Football Station


Round 2 – Germany v. Spain Preview

A late addition to Football Station, I know, but today is a vital match up between familiar foes who have met on the international stage before in Euro 2008.  In that instance, Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game as the Iberian squad marched to victory over the Germans.

David Villa has carried the goal count almost entirely (Iniesta has one!).

This time, it’s different.  Much different.  Germany are steamrolling teams and looking like an downright powerhouse going into this tie, and despite the fact that Spain has one of the most talented rosters in the world, they haven’t hit top gear in South Africa just yet.  After losing to Switzerland, the Spanish have won every game, but they have yet to play a team such as Germany, and their shortcomings could become evident while playing such a team.

Do the Germans have any flaws?  You bet.  They aren’t as deep a squad as they would like, luckily for the Germans, it doesn’t look like they need one.  However, with Thomas Mueller suspended from the freak “handball” call in their game against Argentina, the youngster will have to sit this one out.  Piotr Trochowski the 26 year old Hamburg man, takes his spot and will be looking to take the Spanish apart with his skillful dribbling.

The Spanish don’t exactly have many flaws.  If the form of Fernando Torres was present in one of their full backs, then there might be a real problem.  Maybe that’s why he isn’t starting.  But the nice thing for the Spanish is that you can afford to have a

Mesut Ozil has been key for the Germans in South Africa.

forward not on top form.  That said, Spain’s biggest problem, historically, is their inability to finish teams off.  This could be entirely possible if Torres doesn’t hit top gear.  Villa has been carrying the goal load almost single handedly in South Africa and could really use some help from his striking compatriot.  Germany play rough and tough defense, something Torres will be familiar from being a Liverpool player.  Will it pay dividends?  Eh, we’ll see.

The Spanish have a loaded midfield full of talent, pinpoint passing and plenty of guile.  Well isn’t that convenient…because so do the Germans.  Germany have Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Ozil and Podolski.  Spain have Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets.  It’s close but the edge may go to Spain.  Spain are vulnerable to the counter attack, though, as their striking department contain the most pace on the pitch.  Xabi Alonso isn’t known for pace, nor is Busquets.  Puyol can be vulnerable to a pacy player and Capdevila (probably the weakest link for the Spaniards, which is saying a lot) has been exposed in the past as well.

Germany’s biggest fear should be extra time.  Should they have to draw from the bench late on in the game, the Spanish can take it.  Also, the Germans haven’t had to really chase a game this World Cup, and when they did, they lost to Serbia.  If the Spaniards score first, that could be curtains as well.

Prediction

If the match doesn’t go to extra time…

Germany 2 – 1  Spain

If it does…

Could go anywhere…but we fancy Spain.



Bad Blood – Germany v. Argentina Preview

GERMANY – ARGENTINA

“BAD BLOOD”

Preview

July 3rd, 2010

When the ball drops Saturday in Cape Town and it will have nearly been a week since Germany and Argentina had secured their places in a mouthwatering quarterfinal fixture that has nothing less than a finals atmosphere.  Arguably the most anticipated quarterfinal matchup was created from two very similar second round matches as Germany sent home fellow European “rivals” England with their tails between their legs upon capitalizing on a Lampard goal-that-never-was that seemed to deflate any English momentum as the Germans went on to dismantle the absent English defense on second-half counter attacks.

The scuffle in Germany, 2006.

Argentina’s “Hand of God” sequel compliments of Italian referee Roberto Rosetti’s un raised arm seemed to take El Tri’s mind off of their game plan and more on exacting revenge by way of a half-time tunnel scuffle.  An early Tevez bullet after the break sent El Tri on a one-way ticket back to the beaches of Acapulco.  It’s fair to say that both teams arrived in the Quarterfinal on questionable circumstances.

Historical bad blood has sparked Germany’s captain-in-waiting Bastian Schweinsteiger to take the opening shot of what has developed into a war of words between the two heavily decorated sides. Schweinsteiger has recently accused the Argentineans of displaying a “lack of respect” during their second round tilt against Mexico. The German midfielder went on to cite that Diego Maradona’s squad are anything but reluctant to influence the referees in any way possible for their benefit. “It starts before the match. You see how they gesticulate, how they try to influence the referee. That is not part of the game. That is a lack of respect. They are like that. We should not be provoked by them.” Schweinsteiger continued to legitimize his claims by pointing out that this has been commonplace of the Argentinean mentality and character on the pitch.

