Posts Tagged ‘Real Madrid’

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)

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Day six didn’t have me excited.  Sure, the Ivory Coast – Portugal match looked like a good one but with an injured Didier Drogba (Chelsea), that game lost a little bit of it’s luster.  Slovakia should’ve run all over New Zealand and Brazil should’ve thrashed North Korea.  I thought we would see the worst two teams in the World Cup in New Zealand and North Korea.  All the games were just, meh!  It’s hard for me to write a post for these games because they were so underwhelming.  Being the consummate professional, I’ll give it a go.

On to the games:

New Zealand – Slovakia (1-1)

Goals – Vittek (SVK) 50’, Reid (NZL) 90’+3

Looking at New Zealand’s formation before the game I didn’t think there would be too many goals.  New Zealand showed a 5-2-3 lineup and that’s not good for scoring.  Sure you have three forwards but with most players playing defense how would they get the ball?  As the game progressed, it changed into more of a 3-4-3 formation.  It may not seem important but why would you throw three forwards out there with no one to really to help get them the ball?

Slovakia was losing balls left and right through 15’  New Zealand were doing just enough in the early going but Slovakia started to turn it up at around 30’.  Marek Hamsik (Napoli) had a nice chance from the top of the box at 44’ but goalie Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix) tipped it over the goal.  New Zealand doing well in the first half, a million times better than Australia showed against Germany.

The New Zealand defense looked shaky to start the 2nd half and Slovakia made them pay when Robert Vittek (Ankaragucu) scored at 49’.  After that, Slovakia seemed to be content with the goal and really weren’t interested in getting another.  Bad move.  New Zealand looked to be interested in getting a point at 78’ by bringing in midfielder Jeremy Christie (Tampa Bay) for defender Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City).  Slovakia continued to defend for the rest of the half but did look dangerous whenever they could be bothered to go forward.

In the dying seconds of the game, Winston Reid (Midtjylland) scored and New Zealand got their first ever World Cup point.  Slovakia only have themselves to blame for not walking out of this game with maximum points.  They put the brakes on instead of going for the kill.  Goal difference and goals scored could come into play when the group round is over and if Slovakia just misses out on advancing, they can look at this game as to why.

In case you didn't know, this is Winston Reid

Ivory Coast – Portugal (0-0)

Will Drogba start?  Will Drogba play?  If Drogba plays, will he be his usual self?  So many question.  The answers: no, yes, yes.  I thought Drogba would be feeling the effects of the elbow injury but he looked good in his 34+ minutes on the pitch.

Both teams moved the ball well, defended well and had plenty of chances.  Possession, shots and shots on goal were very similar.  Nothing really stuck out in this game.  Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) was man of the match but maybe because they had to give it to someone.

Man of the Match Cristiano Ronaldo - Couldn't they just not have awarded it?

The few things I remember is that there were some bad tattoos and really bad hair in this game.  Not just this game but this has to be the some of the worst collection of tattoos and hair in one sporting event.

Brazil – North Korea (2-1)

Goals – Maicon (BRA) 55’, Elano (BRA) 72’, Ji Yun Nam (89)

Brazil had 63% of the possession, 26 shots and 10 shots on goal and still could only beat North Korea 2-1.  Even though they lost, North Korea came away from this game looking and feeling good.  The media back in Brazil is probably killing this team right now.

The goals from Maicon (Inter) and Elano (Galatasaray) were two of the best in the tournament but they really should have scored about five.  North Korea’s goal came when Ji Yun Nam (April 25) went through three Brazilian defenders to the left of goal and rocketed a shot into the net.  Brazil’s defense was half-assing it on the play and they paid for it.

Ji Yun Nam - I bet a statue is being erected somewhere in Pyongyang

Ivory Coast is up next for Brazil and they better bring their A game because Ivory Coast can run and cause problems.  Good for you North Korea, you captured the hearts of the soccer world and maybe now you can go home after this World Cup instead of being sent directly to some sort of labor camp.

Standings

Team (points)

Group A:

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

Group B:

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

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

You can’t have two favorite teams.  It just doesn’t work.  When I lived in Chicago, some people would say, “I like the White Sox and the Cubs.”  Not possible.  Eventually these teams will meet and you have to choose.  One day (not anytime soon) the White Sox and the Cubs will be in the World Series and then they will have to pick a side.  If they can’t, then they were never a fan of either team.

