Tag Archives: Peru

The Day of Finals

July 7, 2019 presented a rare confluence of futbol championship events.  In the morning (US time), the 2019 Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and the Netherlands took place in France.  In the afternoon, the Copa America final featured host country Brazil versus Peru.  In the evening, the U.S. men’s team faced off against Mexico in the Gold Cup final in Chicago.  The U.S. women’s team rightfully considered themselves disrespected by the North and South American soccer federations for scheduling their finals on the same day the World Cup came to a conclusion.  Nonetheless, it was a great day to be a soccer fan.


The United States cruised through the group stage scoring an astounding 18 goals while giving up none.    The Netherlands didn’t have it quite so easy in their group, but still came away with three convincing wins.   The American found tougher games in the knockout rounds, but won by a 2-1 score in each round–the Round of 16, the Quarterfinals, and the Semifinals–on their way to the finals.  The Dutch gave up a goal in their 2-1 Round of 16 win, but threw shutouts in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals.  This was only the second World Cup that the Netherlands had qualified for, but they served notice of their abilities by winning the European championship two years ago.

From the start, the U.S. dominated the game.   They continually pushed the attack, fired shots, and earned corners as the game was largely played in the final third.  The Dutch showed resilience on their back line though and turned away attack after attack by the  Americans.  For the first time in the tournament, the U.S. failed to score in the first 15 minutes of the game and the game was still scoreless at the half.

The American lethal front line of Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Tobin Heath continued their relentless assault into the second half and earned a penalty kick 15 minutes in when a Dutch defender kicked too high in an attempt to prevent Morgan from receiving a pass inside the box.  Rapinoe buried the penalty kick as she has done all tournament.  The Dutch defense seemed rattled at that point and less than 10 minutes later, that discombobulation cost them.  U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle took a pass near the mid-line, dribbled straight down the center of the field, made a simple juke move at the top of the box that turned the defender the wrong way and then rocketed a left-footer past the goalie into the right corner of the goal.  Even with the two goal lead, the U.S. continued to press the attack, something many squads fail to do when they build a lead.  The Dutch got their best chances as time ran down, but could not convert.

The 2-0 win gave the U.S. their fourth World Cup title–their second in a row–two more than any other national squad.  Rapinoe won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards.  With the emergence of the 24-year-old Lavelle, who won the Bronze Ball award, the future of the U.S. team continues to look very bright.  Much of the Dutch squad will still be in their primes in four years, so look for them to be a force at the 2023 World Cup.

Given the American womens’ dominance at the highest levels, it is high time that the U.S. soccer federation paid the women the same as the men.  The womens’ team scores better results, draws bigger crowds, and gets better TV ratings.  It’s time they get PAID!


In a rarity, the Copa America final matched two teams that came out of the same group.  In the group stage, Brazil punished Peru 5-0, but La Blanquirroja managed to advance out of the groups with a tie against Venezuela and a win over Bolivia.  Peru then won Quarterfinals and Semifinals games against Uruguay (penalty kicks) and Chile, respectively, that they really had no business winning, but for a stout defense that turned away numerous shots and making the most of the few chances their offense received.  Seleção fought through some minor bumps in the road, notably a tie against Venezuela in the group and a penalty kick win against Paraguay in the Quarterfinals, two national squads that Brazil should have dominated.  In a hard fought game, Brazil turned away Argentina 2-0 in the Semifinals, disappointing Leo Messi on the world stage yet again.

in the Final the Peruvians surprisingly came out swinging at the start, repeatedly pushing into the Brazilian box, but could not finish.  At the 15-minute mark, a Brazilian run down the right sideline produced a long cross into the box where Peru’s defense had collapsed inward, leaving Everton alone on the back side.  He ran onto the cross and rammed home the first goal of the game.  Just before half-time, Paulo Guerrero delivered the equalizer for Peru on a penalty kick after a pass in the box bounced off the arm of a falling Brazilian defender.  Minutes later, in extra time, Peru’s defense again failed, leaving Gabriel Jesus with too much space at the top of the box which he converted into a 2-1 halftime lead for Brazil.

