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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Sometimes I sit on the bench and think, 'Man, is this a friendly match?'"

TDH, having failed to seek out a Uruguayan bar with satellite television in Buenos Aires, was a bit miffed at having to make do with Argentina v Croatia and live scores on the Internet. But that feeling ebbed a bit after the first five minutes or so, in which the teams in Basel combined for three goals.

Pekerman basically played the match as though it were the real thing; he made three changes, and unsurprising ones at that. Croatia nicked it in the last ten seconds of scheduled extra time. Observations:

1. Abbondanzieri, though very popular here with Boca, couldn't hack it on the big stage. Okay, he was returning as a starter and Sorin had been left on the trainer's table at the last minute. But he and Coloccini showed an absolute physical inability to communicate, which led directly to Croatia's first goal. And there were plenty more, if less costly, mixups later.

2. Tevez, Riquelme and Messi are an extremely dangerous combination. Occasionally Crespo got into the act, too, but it was clear that "los pibes" were in charge of the attack. Messi took his fantastic goal as though it was something he'd do for fun in a back alley with his pals. The Croats started playing dirty with him late in the game, but this time, at least, he didn't roll around on the floor.

3. Outside of those three guys, Argentina played a very disorganized game. Cambiasso and Demichelis didn't do much to help matters. The whole thing rotated around Riquelme. Even when Sorin is playing, there's a twilight zone between his position and Roman's. That's where teams like Holland will hurt them.

4. The Argentine defense cannot deal with a big striker. Dado Prso is no genius, but he threw his weight around and completely dominated the back four. Largely because of him (and to some degree because of a good work rate), the scoreline did not reflect Croatia's general mediocrity. Argentina will have to face Horseface, Drogba and Savo Slobo before they get out of the group stage. Bad, very bad.

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And then, after the Argentina match finished, presto, there was second half of the England match, live and direct! (Argentines wouldn't have known whom to support, given the England-Scotland-like relationship between their country and Uruguay.)

Bent was eager, but the result, unfortunately, was his being caught offside a few too many times. Carrick certainly didn't disgrace himself, but the lack of Fat Frank was clear. Rooney, as always, seemed to be everywhere at once. Have you ever seen a No. 9 make so many tackles? Incredible.

Young Joe also did a ton of running, set up Crouch - it was just a matter of how long it took for the Empire State Building to get decent service - then somehow missed a one-on-one, and finally won the match. Yes, Mara, besides Rooney, he was the star man. His Chelsea form is no fluke.

In the end, we didn't learn too much new. Sven was protecting his top players, he still has his other favorites, and he's willing to risk losing a friendly as long as he gets to stick with his game plan.

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The US grabbed a quality result against Poland in Kaiserslautern. Arena is still trying out some US-based players, mostly from, er, the Kansas City Wizards. But most of the starters were tested European quality. At the very least, the boys are showing a consistent ability to perform at a high level. Even though our chances of making the quarterfinals again are pretty tiny, given the likelihood of facing Brazil in the Round of 16, we'll be more than credible.

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Finally, did anyone see Italy v Germany? Did anyone predict Italy v Germany?

5 Comments:

Anonymous jonathan said...

Only caught the last twenty minutes- so just in time to see the England fightback. But was certainly impressed with Carrick, and his graceful, long, floated passes (usually in the direction of one of the four other Spurs men on the pitch, which may have made it easier for him). And good to see young Wright-Philips this time reproducing his club form (his Manchester City club form) in an England shirt. Ian Wright in the studio was the picture of fatherly pride afterwards. His summing up of the winning goal started,' just look at Shaun. Everything about him is brilliant. His shorts look great on him, his boots look great on him...' For once you could absolutely understand the ex-Arsenal man's tnedency to lapse into over-excited babbling in front of the cameras...

7:45 AM  
Blogger the Maradona of Malawi said...

genius! over here we got a rather solemn South African chap talking pointless bollocks.

Watched the match with a friend at my place, we were pretty much stunned at the quality of the Uruguayan goal. Was very happy with Carrick's play, very much in control of the ball, keeping things ticking over, which is sometimes what Stevie G can't do, keep things simple and flowing. Of course, MC can't do a lot of what Stevie can.

Was very, very happy with Cole's game, he looked dangerous every time he had the ball, and if you all missed the first half, you missed an equisite dinked pass to becks. I have to say, I do detect a bit of the old showboating creeping back into his game - he was nearly caught in possession by his own penalty area trying to do a few stepovers.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was actually surprised at how decent a side Uruguay were. Makes me all the more perplexed at their abysmal showing in the second leg against australia. If they'd actually tried to play against the aussies they would have got a result. jet lag?

For me Carrick offered nothing extra really. In the first half all I saw was long passes being easily cut out by Uruguay's defence. I still saw a gaping hole between England's back four and midfield (see the amount of times Uruguay got a long distance shot on Robinson's goal). *cough* Scott Parker *cough*... Admittedly I only saw the first half though. I felt for Darren Bent. I was always convinced he could never make the step up to international level, but he was making the runs and getting into the right positions. A shame that the service was awful. knowing Sven he won't get another chance. a pity...

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to expand on the Carrick point. I'm not trying to be contrary but I've always maintained that what England need is a spoiler in midfield. Going forward isn't the problem. We have enough 'door-openers'. Crrick played as the 'quarter-back'. Sven gave Beckham that role v N.Ireland and it wasn't really effective. Can someone explain to me what Carrick offers that we don't already have. Again I only watched the first half though, so I'm assuming from the above comments that Carrick stepped it up in the second half.

5:59 PM  
Blogger The American Geordie said...

Well, I think we can end this debate by telling Sven to take Carrick and Parker and leave Jenas at the airport. No one here would object to that, would they?

Anonymous is right, in a way. According to Australia's ABC, the Uruguayan team flew to Australia in economy on a commercial 747. The Socceroos arrived a few hours later on their own 767, specially equipped with massage and recovery facilities.

Bent did make good runs; he has a talent that you usually see in South American players of getting to through balls that start out on the wrong side of the defender. The thing is, if Bent doesn't get another chance, then it's probably Defoe. England could do worse - at least Vassell is well and truly out of the picture.

9:09 PM  

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