Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 25, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

England won Group B without having a tremendous performance in three matches. They play a surprising Ecuador team that came second in Group A to Germany. The late game should be a good one as Holland takes on Portugal. The winners of these matches will play each other in the quarters.

England vs. Ecuador
Group B Winner vs. Group A Runner-Up
Due to Michael Owen’s torn ACL, Sven Goran Eriksson decided to go with a 4-5-1 formation with Tottenham’s Michael Carrick joining the lineup as a defensive midfielder. Wayne Rooney will have plenty of space to roam up top. Owen Hargreaves gets the start at right back in place of the injured Gary Neville.

Playing a 4-5-1 formation with Wayne Rooney up front alone, England looked comfortable and clumsy in equal measure on a strange afternoon in Stuttgart. They started off by doing the sensible thing in the stifling heat, with Michael Carrick at the center as they passed the ball around and made Ecuador do the running. However, the first genuine chance fell to the South Americans and after an error by John Terry they came agonizingly close to taking the lead. Terry completely mistimed a headed clearance and the ball fell to Carlos Tenorio to run clean through, the striker's fierce shot crashing off the bar thanks to a fine sliding block from Ashley Cole. England were not able to generate too many quality chances due to a lack of support for Wayne Rooney.

Gerrard took it upon himself to improve things after the break as he bombed forward from the left, only to see his centre run across the six-yard line with no England player in sight. But they would strike as Beckham sized up the opportunity from 30 yards, wonderfully whipped the ball over the wall and towards the bottom corner and saw it creep past Cristian Mora at his near post. Lampard twice had chances straight after to double the lead, first dragging a left-foot shot wide then failing to find Rooney in the box when he should have shot himself. It wouldn’t matter as England, for the second time under Eriksson, has reached the last eight of the World Cup finals.

Man of the Match: Ashley Cole (England)
As Carlos Tenorio proceeded toward goal, he thought he had a clear shot on goal. That was until Ashley Cole slide in front just as he took the shot causing the ball to hit the crossbar. England could have been going home if it wasn’t for Cole.

General Thoughts: England
What a way to celebrate the queen’s birthday. They are moving on despite not playing their best football. David Beckham showed why he is the best in the world in taking set pieces. Sven should have learned from Bruce Arena that the 4-5-1 does not work. But in a way, he’s been backed into this due to Owen’s torn ACL. Rooney and Crouch are the only game tested strikers on the team. Bringing Theo Walcott into a high pressure situation is going to be a risk. Maybe Sven should have named Jermain Defoe to the squad instead. England’s defense also looks better with Carragher starting at right back instead of Hargreaves.

General Thoughts: Ecuador
This game really should have gone to extra time. They frustrated England all game long and were unfortunate to lose. By getting to the second round in Germany, they have shown that they are more than capable of winning outside of Quito.

Summary
England: Robinson, Hargreaves, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Beckham (Lennon 87), Carrick, Gerrard (Downing 90), Lampard, Joe Cole (Carragher 77), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: James, Campbell, Bridge, Carson, Crouch, Jenas, Neville, Walcott.

Booked: Terry, Robinson, Carragher.

Goals: Beckham 60.

Ecuador: Mora, De la Cruz, Hurtado, Espinoza, Reasco, Valencia, Edwin Tenorio (Lara 69), Castillo, Mendez, Delgado, Carlos Tenorio (Kaviedes 71).
Subs Not Used: Villafuerte, Ambrossi, Ayovi, Benitez, Borja, Guagua, Lanza, Perlaza, Saritama, Urrutia.

Booked: Valencia, Carlos Tenorio, De la Cruz.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).

Portugal vs. Holland
Group D Winner vs. Group C Runner-Up
Coach Marco van Basten has shown he is not afraid to wield the axe with his big stars, dropping Ruud van Nistelrooy to the bench. Something would have to give in this match. If Portugal wins, it will be coach Luis Felipe Scolari's 11th World Cup win in a row. If Holland wins, Marco van Basten's side extends their unbeaten run in competitive games to 16 matches.

