Tag Archives: World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014: Round of 16

Some random observations after the Round of Sixteen:

Brazil 1-1 Chile (3-2 aet): Fernandinho came in for the ineffective Paulinho, but he look rusty early on. Brazil may have looked like they just mailed it in during the group stage, not playing with any sense of urgency, but they clearly played a lot better when the stakes got higher. Neymar was a one-man gang, taking players on with his world-class ball skills. Most impressive, though, was Brazil’s defense; they dispossessed Chile and interrupted their attack before they could even get to the final third. It was all good for the first 20 minutes, then of course the Brazilian defense began to self destruct. Both Fred and Hulk have had a subpar tournament, and in the first half it mattered. A lot of chippy fouls at the start, but things opened up for both teams after the first goal, and the pace really picked up. Chile then began to close down Neymar, and the Brazilian attack stalled. Jo came in for a useless Fred and slightly showed a little more proficiency in the box. Claudio Bravo was much more consistent in net than Julio Cesar. Chile wasn’t any better at finishing than Brazil but the Chileans played with a lot more spirit and belief. When it came down to penalty kicks, Chile was not up to the task; I did not expect Cesar to come up big like he did. Brazil goes through but they have nothing to be proud of; they are still playing well below their capabilities.

Columbia 2-0 Uruguay: Uruguay looked to sit deep, make sure there wasn’t too much space for Columbia to create, get the ball long and deep on the quick counter, and without Luis Suarez it was Edinson Cavani they wanted in the box finishing exposing Mario Yepes with Diego Forlan the playmaker. Columbia clearly wanted to create things going forward, but Uruguay was thwarting them everywhere, filling channels and spaces where Columbia wanted to get forward or pass. Plus, the more physical team was clearly Uruguay. James Rodriguez, whether on the flanks or in the center, was being closed down incessantly. I can understand why Diego Forlan was left on the bench until now; he clearly is a shell of his former self. But I think Uruguay would have been better served not having the 2010 World Cup Golden Shoe Winner on the team at all. Uruguay found out the hard way what happens when you don’t close down Rodriguez even for a moment. After that score Uruguay looked to use their physicality, but a confident Columbia got a lot more comfortable on the ball and ruled the possession, taking more quality shots on goal. I like that fullback Cristian Zapata was getting forward on the counter and making things happen, but Columbia was much better served without him shooting. Uruguay’s strength is making things happen in attack on the flanks, but Columbia was closing them down on the flanks. I can understand why it is Uruguay thought it was the end of the world when Luis Suarez was suspended; Uruguay plays hard, but they just seem to lack that refuse-to-lose, get-it-done quality he brings. Especially up front, where Cavani got his shots off but just doesn’t have the same finishing quality.

Netherlands 2-1 Mexico: Orange Crush vs. El Tri. A 97-degree day meant that neither team wanted to expend a lot of energy too early. The Dutch’s lineup choices meant that they wanted to exercise more possession than they had in their previous matches. These are two teams that love attacking down the flanks and switching play quickly from flank to flank. Of all the wingers on both teams, Miguel Leyun was having the best play, making great runs down the left flank into the attacking end, getting crosses into the box, and getting inside to create offense in the center. El Tri was using three in the back to close down any of the three Dutch forwards who made runs into the box. Despite having an edge in possession, El Tri had the creativity, the opportunities, and the fluidity. One of the best close down defensive midfielders in the world, Nigel de Jong, was taken out in the 9th minute; without him there was nobody that was effective at closing down the center, and it mattered. Giovanni dos Santos could not have picked a better moment to get off the scoring schneid. When that happened, the Dutch finally played their game (what they should have been doing all along), getting out on the flanks, quickly counterattacking and getting the ball directly into the box. Arjen Robben is very easy to defend when you know that he isn’t going to pass the ball to anybody and try to shoot it himself. But the Dutch did a good job of putting a number of shots on goal the last 35 minutes, which got them a rebound and putback by Wesley Sneijder, who himself finally got off the scoring schneid. To Holland’s credit, after that score they kept pounding the ball into the box, and Mexico’s defense finally came undone and cause a fatal penalty. Mexico got the better of the play throughout and should have gone through with a big upset. At the end of the day, this is the Netherlands…

