Friday, June 30, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 30, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

What better way to start the quarterfinals than with Argentina vs. Germany. Both teams are in form coming into this matchup and many people think that either one of these countries could win the World Cup. First timers Ukraine are making of most of their maiden voyage but will run into a tough test in Italy.

Germany vs. Argentina
The teams are in. Argentina's Javier Saviola is replaced by Carlos Tevez up front while Fabricio Coloccini comes in for Lionel Scaloni. Luis Gonzalez has recovered from a groin injury and plays in midfield, while Lionel Messi is on the bench. Germany have named an unchanged team as skipper Michael Ballack and striker Miroslav Klose were both passed fit after shaking off injuries.

Germany had scored inside six minutes in three of their previous games, but there was no flying start this time. They still managed the only chances of a disappointing opening half. Ballack was close with a flashing header from a Bernd Schneider cross, while defender Per Mertesacker turned well to fire in a shot just over the bar. The South Americans were happy to play their usual patient build-up game, while the Germans were equally content to sit back, bide their time and pick off any stray passes. Argentina's passage in the final third was often blocked by the German defense, which prevented their opponents from an attempt on goal for the opening 45 minutes.

Four minutes after half-time a gap appeared in the German defense when Riquelme's corner found Ayala almost unchallenged to head his seventh goal for his country. Argentina had chances to add to their advantage, most notably when Carlos Tevez set up Maxi Rodriguez but his usually reliable shooting escaped him and he fired into the side-netting. Argentine keeper Roberto Abbondanzieri injured himself colliding with Klose and was eventually replaced by Leonardo Franco. Ten minutes later the substitute keeper was picking the ball out of the net. Substitute Borowski helped on Ballack's inswinging free-kick and Klose, who had been kept quiet until then, added the finishing touch with a stooping header. The weariness of the players resulted in a tense 30 minutes of extra-time and an almost slow walk towards the dreaded penalty shoot-out, with both sides restricted to long-range efforts of little note.

And it was on to the penalty shootout. Germany’s Oliver Neuville took the first kick and scored. Substitute Julio Cruz ran up and hit a perfect right-foot shot into the roof of the net to score. Captain Michael Ballack may be injured, but he had nerves of steel. He sent it down the middle and he scored. Defender Roberto Ayala produced a weak spot-kick along the ground, and it was saved by Lehmann. Lukas Podolski hammered it into the corner of the net to score. Maxi Rodriguez slotted it into the corner, Lehmann guessed correctly, but Rodriguez scored. Tim Borowski showed a cool head and sent Leonardo Franco the wrong way to score. And finally, Esteban Cambiasso saw his spot-kick saved. Germany is in the semi-final. The match ended on a sour note when players and officials from both sides clashed on the pitch, with punches thrown between the rival camps. As the Argentines were walking off the pitch, you can see that Esteban Cambiasso is in tears.

Man of the Match: Jens Lehmann (Germany)
He guessed correctly on every kick and stopped a pair to send the hosts to the semi-finals. Enough said.

General Thoughts: Germany
Klinsmann said it would be a disaster if his team didn’t make the semis. And for 31 minutes, it looked like Germany was on the verge of disaster. Give credit to the Germans, they hung in there and kept attacking to equalize. Then they left the rest to their massive home field advantage. The fans and Jens Lehmann carried this team to the semis. It remains to be seen if Ballack is really hurt or if it was just cramps. The captain has to play because he controls the midfield. You saw what happened to Argentina when Riquelme was subbed off. They lacked influence in the middle and that is exactly what would happen to Germany if Ballack can’t play.

General Thoughts: Argentina
After this match, Jose Pekerman announced he will not be back with the team. The timing of this would appear to suggest that he is taking blame for the loss. In all honesty, Pekerman was going to go regardless of how far Argentina went. Much of the fault for losing this one can be put on Pekerman. He couldn’t do anything about Abbondanzieri getting hurt but to sub off Riquelme in a match of this magnitude for Cambiasso was stupid. Cambiasso is not the type of player who can hold on to the ball and control the midfield. If Pekerman wanted to pull off Riquelme, he should have went with Pablo Aimar who is a similar kind of player and will keep the pressure on. Also opting to go with the bigger Julio Cruz instead of the quicker Saviola or Messi also didn’t make sense. The German defense was tired but can deal with a target man. By going with Messi and Saviola, those guys can run around the tired defense and be a bigger threat to score. Nevertheless, it ends up being another disappointing ending for Argentina.

Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Schweinsteiger (Borowski 74), Frings, Ballack, Schneider (Odonkor 62), Klose (Neuville 85), Podolski.
Subs Not Used: Asamoah, Hanke, Hildebrand, Hitzlsperger, Huth, Jansen, Kahn, Kehl, Nowotny.