It is clear that the Bayern workhorse has still not forgotten the post-game clash that erupted after Germany’s victory in penalties over Argentina that produce a clash between the players and coaching staff from both sides during the 2006 World Cup Quarterfinals. Schweinsteiger has come out and said that he has made it a point to remind his team-mates of their history and to not react to any Argentinean provocation come the start of Saturday’s showdown, which doesn’t seem to be quite a bad idea with the immense presence of the seemingly card-happy officiating thus far in the World Cup. (i.e. Kaka)

On the other hand, who was surprised to see the constantly outspoken Carlos Tevez presenting his rebuttal to the off-field German offensive? Not me.  Tevez combated Germany’s critiques of his side’s character by insisting that Mexico are a far more formable

The Manchester City man has been more than happy to have a spat with the Germans.

and fearsome squad than the one anchored by Schweinsteiger. “The Mexicans play better football. They took the ball from us in the first minutes of the first half and at the start of the second. We should have suffered more if we hadn’t struck at the right moments.”  Shortly after the Schweinsteiger comments, Tevez told Clarin that he was more afraid of Mexico than Germany despite an absolute showcase of pass and move counterattacking against the star-studded Three Lions.

It is clear that Tevez’s confidence may arise from the two sides’ last meeting during a Friendly match in Munich where Diego Maradona’s squad defeated the Germans 1-0 in a less than strenuous effort. When brought to his attention, Schweinsteiger seemed unmoved by this fact saying, “One, it was a friendly. Two, they did not create many chances either. Three, we have gained a lot of confidence by beating England and the good tactics we used in that game.” Those good tactics will undoubtedly need an encore against the South Americans who seem to be unstoppable at the moment, having not lost a single match yet during this year’s World Cup campaign.

The two sides look to be extremely well matched, which seems to be the reason for the sudden outburst of words from either camp as each team seems to be desperately looking for added ammunition to use as motivation in a quarterfinal match that looks to be as unpredictable as the Argentinean master and commander, Diego Maradona.

Liverpool hard man, Mascherano, will be key to stopping the young Mesut Ozil.

I have no doubts that either team will come out at their strongest to live up to either country’s immense expectations. Argentina has more than an adequate supply of attacking power with a laundry list of world class finishers (Higuain, Messi, Tevez, Milito, Aguero) but their defensive play has long been suspect. As if the England game doesn’t provide enough evidence, the Germans have a reputation of capitalizing on such weaknesses by utilizing the speed and width play of their youth movement. Look to Germany to continue their balanced and control-based passing game with calculated and organized counterattacks, which will test the nerve of Argentina’s back line.  Even more so than any other game, the capitalization of chances will be crucial for either side in a match where the sheer presence of world-class talent will be on full display.  I see Germany putting away at least one or two of these chances against a possibly more vulnerable back line than previously presented to them by England, where Argentina’s strike happy hit men will see fewer opportunities against a veteran German back line.  Ozil may play less a part in this game as he sizes up against Captain Javier Mascherano.  The latter is certainly capable of neutralizing any offensive threat in the world, and the German youngster is no different.  Still…

Prediction:

Germany 3 – 2 Argentina

– Eric Fortin



Tim Howard’s South Africa Diary

Courtesy of FoxSoccer…

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Tim Howard’s South Africa Diary

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The World Cup has been everything I expected, and more.

I’ve been so incredibly impressed with the way South Africa has rallied together. When I’ve come here the past couple of years I’ve done the things you come here to do. I’ve done the safaris, I went to Soweto, and I‘ve done all the sightseeing things, but to really see all the African people embrace the World Cup, it’s been a really cool experience. To see what this means to them is something else. It’s corporate in a lot of ways, but it’s also about the heart of the people and their passion for soccer.

Tim Howard reflects on his time in South Africa.

From an off-the-field standpoint, the place where we’re staying, the morale, the guys, the group, it has been one hundred percent perfect. We’re enjoying ourselves. It’s been a long time being away, but with all the games on, and all of us huddled around the TV watching all the games, we’ve had a chance to really bond.

It’s different from (the 2006 World Cup at) Germany in the sense that, logistically speaking, the hotels and the families and where they’re all staying is different, and we’re on our own. It’s not like staying in the downtown city center (in Hamburg), where you can just put your sunglasses on, walk out and go shopping. It’s more of a training camp mentality. We’re here, bunkered in, we enjoy our meals and enjoy our training, and to a certain extent, for better of worse, we’re a lot more focused. There’s not a lot of external things going on. There’s a lot fewer distractions. The guys are playing FIFA, a few of the boys are out and fishing in the lake, there are poker games, we’re watching a lot of the games. Our schedule is pretty straightforward. It’s broken up pretty well because we’ve got a workout session in the morning, then lunch, then we rest. After that we’ve got training in the afternoon. There’s downtime, but there’s enough to keep us active.

