June 15, 2006

Day 7: Ecuador vs. Costa Rica, England vs. Trinidad & Tobago, Sweden vs. Paraguay

Game 18: Ecuador vs. Costa Rica

3–0

Ecuador:


June 14, 2006

Day 6: Spain vs. Ukraine, Tunisia vs. Saudi Arabia, Germany vs. Poland

Game 15: Spain vs. Ukraine

4-0

Spain:
Alonso 12, Villa 16 47(pen), Torres 80

Si: As good as Spain were, Ukraine did not deserve to lose by such a margin. The penalty and sending off may be viewed as harsh by some but from the referee's angle Vashchuk was clearly pulling Torres's shorts and he had no choice in awarding the card and spot kick. Spain's attack resembled Argentina's with the whole unit moving forward as one, utilising the width of the pitch with quick precise ground passes. The forwards were versitile and interchangable. Judging Spain defensively is not so easy, individually they are talented but as a unit they were very nearly caught in a failed offside trap several times. An attack better supported by midfield could have done some damage. Torres goal was the best of the tournament, three players showing determination, touch and oodles of class.

Ed: Once the man had been sent off the game was pretty much over, yet Spain managed to come up with the most impressive move so far of the World Cup. Puyol collected the ball before making an incredible turn; he then recollected it with a chest down to Torres who had powered into space. With defenders closing in he had to take it on the volley and hit with power and direction. The penalty and red card should stand, as Torres was having his shorts pulled down by the defender. The game was pretty much over, because Spain were so well–organised and the players so on–form. Ukraine had little to reply to such technique, however for them to be two–nil down so early was still a surprise. Shevchenko was too isolated and the attacking players too deep to be able to create anything.

Game 16: Tunisia vs. Saudi Arabia

2-2

Tunisia:
Jaziri 23, Jaidi 90

Saudi Arabia:
Al Kahtani 56, Al Jaber 83

Ed: As bad football matches go, this was quite good. By quite good I mean bad. Both teams were too poor to assert themselves in this game. In the first half Tunisia looked the most professional of the two teams, defending well enough to avoid Saudi Arabia's flaps around the box. Most of the goals however came through really awful defending, terrible marking, giving time and space for headers or tap–ins that the Conference thrives on. Having said that the Conference games I've seen were more exciting than this one. Saudi Arabia came at Tunisia well–enough in the second half, and the latter team lost its concentration. This enabled the pathetic touches and piling forward of Saudi Arabia to actually work. Their second goal was excellent. The winger received the ball, (see, wide play does work,) the runner required an excellent touch at a tight angle, before he then had to play a quick through–ball, as Al Jaber's space would have soon been cleared by the covering defender. And a superbly placed finish to round off the move. Due to more rubbish defending at the end, this game fell into complete irrelevance.

Si: In the first half Tunisia looked the least bad team but this was reversed in the second period so one assumes neither team was actually playing to their limited ability. The Saudi's goals looked good but it is suspected that a capable defence would have cut out both moves. Essentially neither team has a hope in hell of progressing.

Game 17: Germany vs. Poland

1-0

Germany:
Neuville 90

Si: Although Poland were an improved side after their defeat to Ecuador, they didn't attack with the conviction required to win this match. Germany again looked good against fairly weak opposition, the inclusion of Ballack adding a new dimension to the game. With several viable playmakers and at least two dangerous strikers, Germany could have scored at almost any point in the match. A team more capable of scoring themselves could have taken advantage of the German misses and finishing will be their main concern after this game. The hosts are not to be underestimated.

Ed: Even before Poland had a man sent off, Germany were already beginning to assert themselves. Ballack's top–class ability to switch play allowed for a number of long–balls to land in productive positions. Early on Schweinsteiger was also skipping past defenders and producing neat turns, although as the game wore on, his effectiveness wore off, and he was rightfully replaced with Borowski. Of particular note was the bringing on of Odonkor who's rapid pace utterly foxed the wingers and contrary to popular opinion (at least in Germany), his crossing was exemplery. The cross for the winning ball was the best, powerfully sliding it in for Neuville to claw into the goal. Germany were deserved winners, although Poand defended well and the keeper Boruc pulled off some magnificant saves.

