Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 13, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

There is always a buzz around the world when Brazil are getting ready to take the field. The best team in the world makes their 2006 World Cup debut against Croatia. Also today, we get a chance to see France take on Switzerland but it all starts with South Korea taking on Togo.

Group G: South Korea vs. Togo
Otto Pfister returns to coach the national team after walking out on them following a dispute with the federation regarding payment. There were plenty of questions about how Togo would play with all of the controversy that has surrounding them in the past week. The other big news of the day is that the Commerzbank stadion's 'convertable' roof will be closed at the request of television directors. With temperatures expected to be up in the 90s, pitch level temperature figured to take a toll on the players. In a light hearted note, Referee Graham Poll celebrated his wedding anniversary by blowing the whistle at the exact moment he got married 14 years ago.

The game got off to a sluggish start as neither side was able to maintain quality possession. The deadlock was broken just past the half hour with the first moment of real quality from either side. Mohammed Kader sprinted forward, controlled the ball beautifully with his thigh and shot low into the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Cho Jae-Jin and Lee Eul-Yong tried long-range efforts as South Korea tried to get back into the game, but they still seemed dazed at having gone behind. Junior Senaya's free-kick almost doubled Togo's lead just before half-time, drawing a fine save from Lee Woon-Jae. Togo went into the locker room at half time feeling satisfied with their 1-0 lead.

South Korea's Dutch manager Dick Advocaat wass forced into action and replaced defender Jin-Kyu Kim with striker Ahn Jung-Hwan. Kader showed neat footwork as he nearly added a second early in the second half, before captain Jean-Paul Abalo was sent off for a foul on Park Ji-Sung, and Lee Chun-Soo's perfectly judged free-kick from just outside the box drew South Korea equal. Cho Jae-Jin narrowly missed connecting with a diving header as the pace of the game picked up following the second goal, with Moustapha Salifou having a couple of chances for Togo. But it would be substitute Ahn Jung-Hwan who would score the next goal as he turned on the edge of the box and fired a deflected shot high into the roof of the net. Emmanuel Adebayor wasted a great chance for Togo when he fouled his marker when in a scoring position, as Korea took a tight grip on the game. It would end 2-1 as South Korea came back in the second half to beat 10 man Togo.

Man of the Match: Ahn Jung-Hwan
The game changed when Dick Advocaat brought the striker on at the start of the second half. His game winner was a brilliant strike of the football and the South Koreans were uplifted when he entered the match. With his presence, they picked up the pace and had more chances to score.

General Thoughts: Togo
Getting reduced to ten men was a tough break for Togo because Abalo did not deserve his yellow card in the first half. No one expected them to play as well as they did. People thought Adebayor was at odds with his teammates but he was a team player today. They may not have won the match but scoring the goal and hanging in there was a mental victory for the team.

General Thoughts: South Korea
Dick Advocaat changed things at half-time, putting four at the back, with two strikers. The South Koreans changed their philosophy and said 'we've got to attack now, otherwise we're out of the World Cup.' Park Ji-Sung was very good today acting as a playmaker in the midfield and managed to get Abalo booked. Ahn Jung-Hwan can count on starting the next game for the South Koreans.

South Korea: Woon-Jae Lee, Young-Chul Kim, Choi, Jin-Kyu Kim (Ahn 45), Young-Pyo Lee, Song, Ji-Sung Park, Eul-Yong Lee (Nam-Il Kim 68), Ho Lee, Chun-Soo Lee, Jae-Jin Cho (Sang-Sik Kim 83).
Subs Not Used: Baek, Won-hee Cho, Chung, Do-Heon Kim, Dong-Jin Kim, Yong-Dae Kim, Young-Kwang Kim, Chu-Young Park, Seol

Booked: Young-Chul Kim, Chun-Soo Lee.

Goals: Chun-Soo Lee 54, Ahn 72.

Togo: Agassa, Nibombe, Tchangai, Assemoassa (Forson 62), Abalo, Salifou (Aziawonou 86), Cherif-Toure, Romao, Senaya (Toure 56), Mohammed, Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Agboh, Akoto, Dossevi, Erassa, Malm, Obilale, Olufade, Tchagnirou, Atsou.

Sent Off: Abalo (53)

Booked: Abalo, Romao, Tchangai.

