Golazos y Tarjetas Rojas: Monday at the Cup

ozdesifootie.jpgFreshly back from Germany where he attended several first-round matches, reader “Farouk Engineer” shares this photograph of an Australia fan encountered amidst the swirling hordes of international merrymakers currently roaming the land of Goethe and Bratkartoffeln.

In just a few hours from this writing, we’ll know whether the sister’s impossible dream of seeing the Socceroos hoist the World Cup lives another day. Australia takes on heavily-favored Italy at 1700 CET. But the result is no foregone conclusion. Australia have earned admirers for their fluent, enthusiastic football. Made up mostly of journeymen who play for not-quite-marquee European sides (Middlesbrough, Alaves, Dresden…) Australia are a sort of deluxe version of the US team that held Italy to an ill-tempered 1-1 draw. Their coach, flying Dutchman Guus Hiddink, was the artisan of the 2002 South Korea side that rampaged through a series of upsets of highly rated Mediterranean sides including Portugal, Spain, and, yes, Italy. Meanwhile, Italy will play without their veteran defensive anchor Alessandro Nesta. I still like gli Azzurri to take this one, but if Australia can drag it into extra time, a famous upset could be in the making.

In other news, yesterday’s Netherlands-Portugal slugfest had to be one of the uglier matches ever, with Russian referee Valentin Ivanov losing control of proceedings early and reduced to gallivanting about the field brandishing yellow and red cards. Sixteen of the former and four of the latter amounted to a disgrace of a game in which the referee’s card-happiness provoked the players into great petulance, and vice versa.

Amid all this Holland lost 1-0 and they had it coming to them. The Dutch are much-loved in the football world, but much of it is based on past glory (the 1970s “Total Football” side anchored by the great Johann Cruyff), more recent elegant but underachieving sides, and good public relations. At the same time, Holland has some of the roughest hooligans (the pitched battles between Ajax and Feyenoord ultras are legendary) and vulgar, inebriated supporters. “Farouk” reports running into squadrons of middle-aged Dutch men in Germany dressed in nothing but clogs and orange women’s bikinis with their private parts casually dangling out. Lovely!

More to the point, this year’s Holland team, though possessed of some fine young talents like the wingers Robben and Van Persie (not to mention the superbly named Jan Venegoor of Hesselink, whose 19-letter last name they’ve somehow managed to crowd onto the back of his shirt), were a bunch of cheaters, divers and thugs who yesterday got back as well as they gave and found themselves on the losing end of the battle. Holland’s first-round 2-1 triumph over Ivory Coast was a first-rate robbery in which the Africans were denied two obvious penalty kicks while the Dutch flopped about to draw fouls like a pack of beached seals. Yesterday the Portuguese were no angels either, but hey, they’d studied the playbook. And the game’s one goal, a fine slotted ball by Maniche from a pass in the box by Pauleta, came before any of the chaos and theatrics, making this a legitimate and well-earned result despite all that ensued.

What is supremely annoying is that the big winner from all this is Sven-Goran Eriksson’s utterly pedestrian England side, who eked out another narrow victory, over outsiders Ecuador, and in the quarter-finals will face a Portugal deprived through suspension of two key players, Deco and Costinha. And Portugal ace Cristiano Ronaldo will be doubtful due to a thigh injury caused by the two outrageous assaults the Dutch landed on him in the early moments of the match.

All of which means that England, a side completely bereft of style and collective technique, coasting on the individual brilliance of David Beckham at the two things he knows how to do (crossing from the right, and free-kicks) and that one amazing Joe Cole golazo, could have an easy path to the semi-finals and then, with Wayne Rooney’s Lazarus-ish recovery progressing apace, they could just… Yikes.

(Portugal-England is Saturday at 11 am EDT. There may be an informal Sepia excursion to watch it in the fantastic atmosphere of the theater-like Portuguese Club in Newark, NJ. If interested, leave a note in the comments.)

