Tag Archives: Football

20 October 2012 – Tottenham vs Chelsea

Tottenham-2/4-Chelsea @ White Hart Lane

47′-Gallas, 54′-Defoe//17′-Cahill, 66′- Mata, 69′- Mata, 91′ Sturridge

Chelsea used to absolutely dominate Tottenham back in the day, with something along the lines of 30+ games in succession going from Chelsea. However ever since 2005 Chelsea has had a hard time at White Hart Lane, as the Spurs have not loss to the Blues in the last 6 games there. This game is a little different, however, since Tottenham have looked strong with their new addition to their team and Chelsea are still unbeaten in the EPL before the game. So which one of the two trends would give way?

Game of the Week. EASY. A strong showing from both teams lately made this game an interesting one. However, one thing to note is that Gareth Bale was not in the starting line as reports say that his wife went into labor roughly an hour before the start of the game. Start of with some great play from Chelsea. Torres seemed to be working his magic up front as the three behind him (Mata, Oscar, Hazard) worked well to support. Obi Mikel controlled the game well and worked the team up at a good pace. 17′ minutes in Chelsea’s corner gets deflected out to Gary Cahill, who volleys a smasher right through Friedel. Not much else to report of the half other than a couple opportunities from Chelsea and something or two out of Tottenham. Mainly, Chelsea maintained control of the half and did not let the home team gain any momentum whatsoever. Going to the second half, a early set piece from Tottenham took a confused Chelsea to the tie. However, it didn’t end there as a pressing home team took the momentum of the goal to work a second one from Defoe, who was assisted by Aaron Lennon. A rapid succession of goals plus the home field advantage game Tottenham a commanding lead in the momentum, as Chelsea couldn’t come out of the back in an orderly fashion. After a long spell of pressure from Spurs was ended by a chance from Chelsea, followed by a goal from Juan Mata off a mistake from Gallas. It did not end there as absolutely amazing movement from Juan Mata tied to an amazing pass from Eden Hazard connected for the third goal for Chelsea. After that, the game seemed to go all in Chelsea’s favor as the spell of Tottenham’s momentum came to a screeching halt. More pressure from Chelsea ended up with an extra goal from the substitute Daniel Sturridge, courtesy of the trip from  Kyle Walker near the 18 yard box and an assist from Juan Mata. That would basically conclude the match, as the White Hart Lane would suffer its first Blues lose since 2005.
Man of the Match- Obviously Juan Mata. Admittedly a quiet man in the first half, but came to life after the Tottenham momentum surge in the first 20 minutes of the second half. After which Juan Mata dictated the pace of the whole game and scored a double of his own, raising his streak to six goals in five games. Second goal, however, blew my mind, as the vision of Juan Mata to make that run so much earlier than it was seen by defenders is truly the reason why he is one of the best in the EPL at the moment. This man is having no thoughts about a sophomore slump.

 

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Euro 2012 Pre-Final Write Up

What an exciting tournament this has been. I’m so glad I moved all engagements and events away from the game times to watch all of them without issue. Every four years, we are blessed with the best in football to come to one tournament and battle it out for the trophy of dreams. I just loved this whole tournament, through all the good times and bad, the upsets and bad referee calls. Doing a Euro rap-up will be hard, but I am thinking about it. But we are here to talk about the finals! The test of the best has whittled the contestants down to two teams. I will say that I am semi-surprised that Spain got here, as I thought that the weaker team because of the injury issues would cause too many chemistry issues. As for Italy, I didn’t think they would make it out of the group stages, as Croatia looks much tougher than Italy did in the qualifiers. But they have proved themselves and more, having a tough road to the finals and overcoming all the obstacles, as they are also yet to lose a game. On paper, this game would seem to go to Spain hands down. However, the back to back showings of Italy against England and Germany have proven themselves of a final spot and worthy of giving the defending champions a fight for their trophy. Just a quick game breakdown on what to expect and the main keys for these teams to take their trophy!