Costa Rica 1-1 Greece (5-3 aet): With five defenders in the back, Costa Rica basically looked to defend first, then have Bryan Ruiz, Christian Bolaños, and Joel Campbell get on the ball in the final third, hold it up and wait for the rest of the team to make late runs forward for help. Surprisingly Greece played a higher line defensively, actually getting the ball forward more than they usually do. Both teams played more of an east-west than north-south game, not taking many advantages of the flanks. Slightly better possession from Costa Rica, but neither team took quality shots on goal. Not the world’s most tactically or creatively pleasing game, just a lot of back and forth. The best way to describe the goal allowed in by Greece is that the Greek defense was “Dazed & Confused”; the weakest shot I’ve ever seen and the Greeks were just standing around not even ball watching. The Greeks started off the second half so well, but then they just started looking ragged on both ends of the pitch. With a man advantage, Greece is finding players in the box, but they just can’t seem to get the ball on target and make keeper Keylor Navas make a save. Greece has only itself to blame for not advancing; after the sending off they had way too many chances to win this and could not finish it (not that they would have deserved it anyway).

France 2-0 Nigeria: Surprisingly energetic and pacey start for the Super Eagles, who came out and clearly weren’t scared of the French. The French were showing a lot of holes between the midfield and defense that Nigeria was getting in between. Four games in and I’m still waiting for Jon Obi Mikel to provide something in this tournament. Clearly the French attack is at its best and most efficient when Paul Pogba is making things happen in midfield. As athletic as Nigeria is I’m surprised they aren’t taking better advantage of the flanks, choosing instead to move the ball in an east-west direct attack. France has no such problems, stretching out the Nigerian defense on both wings. Mathieu Valbuena is a little Mighty Mite on the left flank, finding tons of space both on and off the ball. The last 30 minutes of the match the French took so many quality shots on goal that you had to figure that one would eventually go in. The Achilles Heel of Nigeria typically came to be fatal to them: defending set pieces; poor defending, poor goalkeeping, poor cover. They’ve now given up 7 set piece goals in the last two World Cups. Can’t defend set pieces on that level and you deserve to be eliminated, but Nigeria was game.

Germany 2-1 Algeria: Despite the fact that the Algerians have dropped every field player into their own end on defense, the Germans still found space for their short passing, combination game. The Algerians arguable played their best futbol the last two games, so it is a curiosity that they made six changes to a lineup that clearly worked before now. Every time Algeria won the ball back, they immediately looked for center forward Islam Slimani to make a run on the quick counter through Germany’s backline, which consisted of two center backs, one (Per Mertesacker) who can’t really run. There were no signs of big-occasion nerves from the Algerians, who actually got some good shots off against the two-man German backline that clearly did not respect their attack. Germany has been notorious for playing a high defensive line; Algeria spotted it from the first whistle and took advantage with a series of long-ball counters. As the game wore on, the Algerians got more and more relentless. Clearly the six changes to their lineup served them well. Slimani, Sofiane Feghouli and Faouze Ghoulam were the direct beneficiaries of this relentless attack. Germany, to their credit, never wavered from their game plan and somehow managed to keep Algeria out of the net. Germany’s substitutions have been spot on; Andre Schurrle came on for Mario Goetze and made an immediate impact on the left wing; he partnering with Mesut Oezil and Thomas Mueller were floating in and out of the final third and making things difficult for the Algerian defense, which was surprisingly stout considering they did not play their customary flood defense (but they did press to good effect). Algerian keeper Rais M’Bolhi played out of his mind. To everyone’s surprise, extra time was needed. To no one’s surprise, Germany came off of two quick goals. But even with that, Algeria kept up the relentless pressure and managed to score with one minute left in extra time; they just refused to go away. Algeria exited this World Cup impressing everybody.

