AsI mentioned though, in a previous post, the true quality of teams can be exposed by analyzing the statistics of the game. Brazil had 13 shots with 84% of their efforts on target. Compare this to Ghana who had more shots at 21 but only 42% of them hit the target. This statistic shows the efficiency and quality finishing that Brazil have in the final third of the field. Ghana, who were missing their inspirational midfielder Essien, can only ponder what might have been, had they been able to field a top class striker such as Ronaldo in the team.
Brazil pass on to the last 8 but I think some of the other teams such as Germany and Argentina will be licking their lips at the prospect of driving attacks through the center of Brazils defence, in a similar vein to Ghana today. I can't see Germany missing the same golden opportunties as Ghana.
REFEREES - They always get a hard time!!!!!!
I am not sure what directive the referees have been given but they are producing a record number of yellow cards in this tournament, which is spoiling games. Many of the yellow cards that have been handed out in the tournament have been for passionionate and committed play, where players have slightly mis-timed their efforts. This should not be confused with deliberate attempts to foul or sabotage the opposition. Unfortunately these innocous yellow cards have led to numerous Red cards, spoiling what would have otherwise been exciting games to watch. The Holland v Portugal game was a classic case. Yellow cards were being thrown around at every incident and the more experienced players, started to dive, pretend to be hurt, and fool the referee into handing out even more cards. In the end the game became lost in the turmoil of the arguing teams.
The dutch team have been below their best since the first game and failed to improve as the tournament went on, dropping their best striker Van Nistelrooy after the first 2 games. Today though Holland were desperately in need of a clinical goal scorer such as Nistelrooy but even with the extra man advantage, they didn't bring him on the field. The dutch manager is going to get a lot of criticism for this.
Both sides had many experienced players and as the game progressed they started to take advantage of the referees over-eagerness to produce yellow cards and in the end the game descended into a farcical match.
What does this mean for England? Well they face Portugal in the next match and the Portugese must be licking their wounds after this game. It was a bruising battle, they will have players missing for the next game and surely bodes well for Englands chances to make the Semi-Finals.
Teams are departing thick and fast from World Cup 2006. The England game v Ecuador was NOT shown on our satellite TV at the Belize Jungle Dome, but after reading the reports they are determined to bore their way to the finals. I hope they are saving some inspirational displays for the final rounds as there are no easy games left after the last 16.
Brazil had an early hiccup against Japan, but they just came back so strong in the second half and the display was as good as football gets. They kept the ball for 63% of the match and totaled 16 shots on target with only 7 off target. Thats 70% of their shots making the goalkeeper work. Compare that to Japan who troubled the Brazil keeper with only 33% of their shots.
As a professional you are taught to ALWAYS hit the target. ALWAYS make the goalkeeper make a save. Shots that go high, wide and no-where sometimes look spectacular but are no use to the team. If you shoot between the posts you force saves from the keeper, possible mistakes, ricochets, re-bounds etc and more opportunities to score. So Brazils percentage of strikes on target just confirms the dominance and quality of this team. And they are getting better as the tournament goes by.
They have very contrasting styles with Argentina springing rapid attacks to surprise the opposition and Holland keeping the ball for long periods of play. These sides ooze quality in every position but what is evident is that they both use every inch of the field. Immediately either team wins possession of the ball their players spread wide to the edges of the pitch, trying to split the opposition open. It's extremely tactical and I wish I was in Germany to see the game live. (TV just does not do Football justice).
With such closely matched teams I feel that the yellow/red cards could be a big deciding factor on the outcome. Both sets of players are surprisingly committed (considering they have both qualified) and the cards are being offered frequently by the referee. If one of the teams drops down to 10 players then the other side will have the quality to take advantage of this. This of course applies to all the big upcoming games.
At half time it's 0-0 and I am sure not many goals will seperate these teams.
