It's all in your World Cup

Monday, June 19, 2006

Day the tenth

Croatia - Japan 0-0

Occasionally I feel guilty for not writing much about 0-0 games. Japan played pretty well, and might have deserved a victory for the nimbleness of Nakamura alone, but in keeping with the grand tradition of second tier teams, neither side had anyone of genuine finishing ability. Still, this was just the appetiser, with the main course not appearing on the table until 5pm, right...

Brazil - Australia 2-0

Underwhelming Brazil, valiant Australia, blah blah blah. The truth of the matter is that this was a crappy game, marked more than anything by wasted possession, sloppy finishing, and the sight of Ronaldo looking like a barrel made out of pork. Adriano and Ronaldo are such a static forward line that they conspire to made Ronaldinho look ineffective and drive Kaka to try and do it all by himself. With neither of their strikers making runs and creating space, there's no pass to be picked, and no gaps to be run into, so Ronaldinho ends up clipping hopeful balls over the top that Ronaldo doesn't even think about chasing, or switching the play ineffectively from wing to wing. The introduction of Robinho made Brazil more threatening instantly, he has pace, control and hunger, all of which Ronaldo seems to have misplaced, or eaten.

I'm still not convinced that simply swapping out Ronaldo for another player is the answer to Brazil's problems. They famously lack width, even with Cafu and Roberto Carlos attacking from defense, and so get caught playing a fairly narrow game, unable to spread the ball unless either full back has made the run. Against well organised opposition, they seem to be caught trying to thread passes through an area about the width of the penalty area, with little overlapping, and so time after time, through-balls were cut out, and scooped passes blasted back downfield. Compare them with Argentina, who have started out this competition using space across the entire pitch and look by far the most threatening team because of it, and you have some idea of the measure of the task of reinvention facing Brazil.

I would still like to see Juninho brought into the side in place of Ze Roberto. He can sit deeper, and dictate play alongside Gilberto Silva, who should replace the hapless Emerson, who seemed incapable of completing a pass or making a tackle today. Robinho should replace Ronaldo, but be stationed wide to give more options on the ball and create more space for Kaka to burst through in support of Adriano. It's clearly far too early to write this team off, as they have incredible attacking strength, but at the moment they are a long way from playing as a team, and unless they do, it will be difficult for them to harness the thrilling talent they possess.

France - South Korea 1-1

For about 20 minutes France looked like righting four years and one game's worth of wrongs. Henry scored, Zidane was at the centre of most French attacks, and they had pace, width and a seeming passion to dominate this game. However, they then spent the next hour or so preening around the middle of the pitch until they were mugged by the South Koreans in quite hilarious fashion. Barthez's despairing flip at the ball as it spun over his head will go down as one of my most treasured moments of this stage of the tournament: he's always struck me as teeth-grindingly arrogant for a man so blunder-prone.

There's a case to be made to say that France were denied a game-sealing 2-0 scoreline when Vieira's header was flung back from behind the line, but the purist in me sees some justice in that decision. Vieira had easily one of the worst games I've ever seen him play, misplacing passes, towering shots into the stands and generally looking like his Arsenal performances were unlikely myths, rather than the truth of just 18 months ago. His one decent contribution was that header, and it was a contribution he didn't deserve to make.


  • Watching the game amid a few hundred Koreans fans made it feel like a victory for Korea.

    The thing about Koreans is they weren't using the middle of the field at all. They were always trying to run up the very edge and barely ever crossed the ball. They barely had any real chances.

    By Anonymous ilya, at 3:02 AM  

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