Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Thank you!

So we reached our third year (somehow last year's was on the 4th and the first on the 29th of October) without any pompous celebration: this belated blog might seem dead. Obviously that is not my intention but the workload I've had and the fact that I'm trying to finish a pretentious and consuming dissertation for my undergraduate course have not helped. I beg you, if you once followed or read this blog, to be patient. I hope that by the end of the year, all World Cup match reviews will be uploaded as well as Arsenal's current campaign. It's been a disaster but bare with me loyal readers.

(I know that's not a cake but it was the cakiest thing in the house.)

Of course I'd like to thank each and every person that has read this site, being a mere coincidence, a Google search or a frequent reader. Again I could not be more emotive. The entries and visits over the past year have duplicated and its a nice thing to see, that despite my lack of time and so on, there's still interest in the internet for the site. You know that the feedback is precious to me so please keep in touch. I'll try to revamp the site's image by the end of the year and certainly should post the ideal four times a week. I'm on Twitter if you use that (@javbrad). Thanks again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spain v. Honduras 2-0 21/Jun/10

Second Round, Fourth Game, Group H, Day 11. (32 of 64)

Here, the first of the two scored by the new Barcelona striker.
[Photo: Reuters via Daily Mail]

The Spaniards can rest safely until the following match as David Villa's brace put them one step ahead of the qualification. After that "monumental lapsus" the Spanish looked for a controlling delivery. What they lacked was that gripping force we all saw in the last EURO, that spark and moment of inspiration and not perspiration. The sole genius of David Villa coped with certain defensive mishaps and was enough to see the CONCACAF affiliates off for the day. The Hondurans for their part, will leave home as any opportunity of advancing to the following phase was debauched this day. The following games will be crucial, as previewed in the last post.

And the second.
[Photo: AP via Daily Mail]

Obliged to win, Del Bosque clearly intended his players to go forward in the very first moments of the game. David Villa had two great opportunities, one on the crossbar as Ramos also put his head wide on goal. It was not even the 12th minute and the Spaniards were all over the opposition. The Honduras team tried to neutralise the Spanish pressure when Suazo's runs became a niggling disturbance. Evidently, after all the hard work upon Valladares's goal Villa got a hold of a great lead after receiving, controlling and dribbling past three defenders inside the box. The effort was brilliant and even when he was falling over, he managed to make a solid contact to beat the keeper.

Still, Villa ran the riot on the left hand side in the following minutes. Navas also had a decent spell on his side even when the Hondurans could not manage to stop the attacking team. With ten minutes to go, Torres proved himself worthless and out of shape: two chances were scrapped by the Liverpool striker. Still his presence scared off many of the defenders and it can be argued that his sole being caused havoc among Chávez and Figueroa.

Multi-injured Pique.
[Photo: AFP via ABC.es]

As Welcome subbed Espinoza, Villa grabbed another goal in the match as he shot outside the box. Unfortunately for Rueda's men, the shot was deflected and the Hondurans were tracking with two goals. The following minute -52nd- Ramos set Torres who headed wide. The return of the long-awaited EURO style finally took on its victims and the Spanish were just confident enough to wander with the ball around the park. In the 61st minute Navas fell in the box and a penalty was awarded: Villa failed to produce a hat-trick as the ball went just wide.

Cesc came in and not much changed in the offensive apparatus of the Spaniards. The Hondurans finally began to peruse some of their physical superiority and pushed for a chance. Naturally this was risky due to the fact that a quick and sudden counterattack would annihilate any chances of qualification. Figueroa denied Villa his third as the match got to its end. The deep breath from Del Bosque was fair enough even when Spain miss that killing touch.

Chile v. Switzerland 1-0 21/Jun/10

Second Round, Third Game, Group H, Day 11. (31 of 64)

As in the previous EURO, Frey goes out.
[Photo: AP via Daily Mail]

This was an interesting match in the statistical world. Today at Nelson Mandela Bay, the Swiss imposed a new long-life standing record of 559 minutes without conceding (yes I know the penalties against Ukraine doesn't count) during the course of three World Cups. While the match was rispid, due to the sent off of Valon Behrami, the Swiss imposed certain pace and style while defended in a similar fluid fashion as they did in their last game. Chile are still on the top and with a combination, certainly the EURO champions could leave the competition earlier than expected.

