Monday, June 12, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 12, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

Personally, I have been looking forward to this day. The United States takes to the pitch for the first time in the 2006 World Cup. They face off against the Czech Republic in what should be the match of the day. But before they kick off, Australia and Japan will do battle. Then following the USA-Czech Republic match, Italy and Ghana will square off.

Group F: Australia vs. Japan
Captain Mark Viduka should be fit to start for Australia despite a calf injury. Tim Cahill, just back from a knee injury, will start while Harry Kewell will be on the bench, but neither is ready to play the full 90 minutes. This is the second World Cup participation for Australia. They made their debut in 1974 in Germany and finished fourth in Group One losing all three group matches. Australia are yet to score a World Cup goal. Japan midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura has been passed fit while strikers Naohiro Takahara and Atsushi Yanagisawa should also start after overcoming knocks. But winger Akira Kaji is out with an ankle injury he picked up in a 2-2 friendly draw with Germany.

With Viduka playing inspired football, the Socceroos were firmly in control of this match. Japan had no target to look for up front and it showed as they were content with firing shots from 20 yards out. Despite the Aussie domination, it would be Japan scoring first in controversial style as a Nakamura lob into the box fell into the back of the net as Australia goalkeeper was bumped off making a save by Hidetoshi Nakata. It should have been a foul but it was not called. The goal reinvigorated Japan as they got more control to finish off the half.

Australia was constantly pressing the entire second half but could not generate a real quality chance. Japan fell back with every player getting back and defending. Harry Kewell was counted on to swing crosses into the box but he was still suffering the effects of an Achilles injury so he had to pick his spots when to make runs. The game would change when Everton midfielder Tim Cahill came on for the Aussies. The leading goalscorer in their qualifying campaign added more energy from the attacking midfield position. Alaves striker John Aloisi also came on to help Viduka up front. Those two substitutions proved to make all the difference. On a ball that got loose in the box, Cahill was able to get his foot to it and equalized the game in the 84th minute. It was the first goal Australia ever scored in the World Cup. But Cahill wasn’t done as just a few minutes later in the 89th minute, he was able to net a game winner with a hard shot off the post and in. Aloisi scored a goal in extra time to give the Aussies a 3-1 win.

Man of the Match: Tim Cahill (Australia)
This game changed for Australia when he stepped on the pitch. The man has a knack for being able to score the big goal for his nation and this time, he got a pair. He will probably end up getting start for Hiddink’s side for the rest of their run.

General Thoughts: Australia
They dominated possession for much of this game but were unable to make that final pass. That changed when Cahill came on and took matters in his own hands (or feet). Kewell is still not 100% but we saw flashes of what makes him a special player. Marco Bresciano has got to be better on the other side. Viduka was a consistent physical presence up front for the Aussies. He may not have scored but his effect was felt. The monkey is off their back. They play Brazil next.

General Thoughts
They were very lucky to even have a lead. Japan’s weakness has been exposed. They will have to count on getting clean sheets if they want to have a chance to get results because they can’t score goals. They just don’t have that guy who can put them away. All signs are pointing to an early exit for the Japanese.

Australia: Schwarzer, Neill, Moore (Kennedy 61), Culina, Wilkshire (Aloisi 75), Emerton, Grella, Bresciano (Cahill 52), Chipperfield, Kewell, Viduka. Subs Not Used: Beauchamp, Covic, Kalac, Lazaridis, Milligan, Popovic, Skoko, Sterjovski, Thompson.

Booked: Grella, Moore, Cahill, Aloisi.

Goals: Cahill 84, 89, Aloisi 90.

Japan: Kawaguchi, Komano, Miyamoto, Santos, Tsuboi (Moniwa 56), Nakazawa, Fukunishi, Hidetoshi Nakata, Nakamura, Takahara, Yanagisawa (Ono 79), Moniwa (Oguro 90). Subs Not Used: Doi, Endo, Inamoto, Kaji, Maki, Koji Nakata, Narazaki, Ogasawara, Tamada.