Pick a side and live with it

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan and I could care less what the rest of the league is doing.  Sure, I have a man crush on Tom Brady but I’d choose the Browns over the Patriots every time.  I’m a White Sox fan and the rest of the league is none of my business.  I did like seeing the Yankees win the World Series but that was because everyone hates them so much.  Being a Clipper fan isn’t easy but there is never a time when it’s alright for the Clippers to lose.  If you play for the Clippers then I love you but if you left us, screw you.

You're dead to me

I thought soccer was different.  There are so many different leagues to follow that it’s easy to have multiple favorite teams.  In Germany’s Bundesliga it’s Bayern Munich, in Spain’s La Liga it’s Real Madrid, in Scotland’s Premier League it’s Rangers, in Argentina’s Primera Division it’s Boca Juniors and in MLS it’s……I don’t care.  My two favorite teams are AC Milan and Manchester United but if I had to choose, and sometimes I do, it’s AC Milan.

How many people know Gattuso once played for Rangers?

On Tuesday night the two teams met at the San Siro.  I didn’t want this game to happen but it did.  Somehow I just knew that when the draw was happening for the Round of 16 in the Champion’s League that these two teams would face each other.  I also knew that UEFA would find a way for Inter and Chelsea to play each other as well.  Random draw, my ass.

They have played each other before, the last time being in 2006/2007, but this game made me realize that AC Milan is my favorite team and always has been and that Manchester United is just a team I like.  I wrote a post saying that Serie A was in decline and that the Premiership was where it’s at.  Sure, that may be the case but I grew up with AC Milan and no other team can get in the way.  I’ve followed United since the days of Hughes, Irwin and Cantona but I’ve been a Milan fan longer.  Sorry United, I tried to fool myself and tell people my favorite teams were Milan and you but I can’t do it anymore.  AC Milan forever.  Forza Milan!!!!

Aways and forever

On to the game:

Manchester United went into the San Siro and beat AC Milan 3-2.  Looking at the score it may seem like it was a good game but it wasn’t.  There were some moments of brilliance but there was also a lot of meaningless and sloppy play.  If you just looked at the stats then the game seemed even and it was for the most part.  The game was ultimately decided on a defensive error between Thiago and Nesta.  Other than that, this game had tie written all over it.

Ronaldinho scored after three minutes with a little help from Evra but the Brazilian wouldn’t have an easy night after that.  Sure, he helped set up Milan’s second goal with a nice pass on Seedorf’s cheeky back-heel but for the most part, United’s Rafael made sure he didn’t have much space to work with.  Rafael did what a lot of defenders fail to do with Ronaldinho and other finesse players, he tried to keep Ronaldinho from putting the ball on the ground.  Ronaldinho did a lot of juggling but Rafael was there when the ball was about to hit the ground.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar looked ok but it looks like he’s trying too hard.  He’s heard the boo’s from the fans and the rumblings that he may be on his way out and I think it’s really affecting him.  Hopefully Milan doesn’t give up on him too quickly because I think he can really help this team when he finally finds his touch.

Don't give up on this guy

Andrea Pirlo was brilliant.  The guy is a magician on the field.  Surrounded by so many big names, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves but Pirlo can put the ball where he wants whenever he wants.

I don’t understand what Pato’s role was in the game.  It looked to me as if he was playing too far back to be effective.  He’s not the playmaker, he should be the finisher.  Pato needed to be up front with Huntelaar instead of trying to get the ball to him.  Pato took a more forward position after Inzaghi replaced Huntelaar but I wonder why Leonardo didn’t just keep him up there the whole time?

David Beckham is puzzling.  I’ve seen him in a few games since his return to Milan and I don’t understand what he’s supposed to be doing.  He takes free kicks but other than that he doesn’t look like he wants to go forward at all.  He’s mostly passing the ball back or sideways.  Beckham doesn’t really make things happen.  Is that what happens to you when you play in MLS?  If I’m the other team, I don’t really have to play him close because he’s not taking the space.

