Friday, June 09, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - June 9, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

World Cup play started today with the host nation Germany taking on Costa Rica. All around the world, people will be taking days off from work for this month and national economies will have to deal with a massive loss in productivity. But the World Cup only comes around once every four years and it takes our breath away.

Group A: Germany vs. Costa Rica
Germany kicked off against Costa Rica in the first of the two Group A matches taking place today. Captain Michael Ballack had to watch from the stands thanks to a thigh injury even though there was speculation that he could play today. German manager Jurgen Klinsmann chose to be rather safe than sorry. Tim Borowski would take Ballack’s place in the starting lineup.

The Germans would give the home crowd something to cheer early as 22 year old left back Philipp Lahm would rifle the ball into the top corner giving the Germans a 1-0 lead early. But the celebration would not last long as Paulo Wanchope would beat the offside trap and score on Jens Lehmann giving the Costa Ricans an equalizer. However, Germany would regain the lead minutes later thanks to some tremendous passing that gave Miroslav Klose a free shot on goal. Germany looked in control for much of the first half dominating possession and continuously getting players back when on defense.

Costa Rica gained a bit more control in the second half but not before goalkeeper Jose Porras made a big mistake. He made a save on a Klose shot but instead of deflecting the ball to the sideline, it rebounded back in front of him and Klose would fire it in making the score 3-1 and leaving Costa Rica in a hole. But Wanchope was not done. The greatest goalscorer in Costa Rican history would again beat the offside trap by the German defense to put in another goal bringing the score to 3-2. The replays would show that Wanchope was actually offside and the sideline judge missed the call. Nevertheless, Torsten Frings would make sure that was as close as Costa Rica got. In the opening minutes of the match, he just missed netting a rocket from 35 yards out. This time in the closing stages of the game from 40 yards out, he would send it past Porras in the top corner for a 4-2 win.

Man of the Match: Miroslav Klose (Germany)
The birthday boy truly delivered netting two goals and being extremely persistent in front. In the two World Cup openers that he has played in, he has netted a total of five goals. He scored a hat trick in Germany’s 8-0 drubbing of Saudi Arabia in 2002.

General Thoughts: Germany
Klinsmann’s attacking style worked very well today as Germany were in control for this entire match. The partnership of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski is going to be very dangerous up front. However, Germany has to get rid of the offside trap when playing against quicker forwards like Wanchope. He was able to beat it on multiple occasions and scored two goals. Twenty seven year old Arne Friedrich is most experienced player on the backline and he was responsible for keeping Wanchope onside. Since Germany was not really challenged in this match, it was hard to see how good they really are. Ballack figures to be back for their June 14 match against Poland.

General Thoughts: Costa Rica
Paulo Wanchope is the lone bright spot for this team as they were thoroughly outclassed in this game. World class strikers will always take advantage on the sort of mistake that Porras made on Klose’s second goal. The defense has to help him out more and try to clear that ball. Costa Rica needs to get better play out of their midfield and they need to get more possession. It looked like they were getting back to play defense for much of this game. Luckily, they played the best side in the group first so it can only get easier from here.

Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Frings, Borowski (Kehl 72), Schneider (Odonkor 90), Podolski, Klose (Neuville 79).
Subs Not Used: Asamoah, Ballack, Hildebrand, Hitzlsperger, Huth, Jansen, Kahn, Nowotny

Goals: Lahm 6, Klose 17, 61, Frings 87

Costa Rica: Porras, Marin, Umana, Gonzalez, Martinez (Drummond 67), Fonseca, Solis (Bolanos 78), Centeno, Sequeira, Gomez (Azofeifa 90), Wanchope.
Subs Not Used: Alfaro, Badilla, Bernard, Hernandez, Mesen, Nunez, Rodriguez, Saborio, Wallace

Booked: Fonseca.

Goals: Wanchope 12, 73

Att: 64,950

Ref: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina)

Group A: Poland vs. Ecuador
With Germany’s win against Costa Rica in the books, the Poland-Ecuador match was going to be an important one as both teams were hoping to fill into that second spot behind the hosts. Ecuador received a lot of criticism prior to this match since they have been unable to win a match away from their home stadium which is in Quito. Since Quito is so high above sea level, players have trouble with the air. Ecuador managed to beat both Brazil and Argentina in Quito but were handed a beating when they hit the road. When handed the draw, people felt that Poland should be able to make it to the second round. However, Pawel Janas made some controversial moves leaving keeper Jerzy Dudek and striker Tomasz Frankowski off his World Cup squad. Frankowski had been among Poland’s leading scorers during qualifying.