Spain- As one of the favorites for this tournament, it isn’t that big of a surprise that the defending champions are up to make history as the first team to do a three-peat, which will probably secure them as the greatest international team in history. However, I have a major issue with what I saw against Portugal, something that Italy might have noticed to use against Spain. Like I said before, the Spanish defense is great, but lacks in the actual defenders area, means very few amounts of players know how to defend. Unfortunately, this is a team that cannot afford to defend, as their goal chances come from having the ball for long bouts of time. This is what Spain has to do in order to have a shot at taking this before penalties. Spain has to get in the rhythm as fast as they can and get the passing going. I really don’t need to say more about that, as everyone knows that after that, they know not to overextend themselves and make sure the pace is there before the finishes commence. If Spain plays their normal game, they will have more chances to look at the goal than they did in Portugal. But the counter that Portugal displayed in the semifinals is very obvious and very simple – keep Spain out of the 18. Without David Villa, Spain is left to use Xabi Alonso to take shots from outside. Having only one to two people able to take shots is almost useless and may as well be banned from their style of play this year. Portugal showed that keeping Spain away with numbers and the strong defending of Pepe and Bruno Alves proved to work as a defensive strategy, something I believe Italy will adopt. De Rossi is more than capable of filling that crucial center defense role the relied on Pepe for the Portuguese. The solution to a turtle is patience. You must stretch a turtling team to diminish the numbers in the box and then work accordingly. As good as Italy is defensively, they are not as strong as Portugal in that area and are instead a more attack based team. What I mean by that is Spain needs to not get frustrated and work their magic, as once they realize that they are getting the ball for massive periods of time, they can take their time with their attack. As for individuals and formation, I feel like Spain is at their strongest in a 4-5-1 with a true striker up front. The two times Del Bosque tried to do the six midfielders approach, they both ended with no goals until that ideal was changed. I would say throw Llorente  up there, being a phenomenal striker, but he hasn’t played all tournament. Therefore I think the solution is Torres. I might be a bit biased being a Chelsea fan, but Torres scored the winning goal four years ago after not scoring any in the tournament games before that. As much as people downplay him, he is deadly. He knows how to score and seems to get better and have more confidence with every goal he scored. The rest of the team should stay the same, but I say the addition of Fabregas should come earlier than 60 minutes if no progression has occurred. Other than that, Casillas will have to be on point as always and save his team here and there.

Italy- Like I said before, I did not expect Italy to make it here. But they have proved themselves with their strong offense and withstanding defense that they deserve to be here instead of the failing Germany. As I said before, I think that the key to winning this match will be similar to Portugal’s key and Italy’s key to Germany in the semifinals- keep them away from the 18. This is not a very easy thing to do against Spain, being that they have all the best passers in the world. But this is key to keeping it scoreless, which is key to winning the game. Trying to come back against Spain is difficult, and the second you commit more to offense you will lose more possession. That’s kinda of a death sentence against a side like Spain. But if they can stay tight and play strong defense, they will have a backbone for the offense to build on. Once the offense is built, the main idea will be the same as against Germany-keep the ball as long as possible. Like Germany, Spain is a very flow-based team. Their momentum dictates how dangerous they will be. They are a snowball rolling down a hill, but if you never let that snowball get big, it is easy to deal with. That will mainly rely on the mastermind Pirlo, who is up against a couple of others for my player of the tournament. With his expert precision and experience on the field, I’m sure that Italy will know what to do with the ball. Playing the same way the played against England and Germany, I do believe that they can put one in the net during regulation. Of course this means holding the ball, something that Portugal did expertly and it works for them fairly well as a tactic. If you keep the possession of Spain under 62%=ish, you are crippling a major part of their game. They will feel like the need to take with the time that they have and rush their build up unnecessarily, something they did against Spain. Most people will say that defense is the way to go against Spain. As much as I agree with that, I believe that an all-out offense is even better. If you can get the first blow and put them on their backfoot, they hits will just keep coming. Eventually, like Germany, a goal will happen. I absolutely loved the 4-1-3-2 idea that Italy used against Germany, and if executed again I believe it can work well. Something that Italy has that Spain does not is outside 18-shooters. Cassano, Balotelli, and Pirlo can all shoot very well and with precision. This will worry the defense of Spain and make them push out of the 18, farther than their comfort zone. This is where Pirlo needs to strike, getting Balotelli and Cassano behind the line with the ball. This is something that this pro knows how to do and can beat this defense. As amazing as I think Casillas is, I think is weakest point is being out of the goal. When he needs to step up far, he moves very little from his position, making any ball out of his reach possible to pass. Getting behind the 18 should do that just fine. The main players for Italy is Pirlo and Buffon. Pirlo for the reasons stated above, but Buffon will have some mess to deal with. He was a little shaky in the beginning of the Germany game, but with World Cup Final experience, I think this will be something old for him. He will have shots on goal against him, and his amazing keeper skills will have to bleed out in this game.

