Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 10, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

It’s day two in Germany and there are three matches on the slate including the first matches for England and Argentina.

Group B: England vs. Paraguay
It has been forty years since England last won the World Cup. They believe that this is their best chance to win it. With a talented squad highlighted by the most skillful midfield in the world, England certainly looked good. However, injuries cloud the Three Lions heading into Germany. Golden boy Wayne Rooney faced a race to get fit from a broken metatarsal, Michael Owen suffered a broken foot in December and is still trying to get fit, and Steven Gerrard has been suffering back spasms. Rooney started the match on the subs bench and 6’7’’ Peter Crouch took his place in the starting lineup giving David Beckham a big target to find.

It would not take long for England to get out to a lead. In the third minute, a bending free kick would find the head of Paraguayan captain Carlos Gamarra and sail past goalkeeper Justo Villar and into the back of the net. Villar would not last very long in this match having to be subbed out due to an injury. England would continue to dominate possession for much of the first half. Paraguay tried to play like England going with long balls instead of build up play. Nelson Haedo Valdez and Roque Santa Cruz were unable to get any real good chances. Neither side would get a very good chance for the rest of the first half but England were content to head into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.

Paraguay manager Anibal Ruiz certainly must have had a word with his players as they started the second half playing their style. They started to push the pace more and got more possession and kept it. Owen would last 56 minutes as he was lifted for Middlesbrough midfielder Stuart Downing. With five across the midfield, England effectively clogged the middle and Paraguay would not be able to equalize. It was an uneventful second half but Eriksson’s men will take a 1-0 win and the three points that come with it.

Man of the Match: Joe Cole (England)
There were not many players to choose from in this match but Cole was extremely tenacious and did his best to keep his teammates involved. When Downing entered the match, Cole showed his versatility by moving inside. If England are going to be successful, they need more efforts like these from Cole.

General Thoughts: England
It was not the prettiest of matches but England will take a win. The defense along with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were tremendous in contesting everything Paraguay attempted to do. Peter Crouch did not have a very good match so there will some pressure to Wayne Rooney back as soon as possible. Next up for England will be Trinidad and Tobago. Sven’s men will hope to open up the floodgates and get some goals.

General Thoughts: Paraguay
In many ways, this was Paraguay’s kind of match. There was nothing really pretty about this match and that is the way that the South American side likes it. However, they did not play their style in the first half as it seemed that they were trying to match England’s long ball attack. They did a better job in the second half but Valdez and Santa Cruz were not involved enough.

England: Robinson, Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole (Hargreaves 82), Owen (Downing 56), Crouch. Subs Not Used: Bridge, Campbell, Carragher, Carrick, Carson, James, Jenas, Lennon, Rooney, Walcott

Booked: Gerrard, Crouch

Goals: Gamarra 3 og.

Paraguay: Villar (Bobadilla 8), Caniza, Gamarra, Caceres, Toledo (Nunez 82), Bonet (Cuevas 68), Acuna, Paredes, Riveros, Valdez, Santa Cruz. Subs Not Used: Barreto, Cabanas, Da Silva, Dos Santos, Gavilan, Gomez, Lopez, Manzur, Montiel

Booked: Valdez

Att: 48,000

Ref: Marco Rodriguez (Mexico)

Group B: Trinidad and Tobago vs. Sweden
For Trinidad and Tobago, qualifying for the World Cup was an accomplishment in itself. Sweden is one of the most consistent sides in Europe and expect to get out of the group stages. This may be the last time we see entertaining forward Henrik Larsson put on the Sweden jersey but it appears that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ready to take the torch as Sweden’s big name striker. For Dwight Yorke, this is the icing on the cake of a career in which he has accomplished so much including a treble with Manchester United in 1999.