Wayne Rooney continues to have his career season.  I hope this carries on to the World Cup.  He was in the right place at the right time on both his goals.  You make a mistake and you pay.  On the third goal Rooney got between Thiago (gonna be great) and Nesta.  They must of both said “you got him” because neither player went toward him when he got the ball in the area.  That was game over.

It's Rooney's world, we just live in it

Antonio Valencia turned this game around.  He came in 65 minutes into the game and paid instant dividends.  His pass led to the second United goal and he was eating Favalli’s lunch for the last 25 minutes of the game.  The left side of the Milan defense couldn’t control him at all.  A young, energetic defender like Antonini (injured) or Abate might have helped there.  Valencia is having an awesome first season at United and I think he’ll be making a lot of money very soon.

You're gonna be a rich man soon

Park Ji-Sung was a bit disappointing.  He usually gives teams fits with his speed and energy but he didn’t look his normal self in the game.  I thought when Valencia came on that Park would do more but maybe they were playing to close to each other.  I think they need to be on opposite sides.

Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes were solid.  The only negative this is Carrick’s late yellow/red card which will keep him out of the return match.  But, I could’ve swore it was another player who made the late challenge and not Carrick but non one is reporting it so I’m sure it will stand.

The referee for the match was awful.  He missed quite a few calls and at least one United handball in the box.  He looked lost out there.  Here’s hoping Olegário Benquerença doesn’t get anymore big games.

If this guy is doing your team's game, get ready to throw shit at the TV

So these two teams play each other again on March 10 at Old Trafford.  Should be fantastic.  With United’s two away goals, AC Milan is in big trouble.  They have to either win by two goals or win 4-3.  Look for some changes in the lineups.  I expect Gattuso and Borriello to be in the game for Milan and Giggs and Valencia (to start) for United.

I like you but I don't "like you" like you

Serie A, I used to have eyes only for you but in recent years, other leagues have caught my fancy.  I grew up watching Serie A.  I probably started watching it in 1986 and watched it religiously until a few years ago.  I remember when Ruben Sosa ruled Inter.  When Marco Van Basten could do no wrong.  When Roberto Baggio went from great to the greatest to out of this world.  When Roberto Mancini was a whiny bitch player for Sampdoria then Lazio, before he was the whiny bitch manager of Fiorentina, Lazio, Inter and now Manchester City.  In that time, there has never been a time when I didn’t hate Juventus.  While I still hate Juventus and love AC Milan, Serie A doesn’t hold that special place in my heart.  If I had a choice I’d watch the Spanish La Liga first then the English Premier League.  Who am I kidding; I’d watch any game from the Argentine Primera before any of them.  Since I’m pretty sure a game from Argentina is hard to come by here in Korea, I’ll pretend like they don’t exist. 

Italy just seems to have gotten slower and more plodding over the years.  La Liga is as close as you can get to the Argentine Primera where it’s ninety minutes of back and forth play, with the ball being played through midfield instead of over it.  Serie A teams are better top to bottom but the play just doesn’t excite me as much.  The top eight EPL teams are good and put on a show when they play each other but there is a big drop off after that, in both talent and skill.  For some reason I seem to get Burnley, Hull or Bolton every week.  I know why I get Bolton (Lee Chung-Yong) but why the others?  Every team in Italy seems like it would be content if the game ended 0-0.  In England, every team seems like they want to win, even if they don’t have the skill of the big boys.

There are great players in Spain and England now, more than before.  Back in the day, everyone wanted to go to Italy.  That’s where you made a name for yourself.  We had Jurgen Klinsmann, Gabriel Batistuta, Faustino Asprilla, Rudy Voeller, Frank Rijkaard, and Ruud Gullit.  Now, players would rather go to Spain, England and even Germany before coming to Italy.  Antonio Valencia is having a great season at Manchester United but ten years ago he would have chosen to play somewhere like Parma instead of going to England.  Why????  I think it has something to do with the exposure that England gets all over the world.  In the mid-90’s if you had asked one hundred people around the world who their favorite team was, at least seventy-five percent of them would’ve named an Italian team.  Now, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool would make up a bulk of the answers, followed by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Serie A, I still watch you but sometimes my heart’s not in it.  Please do something before I close the door on you for good.