Football Station

Battle for Second Spot – Group H
Group H –


The top dog here looks assuredly like Spain.  La Furia Roja are one of the most complete sides in the world, and they, along with the entire nation, would be disappointed with anything less that 9 points from 3 matches.  So with Spain looking the dominant force in Group H, an intriguing battle arises for the runner-up spot.  Honduras are no slouches by any means, this isn’t the Swiss’s first rodeo, not to mention they have a superb coach, and Chile’s attacking mentality is sure to disrupt some of the backlines in the group.
Chile –
The Chileans look to be one of the early favorites to head into the next round.  With their attacking play and free form

Humberto Suazo (left) and Mark Gonalez look to celebrate in Group H.

forward movements, they will surely wreak havoc on more than one team.  In Humberto Suazo, they have South America’s leading scorer in qualifying with 10 goals, and playing off him is Alexis Sanchez, who has been dubbed “The Wonder Boy” for his technical ability.  On the other side, there’s Mark Gonzalez aka “Speedy Gonzalez”, and make no mistake, his pace will undoubtedly cause some problems for slower outside backs, particularly Switzerland, Chile’s main rival for second spot.  Behind these three lies Mathias Fernandez, the 2006 South American Player of the Year, who not only takes on defenders with aplomb, but is known for his creative play and no look passes.  Chile has top notch manager in Marcelo Bielsa, nicknamed “El Loco”.  However, there’s nothing crazy his results.  He experiments…a lot.  He plays a 3-3-1-3 some days, a 3-4-3 the next or a 4-1-2-1-2 when he’s feeling lucky.  His experimentation and attack-minded play have been a revelation for Chile and they will look to bring that same style of play to South Africa.


Honduras –
The technically gifted South Americans will be nothing to take lightly.  They have talented players in just about every area across the pitch and though they might be favorites to bottom the group, are by no means the minnows of Group H.  Up top, there’s David Suazo of Genoa on loan from Internazionale , the Serie A Foreign Player of the Year in 2006.  Behind him is his cousin and Wigan Athletic’s Hendry Thomas and Tottenham’s Wilson Palacios.  The manager Reinaldo Rueda will likely play a 4-4-2 with Palacios and Thomas playing holding mid while Edgar Alvarez and captain Amado Guevara feed the ball up top. Their trickery will be interesting to see when paired with that of Chile’s own ability and then Switzerland’s defensive approach to the game.  Los Catrachos’ biggest flaw lies between the goalposts.  Noel Valladares guards the goalmouth for Honduran professional team Olimpia, but he is known for shaky displays and weak clearances.  That could cost them dearly in a group hell bent on advancing to the next round.
Switzerland –
The Swiss have qualified for the World Cup for the second time in a row, and they are hoping to avoid their fate last time around when they narrowly missed out on the knockout stages.  Going in their favor they have Alexander Frei , their captain and leading goalscorer by twice the amount of the second highest scorer (40 goals).  Unfortunately, the second highest scorer is Hakan Yakin, the 33 year old midfielder/striker.  Yakin is past his prime and should only feature as a substitute.  The next highest scorer is Blaise Nkufo, who is 35 and has scored a lowly 7 goals.  After them, Tranquillo Barnetta has 6 goals and Philippe Senderos with 5.  Obviously, Switzerland’s biggest problem lies in front of goal.  The goal scoring tally goes: 40, 20, 7, 6, 5…etc.  That is why the Swiss rely on their defense to get them through.  They do, however, have several midfielders that are looking to be quite the players but aren’t quite at the pinnacle of their careers.  Next World Cup could be a much different story for the Swiss.

Joan Capdevila could be the achilles heel of the Spanish side, if any.

They are technically gifted, pinpoint passers, clinical finishers and overall world class opponents.  Spain has something that not every team in South Africa has, talent AND team chemistry.  The Spanish duo of Xavi and Iniesta are very familiar with each other from playing at Barcelona together, and Fernando Torres and David Villa have partnered each other for the last few years.  Xabi Alonso sits deep and sprays long passes all over the pitch and opens up the wide lanes for play.  If you had to chose a weakness in this Spanish side it would be the left side of defense, Joan Capdevila.  Capdevila is a very capable outside back, however he is probably the least capable player at their position on the pitch, which is saying a lot at how talented this squad is.  Even if there is some shortcomings in defense, they have Iker Casillas in goal, who is a World Player of the Year for 2009 and one of the best ‘keepers on the planet.  It will take some great skill to make one’s way through the midfield, defense and goalkeeper to score, and we may only see that in the later stages
of the competition.
1.  Spain
2.  Chile (possibly by goal difference)
3.  Switzerland
4.  Honduras

United States 2 – 0 Honduras
July 9, 2009, 8:23 AM
Filed under: International | Tags: , ,
Santino Quaranta celebrates in style after opening his account for the United States at the RFK.

Santino Quaranta celebrates in style after opening his account for the United States at the RFK.

Santino Quaranta couldn’t have asked for a better setting to score his first goal as a member of the U.S. national team.

Quaranta was making his first appearance for the United States in more than three years, and the member of MLS’ D.C. United broke a scoreless tie in the 75th minute before his home fans at RFK Stadium to help the Americans beat Honduras 2-0.

