Thursday, June 29, 2006

World Cup Breakdown

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

The World Cup is down to quarter-final play - 6 of the 7 countries to have ever lifted the World Cup are amongst this year's finalists; Uruguay, the other country to have lifted football's Holy Grail, did not make into World Cup play this year. The first two quarter-final matchups kick off tomorrow, with the host Germans taking on Argentina, and Italy taking on the upstart Ukranians. On the surface, one game looks like a toss-up, with the other looking like a foregone conclusion.

Germany vs Argentina - the Germans have surprised many of the experts, and themselves, by making it to the quarter-finals (count me in amongst the surprised). German Captain Michael Ballack had cautioned fans before the tournament to not get their hopes up too much - that his team would be in very tough at this year's tournament. Argentina came into the tournament with some questions about their recent form, but put doubts to bed with a great opening round. Based on their play of late, there isn't much to choose from these two teams.

Both are relatively sound in goal, though German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has been known to have some brain cramps in big games. Even

The Argentines get the edge on defence, they are solid and are helped by a midfield that likes to control the ball and keep possession from the opponent. The German defence has not been tested to this point, which is a good thing because coming into the tournament, they were seen as the achilles heel of the team - primarily due to a lack of speed. The edge goes to Argentina.

Both teams are strong in the midfield with the play flowing through Riquelme and Ballack. There isn't much to choose from in the midfield - Riquelme may be the more complete player, who controls the game with timely rushes into the zone, but relying more on great vision and ball distribution; as Riquelme goes so goes Argentina - particularly their strikers. Ballack is more of a game breaker, he can hit from anywhere inside of 30 yards and possessed the speed and strength to run right at defenders and beat them. Torsten Frings, he of the 35+ yard beauty in the opening game, gives the Germans another sniper in the midfield. I'm calling this one even.

The Argentine strike force of Crespo and Saviola, with Messi and Tevez coming in from the bench was thought to be the best set of strikers in the tournament - they have not disappointed. As a group, they are having the kind of tournament that many of the pundits expected. The German have featured Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski; both coming off very impressive club seasons. Before the tournament, I would have said Argentina all the way - but the German strikers are in a zone right now and make this much closer than would have been expected a month ago. Slight edge to Argentina.

The intangible tomorrow will be the home crowd - they have lifted their team to heights previously thought unattainable in this year's tournament. Argentina is yet another South American team that hasn't been able to put it all together when they play in Europe - still though, they have depth on their roster that the Germans don't yet have.

The Germans will look to counter attack in waves with speed up the middle and the flanks - the Argentines will look to break down a weak German defence with creative passing and attacking from the flanks. In the end, this one is a toss-up, it could very likely go to extra time - with things being decided by the strikers.

Argentina 2 - 1 Germany

Italy vs Ukraine - this looks like, and probably is, a mismatch. The Italians are in to the latter stages of the tournament for the upteenth time - the Ukranians are likely shocked and very pleasantly surprised they have made it this far...their tournament has been a success.

There is really no need to break thing down by position - the Italians are better in every facet of the game - with the lone advantage for the Ukraine coming up front with Shevchenko.

The Italians have more depth and more options than the Ukraine, who rely on playing a tight game and counter attacking - hoping that Shevchenko can break things open for them. Italian teams have been masters at playing a defensive game and eating up teams that rely on the counter attack...they pretty much invented that style of play.

The only hope for the Ukraine is a super human game by Shevchenko and/or hoping the volatile Italians self-destruct and suffer a team brain cramp.

Italy 2- 0 Ukraine.

There you have it, if you care. I'm not allowed to talk World Cup on yahoo...but on here I can say - enjoy your World Cup games tomorrow. Speaking of World Cup, a shout out to my man DJames, who has been noticeably quiet this week. I wonder if he gave up on the World Cup when the US was sent packing. DJames, if you are checking in PHONE HOME man...or just send a damn email.

On another note - according to our girl Renee, great time to be a sports fan in Boston - particulary with good news coming from Brigham and Women's Hospital that the prognosis for Mr. Peter Gammons' recovery has been categorized as "good". I'm sure the Red Sox 12 game winning streak helps brighten the mood too. Things aren't so rosy in Leaf Nation these days.
Have a great one peeps.

Hazel, I hope things are groovy in your world. Enjoy your weekend.

Song of the Night on Hazelspeeps - because I'm in one of those moods, one of these days I'll get around to translating these songs in that heals the heart and is good for the soul.

Estranha Contradicao - Antonio Mourao

Peesth Out.


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