Friday, June 23, 2006

Day 15 Random Thoughts / Open Thread

First off, make sure you read Swindle's Postmortem on Team USA 2006. No less than 6 Arsenal players in action today, and lots to play for in each group. Enjoy.

Group H
7 a.m. ESPN. Saudi Arabia-Spain
7 a.m. ESPN2. Ukraine-Tunisia

What has happened thusfar
Group H preview
Day 6 random thoughts
Day 11 random thoughts

Where things stand

Team

Pts

W

L

D

GD

Spain

6

2

0

0

6

Ukraine

3

1

1

0

0

Tunisia

1

0

1

1

-2

Saudi Arabia

1

0

1

1

-4


Ifs & buts, candy & nuts: Spain are through as winners unless they lose, Ukraine win, and they lose 7 goals in GD to Ukraine. In other words, Spain are through as group winners. Ukraine are through as the 2nd place team with a win or a draw, unless they draw and Saudi Arabia beats Spain by 5 goals. In other words, Ukraine are through with a win or a draw. If they lose to Tunisia they are out. Tunisia must win to go through - any other result and they are out. The Saudis have 2 chances: a win over Spain by 5 goals combined with a draw in the other match, or a win over Spain by 3 goals and a low scoring 1 goal Tunisia over Ukraine. In other words, they are up against it. Got it?

Saudi Arabia-Spain.
Spain are allegedly resting all 11 starters, so for them this will be little more than a training match. I think this means that both Cesc and Reyes will start, which for me personally is interesting in and of itself. Cesc's performance in the 2nd half against Tunisia was flat out brilliant. Watch for his amazing vision on the ball, and the passes that he makes to set up his teammates. His vision and passing remind be of Bergkamp. I hope Reyes plays a blinder and is considered for more playing time in the knockout stage - his pace on the left wing is one of the keys to my upset prediction of Spain over Brasil in the quarterfinals. Saudi Arabia are not good - perhaps the worst team in the tournament.

Saudi Arabia 0-1 Spain.
Spain's B team dominated this match, created two dozen chances, but only managed to convert one. Better finishing and this would have been 4-0 or 5-0. Reyes played well, made chances, but continued to show a lack of finishing ability. He could have had a hat trick by halftime. He did create a lot though, and it was his beatiful cross in from the left that was headed in by Juanito for Spain's goal. Spain cruise though as group winners, and will face whomever comes out of group H in 2nd place. I haven't seen anything through 3 matches to make me second guess my pretournament assertion that this is a team that can beat Brasil, or my prediction that they will.


Las Chicas son muy felices.

Ukraine-Tunisia.
This is the matchup to watch; it is basically a knockout game if you believe that Spain will not lose to the Saudis. Ukraine need a win or draw; Tunisia need an outright win. If you are a neutral then you want a back and forth affair where the outcome is in doubt until the end, like Croatia-Australia yesterday. Only without Graham Poll as referee. I like Ukraine to win fairly easily, like say 3-1.


Ukraine: looking to score on and off the field.

Ukraine 1-0 Tunisia.
Plain and simple: Tunisia got screwed royally by yet another utterly inept refereeing performance, and Ukraine don't really deserve to go through. Before you snark that I am just being a homer for the African team...

Tunisia had a man sent off at the end of the 1st half for 2 yellows. I did not see either foul since I was watching the Spain match, but I will assume that both (and the sending off) were legit. Now then- the 2nd half was a boring listless match, and Ukraine were playing boring listless football, seemingly not even trying to score, which was dangerous and foolish since a single Tunisia goal would knock them out. Through 65 minutes, with a man advantage, Ukraine had 0 2nd half shots. Not shots on goal. Shots.

Tunisia win a free kick outside the Ukraine box. Tunisia dude shoots over the wall, and a Ukraine dude raides his hands over his head and clearly handles the ball, but nothing is called. Terrible call that was so obvious that it does not fall into the category of subjective, like the Ghana-US penalty did. This was a hand raised over head which clearly hit the ball. Terrible, and Tunisia should be up 1-0 (or at least 80% chance they should be up 1-0, since that is the typical penalty conversion rate). You would think this close call would shock Ukraine to life, but no, another 10 minutes played and still not a single shot for Ukarine after playing 30 minutes with a man advantage. Then Sheva runs into the box, and he and a defender are shoulder to shoulder. Sheva goes down, and it seems clear in real time that there is no contact and that Sheva either fell down or dived. Penalty. Are you shitting me? Replays clearly show that Sheva fell because he tripped over his own feet. A second utterly inept call. Sheva converts the penalty, Ukraine are up 1-0, and their only shot of the 2nd half thusfar was one given to them by the referee illegitimately. Tunisia should be up 1-0 and just need to hold on to go through. Instead they are 0-1 down and need to score 2 goals in the last 15 minutes to go through while playing 10 v 11. It was the kind of shit that make you seriously wonder if the Ukrainian mob was somehow involved.