-daveydoug

Argentina 1-0 Switzerland: The Swiss gameplan was clearly to not let Lionel Messi beat them. Every time he touched the ball, 2 to 4 Swiss defenders moved in to mark him. Argentina dominated possession in the first half as a result, but the offense looked disorganized without Messi able to make his runs. The Swiss offense, on the other hand, was effective in the counterattack and had far better, if fewer, scoring opportunities in the first half. The Argentinians made some adjustments at the half and were able to develop the attack with better rhythm in the second half despite the Swiss focus on Messi. Gonzalo Higuain had several opportunities on headers and Messi finally managed a shot in traffic after beating two defenders on the dribble, but the Swiss back line was resolute and kept the game scoreless at the end of 90. Argentina continued to show urgency in the extra time periods and finally broke through with minutes left after a turnover and quick counterattack allowed Messi to make a long run at the goal. When the Swiss defense collapsed on Messi, he delivered a perfect pass that Angel di Maria buried in the net. Then and only then did the Swiss make a push on offense and very nearly got the equalizer, but it was too little, too late. Argentina can expect to continue to see the Swiss defensive model and unless someone other than Messi can step up on offense, they will continue to have trouble scoring.

Belgium 2-1 United States: As with the previous five matches, this one was tied nil-nil at halftime. Although possession was fairly even at the half, Belgium was playing with greater offensive tempo, creating far more corners and shots and forcing Tim Howard to make some good saves. Clint Dempsey had one good opportunity for the Americans in the first half but couldn’t get enough on the shot. For much of the second half, it was still the Belgians pressing the attack. Time and time again, Howard was forced to make saves. Belgium widened their attack and repeatedly used their flanks to develop attacks, but could not finish. So for the second time on the day, a scoreless game had to go to extra periods. With all the Belgian pressure, it seemed merely a matter of time before they would break through and it came just three minutes into the first extra time period. Kevin De Bruyne received a pass in the box, curled around two defenders and pounded the ball past Howard into the goal at the far post. Near the end of the first extra time period, Romelu Lukaku took a through ball into the box and finished nicely to put Belgium up 2-0. Just when the U.S. looked like it was dead, 19-year-old sub Julian Green, two minutes into his first World Cup appearance,  took a chip from Michael Bradley over the Belgian backline and volleyed it home in the first minute of the 2nd extra time period. After that, the Americans pushed waves of attackers forward and created their best opportunities of the game, but as with the Swiss earlier in the day, it was not enough. Belgium had a huge advantage in the number of shots, shots on goal, and corner kicks and earned their victory. It was only Howard’s brilliance in goal (18 saves!) that kept the score from being much worse. The Americans played far too conservatively on offense throughout the Cup. Perhaps Jurgen Klinsmann was not confident in his reserve strikers after Jozy Altidore was hurt in the first match against Ghana. However, the offense developed rhythm at the end of the Belgian match with Green and Chris Wondolowski in the game. The U.S. could have used their attacking ability earlier in the match. On the whole though, Belgium was easily the better team in this match.

-AMWoods

World Cup 2014: Random Musings after Group Play

In 2010, I was en fuego when it came to my World Cup predictions. I correctly nailed the Spain-Netherlands final with Spain winning it all. Then the 2014 World cup came along and has been proving that this prognostication thing is not as easy as 2010 seemed to be. My pre-World Cup predictions can be found here.

What went right: picking 13 of the 16 to advance out of group play, though this is probably not the achievement that I’d like it to be and some were in the wrong order as 1st or 2nd in their group; picking the U.S. to get out of the so-called Group of Death G; and picking Nigeria, the lowest-ranked team in Group F, to advance.

What went wrong: betting against Mexico getting out of Group A even though they almost always advance out of group play and thinking Italy was still good enough to advance.

