Friday, June 23, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 23, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

Today is the final day of the group stages of the World Cup and there are still some questions that needed to be answered. Most of them have surrounded Group G as France has struggled in their second straight World Cup. Currently in third place in their group, they need to beat Togo to give themselves a chance to advance. Spain have looked good in this World Cup and will try to finish top of the group with a perfect record.

Group G: France vs. Togo
In 24 games in charge of France, Raymond Domenech has never picked the same side for two successive games and today is no different with Zinedine Zidane and Eric Abidal suspended. Mikael Silvestre and Franck Ribery come in, with David Trezeguet replacing Sylvain Wiltord. Togo coach Otto Pfister promised changes and has been true to his word bringing in new faces Jean Paul Abalo, Moustapha Salifou, Junior Senaya and Yao Aziawanou. Jorge Larrionda, the man in charge of the US/Italy match will be the referee today.

France made sure Trezeguet’s presence was known in the opening minutes and he nearly had a goal but it was tipped over by keeper Kossi Agassa who would frustrate France for the first half. Young winger Franck Ribery was locating his crosses well but they came to nothing and his shot went well wide. With all the missed opportunities, France became frustrated and started to press even more. Togo barely tested keeper Fabian Barthez.

After the beak, it was much of same as France proceeded to attacking. Ribery had another shot that went high and wide after Malouda’s low cross picked him out. It was starting to look like another bad showing for France until Vieira took charge. In the 55th minute, Ribery found the midfielder inside the box and he turned and fired the ball past Agassa. Togo’s offense nearly got that one back as Adebayor fired one on goal only to see it get blocked by French defender Willy Sagnol. Thierry Henry would put the match away five minutes later latched on to a Vieira flick-on and slammed it into the net. That was all they need as France won 2-0.

Man of the Match: Patrick Vieira (France)
Vieira used to the captain of Arsenal before leaving for Juventus. He knows that sometimes when it’s going wrong, the captain should take charge of the situation. Standing in for Zidane, that is exactly what he did today scoring the opening goal and setting up the second one six minutes later.

General Thoughts: France
There was some despair at halftime but France have pulled through and will be facing off against Spain in the second round. Domenech finally got a brain and brought in David Trezeguet to start alongside Thierry Henry. The Juve striker proved to be a threat the entire match. It was good to see birthday boy Vieira get a goal while wearing the captain’s armband. But more importantly, Zinedine Zidane will have the opportunity to play one more game after being suspended for today’s match.

General Thoughts: Togo
There is some talent in this team as they played hard throughout the group stages. No team had an easy time playing against these guys. It starts with a solid defensive mentality that Pfister put in place and counted on quick counter-attacks that utilized the speed of Adebayor. They are an up and coming side that is going to get better. Hopefully they learned their lesson with this whole pay dispute.

Togo: Agassa, Nibombe, Abalo, Tchangai, Aziawonou, Cherif-Toure (Olufade 59), Senaya, Salifou, Forson, Mohamed, Adebayor (Dossevi 75).
Subs Not Used: Agboh, Akoto, Atsou, Erassa, Malm, Obilale, Tchagnirou, Toure, Assemoassa.

Booked: Aziawonou, Cherif-Toure, Salifou.

France: Barthez, Gallas, Silvestre, Thuram, Sagnol, Malouda (Wiltord 73), Makelele, Vieira (Diarra 81), Ribery (Govou 77), Trezeguet, Henry.
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Dhorasoo, Givet, Landreau, Saha.

Booked: Makelele.

Goals: Vieira 55, Henry 61.

Att: 45,000

Ref: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay).

Group G: Switzerland vs. South Korea
Swiss manager Jakob Kuhn made a pair of changes bringing in Hakan Yakin and Christoph Spycher in place of Ludovic Magnin and the injured Daniel Gygax. South Korea boss Dick Advocaat switch the lineup to a 4-3-3 bringing in Park Chu-young and Kim Jin-kyu in place of Lee Eul-yong and Kim Young-chul.

This game got off to an up-tempo start as both Alexander Frei for Switzerland and Park Ji-Sung for South Korea tried to score from distance. The Swiss would score first as Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos came up to head in a free kick taken by Yakin. Yakin’s left foot would prove to be a problem all day for South Korea and he nearly found net just before the interval but keeper Woo-Jae Lee was able to stop it.

South Korea opened the second half with more fire as they pinned the Swiss in their own zone. But Switzerland was happy to protect their one goal lead knowing that’s all they would need. But Alexander Frei wanted to get his team that insurance goal and he had two chances to do it but was unable to convert. That would change with a bit of controversy with 15 minutes left as referee Horacio Elizondo ignored the assistant’s flag being up for offside and Frei would slot it home to give the Swiss a 2-0 and sealing the 2002 semi-finalist’s fate.

