Posts Tagged ‘Manchester City’

The World Cup is over and Spain are your new Champions.  First Euro 2008 and now this?  I guess we have to respect Spain in international competitions now and not wait for them to eventually choke.  The Final was probably one of the best deciding games since I can remember (1982).  Both teams wanted to win and not just play conservatively, hoping they could put the ball in the net while not really going forward.  Both teams gave it a go but one goal was all it took.  Thank God we didn’t go to penalties because this game was just too good to be decided like that.

Spain: Your 2010 World Cup Champions

On to the game:

Netherlands – Spain (0-1 aet)

Goal – Iniesta (ESP) 116’

Red Card – Heitinga (NED) 109’

Before the match, referee Howard Webb’s wife said she was surprised her husband got the call to be the Final’s ref because he can’t even control his kids at home.  Funny, but she was right.  He was not in control of this game.  The players cared very little if they were getting a yellow card or not.  It’s the Final and there’s no tomorrow so if you have to foul, foul hard and don’t worry about jawing at the ref, all he can do is give you a yellow.  Webb was giving out card like they were going out of style, fourteen in all, including a red to John Heitinga (Everton) for his second yellow of the game.  Webb had no control of a game that most referees would’ve had trouble with.  Did he do a good job?  Kind of.  A red earlier in the game would have put an end to the chippy play.  Otherwise, he did about as good as anyone could have in same situation.

The statistics say Spain had 57% of the possession but watching it I thought it was much closer than that.  Spain would go on runs where the Netherlands couldn’t put anything together and then the Netherlands would control the ball and have Spain on it’s heels.  Spain had more shots, 19 to 13, but the actual shots on goal were only 6 to 5 in favor of Spain.  Maybe it was that sixth shot that made the difference.

Both teams looked as if they could’ve played another ninety minutes but as soon as Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) scored at 116’, Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and the rest of the Dutch players had a look of disbelief and all the energy was sucked out of them.  Robben lay on the ground, shaking his head and looking like a man defeated.  It didn’t matter that four minutes plus injury time were left on the clock.  They just didn’t have the will to fight anymore.  One second more was one second too much.

Iniesta will probably never have to buy another drink in Spain, ever.

I don’t understand what Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk was thinking with his substitutions?  Now’s the part of the post where I second guess the coach and tell you how I would’ve done things better.

The first substitution was Eljero Elia (Hamburger SV) in for Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) at 71’.  So a forward playing as a midfielder was taken out for a forward who likes playing midfield.  Why?  Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) was the only true forward on the pitch for Holland and he managed to get all of one shot on goal and it wasn’t even on target.  Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Robin were doing all of the work of front and Van Persie was along for the ride.  Why not bring in Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan).  I know I extolled the virtues of Elia in an earlier post but that was then and this is the Finals.  Huntelaar is a proven goal scorer who actually scored in one of his sub appearances.  Maybe Kuyt was spent but Van Persie needed to go at that point.  Kuyt probably worked as hard as anyone this whole World Cup.

Substitution number two was Rafael Van Der Vaart (Real Madrid) for Nigel De Jong (Manchester City) at 99’.  So a holding midfielder was taken out for an attacking midfielder.  Why?  Again, why was Van Persie allowed to stay on when he obviously wasn’t doing anything except accusing the Spanish players of diving.  In the twenty-eight minutes since Elia came in, Robben and Sneijder were still carrying Van Persie.  I’m not saying De Jong should’ve stayed in but Huntelaar would’ve worked in that situation also.

The third and final substitution was defender Edson Braafheid (Celtic) for defender Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) at 105’.  Van Bronckhorst was probably out of gas by then but why bring in unused Braafheid when you have proven defenders in Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven) and Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart) on the bench?  Both played well when they were called on to start in earlier games.  Puzzling call.  Not to say that Braafheid caused the Netherlands to lose but I would’ve went with a more experienced player at that time of the game.  Braafheid doesn’t see any action all World Cup and then you expect him to play in the last fifteen minutes of the whole tournament.  Again, why?

Congrats to Spain.  The shook off an opening game defeat to Switzerland to win the whole thing.  No way this team was the best team in the tournament but they played like it.  You’d think a team with this many great names would’ve scored more goals but whatever they did was effective.

One question for Vincente Del Bosque, how many times were you going to let Pedro (Barcelona) do nothing on the pitch before you decided that maybe Fernando Torres (Liverpool, for now) should’ve started instead.  Pedro is a good player but not in this tournament.  Plus, the first sub for Spain was forward Jesus Navas (Sevilla) for Pedro.  Jesus Navas?  You have Torres, Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao) and Juan Manuel Mata (Valencia) and you choose Navas?  Really?  Torres finally came in at 106’ for a nearly dead David Villa (Barcelona).  A bit late don’t you think?  Luckily Iniesta bailed him out or he would’ve had to explain why he made or didn’t make those moves.

In the Third Place game, Germany beat Uruguay 3-2.  I won’t talk about it much because the Third Place Game really doesn’t mean much unless your from Uruguay or Germany or whoever is involved in this game.  Germany fought back from 2-1 down to win the game.  Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) scored one for Uruguay and Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) got one back for Germany.  With that, Forlan wins the Goldon Ball for tournament’s MVP and Mueller wins the Golden Boot for the World Cup’s leading scorer (five goals, three assists).  Mueller also picks up the Best Young Player award.  Teams are lining up to sign Mueller, who’s only twenty years old.

