Sunday, June 11, 2006

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

World Cup Reviews

The most awaited sporting event has really kicked off with 5 matches already being played as of now and boy already it has given the footballing pundits a kick in the arse. Here's my take on some of the matches played so far.

Germany ( Hosts ) VS Costa Rica.

Michael Ballack the talismanic midfielder was not playing for Germany and Lehmann was in charge of the post instead of Oliver Kahn. Within 17 minutes 3 goals were already being scored and Germany was ahead 2 -1 and this lasted for the rest of the first half. Normally you would expect a team like Germany to slow down the pace of the game in the 2nd half by playing defensively but instead they displayed their attacking prowess with retaining the classic 4-4-2 formation and in more than one occasion the Costa Rica custodian was brilliant to the task. In the second half Germany did little to slow down the pace and were rewarded in the 61st minute when ace striker Miroslav Klose scored his second for the match and it seemed as if they had done enough to seal the match. But within the next 15 mins Wanchope pulled one back when he smartly cut open the offside trap . Now the match was really gripping and had this match ended with a 3 -3 draw it was as good as a loss for the hosts. But then thanks to a classic long ranger shot by a German midfielder in the closing minutes of play the match ended with Germany scoring 4 goals. From a audience point of view it was thrilling to watch some attacking football but for Germans they need to fix their defense else them reaching to quarters would be unlikely.

England VS Paraguay.

One of my favorite strikers Roque Santacruz and arguably one of the best defenders Carlos Gamarra were up against tournament favorites England . I am sure that they had butterflies in their stomach or else what can one make of the 3 rd minute own goal conceded by the great Gamarra trying to defend a David Backham free kick. The thorn in the flesh this time was a lanky 6'7 striker Peter Crouch who caused ample problems with his height through out the match and it remains to be seen if Michael Owen is kept in the reserves for the upcoming matches with Rooney and Crouch taking on the attacking responsibilities. For most of the first half it was England who had the possession but then occasional brilliance from Paraguay striker Valdez gave a few scares to the English supporters. The first half ended with a 1 - 0 scoreline. Come second half and Beckham and co . were happy to defend unlike their German counterparts and slowed the pace of the game considerably. But then this is one tactic which threw them out of the last world cup when they tried to defend a 1-0 advantage against Brazil only to concede 2 goals. But thankfully for England they could hold on to their goal advantage and the match ended with a smile on Beckham's face. If Paraguay has to progress through to the knock out stages then they need to tighten their midfield and not allow opposing teams to have a go on their goal from 20 - 30 meters as was evident with the likes of Lampard having a go every now and then.

Trinidad & Tobbago VS Sweden

A country with a set of players assembled from a population of a mere 1 million takes on a team having stars such as Freddie Ljungberg and Henrik Larsson . Being the underdogs T&T knew very well that they had to defend ver well and The whole world had predicted that not less than half a dozen goals would be but put past through T&T. But surprise surprise the first half ended with honours being shared and frustration for the Swedes as they were denied by the good keeping of Hislop. The second half starts in a rather poor note as Avery John was sent off after a second yellow. So now it was T&T's 10 VS Sweden's 11. Sweden push hard but it was T&T who miss out to take the lead after hitting the cross bar. As time moved on Sweden pressed harder but were held to a 0-0 draw . Immediately after the draw I changed my television channel to see if Brain Lara ( also from T&T ) playing the test match was knowing what had just taken place and boy was Lara happy.

The match between Sweden and Paraguay in this group should be really cut throat (and unless T&T upset Paraguay or England ) and this match could well decide who moves ahead to the quarters.

In conclusion all I would say is that no team in the word cup fray is a weak link and it is very much possible that a few upsets takes place. A lot of teams are keen on playing more attacking football and it would be interesting to see if my favorite team Italy ( traditionally more defensive ) in action tomorrow having strikers of the quality of Totti, Del Piero, Vieri and Toni also adopt the attacking style. But I think they wont !!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Football Fever.

So, the rain gods have arrived much earlier than what had been earlier predicted by our MET department ( no surprises there ) and as I go near the window grill to have a romantic peek at the first few rains I see a group of kids in a small vacant space playing Football. With Germany'06 less than 10 days away you need a shower to extinguish the football heat , don't you ?? Well it's true atleast for me .Seeing them I start juggling the football at my relatively new home only to be warned from dearest mom.

Back in my college days when we had the mercy of the rain gods me and my friends would bunk college to play soccer in the muddiest of conditions for no less than 3 hours and then go to a nearby tea stall to have a Tea and the Great Indian Burger ( err Vada Pav ) . My tryst with football started at a very tender age when I used to watch few local matches during my annual vacation trip to my hometown and then graduated in the 1990 world cup season when I saw the likes of Klinsman. Imagine my frustration 4 years back during the Grand Finale between Germany and Brazil when the electricity went off and I called up MSEB ( Maharashtra State Electricity Board ) to inform that a world cup match is going on only to get a reply " Yeh world cup to atha jatha rehta hai .". Would he have the guts to reply the same if it had been a cricket world cup match ?

Since the past 3 worldcups I have been supporting one and only one team to win the coveted trophy : ITALY . Hope they get out of their defensive clutches and make use the best of quality strikers like Vieri, Del Pierro, Toni and Inzaghi. Qualification even for the knock out stages would not be easy considering they have the likes of Czech Republic, USA and Congo in their group. But hope that the Azzuris have some luck on their side and the fever carries on till the grand finale.