Tag Archives: 2006

FIFA World Cup: The Final

Some random thoughts on the 2006 World Cup Final. This time I’m going to let my good friend Arnold Woods have the last word on this blog:
– Not a bad game.  France dominated the action much of the game (though strangely did not dominate time of possession), but Gigi Buffon and the Fabio Cannavaro-led defense did their job at turning back the attacks and shots. France should not have scored at all as Florent Malouda
took a dive on the foul call in the penalty box.  I cannot fault the referee on that one though as I initially thought it was a real foul and the ref had none of the replays that we saw.  Furthermore, the referee did not call a foul later when Malouda was taken down in the box, so it all evened out for France.
   How stupid was Zidane Zidane for that head butt?  There were only 10 minutes left and the game was quite likely headed to a penalty shootout.  Zidane deprived France of their best penalty shot artist.  And I don’t care what Marco Materazzi said; it was just plain stupid to go out of your final game ever in that fashion.  As Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com would say about football games: “I said game over at that point, Italy would win.”
   Italy did not play a very inspired offensive game. Francesco Totti and Luca Toni were virtually non-existent and Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta did little once they were added to the game.  After France scored on the penalty kick, Italy’s offense came alive long enough to connect on the Materazzi header, but they fell back into their defensive game after that for the most part.  Of course, their defense was dominant throughout the tourney, but you can’t rely on winning via PKs.  You have to go out and try to win the game.  But what do I know?
   Italy still won the world championship with this defensive strategy. Still a very good game to watch, though I wish it hadn’t been decided on PKs.  The Germany-Portugal match the day before was a much more exciting match. Nice to see how teams play when they have nothing to lose.
   On to South Africa in 2010.

                                           — Arnold Woods –
 
daveydoug

FIFA World Cup: Semi-Finals

Some random thoughts on the Semi-finals of the 2006 FIFA World Cup:     – Nothing cautious about the way Germany and Italy approached their semi-final fixture. Both teams moved the ball around well, getting the ball into the attacking end quickly and not spending too much time in the middle third of the pitch. Both midfields were a tad scatter-shot, showing no real coordinated plan going forward. Although Germany had shown some good forward quality on the flanks in their previous tournament fixtures, they seemed to have show better inventiveness going through Michael Ballack through the center. Italy, on the other hand, was just the opposite, seemingly doing a good job of attacking on the wings with Fabio Grosso and Mauro Camorenesi. Germany’s Cristophe Metzelder and Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro did a marvelous job of man-marking and dispossessing on direct opposition service into the box. One of the few matches I’ve ever seen where there was a lot of back and forth that amounted to nothing really: Both Germany and Italy showed lots of energy and pace and got the ball deep into each other’s penalty area but didn’t take any real quality chances on goal. Not very good offensive build-up or coordination. I was left wondering why Italy coach Marcello Lippi went with just one out-and-out striker (first Luca Toni and then Alberto Gilardino). Andrea Pirlo wasn’t effective at all as the playmaker; Francesco Totti was virtually invisible as the withdrawn forward. Germany made only slightly better use of its attacking midfield. Much better chances on goal for both teams in extra time as the pace got frenetic. In a game this devoid of attractive attacking quality it came down to who got through first in a trench war of attrition: Italy got there first on – what else – a set piece goal by Fabio Grosso with one minute left (Alessandro del Piero scored an unnessessary goal moments later). Despite not making it to the final, MADD MADD MADD MADD MADD PROPS to German coach Jurgen Klinsmann for providing the best inventive, attractive attacking football we saw this tournament. Italy, which didn’t play up-to-snuff for most of this tournament, finally played like their predecessors of yore – with ruthlessness, backbone and boundless direct attacking – and get a date in Berlin. 

