You know you have a problem when…

July 10, 2010

you are quite likely to watch the 3rd place match. Mainly because I like underdogs and because I like Uruguay’s strikers.

I would imagine that Luis Suarez’s value on the transfer market has gone up significantly. He has a wonderful strike rate, he’s talented, and he’s still young. Plus he makes smart plays like saving the ball on the goal line with his hand. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ajax get offers in the 20 to 30 million Euro range.

Interestingly, 2010 will be the first year to not feature Brazil, Argentina, Germany, or Italy in the final. Of course, that just means that you now have to add Holland to that list…or Spain, but since this is Holland’s 3rd final and Spain’s first…


Spain v Germany thoughts

July 8, 2010

1. You would think it is trite to mention that Spain v Germany = Barcelona v Bayern Munich. Both sides are pretty heavily centered around those domestic club teams. Spain started the game with 7 starters from Barcelona (including David Villa, who hasn’t played a game for them yet), while Germany started Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Klose…although they finished the game with 5 Bayern Munich players on the field. This of course doesn’t count Lukas Podolski, who played at Bayern Munich for the last 4 years.

2. I obviously thought Spain was more likely to win, so the result wasn’t too surprising to me. Even so, after creating numerous decent scoring chances (and not scoring any of them), Germany very clearly deserved a penalty in the 43rd minute. Ozil was one on one with the Spain goalie Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos clipped his back heel to send him tumbling. If Germany goes up 1-0, that is a very different game. I’d guess that 80% of refs give at least a penalty (and maybe a red card) in that situation.

3. While Pedro clearly should have passed the ball in the 83rd minute or so, when Fernando Torres was standing wide open in front of the goal, I call a penalty there 100% of the time.

4. Spain created chances, Germany maybe created two: both of them involved Sergio Ramos. I can’t understand why Spain manager Vincent Del Bosque continues to start Sergio Ramos. He’s a black hole defensively, and is always caught upfield when the other team is counter-attacking. Given that Spain plays with the not super-fast team of Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol at centerbacks, this baffles me.

Spain is playing a tactical system that leads to low scoring games. In a way, it is almost more of a defensive strategy than an offensive one. But they are definitely vulnerable because of the strange insistence to play Sergio Ramos…will Arjen Robben play on the left against Spain to take advantage of Sergio Ramos’ wanderlust?

5. Spain might be the worst team at scoring off of opponent mistakes. A few times Germany turned the ball over and Spain could have attacked with a numbers advantage, but instead decided to play for possession.

6. Leo Messi’s implication that Barcelona is better than Argentina looks a little bit stronger after Spain advances to the finals and Argentina is out in the quarters. Barcelona is essentially Spain, plus Messi, the best player in the world. There’s almost no better indictment of Diego Maradona in the world as that.

Prediction: Maradona to stay as Argentina manager

July 6, 2010

Here’s my prediction: Maradona will go in hiding for a bit (couple weeks-monthish*) letting speculation build in the media.

Then he will emerge, talk about how he wanted to quit after his heart was broken in the most difficult experience of his life, and say that because Copa America 2011 is in Argentina, he feels obligated to defend the honor of the Argentine jersey.

But really, he’ll continue because his salary is pretty sick. He negotiated his contract through Copa America on purpose to keep that salary. It’d be like if the US paid Bob Bradley $4 million bucks a year. Do you think he’d quit?

*This might change if Argentina has any games scheduled, but I searched the Argentina Football Association website and found no games scheduled for months.

Holland v Uruguay preview

July 6, 2010

More thoughts, in numbered form.

1. This isn’t really Uruguay on the field. It’s Uruguay minus injuries and suspensions. Suarez (he of the handball, who by the way plays in Holland for Ajax where he has scored 3 goals in every 4 games) is missing. Center defender and captain Lugano won’t be there, while the other center defender, Godin, missed the last game for injury, so you have to wonder how solid the middle of the defense will be. Defender Fucile won’t be there, nor will playmaker Lodeiro.