That’s all I have to say. Good luck to both teams, and what a great tournament it has been!

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Euro 2012 Pre-Semifinal Predictions and Thoughts

With the semifinal of the exciting Euro 2012 getting closer and my instant football withdrawal slowly taking over my life, it is time to talk about the next stage of the tournament. First off, I would like to say that all four teams who are in the semis are well deserved to be there. If you asked be right after the group stages, I would of said that Italy had a lucky game. But after their impressive showing against England, I believe that the next three games will be exciting and eventful. I wanna talk about each team, their possible plans and actions for their opponents, what I expect to see out of them, and anything else that affects the game of football before the glorious match.

Spain vs Portugal

What a game this will be. At my household, we have a Barcelona and a Real Madrid fan, so naturally, we have a Spain and a Portugal fan. This should make the game a lot more interesting for me. Anywho, everyone is now thinking about the 17th of November in 2010. The 4-0 win for Portugal have left people wondering how this game will actually go. One thing to note is that even though the teams still play the same way, they are both going in with different squads. Will it be a repeat of that fateful game so long ago, or will Spain have its revenge in order to take another step further to achieving the glorious three-peat? This is what I think.

Portugal– This is a side that has been tested over and over. Portugal did not have an easy road to the semifinals, arguably the hardest. But against all odds they came out of Group B, playing with the heart that the Portuguese are known for. That same heart is going to be essential if they want to take a shot at the finals. One thing that I do like from Portugal is that they have grown as a team throughout this tournament, whether they know it or not. In the second game against Denmark, they showed that Ronaldo does not need to be the man of the match every time for Portugal and that the world needs to stop putting this pressure on him if they would like to see him work his magic. In the third game, Ronaldo solidified his role on the team, shutting up all the haters and making sure that they should still consider him the biggest threat in the tournament. In their fourth game against Czech, Portugal showed some Spain-ish patience, as they kept going and going to break down the Czech defense. They stayed cool and collected and worked to get the goal slowly but surely. If they take all these topics that they learned from this tournament, beating Spain will be that much easier. A thing to note is that Portugal’s offense has the ability to put Spain on their back foot, which will be essential to not conceding a goal. Thinking about it, Spain’s defense does not have a lot of possible defenders. Yes, there is the back line and Casillas, along with Xabi, but after that it’s just bodies. Iniesta and Xavi just hustle, and as important as that is, they do not have actual defensive ability. This leaves Spain with five defenders and the most consistent solid keeper in the game at the moment. This is a lot, but it’s still something of note. This means that Portugal has to be sure not to extend itself too much. Not losing the ball to a bad pass or a misstep is key, and keeping the ball as much as they can is also key. Spain is a team that can only work with the ball, so the obvious thing to do is to take the ball away. Portugal is the hard counter to Spain, as the speed and talent all over will give Spain a lot to think about. People like Ronaldo and Nani will be getting the team close and taking some field to let the midfield rise, and from there magic can happen. The defense also has to be solid and safe, not going crazy with the amount of passes Spain is going to do and never over-extending. Keeping Spain out of the 18 is a rule to go by, and keeping that rule true will almost always mean no conceded goals. One thing to note offensively is that the defense on Spain is mainly Real Madrid, not to mention specifically Casillas. These are people who know how Ronaldo tick and know his thoughts in the game. They will obviously put much attention to him, so people like Nani and, who I’m assuming to take Postiga’s place, Hugo Almeida will have to step up for goals. Corner kicks are great for Portugal. Having Bruno Alves, Pepe, Ronaldo, and Almeida will give Ramos and Pique a lot to do, being that most of Spain is shorter than all four of those players. Players to note have already been said. If the normal defense that just stays solid, then Portugal should aim to strike first.