The Portugal v Mexico game was a "cracker", with both sides in all out attack. A real feast for footy fanatics. I have to comment on the Mexican goalkeepers dancing at the Penalty Kick. He was jumping around on the goal line like he was standing on fire ant nests. Simao would not have been looking at him when he was lining up the penalty. There could have been strippers running across the field and I doubt whether he would have noticed. I took many penalties during my career and was so focused on the kick that nothing could distract me. Even 6' 3" neanderthal defenders whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Or a dancing mexican!!
Mexicos first goal was a defending disaster for Portugal. Normally a team keeps a player on the far post for corners to clear the ball off the line. Not only did they have no player guarding the far post area, but Mexico had 2 players totally free on the follow up.
I raced back to see the final 25 minutes of the England game. Unfortunately I cannot offer an opinion on the match, but I am delighted that England won the group and they can progress to the next round. They have as good a chance as any team to make the final 8.
The team spirit is high and with the German fans behind them they have a set of players on form and inspired to impress their local supporters.
Frings, Klose and Ballack combine so well and must be a benchmark for Rooney, Beckham and Lampard.
The last games of the first group stage are here :
England v Sweden and Ecuador v Germany.
These are 2 very interesting games as Sweden have to go all out for a result as they are not guaranteed a spot in the next round. Add Englands poor history against Sweden and then the fact that it may be best to avoid Germany in the next round and you have 2 great games to watch. If Ecuador beat Germany, then maybe England should just send the minimum of 7 players to the next game so they avoid the Germans.
I still haven't seen Brazil or Argentina play (sometimes you just gotta work). Argentina v Holland will be a must see I think.
The upsets are going to come in Group E and G with a possibility of France, Czech Republic or Italy taking an early bath.
La copa del mundo - gooooaaaaalllllllll
Photo Zone on the official World Cup Website on Yahoo. Loads of great pics from the world cup.
I would not want to be in the shoes of Ujfalusi, the Czech player sent off for presumably dissent. At that point the Czech team had just conceded a penalty and at 1-0 down they looked doomed. Ulfalusi was sent off in the aftermath of the penalty which was consequently smashed against the post leaving the scoreline 1-0 to Ghana. But the Czech team were now down to 10 men against a fired up Ghana side, who took full advantage and played out the rest of the game in comfort.
The last 15 minutes of a game are vital. So many goals get scored as teams lose patience and start to fatigue. I am sure if Ujfalusi had remained on the pitch the Czech Republic would have created some chances in the final few minutes of the game and could have snatched the draw.
This has of course blown the group open now, as Italy and Czech Republic will be playing each other in the final game. As the 2 pre-tournament favourites to go through, this game will be more competitive than either nation would have hoped for.
With regards to England I think it is easy to get overly disappointed with the performance by the team against Trinidad and Tobago. I want to spread some words of optimism though after seeing many of the other teams perform over the last few days.
Holland beat Ivory Coast 2 - 1
Mexico drew 0 - 0 with 10 men Angola
Sweden beat Paraquay 1 - 0
Brazil beat Croatia 1 - 0
Maybe we are just perfectionists fans when it comes to supporting England. They dominated the game (69% possession) and won 2 - 0. So compared to many other teams (mentioned above) England have not fared to badly. However what we would all give for a display like Argentina gave today.
There are some crunch games coming up soon, which may give us an insight into the future of the trophy. Ecuador v Germany will be worth a look. As will Argentina v Holland. 2 great teams, this could already have been the final. I also think the Mexico v Portugal game has great importance, especially after todays draw between Mexico and Angola. Could Angola make the next round if they beat Iran??
But they just can’t seem to get the attacking part of their game going. Owen has not made much impact in the tournament yet and he must be looking over his shoulder, with Rooney now declared fit. Sven must be unhappy with Owens performance. He is a world class player who is not pulling his weight on the pitch. Crouch has been covering a lot of the field, coming short to link up with the Midfield, chasing balls down into the corners and winning lots of headers. Owen has not contributed and he needs to start moving the Trinidad and Tobago defence around, giving them something to chase and giving his team mates some much needed inspiration.
Goals change the flow of games and England need someone to provide the spark to light up their tournament. A player to link the midfield to the front players. England are just too predictable in the final third. This is such a shame to see because the side is so strong in every other department. But I think they are missing a superstar. Step up Mr Wayne Rooney, me-thinks.