The following game, Spain against Honduras, will be crucial for the efforts of all four teams and this again will prove to be another treacherous group in which nothing is decided yet. Both games will be played at Pretoria and Bloemfontein on the 25th. Probably the most expected match will be the one of Spain but if you ask me, my football hunch tells me that the other one will prove to be the decisive one.

[Photo: EPA via Daily Mail]

During the course of the match there were five bookings and one straight red card. In what appeared to be the dirtiest of matches in this World Cup, the Saudi referee Khalil Al Ghamdi did not manage well the situation from the beginning. It is a bit harsh that the note is on the disciplinary thing rather than the sportive. For example Arturo Vidal shot, which was countered by another fierce shot, were kept aside as Benaglio responded well. Carmona got booked on the 22nd, after making a harsh foul on Behrami. Probably this sparkled some of the near violent acts that got both teams into deliberating kicks and tackles: the best example was Behrami who punched with his elbow a Chilean player and got sent off with nearly fifteen minutes remaining.

The interesting stuff came with the next forty five minutes and naturally the game opened itself up due to the different things both teams tried to achieve. Despite a real interest of both squads in taking the three points the tackles remained the same with Inler and Fernández getting booked in the 60th minute. The goal was a beautifully woven masterpiece which was in offside position, hard to tell for the linesman since it was a close close call. Substitute Valdivia made a beautiful pass that split the defence that for the moment worked. Paredes, Fernández sub, crossed to find a lonely Gonzáles who hammered the ball and gave the late lead to Chile.

The opportunities that follow were clear but not enough to see a Chilean team securing their victory. Paredes, after a great set, missed the opportunity and took off wide. Valdivia also had his moment when he cut from the inside and shot after a great counter. The Swiss team were attacking fully and as they deployed their depleted arsenal cracks appeared in their defensive line due to the missing men. In the end Derdiyok shot wide after a great build up and the chances of a resurgence came all to a ghastly end for the European team.

Portugal v. North Korea 7-0 21/Jun/10

Second Round, Third Game, Group G, Day 11. (30 of 64)

Ronaldo lucky to score.
[Photo: Getty Images via Daily Mail]

This is the first match of the tournament in which we saw a clear and overwhelming team that did not make a single mistake and procured to exploit their opposition's mistakes. Seven goals came as the national pride of the Asiatic nation was shattered into shreds. They will be going home early as expected by the "reasonable" punditry around the world. Even when Jong Hun's men (is it correctly spelled?) surprised us with some special moves and a very decent goal against Brazil, the main fact was that they did not offered much of a competition and the Portuguese took advantage and strolled past them in quite a fashion.

This match ended Cristiano's goal drought that had lasted for about 16 months but that won't matter as they take Brazil in the over-hyped match the following 25th that we've already previewed in the last post. What is to note is who will apparently get the punishment of facing EURO 2008 champions Spain since the Iberians recent form could put them in a position of facing either Brazil or Portugal: a final?

Modelling session?
[Photo: AP via Daily Mail]

In spite of the outrageous result there was a bit of a concern since the Portuguese opened the score until the thirtieth minute. Before that, there were a bunch of chances: one by Carvahlo that hit the post in the 6th; Jong Hyok thundering wide strike in the 11th; Yong Jo cross in the 18th. It was in the 29th that the Portuguese unleashed their wrath after Simao set Meireles in the box to later finish. With the rain now getting heavier, the Europeans were cautious enough to not let spaces for Yong Jo to filter balls. Nevertheless the damage was done and it was more likely that the Portuguese midfield seized the game rather than the North Koreans made some sort of epic journey into glory.

It was until the second part that the Queiroz made some subtle tactical changes and the downfall, as the pouring rain at Green Point, began. Six goals, all scored from the 53rd onwards made the Korean team, which impressed at some specific times, a feeble copycat of a Sunday league amateur team. It was Meireles -eight minutes from the start- who after a great succession of pin-point passes returned the favour to Simao who finished deftly. The following goal arrived three minutes later when Hugo Almeida headed past Myong Guk. The play was a typical counterattack in which Thiago released Coentrao who crossed for the Bremen striker.