Goals: Mohammed 31.

Att: 48,000

Ref: Graham Poll (England)

Group G: France vs. Switzerland
This is one of the most intriguing stories of the World Cup. Zidane, Makelele and Thuram all retired and now they've come back to help France qualify for the World Cup. But this team will only go as far as Thierry Henry will take them. The Arsenal striker must make a statement in this World Cup after being criticized for his form with the national team. Switzerland coach Koebi Kuhn went for an attacking line-up featuring Marco Streller alongside top scorer Alex Frei up front. France will play with lone striker Thierry Henry, supported by highly sought after youngster Franck Ribery, Sylvain Wiltord and Zinedine Zidane.

France played as if they have a lot on their shoulders. They haven’t scored since the finals in 1998 when they hoisted the World Cup in Stade de France. Switzerland had a glorious chance to open the scoring in the 23rd minute when Tranquillo Barnetta fired in a free kick and Phillippe Senderos got the faintest of touches to nod it on to the post. In the resultant scramble Frei had the goal at his mercy, but Eric Abidal just did enough to put him off and the ball ballooned over the bar. Ribery should have given France the lead when he was put clean through on 37 minutes but he nervously squared to Henry instead. The striker's shot hit the hand of of Mueller, but the Russian referee decided it was accidental.

France came out of the traps quickest in the second half and Patrick Vieira wasted another opportunity two minutes in, scuffing his shot after being teed up by Ribery. Just before the hour mark, Henry slid Wiltord in and a goal seemed certain until a perfectly-timed tackle by Senderos whipped the ball off the Frenchman's foot as he was preparing to pull the trigger. Switzerland responded with a rare attack of their own when Barnetta burst into the area, but he delayed his pass too long and the French cleared their lines. Substitute Vikash Dhorasoo was a whisker away from giving France a last-gasp winner and Frei's attempt to punch in a Swiss free kick was punished with a yellow card. It would end 0-0 as the French fans made their feelings clear.

Man of the Match: Fabian Barthez (France)
It was hard to figure out who deserved to win Man of the Match in this one. Zidane was good but didn’t help France get the result they wanted. Barthez saved the day for the French making a reactionary save. If that goal went in, France would have lost all morale.

General Thoughts: France
Ever since Euro 2000, the French have forgotten what it means to play as a team. There is no continuity in the side. There are two types of players on this team. First, there are those who think they have to do everything and then there are those who don’t want to step up and take the possession or shot. The Swiss defense was good today but France has the quality to do better. Barthez was very good today keeping France in this game. The clock may have caught up with Les Bleus.

General Thoughts: Switzerland
They completely outplayed France today and deserved a win. They had their chances but were just unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Getting a point against the seeded team of the group is a huge result and they could be well on their way to getting out of this group. It’s a job well done by the Swiss.

France: Barthez, Abidal, Gallas, Thuram, Sagnol, Zidane, Makelele, Vieira, Ribery (Saha 69), Wiltord (Dhorasoo 84), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Diarra, Givet, Govou, Landreau, Malouda, Silvestre, Trezeguet.

Booked: Abidal, Zidane, Sagnol.

Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Magnin, Senderos, Muller (Djourou 74), Philipp Degen, Cabanas, Vogel, Wicky (Margairaz 81), Barnetta, Frei, Streller (Gygax 57).
Subs Not Used: Behrami, Benaglio, Coltorti, David Degen, Dzemaili, Grichting, Lustrinelli, Spycher, Yakin.

Booked: Magnin, Barnetta, Philipp Degen, Cabanas, Frei.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Valentin Ivanov (Russia)

Group F: Brazil vs. Croatia
It’s the match the world has been waiting for. Brazil have opted for an attacking team with Ronaldo leading the line after overcoming blisters and sinus trouble in the lead up to the game. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira also manages to find room for the attacking talents of Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano and Ze Roberto. Cafu, Lucio, Juan and Roberto Carlos start at the back for the champions. Croatia striker Ivica Olic looks to have shaken off a thigh strain, and should be fit to join Dado Prso in attack. Darijo Srna has been struggling after a virus affected several players, but has been cleared to play.