No disrespect to LD, but this was an absolute joke.

It didn't happen. Ukraine managed their first shot in the 84th minute (miskicked 10 yards over the bar), and finally manage a shot on goal in the 89th min (they added a second in the last 30 seconds of the match).

But hey, such is life. It's survive and advance at this point, and merited or not, that is just what Ukraine did. Tunisia are out and Ukraine are through. Should be the other way around. Ukraine have looked worse than any team that are going through so far. They will face whomever comes out on top of group G this afternoon.

Oh, and Ukraine pretty much have the Team Hair award at this point. Like a 22 man 80s glam band, this lot.

----------------------------------------------------
Group G
12 p.m. ESPN. Togo-France
12 p.m. ESPN2. Switzerland-South Korea

What has happened thusfar
Group G preview
Day 5 random thoughts
Day 10 random thoughts
Day 11 random thoughts

Where things stand

Team

Pts

W

L

D

GD

Switzerland

4

1

0

1

2

South Korea

4

1

0

1

1

France

2

0

1

1

0

Togo

0

0

1

1

-3


Ifs & buts, candy & nuts: Togo are out. France must win; if they win and there is a winner in the SWI-SK match, then France are through in 2nd place no matter what. If SWI-SK draw, then France must win 2-0 at a minimum to go through, as all 3 will be tied on 5 points and it will come down to goal difference. South Korea are through as group winners with a win. They are through with a draw as long as France do not win, if France win then the 5-5-5 scenario is in play. SK can lose and still go through, as long as France fail to beat Togo. Ditto for Switzerland: win and they are through, draw and they are through unless France win and then it's the 5-5-5, lose and they still go through as long as France fail to win. Got it?

Togo-France.
Togo have played unexpectedly well but have nothing to show for it. They are a former French African colony playing their much more heralded former colonizers without their star captain Zidane. Sound familiar? They are like a baseball team who has already been eliminated but can still affect the pennant race depending on how they play against one of the contenders. Hopefully Arsenal striker Adebayor will have a good match and be awarded a penalty of he is obviously tripped in the box.

And what of France? First off, Happy 30th birthday to my boy Patrick Vieira.


Bon Anniversaire PV4.

Amazingly, Zidane's birthday is today as well. Two foreign born sons of immigrants playing on the same French national team and sharing the same birthday - that's your bizarro stat of the day, like the Croatia-Aussie cross pollination stats yesterday. With Zizou's card accumulation suspension PV4 will likely wear the captain's armband, as he did before Zizou came out of international retirement. I hope he bosses the midfield as a birthday present to himself instead of relying on TH1412 for his birthday presents as he has stated to the press.

Speaking of TH1412, today is his chance. With all the talk of him being handcuffed as long as France is Zidane's team, it seems like this is his chance to play in similar way for France that he does for Arsenal, where the team goal is to feed him the ball, create space for him, and allow him to be the creative force for himself and his teammates. My brain thinks that this is a natural fit, that Titi will kick ass if they play like this, and perhaps it will even benefit France that Zidane cannot play. But then I remember back to qualifying where they had this same scenario and their results were so uninspiring that they begged Zidane out of retirement to help them qualify (granted it was a really tough group with Switzerland, Ireland, and Israel). So I don't know what to make of it all; I just hope Henry seizes the moment and shows that he is fully capable of a big performance in a big match.

French manager Domenech showed in the SK match what people have been whispering for a while - that he is pretty much a clueless coach. Playing Barthez, staying with Wiltord way too long, bringing on Trezeguet waaaay too late, subbing Zidane in the last minutes, all tres stupid. I hope that France can rise up and win in spite of him. He is not as much of a handicap as Sven is for England, but he is by no means an asset.

Sorry Togo - you know that I love the African teams, but France are my boys and I need a big performace tomorrow in their must win by 2 goals match. I think Senegalese born PV4 plays a birthday boy blinder against the Africans, and Henry steps up and scores two goals. France do the job 3-1, with Adebayor getting one for Togo. How's that for an Arsenal homer prediction?


Absolutely ridiculous.

I only hope that if France advance the ball more than a yard over the goalline, that the referee or his assistant actually see it this time.

Togo 0-2 France.
"2-nil to the Arsenal..."

0-0 at half time, although France were creating nearly all the chances, they were being like Sweden in their first two matches - a million chances but horrid finishing. It really seemed like Henry, Trezeguet, and Ribery were in a contest to see who could miss the most silver platter goal scoring chances. If you were scoring at home Ribery barely won out over Trez, with Henry a close third but not without 2 stunning misses himself.

