Monday, June 09, 2014

FIFA WORLD CUP 2014: RIOTS, DENGUE & INJURIES

This blog is starting to look like a pure country football blog, which activates only during big tournaments of the sport. The last post was from the EURO2012 tournament!

The World Cup will start on 13th June 2014, which is this weekend and a Friday! Friday the 13th! I have zero knowledge on Brazilian politics but The Simpson's episode demonstrated how bad corruption is in that country when they tried so hard to bribe Homer. Speaking of corruption, there has been a lot of noise recently on the alleged corruption that is involved in the voting of the hosts for the 2018 Russia and 2022 Qatar World Cup. Sponsors including Adidas, Coca-Cola and Sony have raised the matter to FIFA to investigate the issue thoroughly, giving Blatter intense pressure to be responsible. Anyway, all wrong things that will go wrong had gone wrong for this World Cup and FIFA even before a ball is kicked. Reports of rushed work on the unfinished facilities like the stadiums to stadiums like Sao Paulo & Natal which have not passed the safety inspection fully by the fire department.

First, there were riots protesting about the public transport fee hike, poor public services, corruption and the high cost of hosting the World Cup as well as neglecting the social projects and housing. I am unsure how much this will impact or disrupt the programs for the one month tournament period. FIFA is under so much pressure that they are forced to issue a nine-point, three-page document addressing issues such as tournament funding, tax exemptions and ticket pricing.

Next, we have fears of dengue fever outbreak in a big scale (epidemic) with high number of cases reported in one the host cities, Campinas.

Finally, we have injuries. An issue that will directly impact the Beautiful Game to reach its climax. Some notable absentees are Falcao, Gundogan, Montolivo, Reus, Ribery, van der Vaart & Walcott. There is a longer list with some big names not called by their respective teams at all. Others are not fully fit yet like C.Ronaldo and D.Costa. I just hope the injury list will not continue to increase before and during the World Cup. It is as bad as it can get by now!

Apart from that, there was news about the Cameroon’s World Cup squad refusing to board a plane due to take them to Brazil for the World Cup because of disputes over bonuses, which I think was just resolved.

Anyway, all problems aside, I still am going to support Spain to go all the way. The Simpsons said Germany will win it. From the history of the tournament, no European team has won it on the South American soil. The other big guns will be Germany, Argentina and Brazil. The dark horses will be Italy, Portugal, Uruguay and Belgium. The only disruption that may affect Brazil for their opening match is the potential absence of their coach, Scolari to attend to the funeral of his nephew, who died in a car accident yesterday.

Some matches during the group stage that are worth watching (GMT+8):
Brazil VS. Croatia, 13 June, 4am
Spain VS. Netherlands, 14 June, 3am
England VS. Italy, 15 June, 6am
Argentina VS. Bosnia, 16 June, 6am
Germany VS. Portugal 17 June, 12am
Brazil VS. Mexico, 18 June, 3am 
Spain VS. Chile, 19 June, 3am
Uruguay VS. England, 20 June, 3am
Belgium VS. Russia, 23 June, 12am
Netherlands VS. Chile, 24 June, 12am
Cameroon VS. Brazil, 24 June, 4am
Italy VS. Uruguay, 25 June, 12am

It is definitely difficult to predict the results of the competition as upsets do happen during the tournament from the past. For me, 3 major things affect the results. Luck, form and health of each teams throughout the tournament determine how far each team can go in the competition. Nevertheless, it is still fun to come out with the likely outcomes before a ball is kicked.

Here are my thoughts for the outcomes of the competition.

Group Qualifiers:
Group A: Brazil, Croatia
Group B: Spain, Netherlands
Group C: Colombia, Ivory Coast
Group D: Uruguay, Italy
Group E: France, Switzerland
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia
Group G: Germany, Portugal
Group H: Belgium, South Korea


Last 16:
Brazil-Netherlands
Colombia-Italy
Spain-Croatia
Uruguay-Ivory Coast
France-Bosnia
Germany-South Korea
Argentina-Switzerland
Belgium-Portugal


Last 8:
France-Germany
Brazil-Italy
Argentina-Portugal
Spain-Uruguay


Semifinalists:
Brazil-Germany
Spain-Argentina


Finalists:
Brazil-Spain

*DISCLAIMER: The outcomes are just predictions by the author. The author is not responsible if you lose your bets solely by following his predictions. If he can predict everything to be 100% accurate, he might as well quit everything he does now & become a full time fortune teller.