Booked: Podolski, Odonkor, Friedrich

Goals: Klose 80.

Argentina: Abbondanzieri (Franco 71), Sorin, Ayala, Coloccini, Heinze, Maxi, Gonzalez, Riquelme (Cambiasso 72), Mascherano, Crespo (Cruz 78), Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Aimar, Burdisso, Cufre, Messi, Milito, Palacio, Saviola, Scaloni, Ustari.

Booked: Sorin, Mascherano, Maxi, Cruz.

Goals: Ayala 49.

Att: 72,000.

Ref: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)

Italy vs. Ukraine
The Italians are carrying heavy hearts into this match as they found out former teammate Gianluca Pessotto has attempted to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. Doctors are unsure about his prognosis. Pessotto is working for Juventus but is not included in the investigation concerning match fixing. Boss Marcelo Lippi has opted to go with a 4-5-1 as defender Andrea Barzagli comes into the side with Alessandro Nesta injured and Marco Materazzi is suspended, while Francesco Totti replaces Alessandro Del Piero and Mauro Camoranesi steps in for Alberto Gilardino. Ukraine made three changes, with Artem Milevskiy coming in up front for the injured Andriy Voronin. Vladislav Vashchuk and Andriy Vorobey are left out, with Viacheslav Sviderskiy and Andriy Rusol coming in. The Ukraine squad has been given a bonus of £4.3 million to share for getting to the last eight. They will look to get a bit more by upsetting the Azzurri.

Italy hit the ground running as Mauro Camoranesi had a sparkling run and saw him just miss putting the Azzurri ahead. They wouldn’t have to wait long after that as Gianluca Zambrotta took advantage of the space the Ukraine defense gave him to fire a powerful shot that Shovkovskiy got his hands to but couldn’t corral giving Italy a 1-0 lead. Thanks to the Italians high flying start, Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin had to make a first half substitution bringing on Andriy Vorobev in place of Viacheslav Sviderskiy. Andriy Rusol also came out due an injury and Vladislav Vashchuk took his place. Regardless of the subs, Ukraine had very few opportunities in the half.

The Ukrainians came out fighting in the second half as Kalinchenko had a downward header hit the post. Hitting post would prove costly as Francesco Totti’s cross found the head of Luca Toni to give Italy a 2-0 lead just before the hour mark. Kalinchenko was unfortunate to hit the woodwork again as his header hit the crossbar. The Azzurri would put the game away as Zambrotta’s precise cross found Luca Toni for a tap-in. That is how it would end as Italy now has a semifinal matchup with Germany.

Man of the Match: Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy)
He struck the ball perfectly to open the scoring for the Italians and provided the perfect cross for Luca Toni to end the game. Zambrotta was the best of a very good Italian effort today.

General Thoughts: Italy
They are not going to amaze you with their flair but they are going to make it very hard for you to score on them. The only goal they have given up in this World Cup was an own goal against the United States. Much of the credit should be given to goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Fabio Cannavaro for the stellar effort. The pressure has been lifted off the shoulders of Luca Toni. He has a pair of goals and can now loosen up because the midfield is going to put him in positions to score. Especially with the way that Francesco Totti has been playing.

General Thoughts: Ukraine
It’s plain and simple, they got outclassed today. They were unlucky to hit the woodwork after halftime but you got the impression that Italy was in firm control for a majority of this game. We didn’t see much of Andriy Shevchenko today. With things not looking good, it’s his duty as the captain and team’s best player to grab control of this match. Maxim Kalichenko left it all out there today and that will impress some teams who are interested in the winger. Overall, Ukraine can take this impressive debut and build on it.

Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Barzagli, Grosso, Perrotta, Pirlo (Barone 68), Gattuso (Zaccardo 76), Camoranesi (Oddo), Toni, Totti.
Subs: Amelia, Del Piero, Gilardino, Iaquinta, Inzaghi, Nesta, Peruzzi

Goals: Zambrotta 6, Luca Toni 59, 69

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Sviderskiy (Vorobey 20), Rusol (Vashchuk), Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Gusin, Kalinchenko, Milevskiy (Byelik 72), Shevchenko.
Subs: Nazarenko, Pyatov, Rebrov, Rotan, Shust, Voronin, Yatsenko, Yezerskiy.

Booked: Sviderskiy, Kalinchenko, Milevskiy

Att: 50,000

Referee: Frank de Bleeckere (Belgium)

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
England vs. Portugal – 11:00am EST
Brazil vs. France – 3:00pm EST


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