We're gonna be hearing alot from Mueller for years to come

All in all it was a great World Cup.  South Africa should be proud.  There were no glaring problems and the tournament went off without a hitch.  Hopefully the vuvzela can be banned before the next World Cup.  Interesting note:  New Zealand is the only team not to lose a game in this tournament.  Good for you All Whites.  I picked you to be one of the worst teams coming in.

See you in four years time.  Look for my preview somewhere around June 1, 2014.  Thanks and I hope you enjoyed following this tournament with me.  I saw all sixty-four games and they weren’t all great but it was fun writing about them.  Thanks to Aidan and Joe S. for all the feedback.

I can't believe I have to wait four years!

The Semi-finals are over and we will have an all European Final and a first time winner.  Uruguay held on as long as they could against the Dutch but Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid) couldn’t win the game by himself.  Germany was missing Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) and couldn’t get over on Spain.  Both very good games and the Finals should be must see.

On to the games:

Uruguay – Netherlands (2-3)

Goals – Van Bronckhorst (NED) 18’, Forlan (URU) 41’, Sneijder (NED) 70’, Robben (NED) 73’, Pereira (URU) 90’+2

I don’t know how many people outside of Uruguay actually thought Uruguay would win this game.  It would have been a nice story but realistically the Netherlands were just too strong.  Even if Luis Suarez (Ajax) wasn’t suspended it would’ve been hard for the South Americans to advance.  The Netherlands are clicking and even though you may only be hearing about Wesley Sneijder (Inter) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), this team is stacked and everyone has played fantastically.  Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) is doing a lot of work that goes unnoticed when you don’t score.  Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) is attracting defender which leaves more space for Sneijder and Robben.  Mark Van Bommel (Bayern Munich) is starting everything from the midfield.  All great stuff but you only get your name in the highlights and the stories if you score.

The main statistics were about even with the Netherlands holding a slight advantage in time of possession.

With Luis Suarez missing, Edinson Cavani (Palermo) was in as the other forward to compliment Forlan.  Cavani is mainly a forward but has been playing more of a midfield role when Suarez has been in the games.  No big deal there except Suarez is slightly better but it probably didn’t make much of a difference.

The Netherlands were without defender Gregory Van Der Wiel (Ajax) and midfielder Nigel De Jong (Manchester City), who were both sitting out due to yellow card suspensions.  Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart) took over in defense while Demy De Zeeuw (Ajax) was in the midfield.  Boulahrouz played well but De Zeeuw, not so much.

Goivanni Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord) put the Netherlands on the board before the twenty minute mark with what has to be the best goal of the tournament.  He ripped in a shot from at least thirty meters.  Nice!  Not to be outdone, Diego Forlan drew Uruguay level right before the half with a long shot that Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax) got a hand on but couldn’t keep it out of the net.

The second half was all Oranje and the late Uruguay goal from Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica) really didn’t matter.  The Netherlands had the game in hand by then.  This game could’ve very easily been 4-2 or 5-2.

Just a note, how far has Ryan Babel (Liverpool) fallen?  He can’t get on the field at Anfield and somehow he makes this team only to never see the light of day.  He needs a switch.  He should leave Liverpool and go to a team that would give him quality minutes.  He’s only twenty-three and his career is at a stand still.  On the other hand, with Fernando Torres most likely leaving Liverpool will Babel get more playing time?  Just a thought.

Germany – Spain (0-1)

Goal – Puyol (ESP) 73’

Spain had the greater time of possession, more shots and more shots on goal.  How?  Germany was only missing one player, Thomas Mueller, but they looked like a completely different team.  Germany was lost and how does that happen.  Germany was flat.  That should not happen to a German team.  As good as they were throughout the World Cup, this game tarnishes that.  Sure Mueller was a big loss but that doesn’t erase having Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (FC Cologne), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen) and Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) on the pitch.  How does a team with that time of midfield creativity and firepower only manage two legitimate shots on goal?  Shocking!

It’s just me but why didn’t Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) play in place of Mueller instead of Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV)?

Thanks to Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04) this game wasn’t 4-0.  Spain kept coming and coming but Neuer was always up for it.  Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen) and Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV) looked ordinary.  They were employing the England and USA technique of giving guys too  much space.  Ouch!

Manuel Neuer was the only German player who did any real work

Pedro (Barcelona) got the start over Fernando Torres (Liverpool) and I’m not convinced it was a bad thing.  Torres has been average in this World Cup.  I wonder who will get the start against The Netherlands in the Final or will Spain go with one, lone forward in David Villa (Barcelona)?  My feeling, Spain would be wrong to think that they can be effective with only one forward against The Netherlands.

Sunday it’s Netherlands – Spain and I’m not really that excited.  I was hoping for a Netherlands – Germany matchup and Spain winning took away most of my excitement.  Will I watch the game?  You better believe I wouldn’t miss a World Cup Final for anything.  The only time I would consider not watching is if the USA were in the Finals but we all know that’ll never happen.  Expect to hear a lot of Clockwork Orange references in the buildup to the game.

Oh, I almost forgot, the Netherlands beats Spain 3-1.