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Monday, July 02, 2012

EURO2012 FINAL: SPAIN 4-0 ITALY

The Spanish have not been a popular team going into the finals as they have been described as too boring in their possession football style of play as well as lacking goals. The Italians had been the crowd favourites with the upset of Germany in the semifinals with Pirlo inspiring them all the way. If you have heard how the whistles went every time Spain had the ball during the quarters and semis as well as the majority of comments and people wanting Italy to win, I guess Spain had created many enemies with their tiki-taka football. This final is their rematch in this tournament after the 1-1 draw in the opening group match.

I was never a fan of Torres with his current form and I was hoping that Del Bosque will not play him tonight in the starting line-up. When he announced that he would use three forwards before the match, I was abit worried. I hope he won't introduce some funny names into the line-up. Just put Fabregas in or Pedro or both. Luckily, it was just Fabregas and another false nine strategy. Spain played a fast paced game in the first half, a strategy effective to break open the stubborn Italian defence.

In the 14th minute, Iniesta sent a nice through pass to cut through the Italian defence, which was taken by Fabregas, who sent a cross from the right for David Silva to nod in for the opening goal. I believe the Italians lost some edge in defence after Chiellini could not carry on as he was substituted in the 21st minute from an injury sustained. In the 41st minute,  Xavi sent another great pass which allowed Jordi Alba to run in to score. By half-time, it looked exactly like the Germany-Italian semifinal, only this time it was not the Italians who were leading.

In the 50th minute, Spain might have a valid call for penalty as Ramos' strike hit Bonucci's arm after a rebound but the referee did not call for it. In the 61st minute,  Thiago Motta got a right hamstring while running towards the Spanish goal. Unfortunately, Italy had to play with 10 men as they had used up all their substitutions. It was really an unlucky night for Italy. They looked tired trying to cut the Spanish passes. Although they were trailing, they seemed to want the match to end. In the 84th minute, Torres scored a shot from a through pass by Xavi which I guess pretty much sealed the game for Spain. Matta finally ended the match completely with Torres getting the through ball while assisting to him to score. Spain finished the match with 56.6% possession, scoring 4 out of 6 shots on goal while Italy had 4 shots on goal. They won 71.4% of the aerial duels, produced 577 passes against 441 by Italy and generated 88.4% passing accuracy against 83.4% by Italy.

Spain broke a few records with this win. Casillas became the first player in international football history to win 100 matches for his country. He also beat Dino Zoff's 494 minutes without conceding a goal record as he reached 509 minutes. Fernando Torres became the golden boot winner for scoring 3 goals in the tournament, a record shared by Mario Gomez, Alan Dzagoev, Mario Mandzukic, Mario Balotelli and Cristiano Ronaldo. He tied with Gomez with the same amount of goals as well as 1 assist but he played much less than the rest. He only played 189 minutes, followed by 282 minutes by Gomez and 253 minutes by Dzagoev. He also became the first player to score in two EURO finals. David Silva's two goals and three assists also made him to be involved in 5 goals, the highest for any player in the tournament. Xavi became the first to register two final assists. 13 members of their squad are also the first group of players to play in and win two Euro finals. As for Spain, they are the first team in history to win three major international tournaments in a row (Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 before this). They also achieved 12 unbeaten games record in the EURO tournament from 2008.

Italy might have lost heavily but they went far in this tournament beyond everyone's expectations so they should be proud of themselves. They had upset all odds to be the finalists, especially the famous win against Germany. The younger generation minus Cassano, Pirlo and Buffon might give the younger German generation a run in the future. As for Spain, I guess the underdog tag and the boring tiki-taka style of football of theirs are probably forgotten after this. They are the immortals now so we'll see if they can be consistent in their performance till the next World Cup. The player that impressed me in this tournament is definitely Alba and for that reason, Barcelona will have another reason to be confident for the coming season. Overall, it has been a great tournament and time to readjust back to the normal sleeping pattern for GMT+8!

CONGRATULATIONS, LA FURIA ROJA!

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Friday, June 29, 2012

GERMANY 1-2 ITALY

It was a very open match where both teams gave much spaces for each other to attack deep into each other's halves. This enabled an exciting flow of the match between both teams too. Therefore, it was a far more exciting match than the previous one between Spain and Portugal. Germany ended up attacking more of the Italian defence but opened up their defence too much. Two very good chances were almost resulted in goal, with the first one being defended by Pirlo as Buffon left the goal wide open after falling down from a corner while the second one from Boateng crossing in almost resulted in an own goal by Barzagli. Italy responded with a direct shot on goal by Montolivo and then a good one from Cassano.

In the 20th minute, via a good left side cross by Cassano, Balotelli met it with a header which ended with the first goal of the match. Germany did not respond with much pressure although they attacked more from here onwards. A try by Kheidara was dangerous but Buffon managed to save it. Chiellini in one of the counter attacks, sent a pass that split the German defence, which overcame the offside trap. Balotelli took it down and hit a shot into the net at the top corner in the 36th minute. The German defence really needed to be stronger as well as putting pressure on the Italian offence if they are ever thinking of overcoming this match.