Brian Ching followed Quaranta’s goal with a header four minutes later to seal the win.

“It’s hard to explain how special it is,” Quaranta said. “I was trying to tell myself all day just to enjoy it, but it was difficult.”

Quaranta publicly acknowledged he had battled drug and alcohol addictions the past few years before getting another chance with D.C. United last year. That’s where he started his MLS career in 2001. Now, his road to recovery has made it all the way to the national squad.

“To listen to the anthem was very emotional for me,” Quaranta said. “It’s been a fun, long road back.”

The United States, two-time defending champion in the competition contested among the countries of North and Central America and the Caribbean, is 23-0-1 in Gold Cup group play.

The Americans are 2-0 and lead Group B going into their final first-round match against Haiti on Saturday in Foxboro

ugh, Mass., where a draw will be enough to clinch the group and move into the quarterfinals.

Honduras (1-1) will face winless Grenada, also in Foxborough. Haiti (1-1) beat Grenada in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader 2-0.

Quaranta took a short pass from Charlie Davies, who replaced Freddy Adu in the 64th minute, at the top of the penalty box and fired in his first goal for the national team.

“I looked to my left and saw Santino making a good run, so I was able to lay off a good ball for him,” Davies said. “He was just like, ‘Thanks.’ I think it was gratifying for him to score in front of the home crowd.”

The crowd of 26,079 had a pro-Honduras bent, but there were still enough American fans to loudly cheer Quaranta’s goal.

Quaranta was one of several new players on the U.S. roster for the Gold Cup. The Americans have a nearly entirely different roster from the U.S. team that made a surprise run to the Confederations Cup championship game last month; most regulars were given a rest for the Gold Cup.

Brain Ching returns to action with a goal to double the lead for the United States.

Brain Ching returns to action with a goal to double the lead for the United States.

The Americans last played Honduras on June 6 in a World Cup qualifying match, but the only American who was dressed for that game and Wednesday’s match was Benny Feilhaber, who came on in the 64th minute.

“There were times in the game we couldn’t find the right rhythm,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “But I think there was still a good understanding of pushing the tempo. When we push the game for 90 minutes, we think that’s an advantage for us.”

Both squads had several opportunities before the United States broke through.

In the 15th minute, Quaranta had a header go wide left of the goalpost. Adu started the sequence with a nifty heel kick to Robbie Rogers, who took the ball deep into the left side of the penalty area before sending a cross to Quaranta in the middle. He dived and sent the header toward the post.

The Americans had another chance in the 22nd minute. Kyle Beckerman passed to Ching in the box. Ching chipped the ball over goalkeeper Donis Escobar, but he couldn’t regain his footing as he chased down the ball and Honduras cleared off the goal line. Ching had another chance in the 51st minute when he took a cross right in front of the net and his shot went over the bar.

Honduras had a golden opportunity in the 30th minute. Walter Martinez had a breakaway with only goalkeeper Troy Perkins to beat, but his shot was just wide, hitting the right side of the goal netting.

The substitutions of Davies and Feilhaber in the 64th minute seemed to re-energize the American offense.

“For me, it’s doing what I always do, which is cause a lot of havoc for the back line,” Davies said.

The boost came at the perfect time for Quaranta, who was left searching for words to describe the night.

“To be able to do it here in RFK where it all started for me is – special,” Quaranta said. “I keep going back to that, but it really is.”

– Fox Soccer

Analysis:  It was great to see the USMNT “B” Side get a win against Honduras.  We looked a shade better than we did in the previous game too (sure it was 4-0 but it was also Grenada), which is just our second string shaking off the dust.  There were a lot of positives, but also some worrying things that should be drawn into the light.

The Good:  Once we got into gear, we looked pretty decent going forward with Adu being the catalyst in a lot of the forward movements.  He was clever and clear headed and often found the right pass.  He lost the ball only a few times (who hasn’t?  Dempsey v Italy?), but recovered well and kept his head up.

And, for me at least, Kyle Beckerman was very suprising.  He was our own little engine man, being involved in about every movement.  His passing was looking good for what time he’s been shone in the national squad.  Now, he is 27, so it’s unlikely that he will eclipse anyone for a spot in the starting eleven, but he’s not a bad kid to have around.  I didn’t think he looked all the part in the first game, but he wasn’t too shabby yesterday.

Feilhaber (my knight in shining armor) looked good again on the field, orchestrating much of play and creating chances (ie Quaranta’s goal).  I don’t know how Ricardo Clark is keeping him out of the starting eleven.

The Bad:  Our two center backs were split open too easily in the first half.  Too many breakaways and searching through balls showed that they lacked communication and against more threatening opposition, we would have paid the price.

Robbie Rogers going forward was like flipping a coin.  Half the time he skinned his man and put in a decent cross, the other half he lost the ball, fell over, and couldn’t get back in time to defend.  He’s still a young kid, and shows that in the raw talent and lack of a better, quicker pass, but he’s got promise.  At least he’s willing to take on a full back, though, as too often we see wingers who fail to create due to their lack of flair.  Once he figures out the right time to run at a full back and the right time to pass and move off the ball, we’ll have a quality winger on our side.

The Ugly:  Nothing too ugly.  Maybe Beckerman’s hair.