The Netherlands have great fans

Day twenty-three saw a clinic put on by Germany and Spain edging past a very game Paraguay squad.  Argentina exits the World Cup and in the ninety minutes it took for them to lose, they went from a red-hot team with as good a chance as anyone to hoist the Jules Rimet Trophy to a team that wasn’t very good in the first place and lucky even to get this far.  How fortunes change so quickly.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) went from a soccer God to a mere mortal in those same ninety minutes.  Before the game it didn’t matter that he hadn’t scored because he was creating chances and Argentina were winning.  After the game, his World Cup was a disappointment because he hadn’t scored and was put in the same bust category with Ronaldo, Kaka, Rooney and Drogba.  Sure Messi has won almost everything in the last thirteen months but what have you done for us lately?

He was having a great tournament on Friday. Sunday morning; not so much

On to the games:

Argentina – Germany (0-4)

Goals – Mueller (GER) 3′, Klose (GER) 68′ & 89′, Friedrich (GER) 74′

Germany scored early and it looked like the game the night before between the Netherlands and Brazil.  I kept waiting for Argentina to finally break through but it never happened.  Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich) and the rest of the German defense were up to the test.  Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, for now) was frustrated and he did more yelling and complaining than creating chances.

No Ballack, no problem

Argentina was a strike away from being back in this game but the wheels came off at 68′ with the goal from Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich).  Diego Maradona’s team started to panic and had to score but that just left them open for more German runs and two more goals.

The only damage done to Germany was that Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich) received a yellow card and won’t be able to play in the Semi-final against Spain.  Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich) was named Man of the Match as rightfully so.  He was everywhere.  Germany has scores four goals three times this tournament and Spain better watch out.  This isn’t the old Germany or West Germany where they muscled their way through tournaments, happy to score a single goal and tighten things up on defense.  This is a young German team, the youngest team in the tournament, and each player has more freedom to create chances and make runs.  No more systems, just good open, creative play.

Paraguay – Spain (0-1)

Goal – Villa (ESP) 83′

Spain controlled time of possession but shots on goal were nearly similar.  David Villa (Barcelona) was Johnny-on-the-spot again and was able to put in a ball that had bounced off the post and onto his foot.  That’s goal number five for Villa and he’s now the top scorer in this World Cup.

He has a nose for goal

Paraguay had an early chance but Spain had more offense in the first half.  The teams took turns missing penalties in the second half.  First, Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) missed from the spot and then two minutes later Xavi Alonso (Real Madrid) missed his second chance penalty and the teams were still tied.  Alonso made his first attempt but referee Carlos Batres from Guatemala decided to call the rarely enforced encroachment on the Spaniards and Alonso had to try again.  Ooops!

Villa scores late and Paraguay were scrambling to get to the net.  It’s tough for a team like Paraguay to get goals quickly because they aren’t known for being big scorers in the World Cup.  Spain survives but this team doesn’t really scare me.  I think they’re the weakest team left in the tournament.  I’d rate Uruguay a tad higher but with Luis Suarez (Ajax) out for their Semi-final against the Netherlands, it’s real close.  Is Spain more talented?  Yes!  They just aren’t playing as well as the Uruguayans.

Speaking of Luis Suarez, he’s received a one match ban for his deliberate handball that saved Uruguay’s game against Ghana.  There’s been an uproar that something needs to be changed to stop it from happening again.  FIFA thought about banning him for two games but they really can’t.  His handball isn’t deemed worse than any other.  Rightfully so, Suarez just reacted to the situation.  It happened so fast that he really didn’t have time to think of the consequences.  I have no problem with what FIFA did.  We can’t change the rules every time something big happens.  Reader Aidan from South Korea via South Africa thinks that Suarez should be banished from this world for his actions but that might be a bit harsh.

In the Semi-finals on Tuesday it’s Uruguay – Netherlands and Germany – Spain.  Can’t wait.  Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Germany – Netherlands final but that’s just me.

Of the three games on tap, only Brazil – Ivory Coast seemed interesting.  It wasn’t but there was one other game that was.  Italy should’ve killed New Zealand.  They didn’t.  Now, Group F is still wide open and the reigning champs are in danger of missing out on the second round.  This World Cup is starting to get interesting.  Well…more interesting.

On to the games:

Slovakia – Paraguay (0-2)

Goals – Vera (PAR) 27′, Riveros (PAR) 86′

Paraguay OWNED this game but, surprisingly, Slovakia held a slight edge in time of possession.  From what I could see, Slovakia didn’t really have a purpose or a plan when they had the ball.  Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City) had the ball a lot but he didn’t really do anything with it.  Slovakia had a ton of missed passes and off the mark shots.  It’s like Slovakia has never been pressed before because that’s what Paraguay did in all game.  Smart.

Sure, you had the ball but what did you do with it?

I’d be surprised if Paraguay didn’t handle New Zealand in their final game.  They moved the ball well and controlled the midfield against Slovakia.  Everyone on Group F is still alive but Paraguay surely goes through.

Italy – New Zealand (1-1)

Goals – Smeltz (NZL) 7′, Iaquinta (ITA) 29′ penalty

Italy continues to look plain in the World Cup.  God forbid they should ever score two against lowly New Zealand.  Let’s be honest, New Zealand doesn’t have many quality players.  Yet, they hung with the reigning champs.  Italy has never been a fan of making things easy.