Elsewhere in the brackets, today sees a Ukraine-Switzerland contest that ensures that England will not be the least inspiring team in the quarter-finals. Ukraine is made up of ten random guys plus ace center-forward (and new Chelsea purchase) Andriy Shevchenko; Switzerland are a stolid, defensive team that plays to national stereotype, who could just bore their opponents to sleep and end up winning on penalty kicks. The winner faces the Italy-Australia victor, which means that if the ‘Roos should pull this thing off, we could realistically see them in the semis.

So, um, what about the good football? Well, Argentina and Mexico provided a boatload of that in their epic overtime match yesterday. On balance the Albiceleste’s 2-1 win was deserved, with Maxi Rodriguez’s astonishing golazo a suitable clincher (if you haven’t seen it yet, PLEASE click the link). It was always going to take a feat of individual inspiration for Argentina to beat a well-organized, tactically sound Mexican side that had come equipped with solutions. Argentina’s quarterfinal against hosts Germany, who easily beat a Sweden side that never seemed fully awake, could be one for the ages. I love what Klinsman has done with this German team, and I always like to see the host country do well, but coach Pekerman’s Argentina side is on another level. Vamos Argentina!

Which leaves us with tomorrow’s mouthwatering offerings. The early match is the Third World connoisseur’s delight, Brazil versus Ghana in a billing that just brims with style, grace, and liberation. It will be an apotheosis, and it’s not guaranteed that Brazil will come out on top, even though Ghana will be without the suspended Michael Essien. Brazil have some weaknesses, especially in central defense, and with Robinho out due to injury, look for the lumbering duo of Ronaldo and Adriano to both start the game, which will result in a clogged-up attack instead of the sumptuous stuff we saw in the Brazil-Japan game. The Ghanaians have nothing to lose here — going out in the World Cup to Brazil is only second-best to winning the whole damn thing — and they’ll offer a game to match the occasion. In the end, I see this coming down to a genius strike from range by Kaka or Ronaldinho.

The afternoon sees the most interesting match-up of the lot, from a tactical standpoint, between the half-way resurrected France and the free-flowing Spain. On the strength of recent performance, you have to like Spain, but this will be a tough one for them. As poorly as France have been playing, they have an ultra-tight defense, and they could easily frustrate Spain into making a mistake, or take the match into extra time and perhaps penalties. Both teams have star-player issues: France need Zidane for his enduring creativity and vision on the field, but they also play a more liberated game without him; Spain has the Raul conundrum. With racist coach Aragones reported to be planning on starting Raul, look for a diminished Spain attack; with Zidane on the field, look for an uncomfortable but not incompetent France side that could still spring a lightning Thierry Henry counter-attack. There is no way I could see this France team beating an Argentina, but Spain — who always have a top-rated team yet unfailingly collapse at some point in the tournament — may prove a more digestible target.

It’s a just minutes to Italy – Australia. Can the ‘Roos do it?

48 thoughts on “Golazos y Tarjetas Rojas: Monday at the Cup

  1. Go Oz! (I should be watching that match now — stupid job!!!)

    I’ve always HATED the Dutch soccer team’s penatly box antics (second only to Italy), and I’m glad to see Marco van Basten reaping a bit of what he sowed during his long career of cheap dives!

    UK – eeked out is right, but JC’s da bomb, Ashley Cole was amazing (did you see that save yo!!!) and Beck’s has found poetic form once again. Hopefully that’ll be anough to carry them until Rooney takes the lead out of his boots!

    Yeah you’re right – Ar-Hen-Tina’s Hot, Haute, HAWT!!! Their last one, is definitely best game I’ve seen in the tournament so far (and there have been some real snooooorers!).

    Ooooooh Brazil-Ghana – can’t wait!!!

    Henry’s nerves are getting the better of him. Dissapointed that Cisse’s not going to be making an appearance.

    Go Roos!