Day 6 Summary:
Goals: 9
Alcohol Consumed: 21.6 Units


June 13, 2006

Day 5: South Korea vs. Togo, France vs. Switzerland, Brazil vs. Croatia

Game 12: South Korea vs. Togo

2-1

South Korea:
C Lee 53, J Ahn 71

Togo:
Mohamed 30

Si: The disciplined team work of four years ago has all but vanished, Korea played like a bunch of schoolboys more concerned with making a name for themselves than winning this tie. The first half was full of long balls to noone, only when togo were reduced to 10 men was there any rhythm in their passing game. Togo looked threatening in the first half, moving the ball quickly and using their strength to get a yard of space. The goal can be attributed to terrible defending from the 3 Korean centre backs but the three touches from the half way line to the back of the net were all worthy of a better side than Togo. Even with the game firmly under their control Korea struggled to score, relying on speculative efforts, but sometimes speculation does pay off.

Ed: The passing was awful all over the pitch today. In fact, so was everything that everyone did. The only reason anyone won the game was because one of the players was sent off. In particular, South Korea's crossing were so poor nobody could connect with them. More important though was the ill discipline around the box. None of the players were Torsten Frings, so why they decided to shoot at every given opportunity, never mind the angle or distance from goal. I suppose one of them had to eventually go in, and the winner was one of those. No one could keep possession, terrible passes all over the pitch, poor defending for the first goal. Once the Togo player was sent off, South Korea gained some sense of discipline in patiently waiting for Togo to tire, thus giving them more space for their stupid shots on goal. Both teams will return home embarressed.

Game 13: France vs. Switzerland

0-0

Ed: France were truly shameful today. Looks like the trend of tepid performances is going to continue from the qualifiers. Of particular concern was Ribery, a player out of his depth. His first touch was poor, as was his running off the ball, meaning he would inevitably lose it. In fact, there was virtually no good passes around the box or runs made. There was no inventiveness from anyone on the pitch apart from some well–placed chips from the decrepit Zidane, although these only came when he could bring his zimmer frame close enough. Switzerland had to do little to stifle the ineffective players and did not have to simply sit back.

Si: The quality of the champions of eight years ago was certainly there peeking from behind a blanket of inharmony, frustration and weariness in the French performance. They were more of a latent threat than an immediate one for most of the game. Zidane still has the touch but no longer the pace or energy to lift a side that hasn't really turned up for a major tournament since 2000. Switzerland fought well, exemplified by Sendoros who was always there to intervene, playing much older than his 21 years. The Swiss attack caused problems from crosses, and will feel they could have exploited the French malaise for two more points.

Game 14: Brazil vs. Croatia

1-0

Brazil:
Kaka 44

Si: Showing a quality on the ball that few players let alone teams can match , Brazil still had to work for their victory as Croatia balanced defence and attack to make it difficult for the reigning champions. When defending Croatia managed to put 3 or 4 players between the ball and the edge of their box. Only when they backed off did they give Brazil a chance, as they did just before and after half time, Kaka finding the net but Ronaldo grazing the top of the bar. Everyone 'knows' that attack is the best form of defence but Croatia had the conviction to play that proverbial game and certainly had their chances to level the match. Brazil may only play with three defensive players (Dida, Lucio and Juan) but they are no less able than their teamates and won't be easy for any side to break down.

Ed: Brazil are ridiculous. Their passing and ball control were incredible and they can make their long shots work. They can do it, unlike South Korea. Kaka did it. Also the concept of organisation and tactics seemed alien, but here they made it work. Any player could crop up anywhere either dribbling the ball or making an unstoppable run. In addition, they could bring long passing into the game, using surperbly placed precision and expecting the receiving player to receive it dead to control it. Croatia proved stern and exciting opposition. Their positioning was excellent, as was there ability to mark in numbers (you have to against those players.) They kept possession well, even construciting some chances of their own.

Day 5 Summary:
Goals: 4
Alcohol Consumed: 14.5 Units


June 12, 2006

Day 4: Japan vs. Australia, USA vs. Czech Republic, Italy vs. Ghana

Game 9: Japan vs. Australia

1-3

Japan:
Nakamura 25

Australia:
Cahill 83 88, Aloisi 90

Ed: This has to go down as the silliest game so far. Where Germany vs. Costa Rica was inevitable and dull bad football though, at least this was funny. Horrendous defending allied with atrocious shot–taking from both teams allowed this game to be a fairly even contest. Japan seemed to have a greater clue about what they were doing. As soon as they had brought the ball close to the opposition box, the covering wing back would fluff up giving the attacking player time and space to place a simple cross or through–ball. Instead the attacker would place the ball in the only place that did not allow for a goal. The Japanese defending was guilty of the same thing, although the Australian attacks were a bit more basic ie. booting long balls towards the box. The game ended with four strikers (all standing in roughly the same attacking positions). It was the introduction of one tiny bit of quality, Tim Cahill, that won the game, as he had the small amount of ability necessary to tear apart the opposition defense, scoring twice and constructing the third.