And so they played and Poland looked to be in control for the first twenty minutes of the game but could not get a good shot on target. Central defenders Ivan Hurtado and Giovanny Espinoza did a great job not to allow Ebi Smolarek and Maciej Zurawski any space. Ecuador looked very nervous during the first part of this match but everything settled down for the South Americans when Carlos Tenorio connected on Agustin Delgado’s flick on to head the ball past the outstretched arm of keeper Artur Boruc and into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead. Ecuador took control for the rest of the half as their defense was exposed. If it wasn’t for Boruc, Poland would really be in a hole.

Poland increased the tempo in the second half hoping to catch Ecuador off guard. However, Hurtado and the rest of the defenders were solid and they did not allow the Poles to get a good chance. Even the crossbar was in favor of Ecuador as Poland had two attempts strike the iron. Ecuador would wrap up the three points with 10 minutes to go as Delgado managed to beat the offside trap to score from four yards out. That is how the game would end; Ecuador beats Poland 2-0.

Man of the Match: Ivan Hurtado (Ecuador)
The captain was exceptional today as the Polish offense, which scored 27 goals during qualification was shut down. Hurtado and Espinoza are working well together and their fitness will enable them to be able to run with any striker.

General Thoughts: Ecuador
This was a very meaningful win for Ecuador as they showed they could win away from home. They were very organized and looked to be in control for the latter part of this match. Goalkeeper Christian Mora had his moments that made fans sweat but thanks to the woodwork, it didn’t cost Ecuador a goal. With Costa Rica next, this is a great opportunity for them to get some more points and putting themselves in a great position to advance before having to face host nation Germany in the final group match.

General Thoughts: Poland
This was a very disappointing loss for Poland as they did not look like a side that qualified for the World Cup. They were organized for the first part of this match and had possession but got frustrated when they couldn’t get a quality chance. Then they let the floodgates open after Ecuador took the lead. The Polish defense was exposed in this match as an ageing and slow unit. They will count heavily on the offside trap in order to catch some breaks but they will get burned by it as they did with the Delgado goal. With Germany next, Poland is up against the wall. This was a must win and they blew it.

Poland: Boruc, Jop, Baszczynski, Bak, Zewlakow, Sobolewski (Jelen 67), Krzynowek (Kosowski 77), Szymkowiak, Smolarek, Radomski, Zurawski (Brozek 84).
Subs Not Used: Bosacki, Dudka, Fabianski, Gancarczyk, Giza, Kuszczak, Lewandowski, Mila, Rasiak.

Booked: Smolarek

Ecuador: Mora, De la Cruz, Hurtado (Guagua 69), Espinoza, Reasco, Mendez, Castillo, Valencia, Edwin Tenorio, Delgado (Urrutia 83), Carlos Tenorio (Kaviedes 65).
Subs Not Used: Ambrossi, Ayovi, Benitez, Borja, Lanza, Lara, Perlaza, Saritama, Villafuerte

Booked: Hurtado, Mendez.

Goals: Carlos Tenorio 24, Delgado 80

Att: 52,000

Ref: Toru Kamikawa (Japan)

Goal of the Day: Torsten Frings (Germany vs. Costa Rica – 87th minute)
Who knew the ball would prove to be at the center of focus. Apparently, this is the most round ball in World Cup history. I happen to have a replica of the ball and I must agree that it does not have the feel of a traditional soccer ball. Frings unleashed a rocket in the closing stages of the match from forty yards out as it found the top shelf of the net. The ball had very little spin and practically knuckled giving Porras no chance to saving it.

Runner Up: Philipp Lahm (Germany vs. Costa Rica – 6th minute)
Philipp Lahm had a sensational goal to open the scoring in that match as well. Coming down the left, he was able to get by a pair of defenders and fire the ball into the top right corner of the net.

Tomorrow’s Fixtures
England vs. Paraguay – 9:00am – ABC
Trinidad and Tobago vs. Sweden – Noon – ABC
Argentina vs. Ivory Coast – 3:00pm – ESPN2


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