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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

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Why So Bleu?

The FFF (French Football Federation) has condemned its players today after the squad refused to train.  Furthermore, the Fitness

Coach Raymond Domenech addresses the media after the chaos.

Coach and Team Director handed in their resignation following a bust up with team captain Patrice Evra during training. Shortly, after this, the entire 22 man squad stopped training, headed towards the bus, drew the curtains and left the training ground.

All of this followed in the wake up Nicolas Anelka’s rant at Raymond Domenech during half time against Mexico.  Anelka was sent home to Paris as a result and will take no further part in the team’s last game against South Africa.  They will need a miracle to qualify for the round of 16, and even if they did somehow make it, it looks like they wouldn’t even be up for it.

Another video can be found here….



Good Riddance

France look down and out after falling 2-0 to a superior Mexican side.

At hardly any point did France ever look like challenging for 3 points, as they were selfish, ineffective and on completely different wavelengths.  It’s easy to put 11 names on the teamsheet, but far more difficult to make them perform.  Hugo Lloris was the only person in the French side that performed well.

The 22 year old Hernandez celebrates after rounding Lloris.

Javier Hernandez broke the deadlock in the 64th minute after barely sneaking past an offside trap and cooly rounding Hugo Lloris to net his first World Cup goal.

Only 15 minutes later, Eric Abidal brought down goal scorer Javier Hernandez again inside the penalty area to give the Tricolores a spot kick.  Cuauhtemoc Blanco, 37, became the 3rd oldest man in the World Cup to score a goal as he slid the ball into the bottom left corner, even with Lloris guessing the right way.

Do not take anything away from Mexico, as they played well in the counter attack and looked much more lethal going forward and creating chances.  Giovanni dos Santos and Javier Hernandez were the standout attackers for the North American side.

This leaves Mexico and Uruguay tied for top spot, separated only by goal difference, which Uruguay has the edge on.  This means France are left on the brink of elimination, and the question has to be asked…What the hell is Raymond Domenech doing?

Full article to follow

Domenech has a lot more to worry about that looking pensive in a photo shoot. He's out of a job.



Come On-a Bafana!

The opening match may not have produced a winner, but did produce quite a good show.  The likes of Steven Pienaar and

Tshabalala celebrates his stunner.

Giovanni Dos Santos both looked good on the ball, while Siphiwe Tshabalala scored a beauty of a goal to put the hosts in front, but Rafael Marquez pulled Los Tricolores back level 24 minutes later after some poor defending from South Africa.

Despite believing they went ahead through a Carlos Vela strike in the 39th minute, Mexico continued to push for the large majority of the first half, however, after the break the Bafana Bafana showed a surprising awareness on the ball and great passing build up play.  If they can keep that kind of magic throughout an entire match and bring it with them into every match, they could really do some damage, not only in Group A, but (I daresay) that later rounds.

It’s a longshot, sure, but South Africa really had some promising moments.

Vela nets what he thought was the opener for South Africa 2010.

From the starting whistle, there were some glaring deficiencies from the hosts that needed serious addressing.  Mexico picked them apart with the greatest of ease, and it was feared that we were in for a long match.  However, once nerves settled and South Africa actually got some possession on the ball, play opened up considerably.

South Africa will feel unlucky that Stephen Mphela didn’t put them ahead in the latter stages of the game after he mis-struck the ball and hit the post.

However, Mexico were not without their share of chances.  Giovanni Dos Santos sent a rasping effort at the upper 90 in the first half, only to be denied by Itumeleng Khune, who proved himself well up to the task of guarding the goalmouth.  He expertly saved Guillermo Franco’s effort point blank in the first half as well.



Set Your DVR For…Pt. 1

Group A –

– South Africa vs. Mexico –

The young Mexican will open up defenses in Group A.

Yep, the opening game.  It will be the first test for both sides hoping to make it out of one of the more exciting groups.  Recently marred by the Benni McCarthy scandal, the nation will be eager to get behind their boys and cheer the Bafana Bafana to victory. However, they are coming up against a battle ready Mexican side featuring the likes of Andrés Guardado, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Cuauhtémoc Blanco.  But, it is important to stress the effects that homefield advantage can have on a squad (cue 2002 South Korea).  Whatever happens in Group A, it should amount to some fireworks.