The longer New Zealand could stay in this game the higher their confidence would be.  Shockingly, to the Italians and the world, they scored first and just like that, Italy were in trouble.  Italy regrouped and struck back on a Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus) converted penalty at 29′ and they took off from there.  Italy was peppering the New Zealand defense but the Kiwi’s were able to hold them off.  Good result from New Zealand, not so much for Italy.

New Zealand have two points after two games, two more than I thought they would have.  So much for them being one of the worst teams in the tournament.

Did anyone notice who the 4th official was for this game.  It was Koman Coulibaly from Mali.  Who’s that?  I’m sure American “fans” know.

Brazil – Ivory Coast (3-1)

Goals – Luis Fabiano (BRA) 25′ and 50′, Elano (BRA) 62′, Drogba (CIV) 79′

Red Card- Kaka (BRA) 88′

This was supposed to be the game of the day but it was a letdown.  Brazil seemed as thought they were toying with the Ivory Coast.  Another Sven Goren Erikkson team underperforms.  Why do teams still hire this guy?

Brazil looks to have bounced back from their lackluster performance against North Korea.  Kaka (Real Madrid) was on and played way better than in the first game.  Sure he got a red card and will miss the next game but who cares?  Brazil are already in round two.  Kaka gets to rest and be ready for the next round.

About that red card:  The Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita (Galatasaray) should either be punished or given an award for that performance.  Kaka shouldered him up but Keita acted as if he were punched in the face.  Terrible!

And the Oscar goes to...Kader Keita

Brazil looked like the powerhouse they are and with Germany looking plain against Serbia, Brazil look to be the class of the tournament.  They seem to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (4), Mexico (4),  France (1), South Africa (1)

Group B:

Argentina (6), South Korea (3), Greece (3), Nigeria (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (4), USA (2), England (2), Algeria (1)

Group D:

Ghana (4), Germany (3), Serbia (3), Australia (1)

Group E:

Netherlands (6), Japan (3), Denmark (3), Cameroon (0) – Netherlands advance, Cameroon eliminated

Group F:

Paraguay (4), Italy (2), New Zealand (2), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (6), Portugal (1), Ivory Coast (1), North Korea (0) – Brazil advance, Portugal/North Korea still to play

Group H

Chile (3), Switzerland (3), Spain (0), Honduras (0)

Day seven was very entertaining.  Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid) put on a show in the Argentina – South Korea game, Greece came back from the dead to beat a now dead Nigeria team and Mexico might have done enough against France to punch it’s ticket to the next round.  Day seven also showed that sometimes coaches can’t even get out of their own way.  Huh Jung Moo (South Korea) and Raymond Domenech (France) were too smart for themselves and decided to replace key players from game one with players who probably should’ve stayed on the bench.  Mind you, South Korea played well and won and France played well but drew.  More on that later.

On to the games:

Argentina – South Korea (4-1)

Goals – Park Chu Young (KOR) 17’ og, Higuain (ARG) 33’ 76’ 80’, Lee Chung Yong (KOR) 45’+1

Argentina thrashed South Korea but it could’ve been worse and at the same time, it wasn’t that bad.  Argentina was running South Korea ragged in the first half and the time of possession was lopsided in Argentina’s favor.  A quick Lee Chung Yong (Bolton) strike just before the stroke of halftime brought life to this game that was quickly getting out of hand.

South Korea took the momentum of that first half goal into the second half and had Argentina scrambling to recoup.  A second South Korean goal looked like it was imminent.  South Korea was getting close and getting close.  Park Chu Young (AS Monaco) and Lee Chung Yong were giving the Argentinian defense fits.  Then, Gonzalo Higuain spoiled the party and ended all hope for South Korea to get back in this game, let alone win.  2-1 is manageable but 3-1 is impossible.  South Korea knew they were defeated and Argentina kept their foot on the gas and Higuain scored the hat-trick to close the books on this game.

Higuain got it done against South Korea

You see the score and when a team scores four goals you think that the opposing goalkeeper had a bad game.  Not in this case.  The first Argentina goal came when a cross went off Park Chu Young’s leg and into his own goal.  Jung Sung Ryong (Suwon Bluewings) had no chance to keep the ball out of the net.  Jung made some fantastic saves and kept this game from being 6-1 or 7-1.

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) showed why he’s the best in the game right now.  He can do whatever he wants when he gets the ball.  It must be frustrating for defenders to know that whatever they do, this guy is still gonna get over on you.  He does so much work in such small space and needs minimal separation to get off a shot.

The thing that frustrated me as the game went on is that Cha Du Ri (SC Freiburg) didn’t start the game or even make an appearance.  I wrote after South Korea’s first game that Cha Du Ri was a monster and that he was all over the field causing trouble, not to mention how he was frustrating Greece with his defense.  So coach Huh Jung Moo decides that Oh Beom Seok (Ulsan Hyundai) is gonna do a better job stopping Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, for now) and Messi.  Wrong!  Most of the first half pressure came form the left side of the field (South Korea’s right) and Oh couldn’t handle it.  Why did Huh feel the need to make this change?

Park Ji Sung (Manchester United) was very disappointing.  He wasn’t involved much in the game and when he was, he wasn’t very effective.  I wouldn’t have minded if Hu had switched Park Ji Sung in the second half.

