Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 21, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

People believed that the Holland/Argentina match would be the best of the tournament. It has arrived but with both teams already through to the next round, both managers will sit players who have yellow cards in order to avoid the risk of them getting another one and missing the next round. Portugal is also in a similar spot.

Group C: Argentina vs. Holland
There are some new-look line-ups in Frankfurt for the climax to Group C. Injuries and yellow cards have forced the hand of Holland coach Marco van Basten, who droped card worries Mark van Bommel, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Arjen Robben, Joris Mathijsen and the injured John Heitinga. In come Kew Jaliens, Tim de Cler, Khalid Boulahrouz, Rafael van der Vaart and Dirk Kuyt. Lionel Messi makes his first start of the World Cup for Argentina with Carlos Tevez in attack at the expense of Hernan Crespo and Javier Saviola. Also getting a start are Gabriel Milito and Leandro Cufre.

With so many star players not taking part in this match, it allowed younger players to stand out. Two such players were Dutch defenders Tim de Cler and Boulahrouz who harried and hassled forwards Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez and rarely afforded them space in which to cause the kind of havoc that resulted in Serbia and Montenegro's 6-0 thrashing. When Argentina was allowed a yard of space, playmaker Riquelme took advantage. He came close to scoring on a couple of occasions, from a direct corner in the first half and with a low drive in the second, but it was his ability from set-pieces and vision to pick out a team-mate with a killer pass that made him stand out. His delivery was certainly exceptional, forcing Edwin van der Sar to tip over from a wicked corner and then making Boulahrouz deflect his low driving free-kick on to the post.

One player who made a case for a start against Mexico was Carlos Tevez. The bulldog forward bullied the Dutch defense all night both on the wing and through the center; although his one and only clear chance came in the second half when his fierce 20-yard drive was parried by Holland's keeper. The Dutch were less pretty in their attacking play, but the makeshift side seemed more content with keeping the Argentines at bay. They were limited to a handful of chances. The best fell to Feyenoord striker Dirk Kuyt, who tested goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri with a stinging effort in the first half and then Philip Cocu whose shot from a tight angle was tipped over by the Argentina shotstopper.

Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez (Argentina)
He looked like the only one who had a real desire to score as he consistently made runs at the Dutch defense. Pekerman has to be taking notice of that and will keep it in mind when Argentina plays Mexico.

General Thoughts: Argentina
It is mission accomplished for Argentina as they win the group and put the memory of 2002 behind them. As we saw against S&M, this is a dangerous team. With the amount of depth they have, they can overcome any obstacle. This team has the ability to win the World Cup.

General Thoughts: Holland
It has become clear that this team needs Arjen Robben if they are going to be successful. When he is in there, Robben has shown a willingness to take people on and has been effective passing the ball. He seems to be the only who knows how to get the ball in a position for Ruud to score. Dirk Kuyt has been a bit of a disappointment. He looks overwhelmed and is pressing too much. They could see England in a quarterfinal showdown but first, they play Portugal.

Holland: Van der Sar, Boulahrouz, Ooijer, Jaliens, De Cler, Sneijder (Maduro 86), Cocu, Van der Vaart, Van Persie (Landzaat 67), van Nistelrooy (Babel 56), Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst, Robben, Kromkamp, Heitinga, Van Bommel, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Timmer, Stekelenburg.

Booked: Kuyt, Ooijer, De Cler.

Argentina: Abbondanzieri, Burdisso (Coloccini 24), Ayala, Milito, Cufre, Mascherano, Maxi, Cambiasso, Riquelme (Aimar 79), Messi (Cruz 69), Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Sorin, Heinze, Saviola, Crespo, Franco, Scaloni, Palacio, Ustari, Gonzalez.

Booked: Cambiasso, Mascherano

Att: 48,000

Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain)

Group C: Ivory Coast vs. Serbia and Montenegro
There are changes galore in both teams; six for the Ivory Coast and four in the Serbia and Montenegro ranks. Ivory Coast skipper Didier Drogba is suspended and only Arthur Boka, Emmanuel Eboue, Didier Zokora, Yaya Toure and Arouna Kone keep their spots from the team that lost to Holland. Two of Serbia and Montenegro's changes are forced with Mateja Kezman and Ognjen Koroman suspended. Albert Nadj and captain Savo Milosevic do not start.

Serbia exploited some woeful defending from the African side as they took control of the match. After stringing a series of passes together, Dejan Stankovic's diagonal pass was deftly controlled by Zigic, who took the ball round the stranded Barry. Both Barry and central defender Blaise Kouassi were poorly positioned for Zigic's goal but their mistakes were nothing compared to Domoraud's slip for Serbia's second. The defender completely failed to deal with Predrag Djordjevic's free-kick and Ilic pounced to guide the ball home. The comedy of errors continued when Milan Dudic bizarrely raised his hand after Arthur Boka crossed from the left. Dindane had to twice take the penalty. His first effort was disallowed for encroachment by Ivorian Arouna Kone but the Lens striker stayed calm to put it past Serbia goalkeeper Drajoslav Jevric.