  – Nothing cautious about the way Germany and Italy approached their semi-final fixture. Both teams moved the ball around well, getting the ball into the attacking end quickly and not spending too much time in the middle third of the pitch. Both midfields were a tad scatter-shot, showing no real coordinated plan going forward. Although Germany had shown some good forward quality on the flanks in their previous tournament fixtures, they seemed to have show better inventiveness going through Michael Ballack through the center. Italy, on the other hand, was just the opposite, seemingly doing a good job of attacking on the wings with Fabio Grosso and Mauro Camorenesi. Germany’s Cristophe Metzelder and Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro did a marvelous job of man-marking and dispossessing on direct opposition service into the box. One of the few matches I’ve ever seen where there was a lot of back and forth that amounted to nothing really: Both Germany and Italy showed lots of energy and pace and got the ball deep into each other’s penalty area but didn’t take any real quality chances on goal. Not very good offensive build-up or coordination. I was left wondering why Italy coach Marcello Lippi went with just one out-and-out striker (first Luca Toni and then Alberto Gilardino). Andrea Pirlo wasn’t effective at all as the playmaker; Francesco Totti was virtually invisible as the withdrawn forward. Germany made only slightly better use of its attacking midfield. Much better chances on goal for both teams in extra time as the pace got frenetic. In a game this devoid of attractive attacking quality it came down to who got through first in a trench war of attrition: Italy got there first on – what else – a set piece goal by Fabio Grosso with one minute left (Alessandro del Piero scored an unnessessary goal moments later). Despite not making it to the final, MADD MADD MADD MADD MADD PROPS to German coach Jurgen Klinsmann for providing the best inventive, attractive attacking football we saw this tournament. Italy, which didn’t play up-to-snuff for most of this tournament, finally played like their predecessors of yore – with ruthlessness, backbone and boundless direct attacking – and get a date in Berlin.   

– Much better midfield link-up play in the Portugal-France semi-final. This is the kind of coordinated attacking football that was missing in the Germany-Italy semi-final. If you didn’t know how important Deco really is to Portugal, you saw it in his return from a one-game suspension in this game: He and Maniche just have the communication down, and Cristiano Ronaldo on the left side was really a great sparkplug going forward. As much as I would like to jump on the Zinedine Zidane bandwagon and claim that his rejuvenation as a midfield creative wizard and other-worldly ball magician is the reason France are back I can’t because every time France made an inventive foray forward it was because Zidane switched the ball out to the flanks (Eric Abidal, Florent Malouda and Franck Ribery). That said, the linkup between the grizzled veterans Zidane and Thierry Henry is clearly effective (Portugal came into this game with so many players on one yellow card, so that may have affected the way they defended because they weren’t closing down anybody with the same kind of bite that they had in earlier fixtures. I’m not really a fan of one-forward formations and tactics: I just think that if the objective is to create scoring chances, even if it requires a five-man midfield, has a better chance at creative attacking success if there is more than one target man in the box. Not really sure if that really was a foul in the box on Henry, but I won’t argue the point; the refereeing in this match was actually consistent. Patrick Vieira doesn’t get enough credit for being as good as he is, but he is clearly the best transition player in the game; he goes forward into the attack so much that we forget that he is the world-class stopper, in front of the backline, that stops the opposition attack from gaining any coordinated attacking momentum in the penalty area. In this match it showed: In the second half Portugal didn’t get a decent shot on goal off once. You hate for a game like this to be decided by only one penalty kick, especially with two teams that played as attractive in attack as these two. But no blaming the referee this time. Portugal finally played up to their abilities in a World Cup, and all the credit should go to their coach, Luis Felipe “Big Phil” Scolari, who finally gave them a ruthlessness and backbone they clearly had been missing. Gotta give it to France: At knockout time they don’t play merely to survive, they play to win. Whether anybody knows it or not, the two best defenses in this tournament are going to play for the championship. 

