Monday, June 12, 2006

Thoughts On The First Four Days

Hey Peeps and anyone else checking in. A special "Hey" goes out to Hazel Mae.

The World Cup just got underway - but teams at this year's tournament have served notice that there will be no "Greece 2" (get it? Grease? Grease 2?) this time around. Four days in and it has become obvious that the world was watching Euro 2004 and they are prevent mode against long lazy crosses.

The teams that are going to be successful this year are the teams that can breakdown defences with speed and penetration; Serbia & Montenegro were under siege for most of the game Saturday as Holland's Arjen Robben kept coming at them; Luis Figo (the old man) and Simao Sabrosa kept up the attack on Angola, and while they only scored one goal, they created a number of chances and drew a number of free kicks in dangerous areas; Mexico was being held by Iran while they tried to play the game on the fringe and cross the ball in - only when they went right at Iran, did they create opportunities and goals. The Germans, who lack some creativity on the pitch, should be given full credit for attacking Costa Rica.

It is clear that this year's tournament is all about speed and ball control - the teams that have both in their arsenal are going to win, those that don't - won't.

The weak sisters of this year's tournament have opted to emulate the Greeks - playing six, seven and up to eight men behind the ball; clogging up the defensive zone and easily turning away long crosses coming in from the wings. These teams are playing not to lose - hoping for that one chance to bury a goal. The problem for these defensive minded teams is that they lack creative midfielders who can break down the opposition and create scoring chances - they aren't able to draw defenders out and beat them one on one to create chances on goal. So they revert to a tactic that they themselves are experts at defending against - the cross.

The Swedes and the Poles were perfect examples of how the inability to change your approach to attacking will cost you points in the series. The Swedes, facing a Trinidad and Tobago team that was down to 10 men in the second half, continued to take the ball down the wing and loft lazy crosses into the box that were either intercepted by the goal keeper or headed away. For all the talk of Freddie Ljungberg and his skill with the ball - he played on the periphery for the whole game, refusing to take the ball into the middle of the field and attack. Sweden's best chances came in the last 15 minutes - when they abandoned the crosses and tried to work the ball in deep. The problem for the Swedes was that they lacked anyone who had enough speed and ball control skills to break down T&T - expect Paraguay to do more of the same to the Swedes...let's see if they have the ability to adapt.

Poland, who failed to generate any sort of sustained pressure on Ecuador, kept giving the ball away with bad crosses, or being tackled before they could get the ball into the box. The Poles grew increasingly frustrated as the game went on - and tried crosses from 35 and 40 yards out - somehow expecting their three men to beat the seven Ecuadorans who were waiting for them.

Serbia & Montenegro comes into the tournament with arguably the best group of defenders - they defended themselves into a 1-0 loss, rarely coming close to Edwin Van Der Sar. S&M spent most of the game backing into Robben and the Dutch when they didn't have the ball - and when they did, they played laterally and on the lines. I can't see things getting any better for them against Argentina - with Riquelme and co. coming right at them.

Time will tell if things change - the Czechs may prove to be the exception, but they have a 6'9" striker who can get over most defenders to head in those crosses - but with the likes of Ronaldinho, Totti, Shevchenko and Henry ready to take center stage, I think we are in for more displays of how attacking the heart of team's defence leads to goals.

There will be no "Greece 2" at this year's world cup. On to today's games

Australia 1 - 0 Japan - Japan is coached by the legendary Zico (my favourite Brazilian player) but they could only wish that they had his scoring touch. Japan comes into the tournament in a state of disarray - they can't score goals and their best player is questioning the team's desire. Australia features a number of players who play in the Premiership...I think they have enough to eek out a win today.

United States 0 - 2 Czech Republic - sorry gang, but the U.S. won't be taken lightly in this tournament, as they were in Korea. The Czechs will look to shoot out of the gate with a win, knowing that finishing first in this group is all important. The U.S. may have an edge in speed, which I said yesterday will be important in this World Cup, but the Czech's ball control will win out today. The Czech look to make a statement in the opening game of the tournament...and with it, start the U.S.'s decline down the FIFA rankings.

Italy 2 - 0 Ghana - the Italians will look to show off their new philosophy of attacking football today, especially since Ghana don't pose a serious scoring threat. They are well aware that they can ill afford to drop any points to Ghana and bring the hammer down today. This game will be an indication of whether we are going to see the new look Italians or the same old side that used to play for ties in the opening round.

That's about it gang...enjoy your Monday. Have a great one peeps!

Your insight into future trends will get you thinking about a possible venture or investment. If travel is on your mind, make it count and mix business with pleasure. Remain calm even if someone doesn't agree with you. 5 stars

Hazel, I hope things are groovy in your world - if you were peeking in to the Portugal vs. Angola game yesterday, thanks for the Hazel Karma...but you didn't have to make it so close, a 3 - 0 game would have been good.

Song of the Day on Hazelspeeps - what Portugal needs after a close game like they had yesterday... a day to look within themselves

Cancao do Mar - Amalia Rodrigues

Peesth Out...Buh Bye!


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