Sunday, July 02, 2006

World Cup Post #13

Second day quarter finals wrap - Zizou and Co. rewind the clock with a vintage display as England fluff yet another penalty shootout

France vs Brazil; On the evidence of this morning's (Australian time) final quarter final, the great man, Zinedine Zidane, is determined to go out with a bang. For two or three years he has been a shadow of the man who once dominated the world game, when he controlled football games on his own for the likes of France, Juventus and Real Madrid. In the past two games, against Spain and Brazil, he has reminded the world, in his final hours, of how brilliant he once was, and it seems, still is. And isn't it a sight to behold. Here he toyed with the world champs, controlling, prompting, teasing, stepping over and rarely relinquishing a ball. It was the mastero, back on the ultimate stage after some terrible luck four years ago, reminding us all about the standards required for greatness. From his first touch, when he took a couple of Brazilian midfielders to the cleaners with a sublime drag-back and run, it was the Zizou of old, simply the most outstanding individual performance of a tournament that has been dominated by team-play. Time and time again Brazil allowed Zidane to turn and tee-up a teammate and he was always the go-to man, so wonderful to see him back at the peak of his powers. But he wasn't alone, this was the most stunning turn-around from a French team which failed to live up to expectations for two and a half group games. It wasn't till the seond half against Togo, when Vieira started springing from midfield, scoring one and setting up another that this side started to look the real deal. They carried it on against Spain with a superb defensive display, but this one was even better. The spine, the big names, were back on top of the world. From Thuram and Gallas at central defence to Vieira and Makelele in front of them, this was a collective performance which stifled Brazil into submission. Zidane and Henry, supported by Malouda and Ribery on the flanks, applied the finishing touches. Even Sagnol was back to his best, and Abidal showed he is an emerging talent. Tactically they squeezed the life out of Brazil, much as Croatia and the Socceroos had to done with decent success. There was little room between Les Bleus' defence and attack lines, ensuring Brazil had no room to play in. It was a tactic used by Kranjcar, replicated by Hiddink and Domenech - defend fairly high up the pitch, keep things compact (no more than 20/30 metres between the strikers and defenders) and never allow Brazil to build any passing or dribbling momentum. These tactics are even tough for the likes of Ronaldinho to play against. While some may see it as cynical, the fact is that if you open up against this collection of Brazilians, they're likely to carve you up, as Japan and Ghana discovered. And finally, Henry scoring a goal of substance in a game of substance, it was a first rate French performance. They have shown in the past two games they still have the desire to succeed and will be hard to knock-off if they continue to display this type of hunger.

Portugal vs England; An intriguing and fascination 0-0 draw, it was great to see England playing an almost European style of game, full of patient build-ups and ball on the ground stuff, a far cry from the knock-it-long-to-Crouch play we've grown acustomed to over the past couple of weeks. Having said that, Portugal still looked the superior passing team, but continue to lack a cutting edge at the top of its attack. Pauleta continues to struggle and this is now a major concern heading into a game against a solid defensive unit such as France. Portugal build things up so beautifully and patiently, but their best chances often fall from distance to the likes of wide men Ronaldo and Figo or midfielders like Maniche. Against a team like England, which defended deep and splendidly, even when reduced to 10 men by a moment of typical petulance from Rooney, this is rarely going to win games. It happened to Portugal against Greece two years ago, and unless their central striker is providing more of a cutting edge, they might find it hard to break down the French wall. Defensively however the Portugese were magnificent and lead by the inspirational Carvalho, often cleaning up on his own. England had some half-chances and deserved to take this game to penalties, but once again the pressure of expectation from the penalty spot brought about their downfall. Just as Germany seem destined to win any penalty-shootout, so England seem ordained to lose them, perhaps down to both technique and temperament. Here they were in the box seat when Petit missed, but still managed to lose.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here we go again... same old, same old argument.

England is short of strikers. Did you hear that Owen who was not only unfit is now injured? And the Swedish coach insists on playing a lone striker up front contrary to every English commentator's wishes?

Crouch hasn't started and played every game, so how could it have been the same "knock-it-long-to-Crouch" style of play?

(The fourth striker is yet to play a game even in the EPL!)

In any case, if you've got someone as tall, agile and skilful as Crouch up front, why wouldn't you make use of your competitive advantage?

It's fine for you not to like anything about England or the English side but the excuses and "analysis" are running threadbare.

Compare it to your report on France v Brazil: all songs and praise for France (deservedly so), yet barely a mention of the world's best team's paltry performance in defeat - and definitely no "almost European style of game" condescension .

The match I watched was a superb game, even better after Rooney's dubious red card. The mentally stronger team won on the night and were given the game of their lives by 10 gallant players. Hargreaves' performance has finally put to rest the incessant criticism of his inclusion in the squad. He was brilliant.

Lennon had the best chance late in the game to win it for England when he had a soft shot at goal from Lampard's freekick parried by the keeper. England could just have easily been the victors but Portugal triumphed. That's football.

Portugal's defence was great but having failed to score over 120 minutes against an English side you hold in such poor opinion, I would have to think Portugal is fast approaching its own own demise in this tournament.

Mind you, a Germany v France final would be both unexpected and exciting.

Mon. Jul. 03, 01:19:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Maxi said...

I dont know what match the person making the above comment was watching to think that Rooneys red card was 'dubious'. From my vantage point it was blatant and an obvious case for dismisal. And the fact is that England did lack imagination throughout the tournament. I found this analysis more balanced than most of the gutter being dished up in England. It was only in this game that they played decent but it was hardly breathtaking. Any defence or excuse for their play isnt credible. Next thing you'll probably argue that Rooney was only sent off because of Ronaldo?

Wed. Jul. 05, 04:58:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maxi,

This post refers to one game and not a tournament, in which by the way England did not lose a single game.

If you have nothing intelligent to add, perhaps your silence might speak with more eloquence.

"Any defence or excuse for their play isnt (sic) credible."

So, because they played poorly earlier in the tournament (which they did except for one half against Paraguay), they deserve to be portrayed as such in a game in which they played completely differently, if not exceptionally well? What twisted, lack of logic!

It's fine for you not to like their playing style, shirt colour or hairstyle, but to base it solely on spurious grounds is hardly an edifying contribution. A word for it exists in the English language: bigotry.

Did you actually bother to read the post? You know, the bit about the lack of strikers and the choice of formation...

Perhaps you should learn to read before attempting to write a post - intelligent or otherwise!

For your elucidation, dubious means questionable or arousing doubt. There is no clear indication of Rooney's deliberate attempt to stamp on his opponent's thigh; however, that is how the referee interpreted his actions. End of story as far as the game is concerned. As the original post clearly states: they played even better after the red card, with only 10 players.

(In fact, I am no fan of Rooney's either as a player or his troublesome antics. However, that was not the point raised.)

Sadly, your point doesn't address the post. And who is talking about Ronaldo? Did I blink and miss the England v Brazil game? A non sequitur if I ever heard one.

From your level of intelligent analysis, perhaps an apt riposte would be that Grosso cheated them of a penalty!

Ground Control to Major Tom....

You're a moron.

Wed. Jul. 05, 11:34:00 pm AEST  
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