Greece – Nigeria (2-1)

Goals – Uche (NGA) 16’, Salpingidis (GRE) 44’, Torosidis (GRE) 71’

Red Card – Kaita (NGA) 33’

Before I get into this game, is Danny Shittu (Bolton) the fattest player in this World Cup?  Yes, he looks solidly built but fat is still fat.  Nigeria should’ve won this game because they are the better team.  In the early going it looked like Nigeria wasn’t going to have too much trouble with Greece.  Then, Sani Kaita (Alania Vladikavkaz) decided to show Vasileios Torosidis’ (Olympiakos) leg the bottom of his shoe.  The Referee had to show him the red and Kaiti was in disbelief.

Nice move Kaita

Greece then turned it up and Nigeria couldn’t keep up.  Greece ended the game with more than double the amount of Nigeria’s shots and shots on goal.  Greece could’ve had a third but two was enough.

I have to praise Greece’s coach Otto Rehhagel with his roster moves in this game.  Some coaches get it.  In game one I questioned why Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) didn’t start, let alone play.  This game, Kyrgiakos starts.  Also in game one, I mentioned on how Georgios Samaras (Celtic) was a complete waste.  Samaras doesn’t start this game but Rehhagel brought him in as soon as Kaita was shown the red to bring in more attacking power.  Not starting Samaras was a good idea and so was bringing him in to strengthen the attack against a short-handed Nigeria.  Samaras did play better this game.  Maybe the benching got him to think about his play.  Who knows?

France – Mexico (0-2)

Goals – Hernandez (MEX) 64’, Blanco (MEX) 79’ penalty

Has a coach even been fired before during the World Cup?  I mean, have they been fired while their team was still in it?  If not, Raymond Domenech should be the first one.  If it’s already been done then he should join the list.  How does Youann Gourcuff (Bordeaux) not start this game, let alone play?  Next to Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Gourcuff has got to be one of the top, most important players on this team.  Florent Malouda (Chelsea) is very good but not good enough to play in the first game, a game France looked pretty good in.  Domenech decides France doesn’t need Gourcuff and so he wastes away on the bench while France sees it’s World Cup aspirations go down the drain.

As for the game, blah blah blah, France couldn’t finish but Mexico could.  Subs Javier Hernandez (Chivas) and Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Veracruz) score the goals for Mexico and their ticket is close to being punched for the second round.  Mexico – Uruguay should be very good.

Blanco's still got it

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

Uruguay (4), Mexico (4),  France (1), South Africa (1)

Group B:

Argentina (6), South Korea (3), Greece (3), Nigeria (0)

Group C:

Slovenia (3), USA (1), England (1), Algeria (0)

Group D:

Germany (3), Ghana (3), Serbia (0), Australia (0)

Group E:

Netherlands (3), Japan (3), Cameroon (0), Denmark (0)

Group F:

Paraguay (1), Italy (1), New Zealand (1), Slovakia (1)

Group G

Brazil (3), Ivory Coast (1), Portugal (1), North Korea (0)

Group H

Chile (3), Switzerland (3), Spain (0), Honduras (0)

Chelsea takes on Manchester City and I’ll be keeping a running blog post while I’m watching the game.  If you look at my Top 5 Hated Soccer Teams list from my previous post you’ll see that these two teams.  Man City is higher on that list so I have (slightly) more venom for them.  I usually would have no use for this game but the whole Wayne Bridge/John Terry drama is too much for me to pass up.  If they weren’t playing each other I’d probably be watching a Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal movie on Super Action, a replay of Korea winning baseball gold at the 2006 Beijing Olympics (for the 1,000th time) or South Korea’s exploits in the 2002 World Cup (for the 100,000th time).  As you can see, my Saturday night TV viewing is very limited in the ROK.

Besides the Bridge/Terry thing there are other important storylines with this game.  Man City manager, Roberto Mancini, may be on the hot seat since his teams poor run of form assures them that they will not win any hardware this season.  That’s not what the multi-billionaire Dubai owner wants to hear from a team he’s spent so much money on.  A loss here might seal his fate.  Adebayor is out of this game because of the red card he picked up against Stoke City.

Chelsea leads Manchester United by only one point after Man U’s win earlier in the week.  A loss here makes the title chase even more interesting.  Man City beat Chelsea at the Eastlands 2-1 on December 5th so the Blues will be looking for revenge.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Bridge and Terry are the main draw here.  Earlier this week, Wayne Bridge turned his back on England and doesn’t want to be in the squad going to South Africa.  Fabio Capello probably has mixed feelings about his decision but, at the same time, it might make his job easier.  There certainly will be less tension in the locker room and England has no shortage of left-backs.  England are my pick to lift the trophy but it’s still too early to be sure.  Bridge said he would refuse to shake Terry’s hand in the pre-game ritual.  Some of Bridge’s Man City teammates said they would do the same.  We’ll see what happens.  Either way, there will be plenty of boo’s and whistles whenever Bridge touches the ball.  I think Bridge and Terry shake hands, they’re professionals

Lineups:

Chelsea – Hilario (GK), Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry (C), Lampard, J. Cole, Mikel, Ballack, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka

Manchester City – Given (GK) (C), Richards, Bridge, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, A. Johnson, Barry, De Jong, Tevez,                           Bellamy

Substitutes:

Chelsea – Turnbull (GK), Ferreira, Alex, Belletti, Matic, Kalou, Sturridge

Manchester City – Taylor (GK), Onuoha, Sylvinho, Toure, Wright-Philips, Santa Cruz, Ibrahim

Referee: Mike Dean

The Game:

Players in the tunnel waiting to come out.  Mike Dean has words with Shay Given.  I wonder if he’s telling him not to refuse to shake Terry’s hand like some players had threatened to do.