This game was a disappointment for England. 3 points ensures progress to the next stage. No doubt they will be a tough team to beat for even the worlds best but they will need to show big signs of improvement against Sweden.
Surprise Team : Ecuador. 6 points from 2 games. I look forward to seeing them play Germany in their final group game as this will be the real test of their credentials.
A great game
3 points for England and Qualifying for the next round
A first class performance to show the rest of the world that England is a team to fear
Loads of goals
Come on England!!!!! It's time to step up to the plate and fulfill the potential that they constantly promise but fail to deliver
One encouraging note was Sven quoting stats in the pre-match conference. England possession in the first game was 53%, comparing to 50% for Brazil. Possession of the ball is vital, now they need to add goals.
Here is an enlightening Article by the BBC about why Brazil is so good at Football : Click here to read it in full
Some snippets from the BBC story :
"The national football team," says its coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, "is the symbol of national identity, the only time the nation gets together."
"Football is the single most important thing in Brazilian national life"Football in Brazil is like a religion," adds Carlos Alberto Torres, captain of the side that won the 1970 World Cup."
Talking about coaching kids :
"We don't tell eight-year-olds you have to play right-back."
"We don't put them in a cage, say 'you have to be like this'. We give them some freedom until they are ready to be coached."
The Full BBC Article
Football is in the soul of a country, it is spoken about in bars, skills and heroes replicated in school yards by kids, practiced on the recreation grounds and local parks, and generally a very time consuming passion.
The world’s best teams, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, England, Holland etc, have a history of football spanning many decades. It is a part of the fabric of these countries.
So just as the USA has its other major sports such as Baseball and American Football that consume the lives of its sports fans, the rest of the world ponders, argues, and digests a constant diet of news, information and gossip about the world of football. I do not doubt that the USA will become a major force in football, especially with the football crazy Hispanic population in the USA growing fast. They already have first-rate facilities and are beginning to produce some great players, but it will take many more world cups before they can compete with the worlds best.
Meanwhile I think that the Czech team could go along way in this tournament. They have some very talented players, look very solid indeed and comfortably brushed aside the USA team.
With only 11 games left of their season WBA were on the fringes of the play-offs in Division 2 of the English league and needed to put together a fantastic run in to make the play-offs. Keegan told me that Newcastle United had accepted the bid and that it was now up to me to decide what to do. I was languishing in the reserves at Newcastle and jumped at the chance to resurrect my career.
I hired an agent to represent me in my talks with Ossie Ardiles and WBA, as I felt I needed some assistance in my discussions with the new club. With Agent in tow, I met with Ossie in his office. Ossie asked the Agent to leave and told me that he would not be necessary as they would not be able to pay me much more than my previous club. Then asked what I wanted to do. I thought that was very fair of Ossie. I think he knew that I was going to be paying a cut of my salary to this guy for no reason. However I had made my mind up and the agent came back into the office to continue the discussions. Ossie was right. They were not going to pay me any more money, no matter how we tried to argue the case.
We agreed the 3 year contract and Ossie invited me to stay that evening in the Moat House hotel next to the Hawthorns, WBA compact stadium. WBA had a match that evening and so Ossie gave me a ticket to savour the atmosphere at the Hawthorns. I was very excited to be a part of a team again and quietly entered the stadium to join the throng of passionate Baggies fans. I was standing on the Terrace with the other fans, none of them knowing that I was their new Striker, anonymously watching my new team for the first time. I had butterflies in my stomach watching the game and couldn’t wait to get started.
I had let my fitness levels drop considerably in my time at Newcastle, due to a total lack of motivation and opportunity in Keegans new look squad (see my previous post). But that wasn’t going to dampen my spirit and I was so excited to be playing football again. My first game was away against Bradford. I was a substitute and made my debut late in the second half scoring with a soaring header in the final minutes of the match.
Now I was in with a chance for the next game at home and sure enough I was given the nod to start. I’m sure the fans were interested to see who the new center forward was. I made my debut with Bob Taylor as my strike partner, who I struck up a great partnership over the coming few seasons.