Si: Neither side looked like they could hit a barn door in a barn door factory but both were so imcompetant in defence you thought maybe they wouldn't have to in order to score. Japan looked good moving the ball through midfield with quick incisive passing and Australia could rely on the skill of Kewell, Viduka and latter Cahil, to create promising situations, but neither side could make anything work in the penalty area. Only Cahill's first goal was a result of attacking technique, all the others resulting from defensive errors. An entertaining game if only for the suspense over who's defence would crumble the most.

Game 10: USA vs. Czech Republic

0-3

Czech Republic:
Koller 4, Rosicky 35, 75

Si: Fueled by the energy and ability of an on form Nedved, the Czech Republic's slick one or two touch football was far too much for a weary looking USA. Rocked by the early goal the Americans simplistic football never gave them an advantage over their opponents defence. They only came close with a wonderful long range effort by Reyna that hit the post. Although not filled by big names the Czech squad is filled with talent and it never felt like they hit top gear.

Ed: With teamwork and individual skill at this level, the Czechs should have an excellent remainder of a tournament. The U.S.A, on the other hand, really lived up to their FIFA World Ranking of 5th best in the world. (!) They were totally inept and uninventive, and the Czechs felt comfortable allowing them a large percentage of possession, as there was no goal threat. Pavel Nedved was the linchpin when the Czechs came forward, his range of passing giving options all over the pitch. He also had the freedom to scamper around looking for the ball. The first goal was clinical, but unremarkable, a simple cross enough to beat the defence. Rosicky's first goal was an incredibly well placed strike from outside the box, and his second yet another superb Nedved through–ball.

Game 11: Italy vs. Ghana

2-0

Italy:
Pirlo 39, Iaquinta 82

Ed: I was a little surprised and how little Ghana achieved in this game, but with the Italians playing at this level, they can be forgiven. Without being as defensive and uninspired as previous tournaments, they here made positives out of the traditional Italian style of building patiently from a solid base. With time on the ball, they had the opportunity to pick from a range of excellent passes. Totti in particular finding just the right positioning for the final pass. The chances duly came. After the interval, Ghana did come at them a bit more, but they were well marshalled. Their effort combined with Italy's skill made for an exciting game.

Si: Ghana continued in the tradition of fearlessness by African sides in this tournament when faced with big name opposition. They came out all guns blazing and never looked to sit back. Unfortunately they didn't have the firepower to threaten a solid Italian defence. Italy's method of attack is unique with almost every pass lofted, their excellent first touch allowing them to beat their defender before he realises the ball is upon him. Italy also excel in playing on the shoulder and timing the run, this performance will strike fear into all but the quickest centre–backs.

Day 4 Summary:
Goals: 9
Alcohol Consumed: 18.2 Units


June 11, 2006

Day 3: Serbia & Montenegro vs. Holland, Mexcio vs. Iran, Angola vs. Portugal

Linekar: "So Ian, how much do you like S&M?"
Wright: "Huh? What?"

Game 6: Serbia & Montenegro vs. Holland

0-1

Holland:
Robben 17

Ed: Just me this time. Si is being sociable. What a loser.

Another excellent game. Robben dominated the first half, a single right back not being enough to stop the fastest player on the pitch. He duly delivered with an easy goal, the zonal marking and attempted offside trap being competely ineffective. With a great deal of space in between the centre backs, it required only a very simple through–ball from Van Persie and Robben had a clear run on goal. Bringing on Koroman onto the right in the 43rd minute was an inspired move. Shame he played for The Scum. (That's Portsmouth to you foolish Northern–supporting people.) Not only did it enable Robben to be stifled but also added the most likely source of a good cross. The second half was close, but interesting as S&M's offensive play leaving space for Holland to push forward, creating chances at both ends.

Game 7: Mexico vs. Iran

3-1

Mexico:
Bravo 27 75, Zinha 78

Iran:
Golmohammadi 35

Si: The game was competitive and scrappy from the start with Mexico showing the greater aptitude in attack but was cancelled out by Iran's combative midfield. Both sides looked more likely to score from a cross, especially a set peice and it was a training ground free kick that gave Mexico the early lead. Iran soon equalised from a corner that Sanchez either should have came for or saved on his line. The game played as level as its scoreline until half–time after which the Iranians were told to sit on their lead making for a much poorer second period. Mexico's best chance to break the deadlock seemed to be from exploiting the narrow play of Iran's fullbacks but in the end they captalised on a series of defensive errors, Zinha's through ball finished by Bravo. Iran then had to come out of their shell, this combined with Mexico's new found confidence to allow a flowing move that ensured Mexico gained maximum points from their opening game.

