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


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


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


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

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