  2. Vamos Argentina! Pfft! Such a joke of a team. Serious, the Mexican side goal was a self goal..why the hell do they keep saying they scored. Without this goal we can say that the Mexicans (my peeps) held them to no goals. Nuff said. Over hyped is this team…PERIOD!!

  3. Can anyone suggest good places to watch the games in Houston? I’m particularly looking fwd to the Germany-Argentina game and the upcoming Brazil games.

  4. i went to a how-to-act-badly-and-win-a-razzie award class and the netherlands-portugal football match broke out.

  5. What is supremely annoying is that the big winner from all this is Sven-Goran ErikssonÂ’s utterly pedestrian England side

    Not THAT annoying ;)

    Sidd, I can quite understand your criticism of England in this tournament, they have not looked convincing and despite superb individual performances they haven’t gelled the way they should. But calling them “a side completely bereft of style and collective technique” is entirely unfair. Style is subjective, I won’t argue on that count apart from asking if you watched their last game – Rooney’s occasional flashes of sheer genius surely count as style. But technique? Come on – Lampard, Cole, Gerrard, Beckham and Carrick are some of the world’s most technically proficient midfielders. Style maybe not, but technique without doubt. I am confident they will find their form against a Portugal sans Deco. Ironically your commendation of Beckham I also don’t agree with – he’s had a pretty ordinary world cup. Bar a much-needed dead ball goal, his crossing (the other of the “two things he knows how to do”) has been sub-standard.

    I’m watching the Aussies vs Italy now, it’s not particularly interesting. I’m hoping the Aussies win as they’re the side I dislike least. But then I may have to put up with “we got to the semis” from annoying Aussie mates.

    I’ve been looking forward to your next Cup post, so glad it’s here. Hope you also read what I wrote in the last one dude. Let the debate continue :)

  6. Style maybe not, but technique without doubt.

    I thought we were talking about teams, not individuals. The South Korean team has technique. The Argentina team has both techinique and style. England, as far as I can tell, have neither.

    But never mind all that, Italy’s just stolen a quarterfinal place! Harsh on the flamin’ gallahs!

  7. Italy wins against Australia with a penalty kick in the dying seconds of the game!

  8. CRIMINAL.

    The game has fallen into serious disrepute.

    (but is this cosmic payback for Hiddink and his Korean hijinks against Italy four years ago?)

  9. Aussies played a better game today..but they’ll never be in my good books (becuase of cricket).

  10. Yeah – completely ridiculous penalty, but hardly as if the Aussies had the run of play. Their defence in the last 20 minutes was poor and Italy’s was always solid. Hiddink didn’t make the subs he needed to – perhaps he had ET in mind – but he needed to change things up far sooner than he needed. Australia didn’t take the chances when they had them. It’s unlucky, but that’s football.

  11. “…but they’ll never be in my good books (becuase of cricket).”

    sort of how i feel. have you seen the new warnie ads for the upcoming england-australia ashes series? funny and obnoxious in a typically aussie manner. but i have to grudgingly admire them for their oversportiness. i mean they’re now even excelling at the winter sports, which is really annoying. but even the aussie sledging is choir boy stuff compared to the shenanigans of spitting and in-your-face antics of baseball and drama queen antics on the football (soccer) field. now, back to the civility of the india-west indies cricket match.

  12. Lord Bong, thanks for the links.

    I think Sweden just won their first World Cup!

  13. Lord Bong,

    it’s all good, brother. re: technique, i meant individual, not collective. i think that as a team england don’t function well. without a doubt the players you listed are technically fine players, but i don’t see them working well together. that’s as much on sven as it is on them, of course; in fact, it’s almost all on sven, because in his player selection and coaching (btw, does sven actually coach at all? or does he leave that to his assistants while he sits back and counts his money?) he is responsible for setting up the right combinations. he’s got players who are very good in their clubs but underperform in the england side due to crowded midfields or other tactical problems.

    re: individual skill, i rate joe cole’s goal as second-best “individual brilliance moment” in the tournament thus far. and beckham did some good crosses in the early matches no? he unlocked the paraguay match, for instance.

    in response to your point on the other thread, it’s all good my friend, i have no animosity toward you for any reason. you were making a provocative inquiry about the relationship of u.s. desis to the u.s. team, and nothing wrong with that. it’s only later that the thread got cantankerous.

    much respect…

    and now on to the fascinating, mesmerizing, thrilling switzerland-ukraine match!

