Monday, June 19, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 19, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

Togo takes to the pitch for their second group match against Switzerland. They have stirred up so much controversy off the pitch with the whole pay dispute. It has overshadowed their good play on the field. Ukraine will be looking to not only get on track by getting a win against Saudi Arabia but also score some goals to get that goal differential looking more respectable. They let up four against Spain. And finally, those Spaniards will try to repeat that impressive performance when they play the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.

Group F: Switzerland vs. Togo
Switzerland coach Kubi Kahn keeps faith with Raphael Wicky, with Daniel Gygax coming in at the expense of Marco Streller. Togo's players had threatened to boycott this game in a continuing dispute over pay. However, Fifa stepped in to solve the crisis and reports now suggest the players have been paid overdue bonuses. Togo had to listen to South Korea's national anthem twice on their World Cup debut last week, but no such miscues this time as their fans belt out the lively number.

Togo began brightly and had good chances to open the scoring. Adebayor's headed flick fell to Kader whose neat turn failed to receive the finish it deserved and ended up in the hands of Pascal Zuberbuehler. Kader and strike partner Adebayor continued to cause the Swiss back line problems and Adebayor felt he should have had a penalty when he appeared to be held back when heading towards goal. But for all the Africans' endeavor in attack, their defensive frailties were soon exposed when poor marking led to Switzerland's opener. Barnetta found himself with acres of space down the Switzerland right and he volleyed Ludovic Magnan's cross into the box for Frei to turn home from five yards. Togo failed to wilt under the strain however and hit back with a chance of their own. A horrific blunder from the out-of-sorts Arsenal defender Phillipe Senderos handed Thomas Dossevi a free shot on goal, but he blazed his effort wide from close range. As Togo searched for a way back into the match, they were denied what looked to be a certain penalty by referee Carlos Amarilla. The Paraguayan official waved away appeals after Adebayor was cut down down by Patrick Muller and Togo would have felt hard done by going into the break a goal down.

The Swiss started the second half with more enthusiasm and Barnetta had a half volley acrobatically tipped over by Zuberbuehler while substitute Hakan Yakin sliced a long-range drive just over. Yakin should have put the Swiss in a commanding position on 64 minutes, but his close-range shot when clean through was well palmed away by Kossi Agassi. As Togo went in search of the vital equalizer the game became stretched, but they were kept out by a lack of quality in the final third and a firm rearguard display. And to compound Togo's misery, Barnetta completed Switzerland's victory with a sweet strike from just inside the penalty area on 88 minutes to send to them top of Group G.

Man of the Match: Tranquillo Barnetta (Switzerland)
Barnetta was tremendous today as he had something to do with both goals. On the first one, it was his volley of Magnan’s cross in one smooth motion to Frei that made the first goal unstoppable. As Togo would continue to charge, he locked it up with a goal of this own and has put the Swiss in the driver’s seat to get out of group play.

General Thoughts: Switzerland
This was a good win for the Swiss. With four points, they have now moved to the top of Group G. It was good to get Frei a goal but in all honesty, they need to play better. Togo had their chances and should have had a penalty shot against this Swiss defense. Senderos has to provide a better effort if the Swiss are to make some noise in the knockout stages. But first, they play a tough South Korea team.

General Thoughts: Togo
When we look back at this World Cup, we will not remember how hard they played. We will remember the pay dispute and their threat to boycott this match. It really is a shame because this is a talented team that has given their opponents everything they could handle. Adebayor looks like he is going to be a heck of a player for Arsenal. They were unlucky not to get that penalty. The game would have changed if they had that opportunity.

Togo: Agassa, Nibombe, Tchangai, Toure, Agboh (Salifou 24), Dossevi (Senaya 68), Cherif-Toure (Malm 86), Romao, Forson, Adebayor, Mohamed.
Subs Not Used: Akoto, Atsou, Aziawonou, Erassa, Obilale, Olufade, Tchagnirou, Assemoassa.

Booked: Salifou, Adebayor, Romao.

Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Muller, Philipp Degen, Senderos, Magnin, Barnetta, Vogel, Wicky, Cabanas (Streller 77), Frei (Lustrinelli 87), Gygax (Yakin 45).
Subs Not Used: Benaglio, Coltorti, David Degen, Djourou, Dzemaili, Grichting, Margairaz, Spycher, Behrami.

Booked: Vogel

Goals: Frei 17, Barnetta 88

Att: 65,000

Ref: Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay)

Group G Update
This has become a three team race. Togo is officially eliminated.
The Swiss currently have 4 points, a goal differential (gd) of +2, and will play South Korea next. A win will give them the group. Should they draw, they will advance and could still win the group as long as France doesn’t win and gets a better gd. If they lose, they need to hope the French don’t win.
South Korea currently has 4 points, a gf of +1, and will play the Swiss next. They can win the group with a win. If they draw or lose, they need to hope France doesn’t win.
France currently has 2 points, a gf of 0, and will play Togo next. They can win the group with a win and if the Switzerland/South Korea match ends in a draw. They need to get a better gd than the Swiss. They can advance with a win and if one of those teams gets the win.