2. Holland is missing a van der Zwiel and De Jong. De Jong is pretty key, but de Zeeuw is a suitable replacement. I’m a bit more worried about Khalid Boulahrouz and his capacity for gaining penalties and red cards through his defending. If I recall correctly, van der Zwiel’s suspension is for the yellow he received for touching the ball when it was Kaka’s throw-in. Pretty ticky-tacky card that while I technically agree with, it is unique in this World Cup. A shame.

3. I’d expect Uruguay to come out fairly defensively, much like they did against France. Try and keep the game scoreless in the first half and hope Forlan can poach one in the second half. Suarez’s replacement Cavani isn’t a zero either, playing for Palermo in Italy.

4. Not many teams can be missing this many starters and win. Uruguay has only 3.5 million people. They also played 120 minutes in their last match. They’re a good team — if I recall correctly after their first game I said they are one of the most underrated teams at this World Cup, but I’m not going to search for the post right now — but those are alot of obstacles to overcome. Anything can happen in football, but Uruguay has alot of factors working against them.

5. Please Boulahrouz, please. Don’t do anything dumb. If you don’t, Holland cruises into the finals 3-1.

My highs are higher than my lows

July 4, 2010

1. As I noted in my writeup of Holland-Brazil, I was quite surprised by the statistician’s decision to record the first Dutch goal as an own goal. A day later, it was credited to Wesley Sneijder.

2. Spain coach Vincent del Bosque put Cesc Fabregas into the game in the second half, and Spain started to create chances. How many times have I said that Fabregas has to be on the field for Spain?

Leo Messi thinks Barcelona is better than Argentina?

July 4, 2010

Leo Messi talking about his surprise that Fabio Capello left Theo Walcott off the England squad:

If [Theo Walcott] could do that against Barcelona, think what he could have done against Germany and Algeria. Even if he didn’t start, he would still have been very important for England.

Maybe there was something lost in the translation, but Messi seems to imply that he thinks Barcelona is superior to Germany. And after the 4-0 Germany victory, one might conclude he thinks Barcelona is better than Argentina.

A leap perhaps. But perhaps also a message from Messi about what he really thinks about Maradona (or so thinks my Argentine wife).

Germany 4 Argentina 0

July 3, 2010

1. Football is a high variance game, there is lots of luck in any particular result. In particular, this was not really a 4-0 game, more like 2-0. The result is misleading as a result of late counterattack goals. And obviously the first game changed everything.

2. Without checking, I imagine that Mueller (first goal, set up second goal) or Klose (two goals) was man of the match, but in my opinion Bastian Schweinsteiger was the man of the match. He really did everything that could have been done, from defending Leo Messi to playmaking to leaving the 3rd goal on the doorstep for the goalscorer.

3. Germany is without doubt a challenging matchup for Argentina. They defend and counterattack. They use their height to score on set pieces. They play tactically and adjust to their opponents. Joachim Low is a solid tactician. Maradona does not adjust, in fact, he probably does not even believe in adjusting to opponents.

4. Argentina really created very few scoring opportunities. Ton of luck in football, first goal is huge, blah blah blah. Whose fault is that? Maradona, Diego. How can you have the best players in the world and yet create so little offensively? It has to be the fault of the offensive scheme. After every game, I had pretty much been saying that Argentina did not impress. What happened today against Germany could have happened against Mexico.

5. Angel Di Maria. In my team, he only enters the game as a supersub when we are behind for playing balls over the top or if there is a specific tactical reason. He was pretty much a disaster in every game for Argentina, yet he kept starting. Absolutely inexplicable, except when you consider who the manager is. In that tactical system, he was a disaster, exactly like I predicted. Real Madrid just bought him for 30 million euros. He is still young, but I would be pretty surprised if he makes a name for himself

6. Argentina never changed anything tactically in that game. They played exactly like Germany expected and desired.

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