In the second half, Germany played deeper in the Italian half in order to find the goals to respond. However, the resounding Italian defence helped keep out most of the chances. I feel that the Germans were just not giving Italy enough pressure, especially when the possession was with Italy that they didn't press enough to get back the possession. The Italian defence restricted most of the German offence to the outside of the penalty box. A very dangerous freekick by Reus in front of goal was saved by Buffon. In the dying minutes of the full time, a handball by Balzaretti caused a penalty kick to be given to Germany. Ozil converted the penalty kick by scoring a shot at the top right hand corner of the goal. It was too late as there was not enough time to comeback to score the equalizer.

Pirlo to me was the best player on the field which gave the Italians the victory despite Balotelli scoring the two goals. He was everywhere and his passes were just classy. Italy will go into the final to play Spain, a rematch of their first group stage match.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

PORTUGAL 0-0 (2-4) SPAIN

In all honesty, Portugal played much better in the 90 minutes, killing the Spanish possession football to the extent that Xavi needed to be substituted. They also attacked more dangerously with Ronaldo and Nani while defended well by Pepe and Coentrao. However, I was wondering why Spain don't start with Pedro instead of Negredo. Spain are lucky to go to the finals. I kind of pity the luck of the Portuguese as they didn't deserve to get out.

In extra-time, Spain started to look like their old self where they kept possessions and were dangerous in attack. This is probably because fatigue was catching up with both teams so the marking was not so intense. Iniesta had a good chance to score which he missed in front of the open goal. Nani was always dangerous attacking from the right flank, giving Spain quite a lot of problems. Ronaldo seemed too selfless to not try to move into the penalty box directly, eventhough in some of the offensive attacks, I believe he could just run all the way in and try a shot or two. This is especially for the counter-attack near the end of full time where the Portuguese attacking force outnumbered the Spanish defence. He also wasted quite a lot of freekicks which were taken in front of goal.In fact, Sergio Ramos tried a freekick which looked much more dangerous than all those taken by Ronaldo.

This is the second match in the entire EURO2012 campaign so far that dragged into the lottery of penalty kicks. During the penalty kick, both initial Portugese shot by Moutinho and Spanish shot by Alonso were saved by Casillas and Patricio. Bruno Alves hit the bar before Fabregas kicked the ball as it deflected at the left post before going in. Ramos tried to mimic Pirlo by scoring a chipped shot too during the penalty.

Whichever team Spain face in the final, whether it is Germany or Italy, it will not be easy. I plea that they put Fabregas or Pedro from the start in the field!Spain need to play more offensively if they want to avoid another match that will end with lotteries of penalty kick out. Give us fans some goals man!!!

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Monday, June 25, 2012

ENGLAND 0-0 (2-4) ITALY

What happens when two defensive teams meet in knock-out stages? A long, long night of football which drags on forever. The Italians dominated possessions with 68%, created more passes (833 against 364), hit the post twice, had a goal scored but declared offside and created more chances on goal (36 against 9, 8 on target against 1). Italy wasted so many chances in front of goal that they have only themselves to blame for dragging the match into extra-time. The Portugese referee was a controversial figure on the field, giving a few confusing decisions in the match.

Once it is the penalty shoot-out, we know experience reigns. Buffon is ultimately more experienced and his appearance in front of goal was enough to scare anyone. England have always been not strong in penalties and that gave the Italians more chances of winning.

Balotelli stepped up to take the first shot and he nailed it. Gerrard responded with a shot too for England. Montolivo shot wide to the left and gave England the advantage. Rooney then nailed his. Pirlo came later and scored an incredible chip into the penalty, defined famously as the Panenka penalty created by AntonĂ­n Panenka. Young came next and hit the upright with his shot. It was back to square one. Nocerino scored for the third goal. Cole came next and got his shot saved by Buffon. Finally, Diamanti stepped up to score the winning goal for the Italians. Therefore, both Ashleys missed to give the Italians the win.

The Italians will meet the Germans but they will be definitely be very tired going into the match.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

SPAIN 2-0 FRANCE

Spain scored their opening goal courtesy of a good run by Alba on the left. The 19th minute goal from a Xabi Alonso header from Jordi Alba's left side cross was possible after Alba's ability to run away off his marker. It was definitely great for Alonso to score for his 100th cap for his country. Ribery was probably the most dangerous French player that gave the Spanish defence some problems with Benzema working hard to connect well. Cabaye had a beautiful attempt from a free-kick that tested Casillas well. However, overall in the first half, the Spanish controlled about 65% possessions to make sure that they led the match.