Booked: Miyamoto, Takahara, Moniwa.

Goals: Nakamura 26.

Att: 46,000

Ref: Essam Abdel Fatah (Egypt)

Group E: United States vs. Czech Republic
Team USA boss Bruce Arena has kept his starting XI a secret and will not release it until it gets closer to game time. He will have a full roster to choose from as Claudio Reyna is fully recovered from a hamstring scare. Striker Brian Ching had to take some stitches around his eye but will also be ready. The Czech Republic's only worry is over the fitness of Milan Baros, their top scorer at Euro 2004. The 24-year-old has hardly trained in the last week due to a foot injury picked up in a friendly. At the World Cup in 1990 Czechoslovakia beat the United States 5-1 in a group stage encounter. Kasey Keller was on the bench as Tony Meola’s backup for that game.

The United States got off to a nightmare start as Jan Koller was able to get past the defense to put it past Keller to give the Czechs a 1-0 lead. That quick goal completely deflated the US and the Czech Republic took complete control. They were in consistent attack mode and their defense shut down the American attack. Reyna had the best chance for the stars and stripes as his shot got by Petr Cech but the ball hit the post. Tomas Rosicky got control of a ball that Onyewu failed to properly clear and fired a ball that knuckled past Keller and into the top corner to give the Czech Republic a commanding 2-0 lead heading into the locker room.

At the beginning of the second half, Arena made a pair of changes bringing striker Eddie Johnson and midfielder John O’Brien on for Pablo Mastroeni and Steve Cherundolo. The Americans would change their formation to a more attacking 3-5-2 but it still did no good as the Czechs were able to stifle any buildup and continued to attack. Brian McBride was nowhere to be found as he couldn’t get any service. Beasley and Convey on the wings were non-existent. Rosicky would grab his second goal after Pavel Nedved played him the ball as he made his right past Pope and Onyewu and put it past Keller to give the Czech Republic a dominating 3-0 lead. That is how it would end.

Man of the Match: Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic)
Arsenal’s newest player was very impressive for the Czechs today scoring a pair of goals and being a consistent threat all day with his ball handling and speed. The United States had no answer. The Czechs are very dangerous if he and Rosicky continue to play like this.

General Thoughts: United States
Pathetic and disgraceful. Today we saw a team that was completely outclassed and looked as if they were never in the World Cup before. They were completely taken out of their game. The players never rose to the challenge and were constantly on the defensive. This team couldn’t string quality passes together and no one wanted to make a run at any of the Czech defenders. Beasley and Convey are more than capable to doing the job. Arena will change it up for Saturday’s match against Italy. There is still hope. This team is too good to put together two consecutive performances like this. The manager and captain Claudio Reyna have to settle the younger players on this team down get them geared up for a tough game with the Italians. Have faith. They are more than capable of beating Italy and Ghana just as long as they get back to playing like the team that took to the pitch in 2002 and the one that won CONCACAF.

General Thoughts: Czech Republic
The Czechs have put the rest of the field on notice with this dominating performance. Koller may be out for the rest of the World Cup but Baros figures to be ready for their next match. Rosicky and Nedved were absolutely dominate in the midfield. The rest of the defense did a tremendous job shutting down the Americans on the wings. Petr Cech was not tested today but when he is, he will surely be up for the challenge. The Czechs look like a team that is ranked number two in the world according to FIFA.

USA: Keller, Onyewu, Mastroeni (Johnson 45), Pope, Cherundolo (O'Brien 45), Reyna, Beasley, Convey, Lewis, McBride (Wolff 77), Donovan.
Subs Not Used: Albright, Berhalter, Bocanegra, Ching, Conrad, Dempsey, Hahnemann, Howard, Olsen.

Booked: Onyewu, Reyna.