  14. Bong Breaker,

    I have a COMPLETELY NSFW link that expands on the above…anyone want it?

    I know exactly which link you’re talking about, because some smart alec with a filthy mind posted it on the Pickled Politics blog a few days ago. Shame on you for even considering linking this thread to such debauchery.

    And for the record, Miss USA* got my vote as the hottest babe on “that” link ;)

    *It was the black-haired one, as far as I can remember. I’m not going to trawl through PP to find that link again !

  15. Yes that’s the link Jai. Although it’s not really accurate as I know that Miss Mexico in that line up was Anetta Keys, who is Czech (I think) and certainly not Mexican – so who knows where the rest are from.

  16. Kobayashi, the BBC just showed those Swedish girls kissing in live action! They did a special montage of World Cup kisses. Sometimes I love the BBC more than normal. Leonardo watched the two Swedes snogging and then said “now all they need is a Brazilian”. Of course the top kiss was the loving embrace of the Portuguese keeper on the goal-line…the BBC even added ‘Je t’aime’ in the background!

  17. I have been having trouble sleeping. That Switzerland Ukraine match proved very useful. Thank God it went to penalties, finally some excitement. What’s funny is Switzerland have exited the World Cup at the second round, having conceded no goals. That must be quite unusual.

  18. through suspension of two key players, Deco and Costinha

    It seems Portugal is going to appeal Deco’s red card. I hope it is upheld. The chain of events that led to his first yellow card was really unfortunate – he had a great break in the Dutch half on advantage when the referee stopped play because a player was injured. But when the play resumed after the drop ball, the Dutch started running with the ball instead of returning it back to the Portugal team who had stopped running and were just waiting for the ball. Not to excuse Deco’s late tackle, but it was total bad form from the Dutch side.

  19. Sid – Robbed:(, completely robbed:(

    All of Australia is mourning today!

  20. [heartbroken] We wuz robbed!

    (I think I’m entitled to a few histrionics, all things considered)

  21. Oh, and a desi-brotha was also spotted in Germany, sift through the “Fans Worldwide Gallery” here.

  22. What’s funny is Switzerland have exited the World Cup at the second round, having conceded no goals.

    It would have been more funny had they a) put up more of a fight during the penalty kicks and b) not singlehandedly made the World Cup more boring.

  23. crankmeister saurav:

    b) not singlehandedly made the World Cup more boring.

    I think that honour goes to England.

  24. I think that honour goes to England.

    Prepare to eat your words. We’re making the semis. Besides, how many other teams had live cruciate ligament tears – if that’s not entertainment, I don’t know what is. First the Ashes, next the World Cup! (ahem)

    To adjust a chant, just for you flygirl: We’ll do the winning, you pour the drinks!

  25. Ok.. Ronaldo just scored !!!! So much for his lack of form. Now he is the highest goal scorer in the world cup finals ever.

  26. Oh how it sucks that Brazil must play Ghana …. I wanted Ghana to go far …. but They have to tackle the mighty Brazil .. how unfair !!! Oh god atleast give Ghana some good chances.

  27. with ghanain friends. can’t hear mself think but so unlucky, lucky dida save and adriano clearly offside. ghana have outplayed brazil first half, shouldnt be 2 down. second half, gtg

  28. complete bollocks. offside goals. i love brazil but this was ugly. ghana couldn’t finish, so ultimately the result is what it is. but they deserved much much better.

    the refereeing is turning this from one of the best world cups to something mediocre and unsatisfying in a matter of just a few days.