This game however was to prove how bad my fitness levels really were. We were losing the match by half time and I was treading water after only 30 minutes of the match. The pace was fast and furious and I was unaccustomed to this speed of play, having only seen the slow paced reserve team football for the last 2 years. I was very tired after the first half hour and I was off the pace of the game. The WBA fans soon let me know what they thought of me as I was getting booed by a large percentage of the 15,000 or so home fans.
The team was losing and we could not really afford to lose any more games otherwise we would slip further behind in the race to the play-offs. Ossie Ardiles was under a lot of pressure from the fans to substitute me, and had a fans favourite sitting on the bench to replace me. If he had made that substitution I think my career at WBA would have been very different as the fans picture of me would have been very different to the one that did actually materialize later in the game and for the rest of the season.
About 70 minutes into the match I pounced on a half chance to score the equalizing goal. The crowd went crazy. We were back in the game and I had also taken some pressure of myself. Then I scored a second only minutes later. We were winning and suddenly I had gone from Villain to Hero in a matter of minutes. Then incredibly I scored a third goal. In just 7 minutes I had scored 3 goals, we had won the game and I had made my mark in Baggies history, and also gave myself a lifeline with my new club.
I remember reading the papers and the marks out of 10 the following week. I must have been the only player in history to get 4s and 5s out of ten and yet score the winning hat-rick. Yet it was fully deserved as my performance had been awful. The line between success and failure is so thin and this series of events just goes to prove it. Had I been substituted who knows what would have happened.
The remaining games of the season saw the team put together an incredible run and I was able to get my fitness back during the next few matches. I was fortunate to be playing in an attack minded team that created lots of chances, and scored 9 goals in the final 10 games as we made the Division 2 play-offs.
Next we had to endure the nerve wrecking final few games of the season to see if we could gain promotion. Including a home and away 2 leg semi final against Swansea, followed by what was the ultimate game of my career, the Play off Final at Wembley Stadium (the home of English Football), in front of 80,000 fans.
Coming soon – the 1992 play off matches and the 5 year WBA manager lottery.
Read my other Articles about becoming a Professional Footballer :
The high temperatures will not suit the English way of playing due to the historically high pace that the English like to play their football. I have always thought that the English team/fans/media put more emphasis on endeavour, tempo and the physical aspect of the game, rather than the quality and fluency that other teams such as Brazil so excel at. A visit to a premiership game in England can only verify this fact as fans get impatient when teams slow the game down and keep the ball for extended periods of time.
The heat could actually favour the red hot favourites Brazil (as if they need any more help), who are able to maximise their gains through the minimum amount of effort. The Dutch could also benefit as they have a style of play based around the possession of the ball, making the other teams work hard to defend and win the ball back, which inevitably means the opponents become fatigued. Although Mexico are yet to play, I imagine that they could be another team who could prosper in the intense heat of the German stadiums.
Swedens draw yesterday against Trinidad and Tobago was a real bonus for the English team who should be able to beat the West Indies team to pass comfortably through to the next round.
Me and the family have travelled to Ambergris Caye, one of the Tropical Islands of Belize, to spend a few days soaking up the sun and of course watching the world cup. Apparently the Resort owners and staff are all disappearing during the day, to be found hiding in some local bar to watch the games. I'm sure the quality of service at the resorts is going to plummet over the next month. Today it's the turn of the Dutch (my wifes home team) to turn on the style. And later on Iran, Mexico, Portugal and Angola all make their mark on the tournament.
It was interesting watching the Netherlands attacking line up, with the team opting to put 3 players up front, enabling them to push the Serbia and Montenegro team back, deep into their own half. The team formation though has the option to play as a 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-3 and in the event that the Dutch team comes under intense pressure they can change the side to 4-5-1 to provide extra defensive cover. It’s almost reminiscent of the great Dutch side of the 70s inspired by the Cruyff era of “total football”, where players are given the freedom to roam around the field, knowing that their colleagues will cover for them. Although this side has a lot more structure to the team line up.
