Monday, June 5, 2006

World Cup Group B

Soccernet Team Page
Big favorites in the group with a lame duck coach who has a good record but I personally think is not tactically a good coach. Oh, he is also a big time philanderer and more interested in himself and money than much else. Before Rooney got injured I thought they could win the whole thing. Without him I don't think they can. He is a both a blockhead and a genius, and if you watched Euro2004 then you know how scary England can be with him at his best. In fact, they lost the match that he left due to injury (despite Sol Campbell's wrongly disallowed header). Best case scenario is he can play in the latter stages of the tournament with no match fitness. Apparently he is having the final scan on his foot on Wednesday and the results will determine whether he stays in the squad or is replaced. The only 3 other strikers in the squad are Michael Owen, often injured and just recovering form a leg injury himself, 6 foot 7 giraffe looking striker Peter Crouch, who is a serviceable striker but nothing to get too excited about (except when he scores and breaks out into the robot, which is either really cool or really tool - can't decide), and 17 year old Theo Walcott, who has never played for Arsenal let alone England in a major international tournament. So up front they are a mess.

Not seen since "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo".
Not seen by a 6'7" dude, well... ever.

Midfield is their strength, with Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole, and ever-improving Aaron Lennon. The problem is that Gerrard, Lampard, and Cole all play the same role (attacking midfielder: think quarterback), so you have 1 of 2 options: play Gerrard & Lampard together in the middle without a holding defensive midfielder, play Carragher in the holding role and sit Lampard or Gerrard (so you are benching one of the 3 best players on your team), or play all 3 in a 4-5-1 formation. Same thing will Beckham/Lennon. As pacey and dangerous as Lennon looks, he plays Beckham's position wide right so one will have to be sacrificed for the other, and we all know how that is going to work out. England yet again are a bit weak in the wide left midfield position.

Did the most crucial World Cup moment
for England happen 6 weeks ago?

Defense is pretty solid. John Terry is an excellent centreback; Sol Campbell has been way off this year but was has been a colossus at every major international competition that he has appeared in, and Ashley Cole is the best left back in the world, period. In goal you have your choice of mistake prone Paul Robinson or mistake prone David "Calamity" James. Engerland are good, lots of talent, but without a fit Rooney and a perfect fitting midfield I don't think they can win the whole tournament. I will say that despite this they do have in Stevie G a player who is capable of doing a Zidane and putting the team on his back and carrying them very, very far.

Soccernet Team Page
LD's Sweden Writeup
Remember the Golden State Warriors back in the early 90s with their Run-TMC, where Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin accounted for the lions share of the Warriors offense? That is Sweden.

For Sweden it's Run-ZHF

Their triumverate consists of almost over the hill striker Henrik Larsson, who came out of international retirement for Euro2004 and did so well (this one especially) he decided to stay on and make this World Cup his swan song. Although aging he is by no means past it, as he showed all spring for Barcelona, no more so than in the Champions League Final where he came on as a sub and set up both Barca goals, for which he was hailed as the unofficial MOTM by many observers. Next up is 6'5" Zlatan Imbrahimovic, the son of Bosnian immigrants, who has a ton of talent, scores some of the most ridiculous goals you will ever see, and is close to being one of the absolute elite striker sint he world. Some think he is held back a bit by his hotheadedness and arrogance, which if he could curb then he could really break through into the stratosphere. He was involved in a training ground fistfight with Patrick Vieira earlier this year which allegedly started with him bitching to PV4 that he wasn't passing him the ball enough. Then there is this little nugget from this article:

After a tough match against England in 2004, a reporter asked him, "You have some scars on your face there — what happened?" "Well, I don't know. You'll have to ask your wife about that," Ibrahimovic responded.

That is pretty epic, I must say. He also features, along with Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal, in one of the best Joga Bonito ads in this year's Nike soccer ad campaign. Oh, and he also trains with his chewing gum.

"This is Zlatan. Can you beat this?" (click to play)

The 3rd member of the triumverate is midfielder Freddie Ljungberg of Arsenal, who has definitely lost a step from his peak form of 2000-2004 but is still very, very good. He is also an underwear model for Calvin Kline for whatever that is worth, which is not much unless you are a straight woman or gay man (sorry boys- he's straight).

Does Freddie make Sweden the official
World Cup team of BoiFromTroy?

These three will take Sweden as far as they will go, and they are no strangers to the knockout stages of big competitions. The final group match against England will be very interesting, as it is a little known fact that England have not beaten Sweden since 1968.