This team, with the additions that were made just prior to the World Cup, is probably one of the better teams I’ve been on in terms of no egos, really good guys, guys who are eager and hungry and ready to work. All the really good things you can say about guys on the team has been that way.

It’s a very young group, but sometimes with that it can go either way. They see it as their chance to shine, they internalize it, they get greedy and start acting a certain way and take it as a negative thing. We haven’t had that with this group. The younger guys who have come into this group have been gung ho for this team and do anything they can. Not just on the field, but off the field, and it’s been awesome.

I’ve watched quite a few World Cup games, just like everybody else. I’ve been pulling particularly for the Everton guys in the group. Holland, Nigeria, South Africa and Australia are really the ones I’ve been focused on, but I’ve watched every game and it’s been a pretty incredible World Cup because you just don’t know who’s going to win each game.

One of the toughest moments was seeing Tim Cahill get a red card. I was devastated for him. I spoke to him afterward. He was

Cahill sees red in the Socceroos' opener with Germany.

beside himself, couldn’t figure out why or how he got the red. He’s someone I’ve grown close with and we’ve talked about this for years, and throughout the build-up, so I know what it meant to him so it was tough.

Looking back at the England game, we really felt good about what we could accomplish in that game. Beforehand, guys weren’t scared. Guys weren’t nervous, they were ready for it. We fought back from a goal down and played a good game against a very good team in a game I know people had been waiting months to see.

What a lot of people remember about that game is my injury. I didn’t know what the next day would bring, but I was going to give myself every shot to play against Slovenia. When I spoke to the trainers, they told me when it’s a rib injury it’s something you’re going to feel for a few weeks, so once I knew that it was about figuring out how to manage it.

The next morning was crazy. I kept trying to roll over in the middle of the night and it was nearly impossible. I had to stay on my left side. It wasn’t a surprise. I knew it was going to be bad but you deal with it. I was definitely in pain, but I just tried to take as many pain meds as I could to deal with it. It wasn’t the first time this season where I had to deal with something like that. With Everton late in the year, I had a back injury late in the year that had me thinking for the first time in a long time that I might have to come out of the game. It rocked me so bad that I was literally laid flat on my back in bed the next morning and I called from my phone on the night stand and told the team I couldn’t physically make it to practice. Walking down the stairs, walking to the stairs – it was a joke. I was dragging my feet. It was terrible. I couldn’t stand up straight. I was struggling. But I still played the next game because I don’t like missing games.

It was a special game, and for me, it was my first World Cup game. I try not to let my mind wander in those moments, like during the national anthem, but it’s hard not to when you’re playing in your first World Cup and the anthem comes on. I just tried not getting caught up in it, but there were a few moments like that.

We went into the Slovenia game with a lot of confidence, but to go down early the way we did was tough. In the second half, instinct took over. Our backs were literally against the wall. We were 45 minutes from our World Cup basically being over. The way we responded was great, and it gives us a lot of confidence going into the Algeria match.

The muggings at Ellis Park Stadium.

At this level, when you go down in any game 2-0, and you get back to level, you have to feel fortunate. We would love to win, and we would have loved for that (third) goal to stand in order to assure ourselves of a spot in the second round. The other side of that is that we were down two goals and we came back, we‘re still fighting and we still have a chance, so we have to keep it in perspective.

As far as the call on Maurice Edu’s goal, initially we were upset by it because it’s natural to be emotional after the game, but very quickly we re-focused on and had to put it behind us. I certainly understand it from a fans perspective that it’s not something you’re going to forget easily. We realize that we still have it all to play for, and if we win on Wednesday, we’ll qualify.

The crowd was great for the Slovenia match. I’ve played 50-something times for the (United States) and not once do I remember a whole, entire national anthem sung by the whole crowd. When they played the anthem and we were singing, it was being sung back at us, and it was a pretty incredible moment.

We’ve been in games where we’ve needed to win the game and it’s been a big game and big occasion. All we need is that win, just like last year (against Egypt in the Confederations Cup). The Egypt game is in recent memory, but you can go back to the Gold Cup final in 2007, that was a must-win, and the Confederations Cup semifinal was also a must-win. We’ve got that experience and it can only help us.

