Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 14, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

The teams of Group H are ready to make their 2006 World Cup debuts. Spain and Ukraine are figured to be the top two teams in the group and they will face off. Tunisia and Ukraine will also play today and then it’s back to Group A as Germany takes on Poland.

Group H: Spain vs. Ukraine
It is a battle of World Cup debutants and veteran underachievers sprinkled in with some world class strikers. Andriy Shevchenko will be starting for Ukraine as he was declared fit after injuring knee ligaments in May. Spain manager Luis Aragones has opted to keep Raul on the bench and go with a striker partnership of Fernando Torres and David Villa. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas will be wearing the captain’s armband. Aragones has also opted to slot Liverpool’s Luis Garcia just behind the strikers giving Spain a 4-3-3 formation.

It was a harsh welcome to the finals for the World Cup new boys who struggled as the temperatures again went over 90 degrees as the German heat-wave continued. Spain wasted no time in going straight at the debutants, with Torres and Villa showing why they were preferred up front to captain Raul. Ukraine had already suffered a few scares when midfielder Xabi Alonso put Spain in front with his first international goal. Marcos Senna's driven shot from distance earned a corner which is in turn headed home at the near post by the Liverpool midfielder. Four minutes later Ukraine's woes worsened when Villa's free-kick clipped the head of Andriy Rusol in the wall and deflected past goalkeeper Shovkovskiy. Spain was rolling as they heading into the locker room up 2-0.

Ukraine made two changes at the break but any hope of their new arrivals helping them change things around ended in minute 48 when Vashchuk was harshly dismissed. The defender battled back to try and prevent Torres from a clean strike on goal, but Swiss referee Massimo Busacca decided he had pulled Torres back and issued a red card and a penalty. Villa stepped up to score from the spot and the three points were effectively Spain's. The Ukraine battled on bravely with Andriy Voronin volleying just wide and substitute Serhiy Rebrov lashing their best chance of the game over the bar. But the last word fell to Spain, with Carles Puyol starting off a fantastic move from his own half. He carried on running and when the ball was played forward he headed into the path of Torres to drive home from the edge of the area. Spain made Ukraine’s World Cup debut a nightmare beating them 4-0.

Man of the Match: David Villa (Spain)
It was a tremendous World Cup debut for the Valencia striker as he consistently made strong runs and was able to score a pair of goals. He got a little lucky with the free kick taking a small deflection which threw off the keeper. However, he also wanted to take the opportunity to take the penalty shot. Just imagine if we get an opportunity to see him alongside both Raul and Torres up front.

General Thoughts: Spain
Spain are notoriously slow starters and have won just two of their opening World Cup games since World War Two. The Spaniards had a tremendous game in all aspects. The final possession stats may show a 50-50 split but Spain had 15 shots on target against Ukraine’s 3. That shows that Spain made more use of their possessions and it obviously showed. An example of what type of Casillas had can be summed up in the 89th minute. He was so bored that he inexplicably came racing out of his area to challenge Andriy Voronin for a high ball and was left stranded. Ibanez Pablo slid in to deny Voronin of a shot on goal as he broke into the area and kept the clean sheet in order. Raul had to feel good about his performance when he went in. Hopefully, he can build on that.

General Thoughts: Ukraine
This was a nightmare result for Ukraine. Getting dismantled 4-0 is not the way you want to start the World Cup. This game has clearly shown us that is team is clearly reliant on Shevchenko and when he is not in form, they are not going to win. The Vashchuk dismissal was clearly a terrible call by the ref but you get the feeling that Ukraine was always going to lose this game. The good news is that the worst may be over. Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are their remaining opponents in Group H.

Spain: Casillas, Pernia, Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Pablo, Xavi, Alonso (Albelda 55), Senna, Luis Garcia (Fabregas 77), Villa (Raul 55), Torres
Subs Not Used: Antonio Lopez, Canizares, Iniesta, Joaquin, Juanito, Marchena, Reina, Reyes, Salgado

Goals: Alonso 13, Villa 17, 48 pen, Torres 81

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Yezerskiy, Rusol, Vashchuk, Tymoschuk, Gusev (Shelayev 45), Gusin (Vorobey 45), Rotan (Rebrov 63), Shevchenko, Voronin.
Subs Not Used: Byelik, Chigrynskiy, Kalinichenko, Milevskiy, Nazarenko, Pyatov, Shust, Sviderskiy, Yatsenko

Sent Off: Vashchuk (47)

Booked: Rusol, Yezerskiy

Att: 43,000

Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)

Group H: Tunisia vs. Saudi Arabia
Tunisia is without Francileudo Santos for their group opener against Saudi Arabia after the striker picked up a leg injury in a warm-up match. Manager Roger Lemerre has put his faith in 19-year-old Yassine Chikhaoui as a replacement for Santos. Saudi Arabia skipper Sami al-Jaber will start on the bench, after being troubled by a thigh injury. The veteran striker, in line to win his 161st cap, is replaced by Yasser al-Kahtani.