Spain– The team going for a three-peat is definitely going to have to earn it, as Portugal looks to stop them like they did two years ago. Something I love that has come to the surface after this quarterfinal is that people realize that Spain plays boring football. I don’t understand how a opinion is becoming a valid reason to think that a team is “no good”, despite this strategy winning the Euro 2008 cup and 2010 World Cup. I would list all the advantages of playing this style of football, but I may reserve that for another post. It’s tough to find faults in the top team in the world that play an expert tactic at the highest possible level with some of the highest praised players. But Spain has been defeated before, and I will say that they will need some major focus to beat the Portuguese. I feel like the same formation should do fine, having Torres up front along with the support of Xavi, Xabi, and Iniesta. The key will be holding the ball like they normally do and making sure that the Portuguese do not take space in their defensive third. Once that is breach, the wide array of talented shooters can give Casillas a bit to handle. Defense is obviously their weakest point, being that their defense usually is just not letting the other team have the ball. But if they do give the ball up and a patient Portugal decided to build up instead of sending Ronaldo balls through the air, then Spain will have major issues. Being that they don’t have defensive midfielders, Paulo Bento will play Ronaldo against Jordi Alba instead of his club teammate Arbeloa, which is where the defensive weak point is. Portugal do have air superiority, so giving free and corner kicks away is not an option, as the expert headers of Pepe and Ronaldo have proved to pass great keepers. The head defenders, Ramos and Pique, will have to coordinate very well in the air in order to keep that from being a threat. Keeping Casillas in the goal is preferable, as once he comes out, the mass numbers of Portuguese marksmen can put it away. Obviously, their main worry is Ronaldo. His blazing speed cannot be matched by any defender on the Spanish side. If there is an engagement away from the 18, Ronaldo and teammates can link two or three passes to put Ronaldo in the clear, or at least gain massive amounts of ground. This game needs to be played like a battle. Dictating the pace and flow of the game will either make or break Spain, and obviously these guys are the best at flow. The player of note is none other than Casillas. As much expertise as there is in the back line, they do snooze once or twice a game. Although this should be avoided, of course, Casillas is always there to pick up the pieces. A great keeper is on point even after long periods of inactivity. As long as he is on his toes, the Spanish can feel like they have a “Get out of Jail” card, but that should be used only once a game.

Germany vs Italy

June 28th 2012

To be honest I did not expect to see this match-up ever happening. I did not expect Italy to make it past the group stages but, as a Chelsea fan, I know that it’s not how you get there, it’s how you preform when you do. The weird thing about this match up is that Germany and Italy play conflicting formations, depending on situations and the variance of how it is played on the field, of course. Italy play a very traditional 4-3-1-2 with true strikers in the top spots. In this case, that would be Balotelli and Cassano, two deadly strikers that the Germans will need to worry about. This is a very traditional formation, and even though people say that it is an outdated formation, it still works for many teams. The main thing to note about this formation from Italy is its defensive play, as Italy was sure not to give up any free openings after the early incident in the England quarterfinal match. Germany, on the other hand, play a 4-2-3-1, mainly with a true striker as “1” and attacking supporters as “2”. This is a counter-attacking formation that is a more offensive version of the 4-5-1 and requires that the four mainly offensive players be able to work together as a unit at times but also able to handle themselves in dire situations. When this formation includes the “2” in the attack lined up with the defensive wingers, you achieve a strong attacking shape with a possible easy transformation to defense in case of a counter attack of their own. I personally LOVE this formation, but it takes the right assets to play it or it will fall through.vI do prefer this formation against teams like Portugal, who play a 4-3-3 and favor a more attack based formation, but it will work on a 4-3-1-2 if its twisted the correct way. Enough rant about formations, let’s talk specifics.