Before the match started, we found out that Trinidad had to make a switch in goal as Kelvin Jack got hurt. Shaka Hislop would take his place in the starting lineup. The Soca Warriors were outclassed and looked anxious for much of the first half. Sweden had control of the ball and Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were creating chances. They were unlucky to get many more on target. Trinidad was content with going into the locker with a 0-0 tie.

The second half would feature a lot more drama. Shaka Hislop continued to make big save after big save as Sweden continued to dominate possession for much of the second half. Trinidad would have a few chances to go forward. It appeared the Soca Warriors were doomed when defender Avery John was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. Manager Leo Beenhakker would change the formation choosing to bring on LA Galaxy striker Cornell Glenn on for defender Collin Samuel. Midfielder Carlos Edwards would drop back to provide defensive cover. Despite bringing on an extra striker to support John, Trinidad only managed to generate one good chance as Glen hit the crossbar. Sweden would continue to press bringing on striker Marcus Allback in hopes of getting a goal. But the Swedes would be unsuccessful as the match ended 0-0.

Man of the Match: Shaka Hislop (Trinidad and Tobago)
The 37 year old but unbelievably tremendous today. He stepped up after finding out that he would make the start minutes before the kickoff. He made several big saves to keep the Soca Warriors in the match. Even if Jack will be ready for the June 15 match against England, it will be very hard for Beenhakker to pull Hislop.

General Thoughts: Sweden
This was a nightmare result for Sweden as they continue their string of futility in World Cup openers (They have been winless in such matches since 1958). They had great buildup. Ibrahimovic and Larsson were good together and were unfortunate to get one in the back of the net. Midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson had a great game on the wing as he caused plenty of problems for the Soca Warriors. This was not Freddie Ljungberg’s best effort and he must do better. They need a win against Paraguay and not only by a goal. They need to score two or three.

General Thoughts: Trinidad and Tobago
Both the players and fans are overjoyed by this result. No one gave them a chance to do anything in this World Cup. Dwight Yorke has been fantastic in his role as captain and is willing to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful. It will be interesting to see how they will handle England, especially if Wayne Rooney makes an appearance off the bench.

Trinidad and Tobago: Hislop, Avery John, Sancho, Lawrence, Gray, Birchall, Edwards, Theobald (Whitley 66), Samuel (Glen 53), Stern John, Yorke.
Subs Not Used: Andrews, Charles, Cox, Jack, Ince, Jones, Latapy, Scotland, Wise, Wolfe

Sent Off: Avery John (46)

Booked: Avery John, Yorke

Sweden: Shaaban, Linderoth (Kallstrom 79), Mellberg, Lucic, Edman, Ljungberg, Alexandersson, Anders Svensson (Allback 62), Wilhelmsson (Jonson 78), Ibrahimovic, Larsson.
Subs Not Used: Alvbage, Andersson, Elmander, Hansson, Isaksson, Nilsson, Rosenberg, Stenman, Karl Svensson

Booked: Larsson

Att: 65,000

Ref: Shamsul Maidin (Singapore)

Group C: Argentina vs. Ivory Coast
This is a story of two teams that are coming from very different situations. Argentina is a world power. Always expected to contend, they flopped in 2002 failing to make it out of the group stages. Another performance like that would be catastrophic. The Ivory Coast is in the midst of Civil War but the bloodshed has stopped for now. Their football team has made the World Cup for the first time and they will unite behind them.

One would think that Argentina would dominate this match but the Ivory Coast led by Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is showing that they have the ability to hang tough with the South American giants. Argentina thought they had a goal early but the referee ruled that the ball did not completely cross the goal-line. In minute 24, Juan Riquelme would take a free kick from the left side sending it into the box where it got loose for Hernan Crespo to fire home to give Argentina a 1-0 lead. The Ivory Coast would continue to charge as they have been getting solid build up and Drogba has been making some solid runs at goal. Goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri would make a spectacular save between his legs as Drogba tried to head it home from point blank range. Argentina would tack on another one in the 37th minute as Riquelme found Javier Saviola just onside and he slid it home to give Argentina a commanding 2-0 lead.