Possibly inspired by the events of the Spain-Ukraine match, Tunisia's Ziad Jaziri's flies into the box and takes a tumble in the second minute, but the referee had none of it. Tunisia had the first great chance to open the scoring. Adel Chedli's corner found Karim Haggui but he got too much on his downward header and it bounced over the bar. Saudi got a great chance ten minutes later as Tunisia gave away another free-kick in a dangerous position as Karim Haggui barged over Mohammed Noor. Nawaf Al Temyat swung it in from the left, but none of his team-mates are able to get on the end of it. Tunisia opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. Ziad Jaziri fired them in front with a spectacular volley after Redha Tuker made a poor headed clearance from a free-kick. Neither side was able to get another serious chance before the end of the half which saw Tunisia in front 1-0.

Tunisia made the fatal mistake of sitting on the lead, a tactical error they were punished for as Saudi Arabia adopted a bolder approach in the second half. Key to the Saudis' revival was the influence of midfielder Mohammed Noor, who began to get forward into more advanced positions. Soon after the restart Noor spurned a good chance to equalize when he flicked the ball wide with just Boumnijel to beat. But Noor made amends for his miss when he delivered an enticing cross to the near past that Al Kahtani cleverly flicked into the net. With 10 minutes to go Saudi Arabia introduced their record goalscorer Al Jaber for Al Kahtani for his 161st cap. Al Jaber did not take long to make his mark, calmly slotting past Boumnijel after galloping clear of the Tunisia defense. Saudi Arabia almost extended their lead when captain Hussein Sulaimani's deflected free-kick crashed against the woodwork. But Jaidi came to Tunisia's rescue, thumping a header past Zaid after Jaziri crossed from the right.

Man of the Match: Ziad Jaziri (Tunisia)
Jaziri caused problems for the Saudi defense right from the opening whistle. He was making strong runs into the box and scored the opening goal of this match. He also had the cross that led to the game tying goal in stoppage time to salvage a point for Tunisia. It was a clutch performance by Jaziri.

General Thoughts: Tunisia
They were very fortunate to be able to get a point out of this match. Saudi Arabia outplayed them for much of the second half. They will need an improved effort if they want to have a chance of advancing. Trabelsi has to come up to attack more from the back. Hopefully Santos will be ready to come back as well.

General Thoughts: Saudi Arabia
This result really hurt for the Saudis. They fought so hard to take the lead in the second half and to give it up in stoppage time is the sort of thing that can demoralize a team. Saudi has to step up, take the point, and go after a Ukraine team that has just been given a new lease on life.

Tunisia: Boumnijel, Haggui, Trabelsi, Jaidi, Jemmali, Mnari, Bouazizi (Nafti 54), Chedli (Ghodhbane 69), Namouchi, Jaziri, Chikhaoui (Essediri 82).
Subs Not Used: Ayari, Ben Saada, Gmamdia, Kasraoui, Melliti, Nefzi, Saidi, Santos, Yahia.

Booked: Haggui, Bouazizi, Chedli, Chikhaoui.

Goals: Jaziri 23, Jaidi 90.

Saudi Arabia: Zaid, Dokhi, Tukar, Al Montashari, Sulimani, Al Ghamdi, Noor (Ameen 75), Khariri, Aziz, Al Temyat (Mouath 66), Al Kahtani (Al Jaber 82).
Subs Not Used: Al Anbar, Al Bahri, Al Daeyea, Al Harthi, Al Qadi, Al Shlhoub, Khathran, Khojah, Massad.

Goals: Al Kahtani 57, Al Jaber 84.

Att: 66,000.

Ref: Mark Shield (Australia).

Fifa man of the match: Ziad Jaziri

Group A: Germany vs. Poland
Germany is getting captain Michael Ballack back as they play their second match of the group stages against Poland. Germany, having won their opener against Costa Rica, will be in the driving seat in Group A should they continue their unbeaten streak over Poland (they have never lost to their neighbors from across the Oder). But Poland, who will be roared on by their huge traveling support (there are many Polish people who live in Dortmund as well), can start packing their bags if they fail to pick up at least a point. Poland have rung the changes after the 2-0 defeat to Ecuador with Miroslav Szymkowiak axed for Ireneusz Jelen. Bartosz Bosacki replaces Mariusz Jop in the center of defense but midfielder Kamil Kosowski could miss the clash with a strained hamstring. Police have arrested 300 people amid clashes in Dortmund ahead of the match. The violence started when police tried to arrest a number of fans, who then attacked officers and began fighting among themselves.