In the 2nd half the birthday boy stepped up and bossed it, scoring the first and creating the 2nd by heading over to his mate Titi. Myles said it best:

Today was Patrick Vieira's 30th birthday and he won his 90th cap and he was captain and he won the game for France with those two runs into the box, that shot, that header.Two majestic interventions, two goals.


To: Patrick & France
From: Patrick
I hope you enjoy this goal.
Happy Birthday, and Happy Knockout Stage.
XOXO PV4


Patty was even smart enough to shoot the ball all the way into the back of the net, so the referee could not disallow it. And Titi took his goal well, like the cool assassin he is, to kill the game.


"Who says I don't play big in big games?" Qui?
That's what I thought.

Well deserved, and they are through in 2nd place. They play Spain in one of the 2 sexiest round of 16 matchups (the other being Portugal-Holland).

Oh, and they seemed more dangerous without Zidane, for what it's worth. Anything better than completely inept finishing and it would have been 3-0 by halftime. That being said, they were playing the weakest team in the group, so the jury is still out on this issue.


Switzerland-South Korea.
Plain and simple I want Switzerland to win. I think that they are a great young team and play very well together as a team without a superstar. I think that they are better then South Korea, and I think they can win, although something tells me that this match will be a draw and the dreaded 5-5-5 scenario will occur. South Korea is dangerous, pacey, and love to attack, so I should be a big fan because I generally like those things. The problem is that I feel like they have been the luckiest team at the WC thusfar. Down 0-1 to Togo, they benefitted when Togo had a player sent off and they played the last 35 minutes 11 v 10, where their relentless running was key to reversing their defecit. Fortunate but deserved I suppose, because the sending off was basically legit. But they absolutely did not deserve anything other than a loss in the France match. France scored two goals by the rules but were only credited with one, and then SK scored the softest of goals when Barthez remembered that he was a buffoon and Gallas decided it would be more fun to watch the ball go into the net and then kick it a la Nick Nolte in Blue Chips rather than just kick it out to begin with and prevent the goal. Lucky, lucky, South Korea. I respect their attitute, style of play, and their insane fans (easily the loudest of any team), but I want them out because plain and simple they should have 3 points and France should have 4. Plus they don't have 2 young talented Arsenal centrebacks like Switzerland does.

I want Switzerland to win 2-1, but something tells me that this will be a 2-2 draw and we'll all have to break out the calculators and compute goal difference and goals scored to break the tie (I just hope it doesn't get down to "drawing lots").

Switzerland 2-0 South Korea.
First goal was a great header by Arsenal centreback Phillippe Senderos, who picked up a bloody face while scoring. It was cool to see him celebrate his goal with joy and not even really notice the blood that was trickling down from the bridge of his nose. Further proof against the ignorant assertions that 1) soccer is not a contact sport and 2) soccer players are sissies. Good stuff, and what a day for Arsenal (Reyes cross, PV4 goal, PV4 header, Henry goal, and this).


PS4 channeling Jesse "The Body" Ventura:
"I ain't got time to bleed."

The 2nd goal was yet another complete farce by the referee. The linesman put his flag up for offsides, the Koreans stopped playing, Frei put it in the net, and amazingly the ref then allowed the goal. Complete lunacy by the ref - more of the same. Fire all these jokers and get some proper refs for the knockout stage please.

It didn't end up making much of a difference, because at that poont South Korea would have needed 2 additional goals to go through, and it was late, so this alone did not screw them over like it did Tunisia earlier. But still, just a trainwreck by the referee. Forget all the talk about the ridiculous amount of cards - these blatant fuckups need to stop.

The Swiss top the group and will play Ukraine in the round of 16. Not the sexiest matchup on paper but should be really, really good. I think I actually like the Swiss at this point...

2 comments:

Moin said...

Well, if SK and Switzerland end up in a draw, then the Swiss will finish ahead of SK due to their already superior GD (remember, a draw doesn't change the GD). If that happens and France has to score at least 2 goals MORE and let in less than 1 goal more than what SK scores to move on (and face Spain in the Round of 16).

Fun scenario, if Swiss and SK match end 0-0, and France wins 2-1. Then SK and France will have the same points, GD, and GS. Then we get to drawing lots!!! Which, of course, means SK will move on. :p

A7 said...

moin I am impressed by your extensive mathwork and time dedicated to that. I got dizzy after 3 tied with the same points.

Luckily The Swiss and The French teams cancelled out the need for such math and circumstance.

Kanu I know you are happy about France pulling through but quite the match up between Spain.

Congrats.