Germany– Although they are still my favorites for this tournament, I have some issues with the way they have been playing lately. Most of the concerns are defensively, of course, as anyone can see that their offense is pretty much set and ready to score. Therefore, I think there needs to be a focus on this when going to play against Italy. Relying on making a game a goal-fest is not a tactic, it is a gamble. Germany needs to make sure that their defense is set before offense is, because Germany’s offense does not need any tinkering to do what they need to do. I can say with almost complete confidence that Germany’s offense will score, but giving a simple goal to a counter-attack like they did against Greece will definitely make the game twice as hard for them. Their main focus should be not conceding goals, then trying to score. Some key players for this team will include Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez, Mesut Ozil, Philip Lahm, and Manuel Neuer. Schweinsteiger had a below average game against Greece, to be frank. But he was also the key to moving past Netherlands in the group stages, slotting two balls for Gomez to put in the net. To cleanly move to the next player of note, Mario Gomez needs to be on his A-game. Obviously, I have no reason to think that he will not preform, but it is just something of note. He has been a major player in getting his side this far, and he needs to continue that. Another player that needs to continue his great gameplay is Ozil, who has been playing very well. Some say it is nothing special, since there isn’t very many pretty numbers behind him. Only someone who knows football can see that Ozil has played great throughout the whole tournament, and between him, Sami, and Bastian, Germany have an arsenal of assisting power. Sami Khedira has also been a force, as he has been playing great game after game and is constantly being a threat at all times at many different angles.  There is almost nothing to say about Philip Lahm and Manuel Neuer. These two have been the defensive backbone for the Germans and are constantly on top of their game. The consistency is great to see from the German defense, but everybody else on this German defense needs to step up to their level.

Italy– Italy is up against a sleep slope in my opinion. This is going to be a tough game on them, mainly because of the German offense. I don’t know how well the Italians will be able to hold off a German onslaught if they ever got in the rhythm, which could pose to be a major deciding factor for the whole game. I think that the Italians need to do one main thing to win this game, which is keeping the ball away from Germany. Italy played a very good touch ball games against England, leaving them no time to build or get a groove going. That is partly England’s fault, but instigating it is just as important. The German defense is not strong enough to hold off the Italian onslaught of their own, but obviously it will depend on them to put one away. Creating the first goal will be crucial in winning, as a desperate Germany will put more attackers up top, therefore making a strong counter attack possible to finish them off. If the Italians do create the first goal, focusing on strong defense is more important than looking for the killshot. Once Germany is in the hole, the focus should be keeping them there, not making a 50/50 chance on letting them out. Playing a secure game with strong tactics and less-variable movement will help them steer the game in their way. Three players to note for the Italians are Buffon, Cassano, and Pirlo, of course. First off, Pirlo is something amazing. After that cheeky but classy penalty kick against the English, everyone has seen the extent of Pirlo’s magic. He can create, attack, or orchestrate on the field, making him someone of note at all times. He will look to slip Cassano through the German defense, who do leave gaps from time to time. Cassano makes great runs, and can also handle a player or two if need be to create a chance, so the Germans will have to keep an eye on him. Bal0telli will obviously be lurking as well and shown that he is capable, but his awareness needs to improve. There are two ways to simply break the defense. You can have Balotelli and Cassano on far sides of the pitch, giving Pirlo more inside room and leaving the center more unattended than usual. This will let the strikers the ability to sneak around or wait for a open ball to slot or strike. Another way to play this is to play them closer, leaving the wings open and letting midfield advance to those areas. From there, creation has options,  including attacking the goal or crossing it in, but not limited to just working around the 18 and looking for an opening. Italian pressure was very pretty in the England game, and I feel if Italy brings the same pressure to Germany they will surely make a goal. On a side note, the last player of note, Buffon, is something great and will need some master work to pass him, so goals will not come easy for the Germans.