Group H: Ukraine vs. Saudi Arabia
Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin makes four changes from the side hammered 4-0 by Spain, as Serhiy Rebrov resumes his partnership with Andriy Shevchenko up front. Vladyslav Vashchuk misses out after his red card against Spain. Volodymyr Yezerskiy, Andriy Gusin & Ruslan Rotan drop to the bench. Maxim Kalinichenko, Andriy Vorobey and Oleg Shelayev come in. Saudi Arabia skipper Sami Al Jaber is on the bench for the second successive game because of a thigh problem. Mohammed Ameen is preferred to Nawaf Al Temyat in a more defensive midfield. It was raining in Hamburg and therefore, it has cooled off which figures to favor Ukraine.

The Saudis appeared nervous from the start, in particular Zaid, and Ukraine were not slow to take advantage. The keeper made a mess of a goal kick to give Ukraine an early corner. Kalinichenko curled the ball in and defender Rusol marched into the area unopposed to deflect it off his knee and through the unfortunate Zaid's legs. The closest Saudi Arabia got to a goal was when Rusol's knee almost scored at the wrong end, but the defender will have been relieved to see his miss-hit clearance flash past the post. Rebrov fired in a second goal shortly before the interval. Anatoliy Tymoschuk rolled the ball into the feet of the former Spurs and West Ham forward and he was given space to turn. He showed no hesitation in hitting a fine strike that flew into the corner, although there was more questionable goalkeeping from Zaid who slipped as he tried to get across to the shot. Zaid's performance seemed all the more bizarre with Mohammed Al Daeyea, he of the world-record 181 caps, sitting on the bench.

Any hope of the Saudis launching another second half comeback lasted less than a minute of the second period. Another pin-point center from Kalinichenko saw Shevchenko open his World Cup finals account with a simple header. Kalinichenko was denied a deserved goal when he hit the bar with a shot, but six minutes from time he put their goal difference back on level terms when he sidefooted home from a Shevchenko center. The win puts Ukraine's qualification hopes back on track and victory over Tunisia in their final game will ensure their progress to the knock-out stages.

Man of the Match: Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)
Chelsea along with Ukraine fans are salivating after the striker looked like he was back to normal. He had a goal and an assist today and became the focus of the Saudi defense which helped his teammates score in the first half. As he goes, so does Ukraine.

General Thoughts: Ukraine
Ukraine showed the world why they were the first team in Europe to qualify for the World Cup. They may have given the Saudis too much room on offense but when they were in attack mode, they made the most of their opportunities. They were complaining about the weather against Spain being too hot. They got a break with the rain and cooler temperatures. These guys were especially motivated as their manager questioned their manhood after their humiliating defeat.

General Thoughts: Saudi Arabia
The Saudis just got acquainted with one of the best strikers in the world. The cooler and wetter weather is the sort their players are unfamiliar with since they all play domestically. They were one of the weaker teams in the tournament and that came out today.

Saudi Arabia: Zaid, Dokhi (Khathran 55), Tukar, Al Montashari, Sulimani, Al Ghamdi, Ameen (Mouath 55), Noor (Al Jaber 77), Khariri, Aziz, Al Kahtani.
Subs Not Used: Al Anbar, Al Bahri, Al Daeyea, Al Harthi, Al Qadi, Al Temyat, Khojah, Massad

Booked: Dokhi, Al Ghamdi, Khariri

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Rusol, Sviderskiy, Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Rebrov (Rotan 71), Kalinichenko, Shevchenko (Milevskiy 85), Voronin (Gusin 79).
Subs Not Used: Yatsenko, Yezerskiy, Byelik, Chigrynskiy, Nazarenko, Pyatov, Shust, Vorobey

Booked: Nesmachniy, Kalinichenko, Sviderskiy

Goals: Rusol 4, Rebrov 36, Shevchenko 46, Kalinichenko 84

Att: 50,000

Ref: Graham Poll (England)

Group H: Spain vs. Tunisia
Spain striker Raul starts on the bench as expected with Luis Aragones sticking with the pairing of David Villa and Fernando Torres in attack. Tunisia's star striker Francileudo dos Santos has been named as a substitute despite there being doubts whether he was going to recover in time from a shin injury. Coach Roger Lemerre has included Mehdi Nafti at the expense of rookie striker Yassine Chikhaoui, leaving Ziad Jaziri as the lone frontman. He also replaced defender David Jemmali with fellow defender Anis Ayari.