Brazil continued to dominate the ball in the second half, but neither team was able to get much in the way of shots on goal.  However,  as Jesus tooketh, he also gaveth away, doing Peru a favor and earning his second yellow card of the game by delivering an elbow to the back of an opposing player’s head while jumping for a high ball.  Brazil had to play a man down for the final 20 and Peru nearly tied it up again on a long shot by Edison Flores.  However, Brazil maintained its attack and got an insurance goal on a questionably earned penalty kick just before extra time.  With the 3-1 victory, Brazil won its first Copa America championship since 2007.


Mexico and the United States have long dominated the CONCACAF Gold Cup with 7 and 6 championships, respectively.  Canada is the only other national squad to have won a Gold Cup.  So it came as no surprise that El Tri and the Americans found themselves facing off in yet another Gold Cup Final.  Both squads rumbled through their groups without much problem scoring many goals in the process.  For the U.S., always known for their conservative game, this attacking approach was refreshing.  Both team faced tougher games in the knockout rounds, but survived to reach the championship game.

The Americans did not abandon Coach Gregg Berhalter’s attacking style, creating two great early opportunities for Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore that could not be converted.  The Mexicans played a more patient passing approach, but the stiff U.S. back line prevented any troubling penetrations in the final third.  At the end of the half, the stats say Mexico had more possession and shots, but the U.S. clearly created the more dangerous opportunities, though they were unable to finish them.

An early corner in the 2nd half nearly put the Americans on the board.  A header off the Pulisic corner was saved by a defender’s header on the goal line at the near post.  A follow-up shot went off a defender’s back.  As the half progressed though, Mexico’s attack kept building, earning corners and putting shots on goal.  Momentum had clearly shifted and the Mexicans finally cashed in on a push up the middle where Raul Jimenez put through a beautiful back heel pass to Jonathan dos Santos at the top of the box.  Dos Santos then placed a left-footer into the top left corner of the net that U.S. goalie Zach Steffen could only watch.  The United States staged a furious rally in the final 20 minutes, but despite some great opportunities, they could not find the equalizer.

The Americans should feel good about their showing in this tournament.  They still need to find a Clint Dempsey-like finisher, but the attacking style suits the make-up of the team.  Budding stars like Pulisic, Weston McKinnie, and Reggie Cannon, all 20 or 21 years old portends a bright future for the USMNT.  Mexico’s bend but don’t break approach survived this time, but many of their attackers are 25 and under, so they will get better with experience too.  Hopefully both squads continue to get better so that CONCACAF can put forward a better presence at the World Cup.


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FIFA World Cup 2018: Group C and D Third Matches

Denmark 0-0 France: I wasn’t convinced this was going to be an exciting match going I, and I hated to be right. Denmark played it safe with a center-intensive 4-3-3 that could morph into t a 4-5-1 if they got more adventurous in attack (they did not). Midfield creator Christian Erikson, who usually likes to find the game, was pushed back more to clog up the middle with Martin Jorgensen, and the front line of Martin Braithwaite, Andres Cornelius and Pione Sisto were more of the first line of midfield defense. France rung up six changes to his lineup (they knew they were through so they were playing it safe, also), playing a safe 4-5-1 that could also have morphed into a 4-5-1 has they wanted more offense (they did not either). Antoine Greizmann was the focal point of the attack in the center, with Olivier Giroud the lone target man up front. There was some attacking action early, as Denmark more or less circumvented its midfield and get the ball quickly to its front three, who were responsible for most of the attack in the box.

France midfielders Steven N’Zonzi and N’Golo Kanté were squeezing out the midfield, making it tough for Erikson to get the ball, so Denmark was more than happy to go over the top. Right winger Djibril Sidibé and right flanker Ousmane Dembélé made some impressive thrusts into the attacking end early. Giroud and Greizmann were marked men all game long; Danish center backs Mathias Jørgensen and Simon Kjaer put them on lockdown. I’m not going to bore you with what happened in the second half. Suffice it to say that the ball just kind of got passed around back and forth, neither team really trying very hard, both knowing they were through to the next round with a scoreless draw.