Ed: As seems to be the case with many games so far in this World Cup, we were treated to an open game, as opposed to underdogs sitting–back and absorbing play. This Iran only did in the second half, and Mexico seemed to not quite have the technical ability to cut through, the goals an obvious result of increasing pressure as the half wore on. In the first half, Iran constructed their attacks through quick successions of short passes, the players bunching together in order to avoid interception. This prevented the Mexicans from dominating in this half, although it did allow for a great deal of space on the wings. They never quite managed to pass the ball out there enough though, and the two teams went in at half time, an even all–square.

Game 8: Angola vs. Portugal

0-1

Portugal:
Pauleta 3

Si: We groaned when Portugal scored the early goal that seemed certain to end any interest in the tie, expecting Angola to be thumped. We were pleasantly surprised when it became clear that after a shaky first 10 minutes, Angola were capable of holding off the Portugese and even managed some hope inspiring attacks themselves. While they showed the same confidence, determination and physical excellence of their African counterparts, Ivory Coast, they lacked the creativity and killer instrinct to really threaten. Although an entertaining game there was only really going to be one result after 180 seconds.

Ed: Angola's ability to keep possession and their running off the ball was a pleasant surprise. However pacy the passing was though, it was broken down reasonably comfortably. Having said this, it was good enough for Portugal to not quite tear them apart. It was a close game.

Day 3 Summary:
Goals: 6
Alcohol Consumed: 13.8 Units


June 10, 2006

Day 2: England vs. Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago vs. Sweden, Argentina vs. Ivory Coast

Welcome to Day 2 of the Wunderblog! Ed and Si are already tired of the banality and pointlessness of much that is said by match commentators and "professional" sports journalists during this World Cup, so we'll get straight to our insightful and profound analysis.

Game 3: England vs. Paraguay

1-0

England:
Beckham 2

Ed: The most lacklustre of the games so far. It occured to me how much England have improved in keeping possession under Eriksson. This was the defining feature of the game, both teams playing like it's a bit too hot. England always looked dangerous from set–pieces, as the Paraguayans looked incapable of clearing the ball. Although the latter grew into the game, they never quite had the skill to play any dangerous passes through the England defence. As for those long shots from midfield, 'e's no Torsten Frings is that Steven Gerrard.

Si: It would be difficult to complain after England's first victory in an opening game of a major tournament in my lifetime. Sometimes I feel that a lone early goal is a bad thing for this England side. It leads to a lack of urgency and a tendancy for the midfield to play deeper and deeper as the game wears on. However good Lampard and Gerrard are independently, this game was another example of how they rarely gel into an effective force in the centre of the park, especially when the other side is applying pressure. We had to rely on forays up the flanks for attacks in the second half, the substitude Downing doing much of this work in his first tournament finals. An important win but England will have to dominate the midfield for a majority of the 90 minutes if they are to keep Robinson trouble free against stiffer opposition.

Game 4: Trinidad & Tobago vs. Sweden

0-0

Si: A perfect result for the England fan, this match was more entertaining than the scoreline suggests. Both teams began aggressively and showed competance in an attacking, open first twenty minutes. However, by the end of the first half it was clear that Sweden were the only team with the commitment and ability to break down their opposition's defence. The first minutes of the 2nd half ensured the remainder of the fixture would be one way traffic as Avery John was sent off for a challenge in which he took the ball but lunged dangerously at Wilhelmsson. Sweden could never manage to make their man advantage tell in the following 45 minutes, coming close with consistant enterprise from Wilhelmsson and the talent of Ibrohimovic but never delivering the killer pass. Trinidad & Tobago defended and moved the ball around well, even coming close with a Cornell Glen effort. But with probably at least a win required from their remaining fixtures with England and Paraguay the task to remain in the tournament will only get harder for both teams.

Ed: Once the man was sent off, it was clearly sitting–back time. I would say that T&T did a bit too much of this before–hand. T&T were passing the ball well and reaching good forward positions particularly down the wings, playing like a fast–paced English league match. However, upon reaching this position, the player would realise he had nobody to pass to and lose it. In terms of skill, it was clearer who had more, Wilhelmsson particularly impressing with short taps and runs past the full–back. However, despite their clearly greater talent, the Swedes were not on form and a solid display by mostly English League One and Two representatives was plenty to stop players from top European clubs. If the player had not been sent off, the attack would have been asked to do more. Can it deliver when it defends so deep? As for the Swedes, they are just not good enough.