This game got off to a rough start as the referee had to reach for the yellow card early. Little did he know that he would lose complete control of this match. Winger Cristiano Ronaldo would become the first victim of the brutality. Marc van Bommel was cautioned for chopping down Ronaldo when Khalid Boulahrouz caught him with a vicious high tackle which warranted more than the yellow card it received. The deep gash to Ronaldo's thigh proved his agonized expression was no over-exaggeration and although he made his way to the touchline for treatment on two separate occasions, he eventually left the field for good in streams of tears. Fortunately for Portugal, the 21-year-old had already made a positive contribution, darting between Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Wesley Sneijder to seize possession before releasing Deco with an inspired pass. The Barcelona man quickly crossed low, allowing Pauleta to lay a pass off to Maniche. The midfielder skipped inside Andre Ooijer and beat Edwin van der Sar with an impressive finish. Ronaldo was not alone in being on the wrong end of crude tackles. Arjen Robben's shoulder was the point of impact when Nuno Valente flew in to make a high, studs-first challenge. But it was Portugal who carried the greater attacking threat and the tie would surely have been sealed had Van Der Sar not saved instinctively with his legs when Pauleta turned on to Simao's cross.

A flurry of activity around the Portugal goal at the start of the second half saw Phillip Cocu smash a shot against the underside of the bar and Ricardo unconvincingly shovel a Van Bommel shot round the post. Then, with the crime count mounting rapidly, Luis Figo was fortunate to escape with a caution when he shoved his head - albeit with minor contact - into Van Bommel's face. Figo was also involved in the next incident, the one which sparked a mass confrontation between both sets of players by the dug-outs as he went down after being caught in the face by Boulahrouz's arm, prompting under-pressure referee Ivanov to produce another red card. Deco swiftly followed, booked twice in five minutes as chaos reigned, with Van Bronckhorst also departing early in stoppage time. Amid the carnage, Portugal's remaining nine players, somehow survived, and Scolari will meet England for the third straight major competition.

Man of the Match: Maniche (Portugal)
He scored the only goal of the game thanks to a brilliant setup by his teammates. We thought we’d see more goals at the time he scored but this game took an unpredictable turn for the worse.

General Thoughts: Portugal
They are not in good shape despite the win. Before the calamity, Cristiano Ronaldo was out injured so his status has yet to be determined. But Deco and Costinha being out for the England game leaves their midfield very thin and vulnerable. The pressure will be on Simao to have another great performance to help make up for their absence.

General Thoughts: Holland
Marco Van Basten only has himself to blame for not giving his team a chance to equalize in the final minutes. With one substitution left and Dirk Kuyt not doing the job, Ruud Van Nistelrooy was on the bench and ready to go. With players being sent off, it opened up the field and would have been perfect for Ruud to work in the box. The defense was not good for the Dutch. They failed to close down opponents which led to open chances. Van Der Sar was good but he couldn’t stop them all.

Summary
Portugal: Ricardo, Nuno Valente, Ricardo Carvalho, Meira, Miguel, Maniche, Deco, Costinha, Figo (Tiago 84), Pauleta (Petit 45), Ronaldo (Simao 34).
Subs Not Used: Boa Morte, Caneira, Nuno Gomes, Paulo Ferreira, Paulo Santos, Postiga, Quim, Ricardo Costa, Viana.

Sent Off: Costinha (45), Deco (78)

Booked: Maniche, Costinha, Petit, Figo, Deco, Ricardo, Nuno Valente

Goals: Maniche 23.

Holland: Van der Sar, Van Bronckhorst, Mathijsen (Van der Vaart 56), Ooijer, Boulahrouz, Cocu (Vennegoor of Hesselink 84), Sneijder, Van Bommel (Heitinga 67), Robben, Kuyt, Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Babel, De Cler, Jaliens, Kromkamp, Landzaat, Maduro, Stekelenburg, Timmer, van Nistelrooy.

Sent Off: Boulahrouz (63), Van Bronckhorst (90)

Booked: Van Bommel, Boulahrouz, Van Bronckhorst, Sneijder, Van der Vaart.

Att: 41,000.

Ref: Valentin Ivanov (Russia).

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
Italy vs. Australia – 11:00am EST
Switzerland vs. Ukraine – 3:00 pm EST

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