Australia 0-2 Peru: Australia went with a basic 4-4-1-1 formation, not very adventurous considering they still had a chance at advancement depending on the result in the other group fixture. No real creator anywhere on the pitch for the Socceroos so they were just going to play the ball to their front man Tomi Juric and hope he could get the ball on to Tom Rogic trailing in. Peru were going to run at you with a 4-2-3-1, with three forwards up front with Edison Flores and André Carrillo bringing the ball into the box for target man Paolo Guerrero from either flank. Peru was not going to just sit back and let the Australians come at them; they pressed them high, forcing the Aussies to go over the top to get the ball forward. Australia took a lot of shots but very few on goal, and they were rewarded a lot of direct free kicks. Both teams tried to stay compact, forcing each other to make lateral passes and avoid diagonal long balls. Not much play from side to side.

Recognizing the Australia was playing a high back line, Peru played a long ball up front to Guerrero, who set up Carillo for the one-timer. Australia didn’t changed their game after going down, but they were more aware of the long ball getting behind them. Peru’s backline was playing high, also, which is why Australia was getting up front frequently. In the second half, Peru replaced Yoshimar Yotún with Pedro Aquino to get more of a push forward in midfield. Center forward Christian Cueva finally got on the end of a give-and-go, then found Guerrero in the box for a right-footed shot to the bottom left corner of the goal. In response, the Aussies brought on a veteran target man in Tim Cahill to offer more movement off the ball in the box, draw back deep into midfield to get the ball forward, and offer more aerial ability in front of goal. Then Australia tried to get more speed going forward by bringing in 19-year-old flanker Daniel Arzani, who was less creative than Robbie Kruse on the left but could get into the attacking end faster. Nothing worked. Peru stood firm and finished their tournament on a winning note despite crashing out days ago.

Iceland 1-2 Croatia: Iceland allowed too much space to Nigeria in their previous group fixture, so this time around they played a more compact 4-2-3-1, with Emil Hallfredsson and Aron Gunnarsson lying back in the center just in front of the back four. Alfred Ginnbogason was the target man up front getting on the end of balls into the box from flankers Birker Bjarnason and Johann Gudmundsson on the break, with talisman Gylfi Sigurdsson trailing in support. Croatia was already through to the next round, so there were nine changes to their 4-5-1 formation that felt more like a 4-3-2-1, but deep-lying playmaker Mateo Kovacic and free talisman Luka Modric retained their spots with the freedom to roam and find the game, with Ivan Perisic making his first start slotting inside from the left. Croatia is very good at making crisp, precise passes in a controlling attack, but what makes them dangerous is their ability to move players out of their usual roles and rotate them forward, backwards and inside as needed. When they don’t have possession they are adept at taking players on and closing them down and harassing them immediately. Iceland stayed tight defensively, then picked their moments and sprung on the break. Opportunities came up for Iceland on rare Croatian mistakes; they just didn’t convert.

Croatia played rather leisurely, choosing not to go up tempo; they did not have to take the game to Iceland, just manage the game and wait for opportunities to creep up. The one person Iceland needed to keep off the ball, Modric, they didn’t do a very good job of; as a result, you got to see why he is one of the best midfielders in Europe; he is very clinical and precise. Iceland’s best forays forward were down the flanks. What finally got Croatia on the board was a patient overloaded buildup in the Icelandic half resulting in a Milan Badelj finish in the center of the box. Needing a result, Iceland had to get forward, so they sent all of their wingers forward in attack, and overloaded the attacking half in more of a 3-5-2 setup. A Dejan Lovren handball in the box gives Iceland a lifeline; Sigurdsson converts. Iceland poured it on after that, but you could tell they were gassed late. Emil Hallfredsson got his pocket picked by Badelj in the back third, and he sent the ball into the left side of the box to Ivan Perisic, who sent it into the right corner of goal. A game effort by Iceland, who created plenty of chances on goal and had a number of chances to win, but they left way too many gaps for a possessive and organized Croatia team to exploit.