What went spectacularly wrong: Picking Spain to win Group B and win it all. Spain was the number one team in the world rankings, the defending World Cup champion, a 2013 Confederations Cup finalist, and breezed through qualifying. However, in retrospect, perhaps the 3-0 loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final last year was a harbinger of things to come. Many of Spain’s top players are on the north side of 30 and their team suddenly looked aged in this World Cup. The tiki taka offense was not as crisp and did not control possession as it so deftly did in the past, Iker Casillas looked rusty in the goal, and the back line was incredibly vulnerable to balls over and through them. La Furia Roja not only did not advance out of group play, they were dominated by the Netherlands and Chile. The 2010 Spanish World Cup championship now appears to be a flash in the pan like France in 1998 or England in 1966.

Biggest surprise: Group D figured to be a tough group with three former Cup champs in Uruguay, Italy, and England. Despite a good team, Costa Rica looked to be an afterthought in this group. Somebody forgot to tell Los Ticos that they were supposed to roll over and play dead though. Costa Rica took down both Uruguay and Italy before a draw with England after they had already punched their ticket to the knockout rounds. Costa Rica isn’t getting lucky, they have outplayed a few of the traditional futbol powers and have rightfully earned their spot in the round of 16. Outside of Costa Rica, did anyone pick this team to advance?

Best team so far: four teams went undefeated in group play: Belgium in the incredibly weak group H, Argentina in a very weak group F, Colombia in a weak group C, and then there was the Netherlands. In a tough group B with Spain, Chile, and Australia, the Dutch rolled.  They racked up 10 goals in 3 games, the most of any team and avenged their loss in the 2010 World Cup final by crushing Spain. Clockwork Orange was the best team at the group stage winning all three games against tough competition in convincing fashion.

Africa rising: for the first time ever, two African squads–Algeria and Nigeria–have advanced out of group play. African squads, such as Ghana, Cameroon, and Senegal, have made it out of group play in the past, but never two in the same year. Both Algeria and Nigeria earned their way to the Round of 16 this year. They are not flukes. Neither squad will win the World Cup this year, but the African teams are continuing to improve against the world’s elite. The next step is for an African side to advance past the quarterfinals, which is as far as they have advanced in the past.

What happened to defense: the common complaint about futbol is the lack of scoring as games often produce just one or no goals. While there have been a couple of nil-nil draws this year, offenses have been scoring at a record pace. This year’s squads have produced 136 goals in group play, more than ever before. In 2010, there were only 137 goals scored in the entire World Cup tournament. There have been some real beautiful goals scored–Lionel Messi seemingly doing so in every game he plays–but the real reason for the increase in scoring seems to be an uptick in defensive failures. Time and time again, defensive and goalie gaffes have resulted in goals. Some of this may flow from teams playing more offensively. The increased pressure on the back line is exposing weaknesses that were not readily apparent when teams played more conservatively. Some of it may also come from wet pitches resulting in sloppier play. However, there has been some downright awful defensive and goalie play and offenses that have taken advantage of breakdowns in the final third. In any event, this has made for greater excitement than in the past.

New predictions for the knockout rounds: Since my pick to win it all has already been blown out of the water, here’s how I see the knockout rounds going now (number/letters refer to their group finish).

A1 Brazil v. B2 Chile: Brazil marches on toward the finals with a 3-1 win over Chile.
B1 Netherlands v. A2 Mexico: Netherlands continues its dominating play with a 3-0 thumping of Mexico.
C1 Colombia v. D2 Uruguay: This would have been a tough game to call, but now that Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez has been suspended for his latest biting incident, it looks like its Colombia’s game, advancing with a 2-1 victory.
D1 Costa Rica v. C2 Greece: Costa Rica continues its surprising run with a 1-nil win over the Greeks.
E1 France v. F2 Nigeria: the French offense outlasts Nigeria 3-2.
F1 Argentina v. E2 Switzerland: Lionel Messi and Argentina take care of the Swiss 3-1.
G1 Germany v. H2 Algeria: Algeria is a great story, but Germany ends it 4-1.
H1 Belgium v. G2 USA: The Americans couldn’t have asked for a better match-up. The U.S. defense clogs the middle and is vulnerable to attacks down the flanks. Belgium’s offense is narrow which plays right into the U.S.’s strength. the Americans rebound from a poor final group game to trip up the Belgians 2-1.