    BOLLOCKS!

    anyway, i’m with argentina now all the way. at least they’ve gotten where they are on talent, without refereee complicity, and against top notch opposition.

  29. The first goal was clearly off-side. I was screaming alone at home. But the second one was actually deflected by Ghanian player before the Brazillian player put it inside the net. But then when Brazil made the first pass during that drive was a suspect of offside.

  30. France 3 – Spain 1 … Zidane got a goal in the extra time, as if they gave him time to go ahead and score a goal in the last world cup of his life.

  31. RC, that second goal was offsides as well. That said, Ghana kept blowing opportunities …

    My favorite parts of the match were the tender moments between Ghanaians and the Brazilians. Like when the Ghanaian held and stroked the Brazilian player he had just fouled. There were a few moments like that when I wanted to yell “stop trying to seduce them and defeat them already!”

  32. ‘Kick racism out of football’

    Well, Aragones is out so I’m happy. And a black man scored, so I’m even happier. And Zidane scored, which should make any non-Spanish football fan happy. Delighted France won, my home away from home.

    Sid, you’re switching support away from Brazil because offside goals were allowed? That’s not their fault. If England doesn’t win, I’d want France or Brazil to win out of the remaining teams and I think I’d put Argentina last. An unpleasant team. However, agreed that refereeing in this whole tournament has been pretty shocking.

    But, on another note – quarters line up thus: 6 European teams, Argentina and Brazil. Hmm…what’s happened to the new world? Such a contrast from the last World Cup.

  33. Well, Aragones is out so I’m happy.

    Word.

    And a black man scored, so I’m even happier.

    Yes.

    And Zidane scored, which should make any non-Spanish football fan happy.

    Three for three. Go on son.

  34. all is forgiven! france-spain was a superb match in every respect. great teams, great football, outstanding refereeing, and a wonderful result. redemption! the ref, roberto rossetti, in my view is a shoo-in to referee the final, assuming italy are not in it. he handled the match superbly, encouraged and demanded fair play and courtesy, was economic on the cards, let the boys play. impeccable!

    if france’s level of play remains as high as we saw today, the match against brazil will be a classic. just like back in the day! and i don’t mean 1998. i mean the mid-1980s when france and brazil played a very similar style to one another, and it was the best football in the world. when france had platini, giresse, tigana, marius tresor, et al, and brazil fielded the likes of socrates and zico. AAAAHHHH! pure heaven.

  35. Socrates must rank as one of my all-time favourite players. We did a little feature on medical footballers in the latest issue of my paper (not online yet), did you know that the former Brazilian captain studied at medschool before kicking off his career? Not surprising with his famous love of booze, fags and girlies. And he ended it as player-manager of Garforth Town in Yorkshire, aye up lad.

    Pablo Alfaro, Carlos Bilardo, Kenny Deuchar and Tostao – all doctors Arjan de Zeeuw (Tony Bliar’s favourite player) – MSc in Medical Science and plans to go to medschool.

  36. Bong, if only I had time to go into my confused football allegiances. I’m just pissed off at the lack of cohesion and dare i say it spirit in the team. How can a team of talented players be so soul-deadening to watch? It’s appalling!

    And I share your enthusiasm for Aragones’ exit. Next up, Ukraine, I hope, though I’m not sure who I like least in that match. Then may the Italians be defeated in the semis!

    First the Ashes, next the World Cup! (ahem)

    Ashes? Tell ‘im ‘es dreaming!

    Siddharta:

    I’ve been waiting for your latest WC update, thanks for this post!

    gotten where they are on talent, without refereee complicity, and against top notch opposition.

    Referee complicity that assists a Football Power? What a ridiculous notion!

    Triffic performace by Ghana, not surprised they didn’t win but what a fight they put up. Still, they failed to capitalise on their chances. What to do, what to do? Oz and Ghana have this same problem of being able to finish…