Nigeria 1-2 Argentina: Nigeria played a tight, midfield-intensive 3-5-2, looking to challenge Argentina in the middle third, but surprising given that there were only three defenders against an otherworldly player like Mess. The idea was to get the ball to right flanker Victor Moses on the right, and then bring the ball into the box for target man Kelechi Iheanacho to hold up play and Admed Musa to finish. It appeared as if Argentina was playing a conservative 4-4-2, but with the many changes to the starting XI, Argentina looked to keep their options open. Argentina replaced Sergio Aguerro with Gonzalo Higuain, who is better finding channels in the box. Lionel Messi was the central talisman up front, free to move all over the pitch, and Angel di Maria was back on his customary left flank, so Argentina was getting a lot more movement in the final third. With an eye on getting more players moved up in attack, Argentina brought in Éver Banega in a linkup roll. It worked; Banega with an over the top long pass to Messi, who beat his man one on one for an easy goal.

Nigeria looked confused in attack all game long, there was no organization to their offense, and couldn’t get any momentum going, like they didn’t know what they wanted to do on the ball from one moment to the next. Banega and Javier Mascherano did a great job of tying up the Nigerian attack in the midfield. Messi-Higuain-di Maria worked well together; the attack just flowed. Nigeria got a break in the 51st minute, when Mascherano was called for a penalty for bringing down in the box on a corner; Moses converted. In desperation, Argentina sent numbers forward. Center back Marcos Rojo does not come to mind when you think of the Argentine attack, but he was in the box on a cross by right winger Gabriel Mercado. Argentina spent so much time introducing their attack down the left flank with di Maria; what put them over the top was the one time they went down the right flank. Nigeria tempted the fates by giving up way too much possession to a sleeping giant.

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Group C and D Second Matches

Denmark 1-1 Australia: This was the back-and-forth, evenly matched game I expected it to be. Both teams play a combination game, putting passes together to work their way up the field in attack. The Danes did a better job of staying composed, closing down, maintaining pace, keeping the ball, and finding angles. The better quality shots were taken by the Danes. Both teams play a similar attacking style; get the ball forward, play up-tempo, make the other team uncomfortable when they don’t have the ball. A surprising amount of this game was played on both ends despite the lack of counterattacks and quick long balls from end to end. Aggressive pressure in the box by both teams led to either team being 6’s and 7’s on their goals in the first half; first by a lapse in judgment in the Australian backline leading to a quick goal by Dane talisman Christian Eriksen, then later a handball in the box by Yussuf Poulsen leading to a Mile Jedinak penalty for Australia.

The Socceroos were at their best defensively when they kept Eriksen off the ball. The last 45 minutes saw the Socceroos putting more pressure on the Danes, closing them down more when they had the ball. Denmark was at their best when first Poulsen and then his substitute Martin Braithewaite made strides down the right side on the attacking end. Australia still wasn’t making long passes into the attacking end, but they were getting downfield more with quick combination passing. Kasper Schmeichel came up big for Denmark in goal, living up to his famous father’s name. Don’t be fooled by the score; this was a battle from beginning to end.

France 1-0 Peru: I was surprised to see that for the first time in years, French midfielder Paul Pogba did not have some kind of colored dye in his hair. Peru can certainly create a lot of chances, but they just can’t seem to find the net. Peru’s tactics are simple; get the ball down the flanks long, hold up play and hope a trailing attacker will fill the space up front to put the ball on. It kind of make Les Bleus tentative at the beginning, staying back in a tactically rigid 5-4-1. France were noticeably better in the air on headers and 50/50 balls. When Olivier Giroud was linking up with Kylian Mbappe, France was much more fluid and coordinated in the final third. Good defensive resistance from Peru, but you kind of got the sense that Pogba-Mbappe-Greizmann linkup would eventually break through. It happened when Mbappe got free in the center.