Early in the second half Jevric made a good save with his legs, diverting Kanga Akale's shot to safety after Boka's free-kick was blocked. Soon after Kouassi hit a vicious shot that Jevric could only watch as it skimmed the bar. Midway through the second half Dindane's persistent forward play was rewarded when he powered a header past Jevric. Dudic gifted the Ivorians a second penalty with another handball and substitute Kalou slots home the penalty.

Man of the Match: Aruna Dindane (Ivory Coast)
Scoring a pair of goals is a great day for the striker but he also makes the play that gets the Ivory Coast its game winner. Thanks to Dindane, the Ivory Coast have something to smile about on the plane ride home.

General Thoughts: Ivory Coast
They were placed in a rough group considering it was their World Cup debut but they fought hard and at least got three points. This will be a team to reckon with in the future as well. These guys are young, talented and have the experience to get back. With his play, Didier Zakora should get ready to a move to a major club. We will see the Ivory Coast again.

General Thoughts: Serbia and Montenegro
This is the only time we will see Serbia and Montenegro. The two are going to split. But honestly, it won’t mean a thing because they were awful in this World Cup. The defense that allowed one goal during qualification collapsed as Vidic never played a game and Kezman proved once again that he can’t handle the pressure of the big stage. It will be hard for them to recover from this one.

Ivory Coast: Barry, Boka, Kouassi, Domoraud, Eboue, Akale (Bakari Kone 60), Zokora, Keita (Kalou 72), Gneri Yaya Toure, Arouna Kone, Dindane.
Subs Not Used: Demel, Fae, Gnanhouan, Meite, Romaric, Tizie, Kolo Toure, Yapi Yapo, Zoro

Sent Off: Domoraud (90)

Booked: Keita, Domoraud, Dindane.

Goals: Dindane 37 pen, 67, Kalou 86 pen.

Serbia & Montenegro: Jevric, Gavrancic, Nenad Djordjevic, Dudic, Krstajic (Nadj 16), Ergic, Duljaj, Stankovic, Predrag Djordjevic, Ilic, Zigic (Milosevic 66).
Subs Not Used: Basta, Dragutinovic, Kovacevic, Ljuboja, Stojkovic, Vidic, Vukic, Petkovic.

Sent Off: Nadj (45)

Booked: Nadj, Dudic, Duljaj, Gavrancic.

Goals: Zigic 10, Ilic 20.

Att: 66,000.

Ref: Marco Rodriguez (Mexico)

Best Group C Match
Argentina vs. Ivory Coast

Best Group C Player
Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina)

Group D: Portugal vs. Mexico
Portugal manager Scolari has vowed not to use any of the five players he has on a booking on the bench, even if the score reaches 30-0 to Mexico. A draw or a win will see Portugal top the group, while a point would see Mexico into the second round and a game against Holland or Argentina from Group C. Should Portugal see off LaVolpe's side, Mexico must pray that Angola don't beat Iran by a hatful and pip them to second spot in Group D.

On six minutes Simao surged into the Mexico box before slipping the ball to Maniche, who scored with an adroit finish that Oswaldo Sanchez had no chance of stopping. Midway through the half Mexico conceded a second goal, with Marquez inexplicably raising a hand in the box as he rose to try to clear a Portugal corner. Sanchez dived the right way for Simao's penalty, but the Benfica midfielder's spot-kick was hit with too much precision for the Mexico goalkeeper to get hands on the ball. Just before the half-hour Mexico reduced the deficit, as Fonseca flicked in a header from a corner by Pavel Pardo. Portugal endured a nervy end to the first half, Ricardo throwing himself to his left to tip away a Pardo shot.

Portugal endured an equally uncomfortable spell after the restart as Mexico continued to press for the equalizer. Just before the hour Mexico should have equalized when they were awarded a penalty after Miguel's handball, only for Bravo to fire the ball over the bar. Soon after Mexico appealed for a second penalty after a Miguel tackle on Perez. But referee Lubos Michel decided Perez had dived, sending off the Mexican player for his second yellow card. Scolari quickly withdrew Miguel, replacing him with Chelsea full-back Paulo Ferreira, who might have conceded another penalty with an ill-judged tackle on Bravo. Even with 10 men Mexico continued to trouble Portugal, though in the closing stages Scolari's side finished strongly, and Sanchez did well to beat away a Maniche shot.

Man of the Match: Simao Sabrosa (Portugal)
The Benfica midfielder has been long linked with a move to Liverpool and we saw why as he played a key role in both goals. He provided the ball to Maniche, who scored with a skillful finish that keeper Oswaldo Sanchez had no chance of stopping. Then, it was his penalty shot that gave Portugal their vital second goal as they won today despite not having Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, or Pauleta.

General Thoughts: Portugal
Today was all about avoiding disaster. Scolari will have a full roster to work with in the knockout stages. They had their moments in this match as Miguel did not look comfortable. It was a smart move to get him out of there before he picked up another card. It will be interesting to see how this team plays in the next round. They have yet to hit their stride.