The Netherlands put in an accomplished performance in their first game, kept the ball well, pushed the Serbia and Montenegro team back and will be a team to watch in this tournament.
What a start though. Beckhams deadly right foot caused many problems for the Paraguay defense and the opening goal was the perfect start for England. And what a fantastic frist half display with only the final 5 minutes of the half causing some concern for the England faithful. I certainly feel a tinge of national pride even from here in Central America as I hear the trumpets in the stands blasting out "Self preservation society", the song from the Italian Job.
Cole and Neville are the only 2 players that were below their game in the first half, but no damage done, even with Cole slipping near the end of the first half to concede possession to the Paraguay team in a dangerous area. But England dominated the first half with the midfield quartet in total command of the game. Crouch looks to be in fine form. I think him and Owen or Rooney could cause many problems for other teams due to the differences in their physiques and style of play.
The second half of the game though was a major dissapointment for the England team, really because they just ran out of steam. The first half was full of tempo and Paraquay coudn't compete with the ferocious England midfield. But that took its toll on the team and in a world cup you only need to slip once to concede a goal.
A big problem for the side in the second half was that when they took Owen off they reverted to a 4-5-1 formation with Crouch leading the line. But he dropped deeper and deeper leaving no striker up front to give England the breakaway threat. As a result the whole England team became camped in their own half with no way of hitting the Paraquay team on the break.
They will need to perform much better than this to progress to the final stages, as teams like Brazil and Holland will create much more of a problem for the England defence. And they will also need to be much more creative in the final third of the field.
The encouraging signs though were Lampards deadly sure shot right foot that singed the Paraquay keepers hands on several occasions, a solid defence and of course the vital 3 points, which should be the springboard to take England to the next stage.
I find it hard to find the time to watch a full game these days due to running a Jungle Lodge in Belize, Belize Travel Agent, plus raising 2 boys, which is always challenging. But I don't need a better excuse to settle in to the 4 weeks of footy and to blog about the upcoming games. The picture is of our guests and a Boa Constrictor that passed by the Belize Jungle Dome
My online research also brought me to some other blogs by footballers, which will be much more interesting to lovers of the modern game. Here are the links :
And on to todays games. Stupidly I missed the first half and the pre-match build up to the opening game due to getting hooked on the Fox Sports coverage on our local cable network. As Sky sports boomed out and I was informed of the latest Cricket scores, ESPN beamed the game live on another channel. My mother-in-law flicked the channels and found the Germany/Costa Rica game just finishing the first half. Happy to tune in and join the other 1.5 Billion worldwide World Cup viewers, I got my first taste of the finals.
Germany do look like a good team and scored 2 top class goals today, even though Costa Rica gave them a fright. God knows how good they will be with the exciting Ballack back in the team. But they are the hot favourites to pass through to the next stage especially after seeing Polands inept performance against Ecuador. Ecuador win all their qualifying home games due to playing at high altitude, but their performance on the road leaves a lot to be desired. But today they played a solid performance against a very unimpressive Poland, who really do have alot to do to make the next round.
And tomorrow I will be up bright and early to tune in to Englands opener. Good luck and lets hope it's a great game.
Out here in Belize we are 7 hours behind Germany and so our viewing hours are going to be morning and afternoon, if we want to tune into the live games. I am very excited about the prospect of watching the tournament and hope to see some passionate football fans such as the girl in the picture!!!
And we will also be back in the UK in early July so should the unthinkable happen and England make the final then we will be there to celebrate.
My wife is from Holland (this is not her in the picture : i didn't want to put her nipples on the internet) and they are also one of the favourites for the tournament so if they make the finals then maybe we will pop across the north sea and celebrate with the dutch.
Good luck to all the teams and i hope that it is a goal feast with some world class players showing the globe what football is all about.
Thanks to the Newcastle United Website for the Birthday mention : www.nufc.com, and thank you to all the old toon fans who have sent birthday wishes.
The opening game of the World Cup is about to start, fortunately on my birthday so I will sit back and soak up the ambience of the World Cup from the Tropics of Central America. Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll (as they say in South and Central America)