Croatia's tactics frustrated Brazil for much of the match, but just before the interval Kaka's wonderful curling left-footed shot beat keeper Stipe Pletikosa. Midfielder Emerson started the move, surging into the Croatia half before feeding the ball to Cafu. The Brazilian right-back slipped the ball inside to Kaka, who after switching the ball quickly to his left foot; beat Pletikosa with an unstoppable shot.

Prso's strong running troubled the Brazilian defence and early in the second half the Rangers striker powerfully shrugged off Lucio before testing Dida with a low shot. Pletikosa made the best save of the game just after an hour when he kept out a poweful Ronaldinho header. Prso frequently drifted out to the left and looked impressive with some strong running, while Ivan Klasnic and Niko Kranjcar had speculative shots. Those two efforts did not trouble Dida, but seven minutes before the break the Brazilian keeper had a real scare when Igor Tudor came desperately close to reaching Darijo Srna's dangerous inswinging free-kick from the left. Brazil was able to hold on for a 1-0 win. The win also makes Brazil the first team to win eight consecutive matches in the World Cup. They won all seven of their matches in 2002 en route to claiming their five title.

Man of the Match: Dida (Brazil)
On a team that featured Ronaldinho, Kaka, and Ronaldo, it is the goalkeeper who had the best performance on the pitch. Croatia had their chances on goal and Dida stepped up to the task and kept the one goal lead for the defending champions.

General Thoughts: Brazil
It wasn’t a great performance by the defending champions but a win is a win. Adriano was not good today and there has got to be concern about Ronaldo. The blisters may have gotten to him because he was unable to run. Ronaldinho and Kaka were up to their usual tricks and Cafu and Roberto Carlos came up and down the sidelines. Lucio and Juan had their moments of concern but Dida was exceptional today. Robinho provided a spark coming off the bench and if Ronaldo can’t make the start against Australia, the kid will get the start.

General Thoughts: Croatia
The Croatians can hold their heads high because they were very good in this loss. They generated plenty of chances and did a good job defending the Brazilian attack by not giving them any room to work. Kaka was able to score his goal because he was given space. It was a momentary lapse by what was generally a very good defense. Croatia has shown that they have a ability to come out of this group.

Brazil: Dida, Cafu, Lucio, Juan, Carlos, Ze Roberto, Emerson, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano, Ronaldo (Robinho 69).
Subs Not Used: Cicinho, Cris, Fred, Gilberto, Julio Cesar, Juninho, Luisao, Mineiro, Ricardinho, Rogerio, Silva.

Booked: Emerson

Goals: Kaka 44

Croatia: Pletikosa, Simunic, Robert Kovac, Tudor, Simic, Srna, Babic, Nico Kovac (Jerko Leko 40), Kranjcar, Prso, Klasnic (Olic 57).
Subs Not Used: Balaban, Bosnjak, Butina, Didulica, Ivan Leko, Modric, Seric, Tokic, Tomas, Vranjes.

Booked: Nico Kovac, Robert Kovac, Tudor

Att: 72,000

Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico)

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
Spain vs. Ukraine – 9:00am EST – ESPN2
Tunisia vs. Saudi Arabia – Noon EST – ESPN2
Germany vs. Poland – 3:00pm EST – ESPN2

Other News
Vidic is Done
Serbia and Montenegro defender Nemanja Vidic's World Cup has been ended by a knee problem. Manchester United defender Vidic, 24, injured his left knee ligaments in Monday's training session.

Rooney might play against Trinidad
Wayne Rooney has not yet been ruled out of making a shock England World Cup comeback against Trinidad and Tobago. The 20-year-old is in full training after recovering from a broken foot but had not been expected to play until being cleared by independent experts.

Totti can play against USA
Italy striker Francesco Totti will be fit for their second World Cup match against the United States on Saturday. Totti was substituted early in the second half of Monday's 2-0 win over Ghana after taking a knock on the knee. The Roma striker has only recently returned to action after breaking his left ankle in February. Castellacci also said Gianluca Zambrotta will be available to face the Americans after recovering from the left thigh strain which kept him out of the Ghana match. Midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, also absent against Ghana, is making good progress after feeling a recurrence of a right leg injury and could also be back for Saturday's match.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was so disappointed with Ronaldo's performance. Is it really just blisters and sinus problems that made him deadweight?

7:27 PM  

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