Klose should have eased German nerves earlier in the game, but the 28-year-old could not add to his two-goal tally from the first game against Costa Rica. The Werder Bremen striker came close twice in the first 15 minutes with a header and low shot that the Poland keeper smothered. His strike-partner Lukas Podolski also came close to scoring, but his shot from Philipp Lahm's low cross went wide of Artur Boruc's left-hand post. At the other end, Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had little to do. The Poles threatened on several occasions, but for all their good intentions and vibrant build-up play, the final ball let them down. There was no score at the half.

Physical play continued in the second half and led to cards. Poland's Radoslaw Sobolewski was sent off late on for two bookable offences. Knowing a win would surely earn them a spot in the knockout round, Germany brought on the pacy David Odonkor in the last 20 minutes and his arrival appeared to add a spring into the step of his frustrated side. However, the Boruc was in no mood to lie down and made fantastic reaction saves from the industrious Lahm and sub Neuville. But with just a few seconds remaining, all of Boruc's good work was undone by the instinctive reactions of Neuville. Odonkor sped down the right to fire in a low ball which found Neuville who eluded his two markers to prod past the helpless Poland shotstopper. Germany walked away with a 1-0 win.

Man of the Match: Artur Boruc (Poland)
The only reason why Poland had a chance to get a point was because Boruc was so good. He got some luck but that was necessary considering how many quality chances Germany had. He was undeserving of being the losing keeper today.

General Thoughts: Germany
It wasn’t pretty. This game should have been over much earlier if it wasn’t for their blown chances. But, Germany now has six points and are in command of Group A. Klose wasn’t as good as he was against Costa Rica and Podolski was not good either. Ballack was okay but it looked like his fitness let him down toward the end. The defense wasn’t tested much so it’s hard to say if they made the necessary adjustments. Nevertheless, this was a tough physical battle and Germany kept on battling and got the win.

General Thoughts: Poland
This result has done Poland in. They have no points and a goal differential of negative three. Boruc was so good today but they couldn’t generate a consistent attack. They were scoring well in qualifying so it makes you wonder what could have been if Frankowski had been named to the squad. Janas can start packing his things. He will be fired.

Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich (Odonkor 64), Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Schweinsteiger (Borowski 76), Ballack, Frings, Schneider, Podolski (Neuville 71), Klose.
Subs Not Used: Jansen, Huth, Kehl, Nowotny, Kahn, Asamoah, Hitzlsperger, Hildebrand

Booked: Ballack, Odonkor, Metzelder

Goals: Neuville 90

Poland: Boruc, Bosacki, Baszczynski, Bak, Zewlakow (Dudka 83), Sobolewski, Krzynowek (Lewandowski 77), Smolarek, Radomski, Zurawski, Jelen (Brozek 90).
Subs Not Used: Jop, Gancarczyk, Kosowski, Szymkowiak, Rasiak, Kuszczak, Mila, Giza, Fabianski

Sent Off: Sobolewski (75)

Booked: Krzynowek, Sobolewski, Boruc

Att: 65,000

Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain)

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
Ecuador vs. Costa Rica – 9:00am EST – ESPN2
England vs. Trinidad and Tobago – Noon EST – ESPN2
Sweden vs. Paraguay – 3:00pm EST – ESPN

Other News
Rooney Is Ready
England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has revealed striker Wayne Rooney is "match fit" ahead of Thursday's World Cup match against Trinidad and Tobago. Eriksson said Rooney will not start the match, but had yet to decide whether the 20-year-old will play some part. Meanwhile, Rooney's Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville looks set to be ruled out of the Group B game. Eriksson said the right-back was very doubtful after pulling out of a training session with a calf strain. Either Owen Hargreaves or Jamie Carragher will be set to step in if he does not recover in time.

Messi Could be Fit for Serbia Clash
Argentina forward Lionel Messi should be fit for Friday's Group C clash with Serbia & Montenegro, despite hobbling out of training today with a foot injury. The Barcelona playmaker fell awkwardly during a practice session and withdrew from training, complaining of pain in his left instep. However, national-team doctor Donato Villani calmed fears Messi may miss Argentina's second group game by revealing the 18-year-old would be fit for the match.

Ronaldo Will Start Against Australia
Brazil manager Carlos Alberto Parreira stood by Ronaldo after the striker's lackluster performance against Croatia on Tuesday, promising he would keep his place for the next match. He was replaced in the second half by his Real Madrid teammate Robinho. The striker has been complaining about foot blisters and sinus trouble.


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