Man of the Match: Hakan Yakin (Switzerland)
It would be his left foot that set up the opening goal and that was all they would technically need. He was a threat all game to score or put his teammates in positions to score on set pieces.

General Thoughts: Switzerland
With Switzerland co-hosting Euro 2008 with Austria, people expected that this young Swiss team would be here only to get experience for 2008. Obviously, this team decided they would like to stay a bit longer. They are such a well organized side that teams have a hard time scoring on them. They will give Ukraine a hard time in the next round and could easily win that game.

General Thoughts: South Korea
The second goal hurt but they never figured out a way to score today. But they shouldn’t feel too bad. No team has figured out how to score on the Swiss yet. Coming from behind is a difficult thing to do and the South Koreans have made a habit of trying to dig out of the hole. They fell behind but beat Togo and tied France but the Swiss had none of it and a call went against them which led to another goal and broke their back.

Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Spycher, Senderos (Djourou 53), Philipp Degen, Muller, Wicky (Behrami 88), Vogel, Yakin (Margairaz 70), Cabanas, Barnetta, Frei.
Subs Not Used: Benaglio, Coltorti, David Degen, Dzemaili, Grichting, Gygax, Lustrinelli, Magnin, Streller.

Booked: Senderos, Yakin, Wicky, Spycher, Djourou

Goals: Senderos 23, Frei 77.

South Korea: Woon-Jae Lee, Young-Pyo Lee (Ahn 62), Choi, Jin-Kyu Kim, Dong-Jin Kim, Ho Lee, Nam-Il Kim, Ji-Sung Park, Chu-Young Park (Seol 65), Chun-Soo Lee, Jae-Jin Cho.
Subs Not Used: Baek, Won-hee Cho, Chung, Do-Heon Kim, Sang-Sik Kim, Yong-Dae Kim, Young-Kwang Kim, Eul-Yong Lee, Song

Booked: Chu-Young Park, Jin-Kyu Kim, Choi, Chun-Soo Lee.

Att: 43,000

Ref: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina)

Best Group G Player
Tranquillo Barnetta (Switzerland)

Best Group G Match
Togo vs. South Korea

Group H: Spain vs. Saudi Arabia
Spain coach Luis Aragones has selected an entirely new starting line-up for the match against Saudi Arabia. Raul starts for the first time at this World Cup, accompanied by Joaquin and Jose Antonio Reyes up front. Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta were chosen in midfield, while 36-year-old reserve keeper Santiago Canizares started behind a new-look back four. Coach Marcos Paqueta made three changes to the team hammered 4-0 by Ukraine in their last match, bringing in experienced Sami Al Jaber and Saad Al Harthi up front and Abdulaziz Al Khathran in midfield.

With Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield and Joaquin particularly dangerous on the right flank, Luis Aragones' side created a host of chances in the first half. Joaquin (twice), Reyes and Albelda all forced Zaid into full-length saves from range, while Raul was a constant annoyance with his movement and touch. With the Saudis clearly reluctant to commit players forward, it was only a matter of time before Spain took the lead and so it was when defender Juanito rose unmarked to power home the opener with his head. Even that failed to ignite Saudi Arabia's forward play, though Sami Al Jaber did enjoy a rare venture forward on 40 minutes that ended with a tame shot.

Saudi Arabia started in better form in the second, with Spain having to defend their lines on more than one occasion. Hussein Sulimani twice brought decent saves from Santiago Canizares from range; while Nawaf Al Temyat thought he had earned the Saudis a penalty until he was shown a yellow card for diving over Carlos Marchena's tackle. Al Harthi could have snatched the most unlikely of draws at the death when he collected Mohamed Noor's pull-back. However, he shot harmlessly over from six yards to make it 10 matches without a win in World Cup finals for Saudi Arabia.

Man of the Match: Gutierrez Juanito (Spain)
The defender came up from the back to head the ball in the back of the net to give Spain their 1-0 lead. Then he proceeded to do a good job in the second half holding the Saudis at bay. He made on impression on Aragones who might use him off the bench in the later rounds.

General Thoughts: Spain
Saudi Arabia is not the best of opponents but the second unit did a good job getting the win today. It was important for Aragones to give these guys a chance and get some experience. Cesc Fabregas played well in the 66 minutes he played. He combined well with Reyes and Joaquin. Now comes the knockout stages where Spain has a tendency to fall apart. They are the Cubs of world football.