Teams making their way out on the pitch and line up for the pre-game ritual.  Chelsea in all blue.  Man City wearing white with a red and black diagonal stripe on their shirts.  The look like River except with the added black stripe and the fact that River Plate’s uniform looks a million times cooler.

Pre-game handshake time.  Things going smoothly so far.  Terry extended his hand, Bridge looked at him but refused to shake his hand.  Crowd erupts in boos.  I’m sure this won’t be the last time.  I was wrong about Bridge being professional about this.

I guess John Terry is the bigger man

Mancini and Ancelotti have a hug and a smile.  Will this be it for Mancini?

1st Half:

Chelsea kick off.  We’re off.

Hilario handles a slow roller well.  It’s not a sure thing with him, given the way he looked against Inter in the Champions league in mid-week.

Boos for Bridge as he takes the throw in.

What’s with Jolene Lescott’s hair?

I wonder how long the crowd can keep up booing Wayne Bridge?

Cheers every time John Terry touches the ball.  Can they keep that up too?

Quick shot by Lampard.  Save Given.

Gareth Barry is not happy for some reason.  Ref has a talk with him.  I think a yellow card for Barry will happen today.

If John Terry scores, Stamford Bridge will explode.

Tevez’ first touch is a hand ball.

Nice move on the right side by Ivanovic.  Quick shot and Given saves.

Fabio Capello in the house.

What’s with all the (bad) tattoo sleeves?

Adam Johnson with a free kick from the right of goal.  Too strong for Kompany to get on the end of it.

Malouda thinks about taking a shot from 30 yards.  Not a good choice.

Mancini knows this isn’t Italy right.  Managers in England aren’t fashion plates.  Take off that stupid scarf!

Drogba hauled down by Richards right outside the box to the left of goal.  Where’s the yellow?  Free-kick.  Drogba over the ball.  Short pass to Lampard.  Quick shot.  Blocked.  Poor choice on the play.

Ballack finally makes an appearance at the 15 minute mark.  Nice shiner.

Drogba makes a nice pass across goal to no one.  Where’s Cole or Lampard?

Rough entry by Malouda on Johnson.  Free kick for Man City to the right of goal about 20 yards out.  Johnson takes the kick.  Straight to Hilario.  Save.  Another poor free-kick choice.

Nice quick shot by Joe Cole.  Given punches.  Possession favoring Chelsea.

20 minutes in and Tevez has yet to touch the ball with his feet.

Crowd giving Hilario sarcastic cheers every time he kicks the ball.  That won’t help his confidence.

Bellamy a mile offsides.  He doesn’t think so.  Of course he doesn’t.

Drogba heads an Ivanovic pass right over the goal.  Close

Chelsea leads in shots 6-1 at the 25 minute mark.

Tevez receives the ball at the center line.  I’m sure Chelsea don’t mind him getting the ball there.  Quick back pass.

Nice run by Joe Cole.  Passes to Ivanovic.  Return pass to Cole too strong.

Anelka has a go from 20 yards.  Right to Given.

Malouda OWNING A. Johnson so far, 30 minutes in.

Drogba shows up on the right makes a cross on goal.  Kompany almost put it into his own net.  Corner.  Ball comes out, to Ivanovic.  Cross.  Drogba, Richards, and Zabaleta go down in a heap.  Drogba and Zabaleta knocked heads.  Drogba gets up but Zabaleta on the ground and looks dazed.  He walks off the pitch slowly.

Joe Cole and Bridge having a chat at 32 minutes.

Richards steps in on Anelka.  Free-kick Chelsea.  Malouda takes the kick from the left of goal.  The kick crosses the field and out.  Poor.

Crowd can’t keep up with booing Bridge.  They’re losing interest.

Lampard’s errant shot goes to Drogba who puts it right over the goal.  Another close one.

Zabaleta returns at 35 minutes.

Nice run by Anelka.  Diagonal for Drogba in the box.  Too long.

Tevez is pretty much just taking up space.  A non-factor.

I forgot Gareth Barry was still in the game (36 minutes).

Is Craig Bellamy supposed to be somebody?

Anelka pretty much doing whatever he wants.

GOAL Lampard at 42 minutes.  Nice pass from Joe Cole.  Lampard was alone in front of goal.  What were Richards and Kompany doing on the play?  Chelsea lead 1-0.

I hope Mancini is just renting.

Surprisingly clean game so far.  Not many whistles.

Man City looks shaky.  Two shots by Cole and Lampard stopped by Given.

GOAL Man City.  Tevez scores (45+2).  Game tied 1-1.  Tevez goes 1 v 2 on the break.  Hilario pretty much just watching as Tevez zigzags and can’t get his hands on Tevez’ weak, rolling shot.  Did I mention Hilario is terrible?

Lescott almost heads in a free-kick.  Hilario overplayed it.  Lucky it was wide.

Mike Dean blows the whistle for half time.

