Saturday, July 01, 2006

Quarterfinals, Day 2 Review

England 0, Portugal 0, Portugal advances on PK's.

Well, I think we have a coach here in Sven who might get rehired, just so the English can fire him. He was already planning on leaving, but I think the country would feel better if they could really cut him loose on their terms. The fatal flaw of thsi English was, from the day the line-up was announced, a certain lack of depth with creative attacking players. No Wright-Phillips, No Bent, No Dafoe. The two strikers who could scare people were Michael Owen, who has since time immemorial been dangerous and quicker than greased lightenin', but injury prone ala Samuel Jackson in Unbreakable, and pugnacious thug (and injury prone) Wayne Rooney. Owen played all of 5 minutes in this world cup before rolling off the pitch, never be heard from again. England came into this cup relying on their midfield to score goals, and they have done so, when needed, but not a second before.

Oh, so about the game. First half wasn't filled with a ton of drama. Incursions here and there--plays that looked dangerous for a moment before fizzling, etc.

Second half is where the drama kicked in, and Rooney was in the middle of it. Rooney, depending on your persespective either accidently stepped on a Portugal player's balls, or he purposefully, evilly stomped on that dude's nuts! The ref blew the whistle, and when Christiano Ronaldo came running in, presumably to plead for a yellow card, or something along those lines, Rooney gave his Man U running buddy a very solid two handed shove. And Rooney got the Red Card there. One push, or one ball-stomping would have probably been a yellow, but you put them both together, and that's Red, my friends. So Rooney was out for about 30 minutes of regulation, and the Limies were down a man for the rest of the way. Oh, and a few minutes early, Beckham hobbled off. Not that he's been Big Shit in the run of play. He's been great on the free kicks, but if you are involved in actual gameplay, Aaron Lennon seems like a better choice.

I'm not sure either of these teams belonged in this round--there were perhaps the two least impressive quarterfinals teams. It seems a shame that Germany had to play Argentina, or France had to play Brazil, with these two teams muching about.

So, Portugal had the rest of regulation, and all of the extra time, with a man advantage to score a goal. The last ten minutes of regulation were up and down--attacks on goal from everybody, and shots just getting fired wide or high, or getting saved by the keepers. Extra time was more of the same.

Portugal won the PK's decisively, with Ricardo stopping 3 English shots, including midfielders Gerrard and Lampard who in the run of play have very dangerous shots. On the whole, an entertaining game, but not an impressive one.

France 1, Brazil 0

Fuck, do I ever owe the Frenchies an apology. I think I may also owe one to Brazil, because when I previewed this game, I didn't mention Thierry Henry, and I think the Brazilians were using my post to scout the team, because they didn't bother marking the Leading Scorer in the English Premiership on the decisive play of this match.

Key stat of this game: Brazil had 1. ONE. Shot on goal, and it came in the last 5 minutes of the match.

This was total domination--the score is misleading in that regard. France had for more opportunities, and they looked like they are as likely as anyone to be hoisting the Cup at the end of the tournament. The number one reason I was wrong about France (aside from their really, really shoddy group play) is Zidane. I thought he was done, that he was no longer the player he was, but today he looked every bit like the genius on the ball that led France in 1998. He wasn't unstoppable, but he made several plays that were remarkable.

Of course, the most important one came in the 57th minute, when he took a free kick from the left side of the box, sending it curling into the right side of the penalty box, where Henry, compleetely unmarked ran onto it, somehow got his boot on a ball that looked about chest high, and flicked it into the net.

I watched this match with miwacar, and he was expressing unhappiness about the Brazilian formation before halftime, and they didn't change it until about the 75th minute. Ronaldhino was playing pretty far up, which was limiting his chances at running at defenses and leaving balls off for Ronaldo or Adriano (who was a second half sub). Robinho was a very late substitution, and whatever

But regardless of formation, or whatever else, you expect Brazil to put a few shots on net, and to test Barthez, who is prone to mistakes, and they didn't. They just didn't attack the net. Their shots were off target, and the French defense shut them down quite a few times.

Thje Brazilians also had a hard time containing Riberry, which while it didn't lead to a goal, it did leave them a bit gunshy about an all out attack, for fear of giving up a second goal. I think Brazil may have a new coach before the end of this Cup. But Zidane was the story of this game. If he can continue to play at the level his showed in this match, France will go by Portugal and be a very dangerous team in the Final.

France vs. Portugal could end up being a pretty lopsided game--for the French. I'm stunned to see myself type that. I've been down on this team the entire cup, and through Group play, I think it was justified. I was impressed by their win over Spain, but beating Spain in the 2nd round doesn't really mean anything. Knocking off this Brazilian team, whatever problems they had, is just flat out impressive, and the kind of things that's going to have the tout boards in London going apeshit.

Final note: a disappointing cup for Ronaldhino, who got a lot of "best player in the world" press, and for whatever reason, demonstrated very little of why he deserves that title. One had to wonder if the year long season got to him, because he wasn't super impressive during the latter stages of the UEFA games, either. Perhaps he was a bit run down. I don't know. But if Zidane can look as good as he did, then I don't know if fatigue can be an excuse for anyone else.

1 comment:

Garwood B. Jones said...

I haven't seen it mentioned, and maybe it's common place to do this, but the free kick that France scored on looked to be an incredibly well orchestrated play.

All of the French guys bunched up at about the 18 in line with the far post (per usual) and there was the jostling that accompanies it when the ball is being placed. Henry hung back in that crowd. As Zidane stepped up to hit the free kick, the mass of French players charged at a 45 degree angle toward the spot. That froze Dida - he can't beat all of those guys for a punch/save. Henry waited one beat and made a straight bee-line for the back post. The ball was going to Henry all along. Everyone else in the play knew they were a decoy and sold it beautifully.

Zidane delivered a beautiful ball and Henry cooly did what a world-class striker should. But let's also give a shout to Dommenech for an extremely well designed play as well as a fantastic strategy throughout the game. In a cup where coaching has mostly been maligned, let's recognize the great job done by Dommenech.