Prediction

South Africa 1 – 2 Mexico

– France vs. Mexico –

To say France has drastically underachieved in qualifying could be putting it lightly.  Les Bleus have one of the strongest rosters in the world, but have failed to live up to that potential.  Forever famous for his handball (the Hand of Gaul), Thierry Henry, the French’s leading scorer, will look to net early and often against a Mexican side that isn’t without its flaws.  Rafael Marquez has only just returned from injury and could be prime for a runaround, a fact that Franck Ribery knows assuredly, as well.  One of the only consistent performers for the French, and only recently, is goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.  The youngster has been in superb form for Lyon and will more than likely attract the attention of big European clubs in South Africa.

Snugglin'

Prediction

France 1 – 1 Mexico

Group B

– Argentina vs. Nigeria –

Most likely the most anticipated match-up of Group B, as the attacking flair of the Africans and the unrivaled talent in the striking

department of the Argentines should provide fireworks.  The Nigerian defense isn’t half bad either.  With the likes of Joseph Yobo, Danny Shittu and Taye Taiwo, they won’t be push overs.  However, when you consider the opposition of Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Milito and Higuain up front, it’s hard to be confident.  Expect a high scoring match with little being offered by either team to defensive standoffs.

Prediction

Argentina 4 – 2 Nigeria

Group C

England vs. United States –

There is a lot of buzz surrounding this match, as the two nations have an illustrious history.  Wartime foes and allies, fierce

So much Wayne. So much angst.

rivalries in sports (Ryder Cup anyone?) and the constant claim that the Americans will never be up to snuff in the footballing world.  And with a squad like England’s, it’s hard to argue…at least this time around.  Despite losing Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry (for the opener only), England still has plenty of bite.  Their pacy wingers will be eyeing up the slower Yank defense and licking their lips.  However, the Americans prosper as underdogs and have proved it before against Spain, Italy and nearly Brazil.  They also do have a few game changing players in their ranks in the likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.  Michael Bradley will surprise some critics at this World Cup for his stifling defensive work but will have his hands full with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard…especially if Ricardo Clark starts and keeps being useless.

Prediction

England 2 – 2 United States

Group D

….All.  The Germans look favorites to top the group, who could blame them?  They are historically dominant and just legit all the time.  Without Ballack, there will be a big hole in midfield that some undersized plugs will try to fill, but the Germans will still manage to oust this group.  The Ghanians will obviously be missing their star man, Michael Essien, but there is still hope as Asamoah Gyan will be a viable option up top and Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah will look to anchor down the middle of the park.  The big physical play of the Serbs could see them through this group as they have sufficient talent all over the pitch, namely defense. Aleksander Kolorov, Branislav Ivanovic, Neven Subotic and Nemanja Vidic…enough said.  They won’t allow many goals and won’t be devoid of goal scoring options up top.  The Australians might be the underdogs of this group, but not by too much.  Their defensive work, like the Serbs, could make up for any menace they lack going forward.  Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill and keeper Mark Shwarzer will be up to the task to snuffing out more than enough attacks.  The question is: can they hold off enough of them to get forward themselves to score?  We don’t think so.

Prediction

Germany to take top spot, with Serbia and Ghana slugging it out for second.  Slight edge Serbia.

Group E

Cameroon vs. Denmark

Simon Kjaer will be entrusted with stifling Samuel Eto'o

The two would-be runner up contenders will contend what we believe to be an intense contest.  This is backed up by a little guycalled Christian Poulsen.  He’s explosive, he provokes players and he’s violent.  After run ins with Francesco Totti, Gennaro Gattuso and Kaká, Poulsen has made a name for himself as a bit of a dirty player.  That coupled with the intensity sure to be building up within the Cameroonian midfield could lead to a show.  Don’t put it past Poulsen to make a racial slur, provoke one of the Lions.  That said, Cameroon have an iconic hitman in Samuel Eto’o, however that may be slightly scuppered by the big Danes, Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer.  Cameroon are also dealing with internal team issues with Samuel Eto’o being called out by legend Roger Milla, essentially for being a baby.  Denmark will look to snuff out attacks with their big boys in back and counter through their young gun Nikolas Bendtner.