  

daveydoug 

FIFA World Cup: Quarterfinals

Some random thoughts on the Quarterfinals of the 2006 FIFA World Cup:   

  (EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m sure the football traditionalists are falling all over themselves with glee over this quarterfinal draw. With six former world champions representing 15 of the 17 previous championships, this draw represents a reestablishment of the football status quo, which was shaken up when neophytes South Korea, Turkey and the United States at Korea/Japan 2002 [and to a large degree Greece at Euro 2004 in Portugal] had the temerity to break tradition and challenge the accepted football hierarchy by beating the football blue-blood royalty with tactics other than beautiful, hypnotic creative flair and artistic imagination. Heaven help if somebody other than the traditional football elite actually enters these major international competitions and actually has designs on winning! Here’s a sarcastic shout-out to Gavin Hamilton, Keir Radnedge, Brian Glanville, and Paul Gardner at Soccer World magazine: I hope you’re happy now.) 

  

– Argentina’s speed and flair versus Germany’s size and strength. Five World Cup titles between them. Argentina broke from their 3-3-1-3 and employed a 4-4-2, with Carlos Tevez partnering up front with Hernan Crespo, and bringing in Fabrizio Coloccini as extra cover in the back. A very physical match, with Germany looking to put a body on Argentine attackers in order to slow them down. Definitely an intense and passionate affair though lacking in football nuance and skill. Neither team got consistent service into the box, although Tevez had the occasional run with the ball into space. After getting down a goal (by Roberto Ayala on an Argentina set piece), Germany responded like a team is supposed to; they started going forward, looking for Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose to beat the offside trap and get in behind the defense. The German midfield was surprisingly nondescript, and they were surprisingly weak on the flanks — a strengths until now – so it wasn’t surprising when Germany brought in David Odonkor for his pace and energy. While Odonkor and Tim Borowski, the sub on the other flank, weren’t involved in the German equalizer, reestablishing flank play was key; it was Ballack’s service from the left flank that was instrumental. Surprisingly Argentine coach Jose Pekerman’s substitutions erred on the side of caution; he brought in defensive-minded midfielders instead of the more attack-minded players, like Lionel Messi, he had in previous cup ties (which begs the questions: Why take both Juan Roman Riquelme and Hernan Crespo out of a 1-0 game?). Both teams got away from what worked for them throughout this tournament – I firmly believe if both teams played the kind of free flowing, attacking football they had up until now this match would have never gone to a penalty shootout. But it is appropriate, given how good both of them are and the international pedigree they both bring to the table, that it did come down to penalties. The best Argentine side since 1986 goes home because they didn’t play their game. Now we know how well Germany can respond when behind. 

  

– Italy, with the best defense so far, got a quick goal from Gianluca Zambrotta then locked down the Ukraine, whose only offense came from off-target long range shots. Italy’s attack was predicated on getting the ball forward as quickly as possible and oftentimes utilizing individual ball skills to get forward. It kept the Ukraine on its heels all match long, but that wasn’t surprising, since the Ukraine’s offense consists of getting service to Andrei Shevchenko in the attacking end and not much else. Bad man management by Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin resulted in two subs made before halftime; they weren’t getting any real chances on goal with the 4-5-1 so they brought on a forward for a defender and switched to a 4-4-2, with little success. Luca Toni finally got on the scoresheet, the beneficiary of the quick forward Italian attack and a good Francesco Totti cross into the box. Totti is finally beginning to put his stamp on the Italian attack, although he still isn’t linking up with Andrea Pirlo with any regularity. Toni’s goal notwithstanding, eight different players have scored for Italy, pointing up the schizophrenic finishing up front that is still better than the Ukraine’s, which isn’t saying much. Despite making it this far the Ukraine never established any other options in the box to partner Shevchenko and they never established any real playmakers in midfield to support him – against this good a defense it mattered. Of all the quarterfinalists, Italy had the least difficult road to the semi-finals; the luck of the draw had them go through neophytes Australia and now the Ukraine (while everyone else had to face at least one former world champion). Madd Props, though, to the Ukraine, the one-trick pony that made it this far. Italy hasn’t played up to their abilities just yet. Germany won’t be nearly this easy. 