Half:

Terry giving it to the linesman as he walks off.

Lucky goal by City.  Otherwise, they have been awful.  Chelsea in charge of the play.

Can a coach get fired during the game?

2nd Half:

Manchester City kicks off and goes backwards.

Richards makes a hot run up the right but hen he remembers he plays defense and promptly gets confused and loses the ball.

Step in by Terry.  Free-kick Man City right outside the area.  Tevez, bridge and A. Johnson standing over the ball.  Wall set.  Bridge puts it right into the wall.  Malouda makes a run but it fizzles.

Nice effort by Carvalho to keep play alive.  Ivanovic loses the ball in the box.

GOAL Man City (51 min).  Bellamy makes a run on the left side and what looks like a pass turns into a goal.  Right under Hilario’s left hand.  He overplayed it again.

Man City up 2-1 on two goals against the run of play.

Drogba pushed off by Lescott in the box.  Referee says no.  Dean was wrong.  Lescott even extended his arm to push-off.

Ballack taken down to the left of the box.  Drogba will take the free-kick.  Wall set.  Blocked.  Corner.  Lampard takes.  Shot goes through the box.  Cross by Terry.  Save by Given.

Joe Cole is doing a lot of work.

Crowd is a bit dead except for the Bridge boos, which have picked up again.

Zabaleta shown a yellow card (57 min) by Dean for constantly asking for a yellow card.  Karma.

Ivanovic picks up a yellow (58 minutes) for a body on Barry.

Substitutions coming.

Man City:  Wright-Philips for A. Johnson (60 mins)
Chelsea:   Belletti for Mikel (60 mins)
Chelsea:   Sturridge for Joe Cole (61 minus)

I can see the Mikel substitution because he was never really part of the game.

Why did Joe Cole come off?  He was running the midfield and controlling play.  Mistake.

Mike Dean giving Tevez and Terry a taking to after the players had words.  Tevez should’ve been shown a yellow for the push (63 mins).

Sturridge has had two touches and looked terrible.  Fans booing the move.

Long pass by Ballack out-of-bounds.

Ivanovic bails out Hilario by stopping Bellamy on the break.  Corner.  Barry takes and Hilario alertly punches.

Man City has a bit of momentum.  Chelsea has stalled.

Anelka fights his way into the box and takes a quick shot.  Blocked by Given.

Ballack given a yellow (68 mins) for wasting time and tells the linesman to go fuck himself.

Substitution:

Chelsea:  Kalou for Carvalho (70 mins)

Bellamy takes a long-range shot which Hilario surprisingly stops.

Kalou should make a difference.  He looked good against Inter in the Champions League.

Given charges out to anticipate Drogba (71 mins).

Sturridge looks terrible.  Why Ancelotti?

Nice long shot by Ballack.  Given there.

Belletti takes Barry down in the box from behind.  Penalty for Man City and red card for Balletti.  Chelsea reduced to 10 men.  Tevez takes.  GOAL (76 mins).  3-1 Man City.  GAME OVER!!!

Mancini saves his job I think.  Wasn’t Mark Hughes fired after a victory?

Manchester United will stay one point behind Chelsea in the standings.

Substitution:

Manchester City:  Santa Cruz for Bridge (78 mins)

Looks like Mancini wants to score more goals.

Weak shot by Lampard (79 mins).  Save Given.

Wright-Philips with a screamer (80 mins).  Wide right.

Ballack shown yellow/red for tackle on Tevez.  Chelsea down to 9 men.

Fans are starting to stream out as Tevez pretends to limp off.

Shot by Drogba easily saved by Given.

GOAL Bellamy (87 mins).  Wright-Philips makes a nice run on a break from the right and crosses to Bellamy for the tap in.  Where’s Hilario?  4-1 Man City.

Manchester City has three goals against the run of play.

Garbage time.

Substitution:

Manchester City:  Sylvinho for Tevez (90+1)

Anelka is taken down by Barry in the box.  Penalty.  Lampard to take.  GOAL (90+1).  Man City lead 4-2.  Too late to help.

Abramovich looks bored.

Mike Dean blows the whistle to end the game.

Game Thoughts:

Mancini lives to see another day.

The Joe Cole substitution is puzzling because he was a huge part of the game.  Chelsea started going downhill with the introduction of Sturridge.

Sturridge looked out-of-place and tight.

Cech will be out a least a month with the leg injury he picked up mid-week against Inter.  If they can’t hold on to the lead at the top of the table, this will be a major reason why.  Hilario is terrible.  He doesn’t seem to know what to do.  He overplayed all three Manchester City non-penalty goals.  How did Chelsea get stuck with him as their back-up?  With all the money they spend they can’t get a decent back-up?

Chelsea was the better team up until Balletti’s red card.  Manchester City made the most of their breaks.

I don’t think I saw De Jong or heard his name during the whole broadcast.

Lampard looked second best to Joe Cole in the game.

Ivanovic got caught out on many City breaks because of his always going forward.

Referee Mike Dean had a good game.  Not many whistles until the 1st red card.

Manchester United are now one point back and Arsenal is theoretically three points back.

It’s weird watching the game in Korea because I don’t know what the announcers were saying but I could hear their excitement.  Would have liked to have heard the English broadcasters call this game.