Prediction

Cameroon 1 – 0 Denmark



Up for Grabs for Group A

GROUP A –

1. South Africa

2. Mexico

3. Uruguay

4. France

Group A could be one of the trickiest groups to advance from, as every team will have a legitimate shot at clawing their way out.  The hosts will feel aggrieved to have the now-hated France squad thrown into their group.  However, home field advantage can do funny things to teams (Cue 2002 World Cup).

South Africa – The Bafana Bafana could come out deceptively strong in Group A with battle tested EPL players Steven Pienaar, Benni McCarthy and Aaron Mokoena (the captain) pulling the majority of the weight for the hosts.  Playing

Steven Pienaar with striker Bernard Parker

on their home turf will be key for South Africa, as the World Cup should work wonders for national pride (as well as the economy).  If you remember 2002, South Korea surpassed about everyones’ expectations by marching into the

semifinals of the tournament with the aid of their countrymen.  Steven Pienaar will be the spark plug that will ignite the South African engine.  His flair and work rate have dazzled at Goodison Park this season, and he will be looking to emulate his form for the Toffees in his national team colors.  It’s always a great thing to make the World Cup finals, but the nation will be gunning hard for one of the spots that sends them into the first round, and, all things considered, could actually be possible.

Mexico –

Nobody needs a second telling that Mexico are typically a card carrying tournament team.  With their recently returned (heavily) seasoned veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco (37 years old) pulling the strings and up-and-coming sensations Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela doing the footwork, El Tri should be favored to grab one of the top spots in Group A.  It also helps that they have a very adept keeper in Guillermo Ochoa.  However, it will still be a tall order as France is gifted in every position and Uruguay’s physical approach may disrupt their fluid build up play.  It won’t be a cake walk for El Tri, but if they stick to their guns and pass the way they know how, I’ll tip them to take top spot in the group.

Uruguay – Uruguay has two titles under their belt (sure they were in 1930 & 1950) and have a squad that may be capable of upsetting favorites Mexico and France.  Easily their top dogs are Ajax hitman Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid Diego Forlan.  Forlan will be coming off a great win over Fulham in the Europa League final and will be looking to build off that.  Martin Caceres is a rising star in defense at Juventus and should sure-up the back line but will have his hands full with Nicolas Anelka, Steven Pienaar and Carlos Vela.  The rest of the back line could be relatively leaky for Los Charruas and could be their downfall.  Suarez and Lodeiro represent Ajax at the club level and are both fully capable of find ways to break down defenses in any group and shouldn’t be overlooked as a serious contender for a top spot.  Suarez is literally gushing goals for Ajax (49 goals this season in 48 appearances) and is one of the players to watch in Group A.

France – It’s hard to say anything positive about France still, as the infamous hand ball got them in the tournament

Gourcuff pulling strings for Bordeaux

and, if that isn’t enough, they get placed in the group where South Africa is the top seed.  The big man must really be looking out for Les Bleus.  That said, they should be the easy favorites for the group, but they failed to impress in any sense during qualifying and could flop as hard as they did in 2002.  France is a wild card and it is hard to predict which team will actually show up.  They won in 98, earned zero points in 2002 and made it to the final in 2006.  Nobody will know truly if they have a shot until kickoff, but it’s just so hard to look past their lineup.  When the spine of a team is Hugo Lloris, William Gallas, Lassana Diarra, Yoann Gourcuff and Thierry Henry, they should be tipped to win it all.  Not to mention, they have attacking dime pieces like Nicolas Anelka and Franck Ribery to tear apart defenses.  In terms of who to look out for?  I’ll put my money on the Gourcuff (Don’t believe me? Watch his goal against PSG), the midfield maestro is only 23, was named Ligue 1 player of the year for 08/09, made Ligue 1 team of the year  for 08/09 and 09/10 and was named French Football’s player of the year for 2009.

Prediction –

1. France

2. Mexico

3. South Africa

4. Uruguay