat of Forlorn and Dirty Sanchez and should have made it 2 or even more. As ever, Boateng was at the heart of Ghana’s threat and you wondered how powerful they might have been if only Michael Essien (another Premiership casualty) had been fit.

Those Penalities, They’re A Killer

None more so than the penalty Ghana got at the end of the final period of extra time. One penalty and you’re through. Not five. Not mano a mano. Just one penalty. And you have to feel for them. This was a clear penalty for a stone banker deliberate hand ball stopping a certain goal. Dirty Sanchez (for that is his real name) might have been sent off, but you can’t help feeling that a penalty isn’t really reward enough for such blatant cheating. Bear in mind this is the same punishment Oztralia got for having the ball cannon into arch-tit Kewell’s arm when he knew very little about it. No Uruguay will always be tainted by this cynical, deliberate cheating. They are officially cheating cunts and I hope the Dutch stuff their sorry arses.

58 Down 6 To Go 6 Teams Remaining

Archive for July 2nd, 2010

What We Learned From Brazil vs Holland (1-2)

Adrian Chiles In Sensible Statement Shock

I don’t normally bother to take any interest in what the ITV panel has to say as I’m quite capable of devising lukewarm footballing banalities myself, but one thing Chiles said struck home, “If you’ve got no discipline and you can’t defend set pieces, you aren’t going to stay in the World Cup”. Not the most complete dissection of the Brazilian team, but it cut to the chase and erased all the bullshit. He may never make such and authoritative, Hansonesque statement again in his hideous sofa-confined lifetime.

It’s All About The Basics

Much as everyone would have liked it to be, this match wasn’t about flair, individual skill, touches of footballing genius, dribbling or total football. It was about what the FA Director of Coaching Charles Hughes thought football was all about, few touches good, many touches bad. It was about the techniques of direct football rather than the artistic machinations of intricate interior passing. Brazil’s goal, like Germany’s first against Engerland was about a single, clinical pass through the middle to your frontman and catastrophic defensive play. Holland’s first was the result of the first genuinely dangerous cross into the box in open play, while their second was from one of only two genuinely effective corners.

Looking at the most effective and dangerous moments of play, these too conformed to Hughes’ maxim. At the tail end of either half, both teams were playing an almost infectious kick and rush style of play as the ball was swiftly moved from one box to the other and back again. Unlike English football, where this is achieve by hoofing the ball over the midfield trenches, the movement here was mainly on the ground, the reason for the swift motion from one end to another was that both midfields had almost completely disappeared and there was a cavernous 30 yard gap surrounding the half-way line. This meant that Hughes’ few touches principle worked beautifully. Conversely, once either defence had settled down to it’s organised 4 – 1 – 4 on the 18 yard line formation, there were no ‘few touches’ moves to be made other than genuinely good crosses (which neither side could apparently deliver with any regularity), so the many touches, eye of a needle footwork needed to take prominence. The real key at this point was not number of touches, but speed of movement, both on and off the ball, and even then it didn’t conjure up very many serious chances.

This Ball IS Shit

So. Two of the best football playing and dead ball specialist sides and no one can take a free kick that is on target? I know it’s the whole bad workers blame their tools thing, but all of the best players bar the Japanese can’t be wrong. This ball doesn’t deviate and dip like others do and thus makes free kicks more difficult to take. This means not only do we not see as many free kick goals (total so far something like 3 and one of those was a mistake by the keeper and two of them were by Japan), but it becomes a much safer option for a defender to foul an attacker around the 18 yard line. Take the free kick, neutralise the attack, get the defense back in position. It’s a no brainer.

57 Down 7 To Go 7 Teams Remaining

Archive for July 2nd, 2010

Extra Extra What We Learned About Them Second Rounds

Back To Nature – Fear In The Driving Seat

So, after the Group Stage got a little bit interesting at the tail end, we have something of a return to form.  With a few exceptions, mainly on the Sunday, teams reverted back to their first week, fear dominated incarnations. Some of these games, which potentially had so much promise, were so lacklustre they made the opening salvos of the World Cup (no humdingers themselves) look like candidates for an All-Time Top Ten compilation. Really only Argentina and Germany look like they are playing without the FearMonkey riding their shoulders.

There are a couple of honourable mentions. Ghana weren’t so much playing with the FearMonkey on their shoulders as the Weight of Expectation as they became the Sole Representatives of The Whole of Africa. That’s pressure enough. But you have to say Uruguay, Brazil, Holland, Spain and Paraguay were playing well below their entertainment potential. I’m still waiting for that all expansive glorious football that one team in the world must surely possess. So far the closest we’ve come has been the full on attack threats of Germany and Argentina.

The other exception was Engerland. With this Engerland team, it’s hard to tell whether they’re playing with the weight of fear on them or whether this is simply the very best performance they are capable of.

Hmmm Those Pitches Are Shit

Clump. Divot! Slide. Scarmark! Pass. Bobble! Now we in Engerland, home of the Derby Mudbath and the Wemberley Turf Relay, really can’t complain about terrible pitches. But we do have quite a lot of nice ones too and in comparison to them these pitches are pretty godawful. Goalmouths so devoid of turf they’ve had to be relaid and they’re still so bad that if the games went to penalties, they would have to be played at the other end. Allegedly these pitches have been laid by the same ‘specialists’ who did for Wemberley, which for us kind of explains everything.  Apparently this firm will not be involved in Brazil 2014.

The Premiership Is The Big Loser

I’m going to do a separate post on this, but essentially I can’t think of a single established Premiership player other than Carlos Tevez who has in any way lived up to their potential, let alone enhanced it. For me the only other Premiership players who’ve even made an impact are Kevin Prince Boateng (who has enhanced his reputation but was something of a peripheral figure at Portsmouth), Clint Dempsey and Dirk Kuyt. None of these guys are flair players, indeed Dempsey and Kuyt only make it in because they are valiant workhorses who can actually impact a game. Think of all the Premiership players who haven’t lived up to their potential, including Torres, TheDrog, Van Persil, all Engerland players, and all French players, and that’s a pretty massive indictment of the self-styled ‘Best league in the world’.

The English Rejects Are Smiling

No, not the entire team who came to South Africa and covered themselves with ignomony, but Those Who Were Left Behind. For Theo Wallchart, Adam Johnson et al, this was a great World Cup to watch and not be part of. Unlike many of the current Engerland squad, I can see these guys getting into the team for the next friendly against Hungary in August. Both will arrive nicely holidayed for next season and I expect them to do well.