Wednesday, June 14, 2006

End of week one

Continuing from yesterday, I stopped off at the Sunday games and Group D of World Cup action. 
Monday was the big day for the USA.  And they lit it off in spectacular style, showing just how you lose to European powerhouses.  You lose big.

To be fair, I’ve seen the US play tons better than they did.  And to be further fair, the Czechs played as good as I’ve seen anyone play in the tourney.  The passing was precise and the play was fanatic.  You can get reactions from anywhere and everywhere on this game, and I will probably agree with most of them, except the ones that insist that the US really is that bad.  There is a certain amount of bias against America on this point, however it must be said that the Americans looked unfocused and sloppy.  They acted like they didn’t want to be there at that moment, and they definitely are not ready to take on the mantle of World Cup champions any time soon.  It was obvious from the lack of passion and the ability to keep up the pace of the European players.

In case anyone is keeping score here, I have never claimed that the US was going to beat the Italians or Czechs out of this group.  It was unfortunate that they got put here, but since they are, while I think that they could surprise us and beat the Italians, I don’t think they will.  And, consequently, they won’t get to the next round.  I’m just hoping they play a bit better and leave Germany with something to be proud of.

Anyway, on to the other games.

Australia 3, Japan 1   
Oh, how I wish that I had caught this game.  The Aussies coming back from a 1-nil deficit to win 3-1?  How crazy was that?  They definitely made a statement, and it will be fun to see them play Brazil and the Croatians.  Can they get out of the group?  It depends on their game with Croatia.

Italy 2, Ghana 0
Who didn’t predict this?  Unfortunately, I was driving in no man’s land on the way to the northern California coast on business when this was going on, so I didn’t see the game and can’t comment on the play.  I’ll see them when they play America.

Brazil 1, Croatia 0
Really?  Just one goal?  Didn’t see this one either.  Can’t wait to see the Brazilians play.

South Korea 2, Togo 1
You have to admit that the Togo players put up a heck of a fight and provided some entertainment along the way.  These matches between lower quality teams get under-billed.  I enjoyed the scrappiness of both teams, and neither one was beyond the other in skill.  Togo could have pulled this one out.  However, it was obvious that the Koreans had the edge in skill and inventiveness, and so I’m not surprised that they eventually pulled it out.  That’s it for the Koreans, though.  As bad as France and Switzerland played in their match, I think they both won’t have trouble with these two.

France 0, Swiss 0
Ugh.  I was looking forward to this one over the previous game, as I predicted this great battle between very evenly matched opponents.  France looking to get back finally at a Swiss team that held them to two ties in the qualifying rounds.  How utterly bored I was while actually watching this.  How disappointed I am at seeing a team with such immense talent as the French waste it as they did.  Henry seemed like he was on Valium.  Zidane is beginning to play like he’s at the end of his career.  And he is.  They are missing the presence of Sissi as much as England was missing Roony last week.  Problem is they won’t be getting Sissi back.

Spain 4, Ukraine 0
Another game I was looking forward to.  It was still fun to watch, but only because the Spanish look really good this year.  I wanted to see some of Shevchenko’s blistering runs to the goal, but had to settle for the wonderful ball control, passing and finishing of the Spanish.  They might even make a believer out of me. 

As for the Ukrainians, Jamie Trecker of Fox says it best.

      Spain is firing on all cylinders for the first time in ages. And Ukraine, apparently, is unfamiliar with the alarm clock. (But no matter: All America today thanks them for taking over last place. Way to step up, Operation Freedom ally Ukraine!)

Tunisia 2, Saudi Arabia 2
Didn’t get to see this one.  Thought it wouldn’t be worth my time, but heard from people that it was quite the game.  Not great play, but definitely suspense and passion.  Tunisia is the only African team to not lose a game so far.  The 2nd round should finally see some African team wins, but it’s not going to be Tunisia, as Spain looks unbeatable, and the Ukraine won’t be the pushover that Spain made them seem like.

Germany 1, Poland 0
This was and interesting game.  I sat with some buddies over lunch and tried to get into this game.  There was definitely lots of emotion and hard tackling, for these are storied foes on the pitch.  What helped was that Poland decided to bring their B game (instead of the D- game last week) and German didn’t look as focused or disciplined as when they carved up the Costa Rica defense.  This game was kind of scrappy itself.  I honestly thought that the Polish were going to pull out a draw and take away some sort of foolish pride before they got sent home.  Oliver Neuvell, a hero from the last Cup, came in late in the match and scored the winner in injury time, after the 90th minute.  Oh, heartbreak!  I was surprised it didn’t happen sooner, as the Polish lost a man due to red card in the 75th minute.  Germany tried and tried, but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.  Credit the Polish defense, but I see lots of problems with the German side that need to be addressed before the next round, which they have now a guaranteed spot in.

Just so as you know, despite my American fanship, I’m enjoying this cup to the hilt.  Hope you all are to some extent too.

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