Soccernet Team Page
LD's Paraguay writeup
Good South American team, again, I don't have much insight to add to what you will read anyhwere else so I won't try to pretend that I do. Sucks that their goalkeeper Chilavert is no longer a part of the team due to age - dude used to score lots of goals for them actually, penalties and free kicks, and he was a hell of a goalkeeper as well.

Trinidad & Tobago
Soccernet Team Page
LD's T&T writeup
How can anyone not love this country? Smallest nation in the competition and first time qualifiers, the Soca Warriors avenged the heartbreak of coming within a few minutes of qualifying in 1990 by winning a qualification playoff 1-0 on aggregate against Bahrain(although Bahrain did have an wrongly disallowed goal at the end of that match, for what it's worth).

Anyhow, this is such a big deal in T&T that the president declared the day after this match a national holiday, and all schools and businesses were closed down and they partied like it was 1999. No other nation has a qualification story that can top that. I have been to Barbados which is the closest Carribean island to T&T, and assuming that the people there are as cool as the people in Barbados, which I can only assume they are, then T&T will always be one of my favorite squads. Just qualifying is a massive accomplishment for them, and they are extremely happy just to be taking part (they are only the 3rd Caribbean nation to ever make the finals, Jamaica and Haiti being the others). They appear way out of their league here, but I will be pulling hard for them to do some cinderella shit. Their best known player is striker Dwight Yorke, but how can you not love the legendary Russell Lapaty, a 37 year old dude who is the player manager of a Scottish club, was coaxed out of international retirement for their qualifying campaign, and who is allegedly a chain smoker who downs up to 2 packs a day in a sport where you run 5-8 miles per match and train for a few hours every day in between matches. John Daly would love him, even if he isn't a gambler.

The only thing greater than T&T as is, would be if they came out to "TNT" by AC/DC as their introduction music. It would be so hilarious to see them and all their fans rocking out and going insane to a tune by a heavy metal band of pasty white dudes. Forget the racial irony; the dichotomy between hard intense metal and the extremely laid back carribbean culture would be even more hilarious.

Irie: one of my dreams is to see 50,000
carribeans head banging to this

At the end of the day I like the chalk here. That is, England and Sweden to advance, and not neccesarily in that order.


moin said...

Crouch's technique with his feet are very underrated, but nobody cares once he breaks out "the Crouch".

Sol Cambell will not be on the bench unless Ferdinand really messes up. Age finally catching up da big man.

If Sven is smart, he'd play a 4-5-1 with Crouch up front knocking balls down for Lampard and Gerrard, Cole on the left (he's the only one capable besides Downing really) and Becks on the right. Of course, Carragher as the holding midfielder. If he doesn't go with the 5 mids, then I think either Gerrard or Ferdinand will have to play the holding role, neither one particularly appealing.

The Beckham/Lennon competition is not as close as you might think. Lennon maybe pacey and looks dangerous at times, he's nowhere near the player Beckham is. Stats have borne out that, over the past season, Beckham, not Ronaldinho, was the best supplier in all of La Liga. His passes led directly to more attempts on goal than any one else, by a wide margin. And his service during dead ball situations is always underrated (even if his fk goals are overrated). Lennon might provide pace, but he is generally lacking in most other aspects.

It's also unfair to describe Paul Robinson the same way you describe Calamity. Calamity is disaster waiting to happen, with him, you basically chalk up about 2 soft goals in a tournament like the WC and play like you have to overcome it from the beginning. Paul Robinson, by comparison, is a wall.

Oh, and Sol Cambell's goal against Portugal in 2002 wasn't wrongly ruled out, it was just a soft call. The ruling wasn't wrong, per se, it's just that it didn't feel right that England was knocked out by something that soft. (But when you let Helder Postiga score on ya, you deserve some bad karma.)

Kanu said...

As usual you are spot on my man. I agree with you wholeheartedly about Becks/Lennon & Sol Euro2004, but being that I am already longwinded as hell and these posts always take way longer than I plan, I went with the lazy man's detail-less quick hit on these confidently knowing that you would swoop in and tidy things up. Which is exactly what you did you magnificant bastard.

moin said...

They call me, the Sweeper!

Solon said...

Just to clear it up, the Bahrain goal at the end of the T&T second leg wasn't wrongfully disallowed.

It was like when Henry took the ball off Freidel, but without any of the cheekiness--the striker pretty much mugged the keeper for the ball and put it in the net. For good measure, he was red-carded when his protestations regarding the goal weren't heeded.

Kanu said...

Agree to disagree...