Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 24, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

There are no such things as draws anymore. The World Cup has reached the knockout stages. Games that are tied after full time will go on to 30 minutes of extra time split in 15 minute halves and then the penalty shootout. The winner of these two matches will play each other in the quarterfinals.

Germany vs. Sweden
Group A Winner vs. Group B Runner-Up
There are line-up changes for both sides as defender Christoph Metzelder is in for the Germans, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in Sweden's attack. There's a genuine belief now in this German side. Ahead of the World Cup, only 5% of the country thought they could win the tournament. But the people are now fully behind their side, with 23 million of the population, an 82% share of the audience watching their win over Ecuador.

Both sides were still settling down when Podolski's goal sent the home fans at the Allianz Arena into raptures. Michael Ballack created the opening as he found Klose, who turned his marker but saw the ball pushed away from his feet by Isaksson. However, Podolski was on hand to slot in via a deflection off Lucic's head. Larsson had an opportunity to level on eight minutes but shot into the side netting from inside the six-yard box. He was left to regret it four minutes later as Podolski was played in by a delightful pass from Klose before finishing. Jurgen Klinsmann's side surged forward. Ballack's drive was deflected by Isaksson, Bernd Schneider drove wide, Klose's near-post effort was saved and Bastian Schweinsteiger's 30-yarder was brilliantly tipped around the post. And things got worse for Sweden on 35 minutes as Lucic received a second yellow card after being judged to have tugged Klose's shirt.

After the interval, Sweden were gifted a chance as they were awarded a penalty for an innocuous-looking challenge on Larsson. The former Barcelona player picked himself up, dusted himself off, and blazed way over the bar. Ballack then shot from 20 yards only for Isaksson to produce another fine save, tipping the ball on to the post. The game would slow down as Germany took the win.

Man of the Match: Lukas Podolski (Germany)
He looks awfully comfortable in Allianz Arena and that is a bad sign for the Bundesliga. The striker will call the Arena home next year when he joins Bayern Munich. He showed good presence of mind to charge and get the rebound off Klose’s shot. And the second one was set up beautifully by his strike partner as he slotted it in. Podolski and Klose working well together spells trouble for the competition.

General Thoughts: Germany
It was another convincing performance for the hosts. They got off to a fast start and kept on attacking throughout the whole game. They had 63% of the possession today. The Germans are starting to believe in this team after originally criticizing Klinsmann for the style and his commuting from California. Now, he is a king. However, it’s not all too good for the Germans. Their backline still look vulnerable and Lehmann doesn’t seem to be confident with the ball. Much of that has to do with the fact that he hasn’t been tested much.

General Thoughts: Sweden
They never stood a chance. The Swedes were not impressive in group play and they just never had the quality to go far. A healthy Ibrahimovic would have helped things a little bit but they lost the midfield battle. Lucic’s sending off was weak. Both yellow cards were not deserved and it continues to represent a trend in this World Cup of poor officiating. It’s unfortunate that one of Larsson’s last memories as a member of the national team is a badly missed penalty. But the Swedes now know they have a world class keeper in Andreas Isaksson. The score could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for him.

Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Metzelder, Mertesacker, Lahm, Schweinsteiger (Borowski 72), Frings (Kehl 85), Ballack, Schneider, Podolski (Neuville 74), Klose.
Subs Not Used: Jansen, Huth, Nowotny, Hanke, Kahn, Asamoah, Hitzlsperger, Odonkor, Hildebrand.

Booked: Frings

Goals: Podolski 4, 12

Sweden: Isaksson, Alexandersson, Mellberg, Lucic, Edman, Ljungberg, Linderoth, Kallstrom (Hansson 39), Jonson (Wilhelmsson 52), Ibrahimovic (Allback 72), Larsson.
Subs Not Used: Nilsson, Anders Svensson, Alvbage, Stenman, Karl Svensson, Elmander, Andersson, Rosenberg, Shaaban

Booked: Lucic, Jonson, Allback

Sent Off: Lucic

Att: 66,000

Referee: Carlos Eugenio Simon (Brazil)

Argentina vs. Mexico
Group C Winner vs. Group D Runner-Up
Argentina are without the injured Nicolas Burdisso, but that apart are at full strength with Hernan Crespo, Javier Saviola, Gabriel Heinze, Lionel Scaloni and Juan Pablo Sorin coming back in. Mexico makes four changes, bringing in Jose Antonio Castro, Andres Guardado, Ramon Morales and Jared Borgetti who got hurt in the Iran game.