General Thoughts: Mexico
They may have played well today despite the loss but there is reason for concern. Missing a penalty as badly as Bravo did has a tendency to disrupt a player’s mentality. Fonseca is going to have to step up and take on the scoring burden. Marquez had a nightmare match but it doesn’t get any easier for him and backline. Argentina is next.

Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel (Paulo Ferreira 61), Ricardo Carvalho, Meira, Caneira, Petit, Maniche, Tiago, Figo (Boa Morte 80), Simao, Postiga (Nuno Gomes 69).
Subs Not Used: Costinha, Deco, Nuno Valente, Paulo Santos, Pauleta, Quim, Ricardo Costa, Ronaldo, Viana.

Booked: Miguel, Maniche, Boa Morte, Nuno Gomes.

Goals: Maniche 6, Simao 24 pen.

Mexico: Sanchez, Pineda (Castro 69), Marquez, Osorio, Salcido, Rodriguez (Zinha 45), Pardo, Perez, Mendez (Franco 80), Fonseca, Bravo.
Subs Not Used: Arellano, Borgetti, Corona, Garcia, Guardado, Morales, Ochoa, Suarez, Torrado.

Sent Off: Perez (61)

Booked: Rodriguez, Perez, Marquez, Zinha.

Goals: Fonseca 29.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Lubos Michel (Slovakia).

Group F: Iran vs. Angola
Angola had only a slim chance of progressing to the next round and they need Portugal to beat Mexico as part of the bargain. They also need to beat Iran, but they have left Pedro Mantorras on the bench in favor of an extra midfielder again, with Miloy replacing the suspended Andre. Ali Daei starts up front for Iran and it could be the 37-year-old's final appearance for his country.

The game sprang into life with 24 minutes gone, when veteran striker Ali Daei had a golden opportunity to give the Iranians the lead, but somehow contrived to head over with the goal at his mercy. That provided Angola with the wake-up call they needed and within a minute substitute Arsenio Love was through but shot tamely at Ebrahim Mirzapour. Suddenly a match that looked dead on its feet was becoming an absorbing contest, with Iran creating the better chances. Vahid Hashemian saw his header cleared off the line by Mendonca, while Andranik Taymoorian forced a smart stop from Joao Ricardo, with Ali Daei hovering menacingly. Angola were also guilty of leaving their shooting boots in the dressing room, with Fabrice Akwa twice volleying over and Ebrahim Mirzapour in the Iranian goal needing to be at his best to tip over Arsenio Love's stinging drive.

The deadlock was finally broken on the hour when substitute Flavio planted a textbook header past Mirzapour to send the Angolan supporters into raptures. Word of Mexico's penalty miss and subsequent red card had obviously reached Mendonca, who drilled two good efforts agonizingly wide in search of the second. But the Iranians were determined to leave Germany with a point and were rewarded for their persistence in the 75th minute when Bakhtiarizadeh rose unmarked at a corner to head them level. That seemed to knock the stuffing out of Angola and despite the continued support of their brilliant fans they seemed to accept their fortune.

Man of the Match: Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh (Iran)
The defender scored the equalizer that ultimately ended Angola’s hopes of moving on. His goal also gave Iran a point in this World Cup.

General Thoughts: Angola
For a team like Angola or Trinidad and Tobago, all you could ask for is the chance to have something to play for in the final group match aside from pride. They gave Portugal and Mexico a tough time but when Iran equalized, the air came out. The debutants can call this World Cup a success. Joao Ricardo and Fabrice Akwa are free agents. Maybe MLS should sign them.

General Thoughts: Iran
They gave it everything they had but at the end of the day, they just weren’t good enough. At least Ali Daei had the opportunity to play in one more World Cup. With players being part of teams in the Bundesliga, it is a good sign for Iranian football. It shows that the quality is getting better. They have a good chance to come back in 2010.

Iran: Mirzapour, Bakhtiarizadeh, Rezaei, Kaabi (Borhani 67), Nosrati (Shojaei 13), Mahdavikia, Zandi, Teymourian, Madanchi, Hashemian (Khatibi 39), Daei.
Subs Not Used: Karimi, Roudbarian, Enayati, Kazemeian, Navidkia, Sadeqi, Golmohammadi, Talebloo.

Booked: Madanchi, Teymourian, Zandi.

Goals: Bakhtiarizadeh 76.

Angola: Joao Ricardo, Jamba, Kali, Loco, Delgado, Miloy, Figueiredo (Rui Marques 72), Mateus (Love 23), Mendonca, Ze Kalanga, Akwa (Flavio 51).
Subs Not Used: Airosa, Buengo, Edson, Lama, Lebo-Lebo, Mantorras, Marco, Mario.

Booked: Loco, Mendonca, Ze Kalanga.

Goals: Flavio 60.

Att: 38,000.

Ref: Mark Shield (Australia)

Best Group D Match
Mexico vs. Iran

Best Group D Player
Luis Figo (Portugal)

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
United States vs. Ghana – 10:00am EST – ESPN
Czech Republic vs. Italy – 10:00am EST – ESPN2
Brazil vs. Japan – 3:00pm EST – ESPN
Croatia vs. Australia – 3:00pm EST – ESPN2


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