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.

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.

Raining on Argentina’s parade

June 23, 2010

Argentina has three wins and a +5 goal margin. All the Argentines around me are quite enthused. Maradona is telling everyone who criticized him that they are idiots and should apologize.

Well, y’know, I hate to be a downer, but Argentina had one of the easiest groups. Argentina has the best players in the world right now, and the best player in the world in Leo Messi.

I thought Argentina was distinctly unimpressive, considering their opponents.

Good for Argentina: right now Argentina’s side of the bracket looks to be distinctly weak. It’s quite possible that one quarter of the bracket could be Holland, Italy, Brazil and Spain…and Argentina wouldn’t face any of those until the finals. If so, this would be extremely lucky, but so far Argentina has been extremely lucky. At the end of World Cup qualifying, every game fell Argentina’s way. That ball fell to Palermo in extra time. They draw one of the weakest groups.

But Argentina hasn’t really played flowing football. They’ve had possession, yes, but too often it has been pass it around a perimeter 30 meters away from the goal while the defense organizes and collapses. The off the ball movement has been underwhelming, and the team which supposedly is to play for Messi…has not created space for Messi. Besides having Messi, this team isn’t terribly well equipped to play against Jose Mourinho against Barcelona “park the bus” tactics.

Obviously I’m hoping Argentina wins the World Cup. If they keep getting as lucky as they have for the past 9 months, it should be no problem, considering that they do have the best players. Yet I don’t feel particularly convinced watching Argentina so far.

Argentina v Nigeria thoughts

June 13, 2010

1.  Argentina created a ton of chances.

2.  Argentina needed Juan Roman Riquelme out there for free kicks and for playmaking.  Of course, he wasn’t because Maradona treated him badly.

3.  Maradona loves Angel Di Maria.  Alot of people, including Real Madrid, love DiMaria.  I do not, and have said it loudly for a long time (sick goal he scored against Canada though).  Di Maria is one of those flashy wingers who can’t finish and can’t cross.  He will advance the ball down the wing only to lose possession.  Argentina can do better, and today Di Maria was completely invisible.   My wife’s cousin at the 40 minute mark yelled, “when did they substitute Di Maria?”  He was being serious; that’s how invisible he was.

4.   Lots of folks have remarked that Martin Palermo probably shouldn’t be on Argentina’s roster.  Maybe not, but Palermo might have had 3 goals today.  Although he played for River (I’m a Boca season ticket holder), I like Gonzalo Higuain and thought he should start.  He missed a bevy of giftwrapped opportunities today though.  Palermo would have put those away.  He is the master of being at the right place at the right time and converting.

5.  Nigeria is missing a few players, right?  A decent performance from them.  Uche missed an opportunity to make himself famous.

6.  I wonder how much of a home-field advantage the African teams have.  Probably not much.  Would make for an interesting empirical look.

7.  Obviously a win is a win, and Nigeria is probably the second best team in Group B.   Somehow it was very unsatisfying though.  There were just so many chances that weren’t put away, and Nigeria had a couple great chances to tie it.  After the start and the beautiful goal by Heinze, no one would have guessed 1-0.

8.  This game supported all of my contentions: Jonas Gutierrez should not be on the 23 man roster, much less a starter for Argentina.   Di Maria should not be a starter.  And to be honest, I don’t like Juan Sebastian Veron starting either, but largely because Maradona should have humbled himself and asked Juan Roman Riquelme to return.

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