Crowd was not as angry with the score as I thought they would be.  They kind of just accepted it.  After Bridge was replaced at 78 minutes, the crowd kind of went dead.

Did I mention how bad Hilario and Sturridge were?

Not City's best decision but they're used to making poor choices. Mancini lives another week.

Yesterday, one of The Blasian’s (remember him?) favorite teams, Inter Milan took on Chelsea at Giuseppe Meazza in the Champions League Round of 16 clash.  Inter won 2-1 and look good, not great, going into the return match in three weeks time.  Before I go into the actual game let me tell you about these two teams.

Last week my favorite team, AC Milan took on a team I really, really like, Manchester United.  Inter and Chelsea are the opposite of that.  They both make my Top 5 most hated soccer/football/futbol/calcio teams.  Both teams are probably tied for third on that list.  Let’s take a quick look at what that list look likes:

Top 5 Most Hated Soccer Teams
1.  Juventus (Italy)
2.  Manchester City (England)
T3. Inter Milan (Italy)
T3. Chelsea (England)
5.  Roma (Italy)

Even though Inter and Chelsea are on this list I have to admit that I do like some of the players on these teams whereas I hate everything about Juventus and Man City.  Juventus and Man City have no redeeming qualities and there is not one player, coach or member of management I like on either of those teams.

Sure Inter has won a few scudettos lately they but they haven’t won the Champion’s League/European Cup in my lifetime and this makes me very happy.  The Blaisian (who dat?) can say whatever he wants about Inter but you can have all the league championships you want but you’re nothing until you win in Europe.  Plus, don’t think winning one puts you in the same sentence as AC Milan.  Same goes for you Chelsea.  Try to win in Europe before you think you’re on par with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

I’m sad that AC Milan or Manchester United will be out after the Round of 16 but at the same time seeing Inter or Chelsea out makes it a little better.  The one thing that scares me is that Inter or Chelsea will go through to the final and beat AC Milan or Manchester United. That would be my ultimate nightmare.  Although, if it were reversed and AC Milan or Manchester United beat one of those two teams it would make winning the title even sweeter.  AC Milan has one quite a few Champions League/European Cup titles but the one I savor and remember the most is when we beat Juventus in the 2003 final in Manchester.  It was like winning two titles at once.  The Blasian (where are you?) would be unbearable if Inter won the Champions League.

The game:

To be honest, this game wasn’t that exciting.  I thought Chelsea worked hard and deserved better.  I wonder what the referee was thinking on the play where Kalou got taken down right in front of the goal?  Eto’o was disappointing.  Ivanovic (Chelsea) and Sneijder (Inter) had great games for their respective teams.  Maybe the game played too much like a chess match because both coaches knew the other team as well as anyone.  Chelsea better hope that Cech is able to play in the return because Hilario looks terrible.  The guy looked frightened when he came in to the game and can’t execute a goal kick to save his life.

Inter will go into Stamford Bridge with a slight advantage.  That away goal by Chelsea is big.  Chelsea can go through with a 1-0 win but if Inter scores then Chelsea will need to win by two.  Even though I hate both teams, I would love to see Inter crash out first.  Not just because The Blasian (I think he still writes for this blog) likes them but because they are and always will be second class citizens in Milan.

I don’t know if I should say this but I don’t like Mario Balotelli.  Please Blasian (come back soon), don’t rip me because he’s your guy.  It has nothing to do about his skin color.  I have no idea why the Italian fans have a problem with his ethnicity because on the field he’s all Italian.  What does that mean?  He’s such a whiner and goes down in a heap with minimal contact.  How has he not played for Italy yet?  He’d fit right in.

Italy, don't boo Super Mario because he's black, boo him because he dives and whines

Now that all of the games in the first leg are complete, lets take a quick look at the other games and what might happen in the return.

AC Milan – Manchester United (2-3), Manchester go home looking real good.  Three away goals are huge and I have trouble believing that Milan can score two, let alone win by two.  Then again, if Ferguson decides to play Neville on the right then Milan could probably do whatever they want (see Everton).

Bayern Munich – Fiorentina (2-1), Bayern got the benefit of a non-call from the referee and the linesman.  Klose was offsides not once, but twice on the play.  Sure, Fiorentina got an away goal but I think Bayern will find a way to get this done.  Don’t forget that Bayern went to Torino and beat Juventus 4-1 to knock them out of the tournament.

Lyon – Real Madrid (1-0), Lyon shocked Madrid but an ever healthier Ronaldo should make the difference at the Bernabeu.  I can’t muster up any excitement for Lyon because Jean-Alain Boumsong is one of their defenders.  Rangers, Newcastle and Juventus fans know what I’m talking about.

CSKA Moscow – Sevilla (1-1), a good showing by Sevilla in frigid Moscow puts them in the driver’s seat going back to Sanchez Pizjuan.

Stuttgart – Barcelona (1-1), the defending champs were frustrated by the German side and the return should be interesting.  Don’t put Barcelona in the next round quite yet but playing at the Camp Nou should help.

Porto – Arsenal (2-1), Arsenal looked terrible in this one.  Who knew that Almunia, as bad as he can be, is the best Arsenal can do in goal?  That being said, Arsenal rights the ship and advances at the Emirates.

Olympiakos – Bordeaux (0-1), the French leaders look good going back home.  Bordeaux have lost only once at home this season in Ligue 1