The experience at this World Cup has been even more special because my parents and brother have been here to enjoy it and experience it with me. When it comes to youth soccer in America, families have to give up a lot. Most other siblings have to sacrifice because you’re driving around to tournaments all over the country. Moms and dads have to sacrifice and drop everything they’re doing on the weekends. That’s how you spend most of your weekends for a good part of your youth. On the road, in hotels, playing in youth soccer tournaments, so it’s really special to have them all come and enjoy this experience and kind of be in the ultimate and the pinnacle of the sport. From all those days traveling around New Jersey, and up and down the East Coast, to youth soccer tournaments. It almost feels like it all paid off.

– Tim Howard



No Ballack. No Essien. Group D is an Open Book

Group D –

Germany

Ghana

Serbia

Australia

Group D will be one of the most entertaining groups, as each team is fully capable of advancing out of the group to the knockout round.  Powerhouse Germany will be favored to take the top spot, however a devastating injury to their talisman, Michael Ballack, could shake things up.  There are some fantastic players scattered throughout the group, several world class at that, and it will be a treat to see it unfold.

Australia – The Socceroo’s are bringing in one of their most talented squads in some time.  After narrowly missing out on a

The Everton midfielder will go for the knockout blow in South Africa.

chance to advance to the Quarterfinals in Germany, the Aussies will be hell bent on avenging their unjust ousting four years ago to a certain diving Italian.  Lead by the industrious midfield maestro Tim Cahill and anchored down by a defensive trio of Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton and keeper Mark Shwarzer, Australia has every chance of advancing.  If they play a resolute defensive game, look to abuse their physicality  and ability to score off of set pieces, we could see a very open group.  Harry Kewell is a very talented who has been bogged down by injuries, but is now fully fit and itching to rebound on the international stage.  Be wary, though, Kewell hasn’t performed well on the big stage for a good deal of time.

Serbia – The Serbs are a loaded gun.  They have talent in about every area of the pitch, but not just in the players you hear about every day.  Yes, they have one of the best defenders in the world in Nemanja Vidic, also Branislav Ivanovic and seasoned veteran Dejan Stankovic to lead the team forward.  However, sleepers like Milan Jovanovic, Neven Subotic, and Milos Krasic could well be the standout performers for the Serbians.  Their biggest problem is their striking department.  The giant Nicola Zigic (6’8”) will no doubt be the target on their set pieces, which they perform quite well.  Whether Zigic performs or not, Serbia has dynamic wingers in Zoran Tosic, Krasic and Jovanovich that will wreak havoc on defenses in Group D.  They’ll also be desperate to make up for past performances on the international level.  But their attacking play could be a refreshing sight in South Africa.

Ghana – As I write, Michael Essien has just been ruled out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with injury.  A horribly devastating blow to a side who were hoping to build on their 2006 World Cup success.  That said, the Black Stars still pack a punch with a strong midfield (with or without Essien), a moderately firm back line, and good options going forward.  Sulley Muntari is now the biggest name on the team sheet, as the Internazionale midfielder will look to bring the team together in the absence of their fallen star.  Asamoah Gyan, the Rennes hitman, will be looked to for goals as will Muntari, who netted two goals in their qualifying run.  Adding more experience to their back line is John Paintsil, who is coming off a highly successful Europa League run with Fulham and will be on a high.  Verdict for the Black Stars?  Down, but definitely not out.

Germany – Die Mannschaft (“The Team”) will be looking to fill the hole left by Michael Ballack, much like Ghana but with

Shweinsteiger will look to emulate his form from 2006.

better options.  Whatever tournament they enter, Germany will always be a contender.  Their squad depth, abundance of skill and experience will make them a card carrying member in South Africa this summer.  Despite some flimsy draws against Finland and a few wins grinded out at home, the Germans were still undefeated in their qualifying campaign.  Miroslav check in with seven goals, the most on the team (Podolski – 6, Ballack – 4, Shweinsteiger – 3).  Germany will pound lesser opponents and their stingy defense will provide any attacking threat with something to think about, but up against formidable opposition could send Germany reeling.  Their physicality at the back and technical ability up front is the blueprint for a perfect team.  Players like Bastien Shweinsteiger will provide Die Mannschaft with the creativity and killer pass/cross in South Africa and is the type of player who will thrive there and become a standout performer.  Another player that should be on your radar is Mesut Ozil, a dynamic attacking midfield of Turkish descent who plies his trade at Werder Bremen.  Ozil is the cutting edge players who knows how to split open defenses with his clever passes and foot skills.  Expect the Germans to topple lesser sides, but they could look suspect in the latter stages of the tournament as their bench is quite barren.

Prediction –

1.  Germany

2. Australia

3. Ghana

4. Serbia