All entries for Sunday 09 July 2006

July 09, 2006

RaW Sport World Cup Dream Team

It has been an absorbing four weeks of football in Germany, and now you all want to know who has made the RaW Sport World Cup dream team.
It takes the shape of 4–5–1, which so many coaches seem to favour. (and I’m still puzzled as to why they favour it). This team would definitely bludgeon their way to a negative 1–0 victory.

Jens Lehmann – imperious at the back, thoroughly deserved his selection over Oliver Kahn. Narrowly beats Buffon to the number 1 slot.

Gianluca Zambrotta – magnificent performances form the Juventus full back underlined his importance to the team

Fabio Cannavaro – immense

Rafael Marquez – was outstanding for Mexico, a pity that he had to go home so early

Philip Lahm – dangerous going forward on marauding runs, and pitched in with some brilliant defensive cover, especially in the semi final

Maniche – showed quality and vision on the ball, chipping in with the odd goal. Pity the rest of his team–mates were so average. The hard working midfielder showed Chelsea fans and the world what he was really capable of.

Gennaro Gattuso – some magnificent performances from the pitbull.

Juan Roman Riquelme – touched the ball more often than any other player in the competition. Influential for Argentina, who had nothing against Germany after he was substituted.

Tim Cahill – turned the Socceroos group game against Japan, and turned in some typical industrious performances

Andrea Pirlo – ran the show for the Italians.

Miroslav Klose – Golden boot winner – you cannot argue with the number of goals he has scored. Actually managed to score some with his feet this time.

Coach – Only Marcelo Lippi could coach this team.

*Zinedine Zidane was in the team until a quite magnificent headbutt on Marco Materazzi. He certainly retired in style.

World Cup Final – Italy v France

Question: Who would have thought right back at the start of the tournament that this would be the final? Answer: No–one. I have to admit I did tip Italy to make the final, but only really given the relative simplicity of the path they had to get to it. Ironically this was made even more straight forward by the virtual self destruction of Argentina and the fact that France slipped up getting out of there group. Indeed the reason hardly anyone would have predicted an Italy v France final was that it relied on one of the sides coming second in their group. Logically if you were predicting either team, but especially France, to come second in their group you weren’t going to have them reaching the final.

So now they are both there, who is going to win? I would argue that it is almost too close to call. Italy are solid, well organised, but have a chronic lack pace, especially up front. France are experienced and perhaps have more individually talented players – in Zidane and Henry they have two of players who are potentially unstoppable – however they have one or two weak links in the side and an enormous average age which could cost them. A lot will rest on the shoulders of Zidane. When he has performed France have beaten the likes of Spain and Brazil, but when he has failed to turn up they have struggled against relative minnows.

The entire French tactical set up is based around Zidane, which is a massive danger. Domenech appears to have no plan B and certainly I will be hugely surprised if Gattuso is not detailed to keep Zidane out of the game. Usually the risk in this sort of overt man marking is that it opens up space for other players to exploit, however given that the Italians (and the French for that matter) will be playing with two anchors in midfield I cannot see too many problems. Indeed if the French do the same and stick Vieira on Totti we could be in for one of the all time most boring cup finals. With their supply routes cut off, Toni and Henry will be totally isolated from the rest of their sides.

Interestingly even though both teams are lining up with 4–5–1 style formations they will subtly differ in lay out. Whereas Italy will operate more as a 4–4–1–1, with Totti behind Toni and Camoranesi and Perrota on either flank, France have a sort of 4–2–3–1 with Malouda, Ribery and Zidane at times making a front four with Henry. The weakness in the Italian side is up front where Toni has proved himself to be definitive evidence that his club Florientina are guilty of match fixing. He looks nothing like a 30+ goals striker and should be easy for Thuram and Gallas to handle. For the French, the major weakness is down the left hand side where Malouda and Abidal have looked pretty average throughout the tournament. Given that Camornesi, and especially Zambrotta are tricky players, this could be a key area in the match.

July 2006

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