General Thoughts: Saudi Arabia
At least they didn’t get embarrassed 8-0 in this World Cup. Getting a point and having a chance at the second round in their final game is all they can ask for. The next step for them is being able to finish off their opponents. They had the lead against Tunisia and let it slip in stoppage time. They have to learn from that mistake.

Saudi Arabia: Zaid, Dokhi, Tukar, Al Montashari, Khathran, Sulimani (Massad 81), Noor, Khariri, Aziz (Al Temyat 13), Al Jaber (Mouath 68), Al Harthi.
Subs Not Used: Al Anbar, Al Bahri, Al Daeyea, Al Qadi, Ameen, Khojah.

Booked: Al Jaber, Al Temyat

Spain: Canizares, Salgado, Marchena, Antonio Lopez, Juanito, Albelda, Reyes (Torres 69), Iniesta, Joaquin, Fabregas (Xavi 66), Raul (Villa 45).
Subs Not Used: Casillas, Pernia, Puyol, Luis Garcia, Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Senna, Pablo, Reina.

Booked: Albelda, Reyes, Marchena.

Goals: Juanito 36.

Att: 46,000

Ref: Coffi Codjia (Benin)

Group H: Ukraine vs. Tunisia
Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin has kept faith with the line-up which beat Saudi Arabia 4-0. This means that Andriy Shevchenko and strike partner Andriy Voronin can count on support in attack from Maxim Kalinichenko and Serhiy Rebrov. Tunisia also named an unchanged side for a match that they must win to have a chance of advancing beyond the group stage for the first time.

A slip by Bolton centre-back Radhi Jaidi in the third minute nearly cost Tunisia. He tried a backheel only for Andriy Voronin to intercept but the forward failed to take advantage. Ziad Jaziri picked up his first booking from Paraguayan referee Carlos Amarilla for a blatant dive when challenged by Andriy Rusol. The first real chance fell Ukraine's way in the 20th minute when the ball broke to Anatoliy Tymoschuk and he tried to beat Ali Boumnijel with power instead of passing to Shevchenko, and the Tunisian keeper saved. In the dying seconds of the half, Jaziri was dismissed after bringing Tymoschuk down from behind.

Despite being reduced to 10 men, Tunisia showed some spark in the second half. Ania Yari's free-kick appeared to be deflected over the bar by the hand of striker Voronin, but a corner was awarded. Shevchenko broke the deadlock when he earned a dubious penalty after going down under a challenge from Karim Hagui and the striker calmly converted from the spot for his second goal of the tournament. Voronin twice went close to extending Ukraine's lead, with a late shot which forced Boumnijel to parry, and then firing wide from close-range. But Tunisia nearly snatched an equalizer with a dangerous header from substitute Francileudo dos Santos.

Man of the Match: Anatoly Tymoshchyuk
He was very active in what was a sluggish and boring game. He may have missed a good chance on goal but he made up for it by helping get Jaziri sent off.

General Thoughts: Ukraine
After such a great performance against Saudi Arabia, Ukraine dropped back to mediocre play. They had some chances but failed to convert. Shevchenko’s conversion of the penalty was his second goal of the tournament.

General Thoughts: Tunisia
They fought hard against Spain and Ukraine and managed to get a point against Saudi Arabia. There is reason to be a little disappointed. Lemerre’s men were well organized but the goals were just not there. Having a healthy Santos might have changed everything.

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Rusol, Sviderskiy, Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Rebrov (Vorobey 54), Kalinichenko (Gusin 75), Shevchenko (Milevskiy 88), Voronin. Subs Not Used: Yatsenko, Yezerskiy, Pyatov, Chigrynskiy, Vashchuk, Nazarenko, Byelik, Rotan, Shust.

Booked: Sviderskiy, Shelayev, Tymoschuk, Rusol.

Goal: Shevchenko 71 pen.

Tunisia: Boumnijel, Haggui, Jaidi, Ayari, Trabelsi, Mnari, Bouazizi (Ben Saada 79), Chedli (Santos 79), Namouchi, Nafti (Ghodhbane 90), Jaziri.
Subs not used: Essediri, Yahia, Gmamdia, Chikhaoui, Nefzi, Jemmali, Saidi, Kasraoui, Melliti.

Sent Off: Jaziri (45)

Booked: Jaziri, Bouazizi, Jaidi

Att: 72,000

Ref: Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay)

Best Group H Player
Fernando Torres (Spain)

Best Group H Match
Saudi Arabia vs. Tunisia

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
Germany vs. Sweden – 11:00am EST – ABC
Argentina vs. Mexico – 3:00pm EST - ESPN


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