Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Groups A & B

Germany v. Ecuador

First things first, these games present something of a quandry to the coaches - you're both through and realistically, it's stupid to try to figure out who you might play because A) you have to beat somebody good anyway; and B) by the you get to the final 8, everybody is damn good. So you are left balancing keeping players fresh, healthy and non-suspended with the desire to keep playing the way that has brought your squad to this point. I'm not sure there's a good answer. It can either work, or you can be like Nigeria in '98 - impressive in your first two games, play your second team in the third, get pasted, then go to the second round and get drilled again (Nigeria lost 4-1 to Denmark in the round of 16)

So I understand what Ecuador's coach was doing by resting Delgado, Hurtado and Tenorio. And who's to say they don't get stomped by the Germans even with those guys playing?

But, their absence means that this game was, again, not a meaningful test of the Germans. They looked superb, but, but, but...In honesty I like this team - their body language tells a story of a team enjoying playing together, and that cannot be undersold. It starts from Klinsman who brings real verve and enthusiasm to what is usually a stereotypically dour team. I've mentioned it before, but Klose looks like a much better overall player than he was 4 years ago, and Lahm has been the best fullback, by a good margin, of the tournament so far. The Germans third goal was an inch-perfect counter-attack.

MoM: Miroslav Klose - it would be amusing if me passes Ronaldo on the WC scoring ranking as the latter continues to be stuck at 60% speed.

England - Sweden

Good thing they have Jermaine Defoe ready to step in...oh wait...Sven always looked likely to be an idiot for taking only 4 strikers, especially where 2 are injured and 1 is 17 (seriously, how stupid does including Walcott and not Defoe look right now?) In a way, incoming manager Steve Mclaren may have been fortunate with Owen's inury, as he's simply not the player of 1998. This way, he doesn't have to drop him, but can move on quietly.

First half was England's best of the tourney, with Joe Cole in particular being outstanding. And that's before we add in his fabulous goal (better than Argentina's second vs. Serbia? Tough to say. I will say that that goal was the first time Dave O'Brien really seemed to 'get' soccer, as his baseball drawl vanished for about 5 seconds of hysteria. Balboa thinks the keeper should have saved it. Of course, Balboa's an idiot.)

Second half started the same way...until Sweden scored, rather out of the blue. From that point, the Swedes were absolutely rampant, hitting the bar twice and pounding England to bits...until Gerrard scored, again from nowhere (though with a nice assist from Joe Cole.) And then perhaps the worst defending I've ever seen at a World Cup, and Larsson equalises at the death. Strange game, and if England weren't playing Ecuador, I'd half expect them to get anihlated in their next match.

MoM: Joe Cole. At this point I think England's best lineup (once we recognize that Beckham, Gerrard and Lampard are going to play, come hell, highwater or ze Germans) is Rooney along up front with Cole just behind. Lampard on the left, Gerrard and Becks in the center and Aaron Lennon on the right. Some have suggested moving Beckham to right back and Carragher pairing Terry in central defense to bring Lennon in on the right of midfield. Intriguing, but there's no way Sven has the juevos to try it.

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