This takes us to the quarterfinals, where I foresee the following:

A1 Brazil v. C1 Colombia: This should be a mismatch. Colombia is playing well, but the home side prevails 2-0.
B1 Netherlands v. D1 Costa Rica: The Costa Rican dream comes to an end via a 3-0 Dutch win.
E1 France v. G1 Germany: The French make a better than expected showing, but still lose to the Germans 3-2.
F1 Argentina v. G2 USA: Argentina has looked vulnerable at times and Messi does not have enough offensive help, but the Americans are not at an elite level yet and the Argentinians prevail 3-1.

Despite the absence of Spain, this still looks like a fantastic semi-finals:

A1 Brazil v. G1 Germany: both teams handled their groups, but showed some cracks while doing so. This is a tight game, but home field advantage prevails with Brazil winning 2-1.
B1 Netherlands v. F1 Argentina: rematch of the 1978 final. Argentina won that time, but the Dutch have looked like the most complete team at this World Cup. Messi scores, but so do Robben and Van Persie for the Netherlands winning 3-2.

This leaves us with a Brazil-Netherlands final. There is a great history in this match-up. Brazil has won 5 World Cups, the Netherlands has been the runner-up in 3 World Cups. The Netherlands knocked Brazil out in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup and beat them in the 2nd round of the 1974 World Cup.  The Brazilians knocked out the Dutch on penalty kicks in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup and beat them in the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup. European nations have never won a World Cup in South America the four times it has been played there previously. The trend continues here. Neymar and Brazil top the Dutch 3-2 in a brilliantly fought final.

Lots of good futbol still to come.

– AMWoods

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World Cup 2014 Third Group Fixtures

Some random observations after the third group fixtures:

 

Netherlands 2-0 Chile:  Smart defending from the Chileans; they closed down the Dutch on the flanks, preventing them from getting off their supersonic counterattack. The Dutch still controlled the possession for most of the game, just not a vast amount like in previous fixtures. What a difference a frontman makes; Not that Jermaine Lens isn’t a quality finisher, but he isn’t Robin van Persie; Lens certainly has more pace but he doesn’t have van Persie’s shooting touch. Both teams were interrupting the opposition attack in the midfield. The shortest team in this tournament, Chile were pounded repeatedly in the air by the Netherlands. Chile’s direct approach seemed more disorganized, while the Netherlands were more patient in their buildup. When Chile brought in a winger, Jean Beauséjour, to replace a central midfielder, they inadvertently opened up the center for the Dutch attack to exploit, and that proved fatal. No team has gotten better contributions from their bench than the Netherlands. Memphis Depay scored his second goal off the bench in two games, and Leroy Fer scored the opening goal of the match off the bench. The Dutch win Group B, while Chile gets Brazil in the Round of 16.

 