The damage was apparently done but more pain came from Portuguese four minutes later when Almeida, Ronaldo and Thiago associated to finish the game off. Although no more attacking opportunities came from the Koreans in the remainder of the match, Queiroz's men Meireles and Ronaldo missed their targets, the latter being a cracking shot which was deflected in the bar. Liedson, who was the replacement of Almeida, stroke a powerful volley ten minutes before the end in his first touch of the match. The following two goals were a strong statement regarding the fatal state in which the Korean defence manifested itself: Ronaldo got a gift from the centre-halves and after some rebounds over his head he found the ball and took it past the keeper; the second, was a well-timed header from Thiago as Veloso crossed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Brazil v. Ivory Coast 3-1 20/Jun/10

Second Round, Third Game, Group G, Day 10. (29 of 64)

Arsenal's tormentor again on the scoresheet.
[Photo: Getty Images via Daily Mail]

In the spectacular Soccer City, the Brazilians got another powerful yet not with an attractive performance against an empathic African team of Ivory Coast. Where in the previous game the Brazilians struggled during about thirty seconds to grab the lead, here they provided a strong statement in the form of Robinho. The City forward was absolutely brilliant in all plays and a large amount of this night's success is due to him. Whether this will raise some eyebrows in the other side, Sven Goran Eriksson might not be completely certain of grabbing a qualification spot since the Portuguese face the tricky side of North Korea tomorrow at Cape Town. Regarding the refereeing again we saw the failure of the staff at FIFA to point a decent authority on the pitch since Stephane Lannoy did not punish Luis Fabiano twice-handed ball in his second ball as well as sending off Kaká.

The following games are going to be probably the best-attractive in the paper and least-attractive in their group situation; Brazil, already in the last 16 will take Portugal in the highly anticipated game that will probably decide who are the best two of the group while the Koreans face the Africans in an attempt to snatch something. The games will tale place in Durban and Nelspruit respectively on the 25th.

Luis Fabiano scores the opener.
[Photo: AP via Daily Mail]

The match began with an unabashed frantic attack from the Brazilians as Robinho pursued and took a far chance for the target in the 1st minute; he had two players ready to strike at will. Reaching the early stages of the 13th minute they were too desperate already to score and kept any effort from the Ivorians at bay. Strangely with the tremendous amount of men Sven piled up in his own half, the Brazilians managed to move the ball around until the first clear chance came: Luis Fabiano, after a delightful play by Kaká, shot a cracker into the near post. The fierce shot was not a match for anyone as the Americans rose in the scoreboard.

With twenty minutes to play Dunga's men were on the prowl again, trying to find another weak spot to finish off the Africans. The hardwork of the Ivorian midfield resulted in a fierce battle in the last seven minutes of the half where both teams came from end to end to grab the last opportunity of the first part.

Elano follows suit.
[Photo: AP via Daily Mail]

Seven minutes after the beginning the Brazilians again took control of the game when Luis Fabiano completed his brace with a good but polemic individual play. The Sevilla striker controlled the ball with the hand then, flicked it over the defender to yet again controlled it with the arm and stroke past Barry. Just before the third Brazilian goal, Robinho and Kaká exploited all the space left by the Ivorian saga. A shot at point blank let Kaká on the fringe of scoring but it was Elano who took the third in quite a manner.

The City midfielder was released after Kaká dragged two defenders and crossed for him to take all the glory. It seem a rather easy enterprise that the scoreline was only with three goals of difference. The hope of the night came from Didier Drogba when he managed to pull one goal out of nowhere: the run made by Gervinho destabilised the defence and Lucio could not follow Yaya Touré who was trailing in the back. The Barcelona midfielder crossed and Drogba headed to give the slimmest of hopes. In the final minutes the French referee went mad and gave Kaká his second yellow after lightly pushing Keita in the chest. The overreaaction made Lannoy to send off the Madrid mastermind.