Archive for July 3rd, 2010

What We Learned From Spain vs Paraguay (1-0)

Unstoppable Force Meets Immoveable Object

Or the potentially hardest working defence left standing meets the apparently most intricate passing team in the world. And bugger me it was boring. Paraguay are the Switzerland of South America, and not just because they were the home of fleeing ex-nazis and secretive bank accounts. No, they are set up to defend. And harry. And press. And harry some more. And do everything but actually score. And, like Switzerland, they work bloody hard at it. So hard that it wasn’t until very late on in the game that Spain finally got their act together. But, also like Switzerland, they really can’t score. One goal against Italy and two against the mighty Slovakia in the Group stage have taken them to the brink of a World Cup semi-final. And very odd moments aside they really never looked even vaguely threatening. I mean at 72 minutes, with the score 0 – 0 they play their joker, taking off their by now knackered striker Valdez and bringing on Rocque Santa Cruz, who hasn’t scored for Paraguay for two years and hasn’t scored for Man City since the Mark Hughes era. Even then he manages to scuff up their only real chance from open play.

It’s All Gone To Penalties

Thank fucking christ it didn’t because the tedium would have finished me off. But for a crazy 5 minutes this game went off the charts. First Paraguay got a penalty, which they contrived to tamely tap into Casillas’ midriff, then Spain got a penalty, which Alonso scored, then had to retake, then missed. For a second it was like the shoot out had come early, before normal service (and tedium) was resumed. You feel that if Paraguay, like Ghana, had scored their penalty, they would have won this match. And you could feel that the pressure of being here, having gone further in the tournament than they had really believed they would, weighed heavily on the penalty takers.

Tikki Takki’s All Gone Messy

The Spanish have got a problem. They’ve arrived with half a good game and no idea of how to make it a whole game. Admittedly it works better than teams like Engerland, who arrive without any part of a good game, or teams like New Zealand, Switzerland and Paraguay, who arrive with one that they’ve borrowed from Jose Mourinho but haven’t read all of the user manuals. Spain’s real problem is that their chosen game has both declined and been susssed out. I don’t think they’re implementing their clever passing game as well as they did in Euro 2008 and I think teams have discovered how to put them off their game. All of which sounds a little pedantic given that Spain have Tikki Takka’d their way to the semi-finals, but they have been fantastically lucky. Chile gifted them the game, Paraguay surrendered it and they were lucky to beat Portugal. But they really need a way to combine clever, good looking football with incisiveness, speed and variation. Too often their attacks come down the middle at a pedestrian pace with no great effect. Take out David Villa and Spain don’t look remotely threatening, just pretty in the middle of the park.

60 Down 4 To Go 4 Teams Remaining

Archive for July 3rd, 2010

What We Learned From Germany vs Argentina (4-0)

Football, Bloody Hell – Game Of The Tournament

If ever there was a completely convincing argument for World Cups being won by teams rather than individuals, this was it. You have Argentina, who have the apparently best player in the world in Messi (although he hasn’t scored any goals and really hasn’t significantly influenced any games here) and possibly the James Brown of international football (the hardest working man in showbiz) in Carlos Tevez, not to mention Mascherano and Di Maria, who are managed by the Pimp Superstar Diego Maradona and yet, and yet, they’re utterly, comprehensively, totally stuffed by a team whose biggest name is still sitting out his FA Cup injury wondering when (more like if Michael) he’ll ever get back in this team.

Germany don’t play like a bunch of talented individuals who’ve been lumped together in pampered luxury and told to play a few games of footy together while on holiday. But enough about Engerland. I only mention them to say that I think Argentina got an even bigger stuffing tonight. Germany were outstanding in every way. Their defence totally annihilated the threat of Argentina’s strikers – remember Diego brought six with him – restricting them to one chance and even then they were offside (all four of them). Their midfield ran the match, Schweinsteiger, Ozil and Khadira (who was playing in that Michael Ballack position, which he won’t be giving back) just cut out any threat while building attack after attack primarily down the left hand side. While Klose and Mueller, the latter especially, worked endlessly to punish  the Argies at every opportunity.

Unlike Engerland, the Argies weren’t quite stupid enough to fall for the long ball right up the middle in between the two apparently best central defenders your country has to offer. But they were quite stupid enough to fall for the same goal three or four times in a row. All the attacking danger came down the German’s left, crossing the ball deep into the box for one of a host of attackers to tip, tap, scramble or lash into the net. Chances are the Argentinian right back won’t be playing many more games for his country. He’s already checked into a psychiatric institution to try to get his sanity back.

Out Go The Pimps

Maradona has been an interesting manager. At a time when many nations are simply buying job lots of these carbon copy international football svengalis (spot the difference between Paul Le Guen, Sven, Carlos Perierra and the various chain smoking Eastern European gents) Argentina chose to appoint their former best player (and notorious football cheat and drug abuser) to the post. He was roundly criticised for using approximately 100 different players during their qualifying campaign and for not getting the best out of Messi. His team selection was apparently “Mascherano and 10 others”. But he has managed to successfully halt the decline of Argentinian football and has pulled together a team that, the Germans aside, shows perhaps the greatest degree of cohesion and togetherness we’ve seen here. Sure they have had their arses soundly beaten, but it would be a shame if they decided to get rid of the PimpMeister General. Again, it’s a bit like Engerland, if they get rid of this manager, who are they going to appoint who is better?

Loew And His Monkey Are Like Batman And Robin

Holy Tactics Batman! I think we just did them again. What I like best about German manager Jochim Loew is not his obviously excellent grasp of tactics (although the tactic of ‘waiting until Engerland shot themselves in the foot’ is one that many, many teams have applied successfully before), it’s not even his bepringled comfy Leisuresuit Larry look. No, what I like best is that he forces his little Monkey to wear exactly the same garbacious clothing as he is. Not even Fab has forced Stuart Pierce into a blue, Lycra stretch pullover and waiters jacket. No Loew is obviously a man who wears the trousers round his way and ensures that everyone else wears ones that look exactly the same.

59 Down 5 To Go 5 Teams Remaining