Croatia 1-3 Mexico:  Surprisingly pacey, athletic game and both teams played to their strengths. Mexico looked to take advantage of the flanks with Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar introducing the attack, midfield playmakers Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado finding the open players, and Giovanni dos Santos linking up with Oribe Peralta in the box. Croatia looked to do basically the same, with Darijo Srna and Ivica Olic finding space to use their speed to get the ball into the final third, Danijel Pranjic and Ivan Perisic creating the attack, and Luka Modric linking up with target man Mario Mandzukic in the penalty area. Croatia tried to get at Mexico’s weakness: defending set pieces and corners. Even though both teams were frequently getting into the final third (Croatia had the slightly better possession) for the first 72 minutes neither was getting any quality shots off on goal. As much as the Croatians were pounding the ball into the box to Mandzukic, the central defensive pair of Francisco Rodríguez and Rafael Marquez did a fantastic job of closing him down. Equally, I just don’t see the use of dos Santos; he didn’t make space for himself up top, didn’t run into channels, he didn’t do anything off the ball, didn’t get a lot of service, and pretty much didn’t get involved in any game he played. Clearly Mexico was much better served with Chicharito in the game instead. Not that Croatia’s backline can be excused for Mexico’s goals, but those first two goals were shots that keeper Stipe Pletikosa could have gotten to had he had the quick-twitch reactions required by an elite goalkeeper, which he clearly is not anymore, and I think Croatia would be better served with somebody else in goal. A total breakdown in the back coupled with a certain lack of attention and organization in the back is why a team as talented as Croatia is going home in the group stage for the third consecutive World Cup.

 

Italy 0-1 Uruguay:  Italy coach Cesare Prandelli made two critical changes: (1) he brought in three central defenders familiar with each other from Juventus to thwart Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and (2) he brought in Ciro Immobile to link up top with Mario Balotelli. Uruguay played narrow in the midfield to stop Italy from gaining control of the central area, The dilemma for Uruguay was for Alvaro Pereira and Martin Caceras to stay more in the rear defensively or to come forward and take on Italy’s flank head on. Mostly a cautious, probing game, as if neither team wanted to make a mistake. Surprisingly when not in possession Chile’s Cavani spent his time dropping back into midfield shadowing Italian talisman Andrea Pirlo, which opened up Chielini and Verate to come up from the center-half into the attacking third.  Play was interrupted more by the record number of fouls than by any defensive acuity by either team, though both were stout in defense. The two-man strike partnership up front – whether it be Immobile and Balotelli or Immobile and Antonio Cassano – didn’t work for Italy, who I think were better served with just a lone target man up front. Apparently Suarez, a graduate of the Mike Tyson school of biting, will do anything to win a game. Once they got down a score, a sluggish Italy could not rev it up to be a real threat to the Uruguayan penalty area. Italy has only itself to blame for its exit.

 

Greece 1-0 Ivory Coast:  About what I expected from these two; a lot of play down the flanks with some deep crosses and throughballs. Of course, both teams knew they needed to score to get through the group stage, and of course Greece were going to do it while crowding their end of the pitch. One of the best players in the world in the air and on set pieces over the last 10-12 years has been Didier Drogba, and he played from the jump this time. Despite Kolo Toure looking 6’s&7’s in the back due to inactivity the first two games, Greece looked indecisive going forward. The focal point of the Ivorian attack was clearly Drogba, but Gervinho has quietly had a good tournament with his diagonal runs and taking advantage of space up front. Neither team was willing to devote too many players in attack at the expense of giving up spacing in the back. I expected more out of Yaya Toure and Salomen Kalou. One brief lapse of concentration can be fatal in the World Cup; the Ivorians can attest to that. And as they are finding out, just like the Italians earlier in the day, it is hard to stick it into fifth gear when you have been playing passively most of the game. The Ivorian attack was not that organized in the second half; it was more a function of make runs through to the final third, throw some bodies forward, then just take a shot through a crowded defense. At the end of the day, stupid mistakes are what cost the Ivory Coast a place in the last 16 and sent a team that clearly did not deserve it.