The North African side had taken the lead with their very first attack. It was a goal that owed everything to the persistence and skill of Zaid Jaziri, who after brushing past Carles Puyol, beat three other Spanish players before picking out the advancing Mnari. The Nuremberg midfielder's volley was parried by Iker Casillas, but Mnari made no mistake from the rebound. David Villa spearheaded Spain's attempts to pull level in the first half, going close with a free-kick and then releasing Torres with a clever pass. For a split second Torres glimpsed goal, before Hatem Trabelsi moved in to outmuscle the Atletico Madrid striker. As well as providing defensive cover, Trabelsi was just as keen to run forward to give Tunisia a useful attacking outlet on the right. Tunisia rode their luck at times; Luis Garcia flicking a header wide from Xavi's free-kick after the Liverpool forward had been fouled by Anis Ayari. Xabi Alonso flashed a long-range shot narrowly wide and on the stroke of half-time Ayari headed Xabi Alonso's header off the line.

Fabregas's arrival changed the game with the midfielder having an immediate impact, thumping a shot goalward that Boumnijel did well to beat away. Soon after Aragones went for broke, throwing on his third substitute as Real Betis winger Joaquin replaced Valencia striker David Villa. Joaquin provided the pass for a second Fabregas shot that set up Spain's equaliser, an effort Boumnijel was unable to hold, allowing Raul to score from close range. A rush of blood to the head by Boumnijel proved fatal to Tunisia's hopes of coming away with a point as Fabregas released Torres. Boumnijel was caught hopelessly out of position allowing Torres to flick the ball into the unguarded net. Late on Torres was fouled by Alaeddine Yahia as he jumped for the ball, though the Spain forward was slightly lucky to score with the penalty, a goal that means he is the World Cup's current top goalscorer.

Man of the Match: Raul (Spain)
He may not have been wearing the captain’s armband since he was coming off the bench but when he entered the game, he acted like a captain. He took matters into his own hands by scoring on a rebound to equalize the game. Without that goal, the team is not revitalized and Torres does not score the next two.

General Thoughts: Spain
In their win against Ukraine, they dominated from the start. Today, Tunisia made life difficult for them as they made some good runs. Spain would hold possession for a majority of the first half but they were unable to get that one strike on target. The second half was a different story thanks to Fabregas and Raul. They re-inspired the side and thanks to the two of them along with Fernando Torres, Spain managed to win the game. A win like this shows that the Spaniards are capable of coming back despite adversity. If they can continue this form, they will be hard to beat in the knockout stages.

General Thoughts: Tunisia
They were a lot more organized today than they were against Saudi Arabia. They didn’t allow Spain to get a clean look at goal for the first hour of the game. Trabelsi did a good job coming from his wing back position to get in on the offensive attack. But at the end of the day, the talent disparity came out and Tunisia was left in the dust by a better Spanish side. These sorts of results hurt but Tunisia will take the positive from it.

Spain: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Puyol, Pablo, Pernia, Xavi, Alonso, Senna (Fabregas 45), Luis Garcia (Raul 45), Torres, Villa (Joaquin 56).
Subs Not Used: Albelda, Antonio Lopez, Canizares, Iniesta, Juanito, Marchena, Reina, Reyes, Salgado.

Booked: Puyol, Fabregas.

Goals: Raul 72, Torres 76, 90 pen.

Tunisia: Boumnijel, Haggui, Jaidi, Ayari (Yahia 56), Trabelsi, Mnari, Bouazizi (Ghodhbane 56), Chedli (Gmamdia 79), Namouchi, Nafti, Jaziri.
Subs Not Used: Ben Saada, Chikhaoui, Essediri, Jemmali, Kasraoui, Melliti, Nefzi, Saidi, Santos.

Booked: Ayari, Trabelsi, Jaidi, Gmamdia, Jaziri, Mnari.

Goals: Mnari 8.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Carlos Eugenio Simon (Brazil)

Group H Update
Spain has 6 points, a gd of +6, and play Saudi Arabia next. They have qualified for the next round. They can win the group with a win. Should they draw, they need Ukraine to lose, draw, or should they win, have a worse gd. If Spain loses, they can win just as long as Ukraine doesn’t win.
Ukraine has 3 points, a gd of 0, and play Tunisia next. They can qualify by beating Tunisia. If they draw, only a Saudi Arabia win plus a higher gd will knock them out. They can win the group if they win, Spain loses, and they pass them in gd.
Tunisia has 1 point, a gd of -2, and play Ukraine next. They can qualify if they win and Saudi Arabia doesn’t win. Should the Saudis win, they need a better gd.
Saudi Arabia has 1 point, a gd of -4, and play Spain next. They can qualify with a win, any result other than a Ukraine win from the other match, and a higher goal differential than Ukraine and Tunisia.

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
There will be four matches a day to close out the group stage. The two matches per group will be played simultaneously in order to ensure that teams go for the win.
Germany vs. Ecuador – 10:00am EST – ESPN
Poland vs. Costa Rica – 10:00am EST – ESPN2
England vs. Sweden – 3:00pm EST – ESPN
Trinidad and Tobago vs. Paraguay – 3:00pm EST – ESPN2


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