In the 2nd half, the French began to control more possessions and created some really decent chances during their offensive attack. They managed to bring down the possessions of the Spanish below 60%. Most of the chances were wasted by the miscommunication and bad connection between the players when nearing the goal in attack. Benzema was less lethal and coordinated in the 2nd half. I think Ribery was probably the best French player in the match and yet again the one creating the most troubles to the Spanish defence. Nasri came into the match in the 65th minute to give more offensive power to the French. For Spain, they answered by taking out Silva and Fabregas about the same time while bringing in two strikers of Pedro and Torres. It was a strange decision for me since the Spanish were losing possessions in the middle at that time. Torres was caught offside for a few runs towards the French goal. In the late 89th minute, Pedro gave Spain a penalty courtesy of a push by Reveillere after a nice run into the penalty box by leaving Rami. Xabi Alonso stepped up and nailed the penalty to get his second goal of the match.

Spain will proceed to play against Portugal in the semis!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

GERMANY 4-1 GREECE

Well, the Germans are expected to be in the final. Greece are not expected to create another miracle in the EURO competition. Lahm, the left back and captain, gave the Germans the lead with a curl ball from outside the penalty box. The goal came after a few good chances that did not materialize, with one of them disallowed for offside. Germany attacked more in the first half, controlling around 70% of the possessions while Greece parked a bus in front of their goal.

By the second half, the Germans have been wasting quite a number of chances again. They were caught off guard in one of the Greeks' counter attacks which resulted in a goal from the right in the 55th minute. Germany responded within 5 minutes later with an impressive Kheidara goal from a right cross. Then, just shortly afterwards, in less than 10 minutes, another goal from the right cross yet again for a header by Klose. Not long after around the 74th minute, Reus scored a goal into an empty net after the goalie fell from stopping a Klose shot which fell in front of him. Greece got a goal late in the match courtesy of a penalty kick from a handball by Boeteng in the penalty box.

Germany, with their impressive 15th consecutive win, broke the record with the longest in the run. They will face either England or Italy in the semis.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

CZECH REPUBLIC 0-1 PORTUGAL

The Czechs played well in the first half, controlling much of the game by attacking the Portuguese consistently. Their defence was also solid in containing the offensive power of the Portuguese. C.Ronaldo hit the goal post twice and was denied a few chances by Petr Cech. He also denied shots from Nani and Moutinho. However, in the second half, the Portuguese started to exert more pressure by attacking and controlling the game more. The Czechs seem to be contented to sit back for a draw. C.Ronaldo finally scored the only goal from a header by a cross by Moutinho. They will go ahead to play against Spain or France in the semifinals.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

CROATIA 0-1 SPAIN

To be honest, Croatia were the better team in front of goal while Spain played badly in comparison with the previous two matches. There were some really nervous situations where better timed shots could have resulted in goals by Croatia. There was a Ramos challenge in the 1st half which could have resulted in a penalty. I could not understand why Spain can't start with Fabregas and a striker in the same match? I believe a draw will be a fairer result. Jesus Navas scored the easy goal for Spain via an assist from Iniesta whom got the chipped ball from Fabregas to beat the outside trap deep into the second half. Overall, quite an exciting match where I believe Croatia created many problems to the unreliable Spanish defence in front of Casillas.

Meanwhile, at the same time, Italy beat Ireland 2-0 thanks to goals from Cassano and Balotelli. Cassano's header scored via the corner kick by Pirlo. Diamanti's corner met with a bicycle kick by Balotelli deep in the 2nd half. As for now, Holland are out of the competition. Czech Republic are playing Portugal while Germany are playing Greece in the two quarterfinal matches which are confirmed.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

FRANCE 1-1 ENGLAND

The match was quite lively with offensive attacks from both sides. To be honest, England surprised me as they looked a far more disciplined team on the field, playing quite decent football. They didn't behave like they missed anybody. However, England behaved like Italy of yesterday, putting a lot of players in the penalty box to defend - most of the time 2 rows of 8 players. France had more possessions but found it hard to enter the penalty box. The goal in response to Lescott's first England goal from Nasri was spectacular, entering the goal from such a tight angle near the post, kicking from just outside the penalty box.

The French lack the speed of counter-attacking which they must take advantage of while playing teams with such defence like England and Italy in the subsequent matches. Ribery, Nasri and Benzema should really cooperate and learn to play fast to go offensive and not wait until 8 to 9 players have reached the penalty box to defend. The English on the other hand, have to also be more willing to control the ball more often and not just sit through matches to defend, like what they did in the first half. I believe the Italians defended less than them when meeting the Spanish yesterday.

Well, this is their first match and my take is teams are just playing safe, although I still see some very stupid scenes of getting yellow cards unnecessarily. This is my second EURO2012 match watched and the scoreline is identical. Sigh!

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