 

Nigeria 2-3 Argentina:  Lionel Messi: Right Place, Right Time! Good to see Javier Mascherano finally getting involved in the attack; Argentina’s best chance at winning this tournament is if he has an offensive impact. The Nigerian’s first goal worked the way it was designed to all tournament long; Michael Babatunde and  Ahmed Musa in combination on the break. Good combination play from Argentina, who are taking advantage of the space the Nigerians are allowing in the center and on the flanks. I get the impression that Messi is getting ready to take over this tournament. He’ll have to, because Argentina are barely getting any contributions from their other two front men Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero. Emmanuel Eminike may not be scoring goals, but he did well to assist in Ahmed Musa’s second goal. Things opened up for both teams, and when that happens there is room in the attacking end to take advantage of holes in the opposition defense – and when that happens mistakes get made and goals get scored. Nigeria was less able to absorb this with their already fragile backline. Even though they lost this game, I’m glad Nigeria is going through to the Round of 16; Iran so did not deserve it.

 

Ecuador 0-0 France:  With advancement already guaranteed, France made six changes to their starting lineup in order to give bench players some much-needed playing time. After all, you never know if or when you may need those players. I like what I saw from Paul Pogba in the middle; he was at the center of the combination play going forward and was very accurate at introducing the attack in the final third. The Ecuadorian backline had a hard time with the combination passing through the center from the French. The ball didn’t find its way to Antonio Valencia on the left flank that often but when it did he did a good job of getting the ball forward quickly; when he moved to the center, the Ecuador attack stalled. A rather static match that did not have many quality shots on goal.

 

United States 0-1 Germany:  Germany came out with great rhythm, keeping possession and waiting patiently. The US needed to push their backline forward a little more to press the opposition. Jerome Boateng was having his way on the right flank for Germany, Brad Davis was not providing cover in the back for DeMarcus Beasley, but the US I think would have been better served with an out-and-out left fullback than a winger. The US was not closing down the center in the final third, allowing way too much one-touch short passing in combination. Germany keeps making the US backline confused with its forward trio of Mesut Oezel, Thomas Mueller and Lukas Podolski freely moving from side to side, not just through the center, and finding space in the final third. Tim Howard really came up big, and Gawd knows if the US was going to give up a 2-1 advantage in possession, they needed him to; Germany took many more shots on goal than the US. The attack for the US in this World Cup was supposed to go through Michael Bradley. To say the least he has been disappointing, losing possession, getting confused and not being any impact in attack whatsoever. Jermaine Jones, on the other hand, has been a revelation, getting forward, introducing the attack, finding open players, and getting on the end of service and getting shots off. In the end, the US only had 79 touches all told in the German end, Germany had 244 touches in the US end. It was obvious from the beginning that the US was running on fumes and just looked to survive, because they hardly had any chances on goal.

 

South Korea 0-1 Belgium:  With 6’6” striker Kim Shomwook starting as the target man up front, the Korean attack consisted of getting the ball in the box directly to Kim, holding it up and getting the ball to Ki SungYeung, Son Heungmin and Koo Jaechyol trailing into space. This is the third game of the group stage and I’m still not clear exactly what it is Belgium are trying to do. Despite having two wins they’ve been very underwhelming and sloppy with their possession. That said, the Belgians looked pretty comfortable, maybe not playing with any urgency or continuity but certainly looking the side more at ease with themselves (having already qualified for the knockout stages will do that for you). As the game wore on, Koo was less of a target man; he dropped off and became more of a linkup guy. The Taeguk Warriors rarely threatened to score; it looked as if they had forgotten how to, so off target were their chances. The effort was there, it always is. The players gave everything, and if anything, perhaps tried a little too hard. Time and time again, Korea got within sight of the Belgium penalty area, but just never really had the creativity or the imagination to do anything of much note. Hopeful balls, overhit passes, blocked shots – you name it. Korea worked hard but just couldn’t find a way through the Belgian back line, which despite all the changes from previous games was just as stout and unforgiving. Belgium defended stoutly and looked to get forward at every opportunity and Korea soon realized that opportunities were not simply going to materialize even with the increased space available. There were lots of balls by Korea into the box, behind the defense and just floated in, but the vast majority were cleared, blocked or rolled out of play. Korea exited the tournament with a whimper and without ever showing what they can do… And quite frankly, Belgium wasn’t much better.

 

– daveydoug