A more controlled attack by Peru in the second half, as they played with a sense of urgency, keeping Les Bleus pinned in their own end trying to stave off the furious Peru attack. French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris stepped up, keeping the many Peru chances out of the net. With about 25 minute left, Peru played a little more direct, getting the ball into the attacking third a lot faster, trying to find the equalizer. To withstand the onslaught, French coach Didier Deschampe brought on fresh legs in Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, and Steven N’Zonzi. I kept waiting for forwards Paolo Guerrero, Christian Cuevo, and Andre’ Carrillo to put the ball in the back of the net given how many chances they all had in this and the previous game against Denmark, but they just couldn’t seem to finish. A surprisingly quiet game from Antoine Greizmann. France didn’t win; they survived.

Argentine 0-3 Croatia: The key to this game was the play on the wings, because Argentina used a rigid center back three, the Croatians looked to move the ball forward quickly on the flanks. Nobody does a better job of finding space for himself in the box than Lionel Messi, but in this tournament he his having issues finishing, highly unusual for him. The best way for Croatia to interrupt the otherworldly creativity of Messi and Kun Aguerro was to get physical and disrupt their rhythm and flow. Obviously the point of attack for Croatia was talisman Luka Modric, so every time he got the ball on his feet, there was defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano to close him down. Argentina didn’t seem to play the nervy, one-two combination game that characterizes them, seeming to be just a little too conservative, leaving some good playmakers on the bench. It just looked like Messi was having a hard time getting off the schneid. That goal by Croat Ante Rebic was a gift, a fatal error by Caballero. That got Argentine coach Jorje Sampaoli to bring on Gonzalo Higuain in place of Aguerro. Aguerro was playing up high in the box, trying to split the Croatian defenders but not getting enough space to get a shot off. Huguain moved around a little more off the ball.

As an aside, I love the sight of spectator Diego Maradona biting his fingernails nervously after Argentina went down by a goal. In an attempt to get more finishers up front, Argentina brought on Paulo Dybala and crowded the forward attack with as many as five players, dropping Messi back in support. Argentina just weren’t playing with any width; they have among the best wingers in the world and they just aren’t utilizing them. They totally lacked creativity on the ball, finishing up front, and their talisman, Messi, practically disappeared in the second half. On the second goal by Modric, it looked like Argentina just gave up. To say that Croatia’s midfield just ran over Argentina is an understatement. After that Argentina was 6’s and 7’s, unorganized and unmotivated, getting caught too far upfield on Croatia’s last goal by Ivan Rakitic’. How Argentina gets out of this is beyond me. Just no heart.

Nigeria 2-0 Iceland: Nigeria employed a more adventuresome 3-5-2 scheme for this one, looking to get flankers Bryan Idowu and Victor Moses more into the attack going forward and relying on Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi to interrupt the Icelandic attack in the center of midfield. What’s more telling is that Nigeria went with a 19-year-old in goal, Francis Uzoho. Nigeria has the youngest team in this tournament, while Iceland has the tallest. The game plan for Iceland is simple: use their size to win the ball – especially on 50/50 balls – then get the ball quickly to their linkup player Gylfi Sigurdsson. Nigeria’s game plan was to play the ball diagonally, stretching Iceland on the wings and in the back. The referee in this game as a lot less rigid in calling physical play than in other fixtures.

Nigeria caught Iceland with too many players forward early in the second half; Moses got the ball on the right flank with only two Icelandic players back and quickly got the ball in to target man Ahmed Musa in the box, who finished off a one-timer. I don’t think Iceland is built to play any differently when they get behind. If Iceland was going to get back into this game, they had to stop giving up significant possession to the Super Eagles. Predictably, Iceland started sending numbers forward, which left them vulnerable in the back and on the flanks, which gave Nigeria ample opportunities on goal. Musa’s second goal proved this. Wow! Iceland got a lifeline with a penalty and Sigurdsson misses wildly (Uzoho didn’t even have to do anything). The Super Eagles stuck to their tactical rigidity in the back and it paid off.


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