Czech Republic: Cech, Grygera, Rozehnal, Ujfalusi, Jankulovski, Poborsky (Polak 82), Galasek, Rosicky (Stajner 86), Plasil, Nedved, Koller (Lokvenc 45).
Subs Not Used: Baros, Blazek, Heinz, Jarolim, Jiranek, Kinsky, Kovac, Mares, Sionko.

Booked: Rozehnal, Lokvenc, Rosicky, Grygera.

Goals: Koller 5, Rosicky 36, 76

Att: 52,000

Ref: Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay)

Group E: Italy vs. Ghana
Italy defender Alessandro Nesta has been passed fit, while coach Marcello Lippi confirmed Francesco Totti would play some part in the game. But Gianluca Zambrotta and inspirational midfielder Rino Gattuso are both out with injuries. Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic has no injuries to worry about, with Chelsea's Michael Essien and former Juventus player Stephen Appiah in midfield. In a surprise switch, Richard Kingston would start in goal ahead of Sammy Adjei.

Ghana played with Italy for much of the first half as Michael Essien was extremely aggressive going forward and taking his chances at goal. Possession was fairly balanced for a majority of the first half. Both teams had their chances but it was Italy who struck first. In minute 39, midfielder Andrea Pirlo would drill a ball that got through a whole bunch of players and bent inside the right goalpost to give the Italians a 1-0 lead heading into half time.

Ghana would continue to play hard in the second half as they pursued an equalizer. Kingston stepped up to make some big saves for the World Cup first timers but they were unable to get that shot on goal. Italy were still playing to get that vital second goal to put away the game and were able to get it in minute 82 thanks to a Ghana blunder. Defender Sammy Kuffour was attempting to play a ball back from 45 yards out. Jaquinta was able to take the ball and slotted it in to give Italy a commanding 2-0 lead. That is how it would finish as Italy has joined the Czech Republic atop Group E.

Man of the Match: Michael Essien (Ghana)
His team might have lost but Essien was without a doubt the best player on the pitch today. He is well known for being a tough defensive midfielder but today we saw the all around talent that shows that he is going to be one of the best in the world. He needs to get some support if Ghana is going to get any results in this World Cup.

General Thoughts: Italy
It was a good win for the Italians as they were able to handle a tough Ghana team. The team looks well organized and balanced. It was encouraged for Francesco Totti to start and play 55 minutes after recovering from the injury. Next up for Lippi’s men is the United States who will be motivated after having been given a beating by the Czech Republic.

General Thoughts: Ghana
It may have been a loss but Ghana stayed with Italy for much of this match. Michael Essien has shown why he is such a quality midfielder but others need to step up if they are going to get a result. Putting Kingston in goal was a surprise but it did pay off as he only made one mistake and it didn’t lead to a goal. Otherwise, he kept Ghana in this match. Kuffour must get over the mistake. He is an anchor on the back line.

Italy: Buffon, Zaccardo, Nesta, Cannavaro, Grosso, Totti (Camoranesi 56), Perrotta, Pirlo, De Rossi, Toni (Del Piero 82), Gilardino (Iaquinta 64).
Subs Not Used: Amelia, Barone, Barzagli, Gattuso, Inzaghi, Materazzi, Oddo, Peruzzi, Zambrotta.

Booked: De Rossi, Camoranesi, Iaquinta.

Goals: Pirlo 40, Iaquinta 83.

Ghana: Kingston, Pantsil, Kuffour, Mensah, Pappoe (Shilla 45), Muntari, Essien, Appiah, Eric Addo, Gyan (Tachie-Mensah 89), Amoah (Pimpong 68).
Subs Not Used: Otto Addo, Adjei, Ahmed, Boateng, Dramani, Mohamed, Owu, Quaye, Sarpei.

Booked: Muntari, Gyan

Att: 43,000

Ref: Carlos Eugenio Simon (Brazil)

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
South Korea vs. Togo – 9:00am EST – ESPN2
France vs. Switzerland – Noon EST – ESPN2
Brazil vs. Croatia – 3:00pm EST – ESPN2


Anonymous reighner said...

US have no chance vs Czech..

12:04 PM  

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