  

– Both England and Portugal came out in 4-5-1 formations with just one front man, although Portugal’s was more of a 4-3-3 with Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo flanking Pauleta. Regardless, neither team did a good job of getting their lone front men the ball (Pauleta was basically invisible). It’s not hard to understand why England had just one lone striker; Wayne Rooney was the only quality striker they had left, so they had to put on an extra covering midfielder (Owen Hargreaves) to try and get Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard forward into the attack. It didn’t work because (1) Rooney is not your classis goal poacher, who lives in the box, gets the ball serviced to him and just shoots; and (2) with Figo and Ronaldo attacking as much as they were Gerrard and Lampard had to keep tracking back to aid in the defense. Was wondering early on why Gary Neville’s presence in the lineup was so integral, and then I figured it out: Neville tracking on the wings and providing valuable crosses and service allows David Beckham to get more into the center of attack. Tiago didn’t play badly but without Deco the linkup between Portugal’s midfield and attack just wasn’t there. It had to happen sometime: Rooney’s characteristic temper got the best of him and he got caught kicking somebody in the gonads, reducing England to ten men. Although both teams lacked coordination going forward they did show lots of energy and pace throughout. Down a man England compacted the field, and Portugal began sending crosses into a crowded box. Lots of back-and-forth play during extra time, where both teams showed energetic direct forward attacking and tried to get the one score that would win it; they didn’t just sit back and wait out the extra 30 minutes. In the penalty shootout, keeper Ricardo came up big, guessing right on all four England shots and saving three. Portugal didn’t shoot any better than England but did enough (Lampard and Gerrard lost their confidence in their shooting and it clearly showed in the shootout). The better team is advancing to the semis. England never played up to their abilities throughout this tournament but still got this far. Maybe if Sven Goran Eriksson had done a better job of picking finishers we wouldn’t be having this conversation. 

  

– I keep wondering why it is that coaches change what it is that has been working for them when they get to this point? Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira changed from the fluid 4-2-2-2 that had been working for them for close to six years to a less fluid 4-5-1, leaving Ronaldo up front by himself. I realize that Ronaldo has not been getting along with usual strike partner Adriano for whatever personal reasons, but as long as Brazil had another striker in attack they were more fluid, more creative and had more chances on goal. Against France – who themselves changed their tactics to a midfield-intensive 4-5-1 to press and challenge Brazil in the midfield and hope to pry loose Thierry Henry against the offside trap – Brazil couldn’t get off the shneid, couldn’t get Ronaldo the kind of service he needed to get his shot off, and couldn’t get Ronaldinho and Kaka into the attack because they were being dispossessed in the middle by defensive midfielders Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele. France had more of the possession and more of the opportunities but didn’t get it done in the final third. My guess would be that, noticing that his side had been noticeably weak in the middle of defense, Parreira had an extra midfielder in to cover the center-backs. It seemed to work: Zinedine Zidane couldn’t create those mesmerizing passes in the middle and got pushed out to the wings in order to find space. When Henry finally was pried loose on a set-piece goal, Brazil then in the 60th minute brought on Adriano in place of Juninho, switching to their natural 4-2-2-2, but France still pressed and challenged Brazil at every turn, not giving them space to create. Ronaldinho never rose to the occasion throughout this tournament, and he was practically invisible in this match. France closed down everybody who came near their penalty area. Madd Props to France for coming up with a tactical plan to shut down the vaunted Brazilian attack and pull the upset of the year – the longer they hang around the more confident they get and the better they play — but that isn’t why they won. As stated pre-tournament, the only team that could beat Brazil was Brazil. For whatever mystical reason they changed their tactics from what had worked ‘til now and got cautious, believing their talent would always get them a win, so the most talented team that should have won it all is going home with their tails between their legs. The better team won. 

  

daveydoug