Argentina were in command for much of the second half. After giving up the second goal, the Ivory Coast look extremely deflated and their midfield has disappeared. This has allowed Argentina to control the pace and much of the possession. Riquelme has continued to cause headaches for the Ivory Coast with his arsenal of creative passes and nearly scoring a brilliant goal on a free kick. Drogba and his men would not lie down. In the 69th minute, the captain went down in the box and it looked like he should have been given a penalty. In the 81st minute, the Ivory Coast found the back of the net as Didier Drogba was able to find space after his first attempt on goal to get another shot. He didn’t miss this time and the Ivory Coast stole the momentum. Both Crespo and Saviola were subbed off before the Drogba goal.

Man of the Match: Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina)
The playmaker in the middle of the Argentinean midfield quarterbacked the attack with precision. He set up both goals for Argentina today as he did it with his passing, free kicks, and corner kick taking. He had tremendous vision as he was able to find Saviola for the second goal of the match.

General Thoughts: Argentina
They made people sweat toward the end but it was a solid win by them. The Crespo-Saviola partnership looks good up front and that will only make the bench stronger with Tevez and Messi. Gabriel Heinze looks like he is back to his usual form after coming back from a horrific knee injury. Goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri was very solid in net. A repeat of the 2002 disaster does not appear likely to happen again. However, Pekerman has to think twice about lifting both of his strikers. The Drogba goal changed the outlook of the match but it came too late. Their next matchup on June 16 will be a defensive grudge match as Argentina play a Serbia and Montenegro team that allowed only one goal in qualification.

General Thoughts: Ivory Coast
They are not going to be intimidated by any team in this tournament. With world class players like Drogba, Toure, and Zakora, they believe they can win any match. Drogba is the heart of this team. As he goes, so does this team. Their June 16 matchup against Holland will be fun to watch as Drogba and van Nistelrooy will try to top each other.

Argentina: Abbondanzieri, Burdisso, Ayala, Heinze, Sorin, Maxi, Mascherano, Cambiasso, Riquelme (Aimar 90), Saviola (Gonzalez 76), Crespo (Palacio 64).
Subs Not Used: Coloccini, Cruz, Cufre, Franco, Messi, Milito, Scaloni, Tevez, Ustari.

Booked: Saviola, Heinze, Gonzalez

Goals: Crespo 24, Saviola 38

Ivory Coast: Tizie, Eboue, Kolo Toure, Meite, Boka, Akale (Bakari Kone 62), Zokora, Kalou (Dindane 56), Keita (Arouna Kone 77), Gneri Yaya Toure, Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Barry, Demel, Domoraud, Fae, Gnanhouan, Kouassi, Romaric, Yapi Yapo, Zoro

Booked: Eboue, Drogba

Goals: Drogba 82

Att: 49,480

Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)

Togo Manager Resigns
Togo Manager Otto Pfister has resigned. Pfister left the team on Friday, saying he could not do his job properly while Togolese officials and players were unable to find a solution to a much-publicized pay dispute. Togo's players have reportedly demanded a $200,000 payment for reaching the finals, as well as $38,000 each per win and $19,000 for a draw during the group stages. His former assistant Kodjovi Mawuena has taken charge of the side as they prepare to open group play on June 13 against South Korea.

Pfister has declared he would not return to the negotiating table, saying that the dream of his life had been destroyed. But Togolese officials said they would have him back if he wanted to return. Pfister would take over his old role as manager and Mawuena would be his new assistant. Mawuena, who coached the team at the African Nations Cup in 2000, was previously an assistant to Pfister, alongside Piet Hamberg, who also quit.

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
Serbia and Montenegro vs. Holland – 9:00am – ESPN2
Mexico vs. Iran – 11:30am – ABC
Angola vs. Portugal – 3:00pm – ESPN2


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