Mexico got off to a fast start as Mendez's whipped-in free-kick was flicked on by Pavel Pardo and Gabriel Heinze allowed Marquez a free run to the back post, where the accomplished centre-half finished like an expert centre-forward. The Argentina fans inside the Zentralstadion may have been shell-shocked, but their players kept their cool and within five minutes they were back on level terms. Borgetti got his head down to bravely attempt to clear a Juan Riquelme corner and was unfortunate to see it deflect past his own keeper. Crespo wheeled away confidently claiming his third goal of the tournament and the stadium announcer duly handed it to him, but the decisive touch was clearly Borgetti's. Argentina received a let-off of huge proportions when Abbondanzieri rolled the ball out and Gabriel Heinze had a momentary lapse of concentration. Fonseca leapt at the chance but with a clear run on goal he was felled by Heinze. Referee Massimo Busacca decided to show a yellow card to the Manchester United defender.

There was more end-to-end action after halftime as Borgetti was clean through on goal only to be denied by Abbondanzieri and Javier Saviola was denied by the impressive Oswaldo Sanchez. The pace of the game inevitably slowed, with Argentina's patient passing game dictating the action. But even with the introduction of Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez they found the Mexican defensive wall too sturdy to breakdown during the 90 minutes. With chances not forthcoming it needed something special and Rodriguez obliged in breathtaking fashion eight minutes into extra-time. He brilliantly teed himself up by chesting Sorin's cross-field pass and then unleashed a left-foot volley past Sanchez's despairing dive and into the top corner. A weary Mexico had no answer but they go home knowing they tested Argentina to the maximum.

Man of the Match: Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina)
He steps up in extra time and has an unbelievable strike to put Argentina ahead for good. The winger has had an excellent World Cup.

General Thoughts: Argentina
Since LaVolpe got to Mexico, they have given Argentina a hard time and today was no different. They showed a great deal of poise after giving up the opening goal and looked to be in control for much of the match. Pekerman has shown us how much faith he has in youngsters Tevez and Messi by putting them in and taking off Saviola and Crespo. They have shown that they can win the tough game. Now they need to rest because a titanic battle will take place in the quarters as they face Germany.

General Thoughts: Mexico
They hung in tough and there was nothing Sanchez could have done about the Rodriguez goal. I question LaVolpe’s decision not to take Borgetti off for Bravo. Borgetti was playing his first game back from injury and his lack of fitness came through in the second half. Bravo scored two goals in the World Cup. However, give it up to Mexico. They gave Argentina everything they could handle but they couldn’t finish their chances.

Argentina: Abbondanzieri, Ayala, Heinze, Scaloni, Sorin, Cambiasso (Aimar 76), Riquelme, Maxi, Mascherano, Saviola (Messi 84), Crespo (Tevez 75).
Subs Not Used: Franco, Coloccini, Palacio, Milito, Cufre, Cruz, Burdisso, Gonzalez, Ustari.

Booked: Heinze, Sorin.

Goals: Crespo 10, Maxi 98.

Mexico: Sanchez, Salcido, Marquez, Guardado (Pineda 66), Osorio, Castro, Mendez, Pardo (Torrado 38), Borgetti, Morales (Zinha 74), Fonseca.
Subs Not Used: Corona, Suarez, Franco, Ochoa, Bravo, Garcia, Arellano, Rodriguez, Perez.

Booked: Marquez, Castro, Torrado, Fonseca

Goals: Marquez 5.

Att: 43,000.

Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
England vs. Ecuador – 11:00am EST – ABC
Portugal vs. Holland – 3:00pm EST - ESPN


Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff ... I think the winner of the Argentina-Germany will ultimately take this Cup .. although Argentina has an amazing bench, I think Klinsmann's boys are playing so well and having so much fun that they will prevail

8:37 AM  

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