Game 5: Argentina vs. Ivory Coast

2-1

Argetina:
Crespo 23 Saviola 37

Ivory Coast:
Drogba 81

Putting this game into words would be demeaning to the footballing majesty that occured last night, nevertheless…

Ed: The constant pressure that the Ivory Coast placed on Argentina's players ensured a fast–paced and demanding match. With little time allowed on the ball, Argentina were not given the time and space that a player like Riquelme would thrive upon. They had to quickly and skilfully keep passing the ball. This pressure enabled the Ivory Coast to pick up all the loose balls and with Drogba up front they would win most of the headers. His strength enabled him to superbly keep the ball as fellow players raced into the attack. With both teams so completely on–form, it seemed unlikely that there would be many goals, but the open play ensured that this would not be the case and an exciting game would be on the cards. I can't remember a better more enthralling example of football.

Si: This game was the best so far of this World Cup for several reasons but the source of its entertainment was both teams proficiency in and commitment to attacking play. Either side looked like scoring throughout the match and even with Argentina two goals up deep into the second half the result felt far from secure. Argentina played with their usual effortless looking ground based attack, while Ivory Coast combined pace, strength and their not inconsiderable skill to cause the South Americans problems all over the pitch. Employing a tactic similar to the less celebrated sides in the Premiership's approach to Arsenal, they gave the Argentines little time on the ball to get their passing game going. However, Crespo and Saviola only required one opportunity each to give their side a two goal lead at half time. Crespo reacted first to a poorly cleared Riquelme free kick while Saviola timed his run perfectly to latch onto a weighted through ball from the same celebrated playmaker. Ivory Coast got the goal they deserved if not perhaps the result their effort and talent warented, Drogba finishing a fast, frantic move in which the ball pinged from one side of the penalty box to the other and back again before ending up in the net.

Day 2 Summary:
Goals: 4
Alcohol Consumed: 30 Units


Day 1: Germany vs. Costa Rica, Poland vs. Ecuador

Welcome to Si and Ed's World Cup Wunderblog; we have decided to watch every game of the world cup as i'm sure you all have too. However, if you are less committed to the cause than us, you can feel as if you were really there, in our untidy claycroft kitchen, by reading our daily reports. We'll cover all the games and goals, so hold tight and prepare for the sporting experience of a….4 year period.

Game 1: Germany vs. Costa Rica

4-2

Germany:
Lahm 5 Klose 16,60 Frings 86

Costa Rica:
Wanchope 11,72

The less said about this game the better, neverless here are a collection or our rants and whinges.

Ed: If I have to see another goal like Frings' , I'm gonna have to denounce football in favour of cross–stich. What is the point in a game where it is this easy to score a goal? It was a speculative effort booted with no skill, yet its uncontrollable curve left the keeper no chance. Goals like that should be scored as a result of awesome skill. Football should showcase sporting abiity. Here's hoping this World Cup won't be peppered with randomness like that. With that ball, you don't have to do anything to score a goal.

Simon: Despite coming away clear victors, I would not be happy with the performance were I Jurgan Klinsmann. Germany did not have to work particularly hard for their goals, the first was an inch perfect shot from 18 yards, the next two were more a result of woeful defending than German inspiration and the last, well enough has been said. The real point of interest was the two goals that Germany conceded. In both cases the back four were not in line, stationary and ball watching. Germany's defence played high up the pitch and relying so much on the offside trap will be their undoing against sides of any quality.

Game 2: Poland vs. Ecuador

0-2

Ecuador:
Tenorio 23 Delgado 79

It's difficult to know whether our enjoyment of this match can be attributed to the skill on show or merely the lack of proper football in the preceding game.

Simon: A bit of an upset here, which will make the group an interesting one to watch unfold. Ecuador immediately looked more comfortable on the ball than their latin american counterparts did in the earlier match. Their quick crisp passing was enjoyable to watch but their opening goal was a result of a prepared set play. Delgado's headed flick from a throw enabled Tenorio to superbly nod past Boruc inside the far post. Although Poland ask some questions with crosses and the odd long range effort they never really looked like they would score and when Kaviedes and Delgado broke the offside trap it was all over.

Ed: Quality defending from Ecuador was one of the surprises from this game. After the ineffective appearances four years ago, and the incredible Agustin Delgado upfront, I was pleasantly surprised by their solid display. Of particular note was the quality of their passing, quickly and skilfully keeping the ball. The lacklustre Poland attack could do nothing to break past the Ecuador defence, whether on the wings, the favoured option, or through the middle. They would bring it out wide and simply lose it. Skilful attacks brought two goals, pace and thoughtfulness from the two attackers for the second. As a Southampton fan, I was surprised to see Delgado not be lazy and distracted.

Day 1 Summary:
Goals: 8
Alcohol Consumed: 12.9 Units


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