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Euro 2012 Pre-Quarterfinals Predictions and Thoughts

The quarterfinals have come! After a very exciting group stage in the Euro 2012, the knockout rounds begin with some entries that were definitely surprising, such as Greece and and Portugal. Portugal isn’t as surprising as Greece, but if you asked me on June 7th, I would of chuckled. We have some very exciting games coming up, including the giant Spain vs France game which I am thoroughly pumped for. I would like to take it game by game, giving predictions and thoughts on outcomes and possible strategies and things to expects, sorta respectively. This will

Portugal Vs Czech Republic, June 21st

Portugal – I can say with some certainty that this will be the more attacking side of the game. Obviously, some magic can happen like the Ukraine vs England game, but I don’t see it, as I can support a Ukrainian force. Czech’s main strength is their defense, which Portugal should beat down like Ukraine, only with goals, of course. With the strongest wings in the tournament or at least tied with the two favorites, Spain and Germany, Portugal needs to bring the force on both sides, mixing the attack up with the more direct Cristiano Ronaldo or the unpredictable Nani, both of which are playing some great football this tournament. But the greatest element of the Portuguese offense that I saw out of the group stages is the amount of people who can put a goal in. With a total of four goal scorers out of five in the net, this means that the attack can come from anywhere. Plus Nani still doesn’t have a goal of his own, but everyone knows what a threat he is on and off the ball. Using the strong attack that they showed in the last two games of the group stages and the defense that we saw in the first and third game, you will see a successful Portugal.

Czech-With its strength in its defense, I would rather them play to counter attack on the edgy Portugal. Although Portugal has looked good in this group stages, one thing that has not been consistent is the quality. Like I said before, the first and third game for Portugal were really well defended, and the second and third game were well attacked. Of course this could be said for Czech as well, conceding four goals in their opener but then showing their will and strength in the next two. I say go with your strengths and play to defense, and use the 4-3-3 that Portugal will most likely be playing and counter attack, as they will attempt to defend by attack. 4-3-3 is possibly the defensively weakest of the well known formations, especially when you will not see Nani or Cristiano track back every often, if at all. I say use this to their advantage, and attack the unfortified sides that the put all their attack on. Breaking the defense through the left and right will make sure that you will get a more condensed Portuguese defense, therefore giving you the ability to take some 18+ yard shots.

Prediction- Portugal’s win with at least one goal conceded by them on a defensive mind lapse.

Ill be doing the rest after the game, and tagging this as well 😛

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Goal-line Technology-Should today’s football implement it?

On the 19th of June, 2012, during the Euro 2012 game between Ukraine and England, Mario Devic put a ball over Joe Hart and into the goal. However, the ball was scooped out by John Terry just in the nick of time, but not quite. Replays show that the ball was in fact all the way in and it was a goal. These calls have been happening for years and years, and the UEFA started implementing a fourth and fifth referee on the pitch, one on both sides of the field, just to the left of the goal. This referee’s main job is to enforce whether the ball would have crossed the ball fully or not, thereby making for a more just game. Initially this was Micheal Platini’s solution to goal-line technology, something that gets pitched to him every year. During the Ukraine vs England it is certain that the 5th official had eyes on the ball and could have made the correct call, but then didn’t.  The question has been brought up to the president again, saying that this is exactly the reason why goal-line technology should be implemented for the 21st century football.

The pros for this technology would mainly, and probably most importantly, be a perfectly scored game. Therefore, deserved wins are given, and everything that rolls behind that. The cons are that a big human part of football is taken out, which adds to the greatness of the game. Now the way you look at that con could possibly throw it in the pros list, but for me, that’s a con. Obviously this means that I am against such a change in the game. I love the human aspect of the referees because I think it adds a dimension of the game forces players to not rely on the officiating team. That would mean that the referees would be doing their job 100% of the time, which sounds great, but where is the risk of playing offside traps if you can possibly get away with it every time? What’s the point of adding a shove here or there if it’ll be called a foul every time. While I am not commentating on the actual goal-line technology, I am commentating on the near-perfectly reffed game that does not seem appealing to me.

Maybe it is the old side of me that agrees with Platini about this said topic. Many have told me I am a out-of-time person, living in the wrong time frame. While I do not think that is completely true (I am blogging, aren’t I?), I see the semi-validity behind it, which makes me think that this is also affecting my thoughts and views on this matter. I think that this is one human error that could of been made by anyone. In fact, I applaud John Terry for doing what he did, because if he did not this wouldn’t be needed to be talked about. Yes, maybe a more suitable answer is needed for this, but I do not think new tech is the answer. Plus, English fans will argue that three Ukrainian plays before that, the pass was offside and therefore that ball should not have reached that point.

I would love to hear the thoughts of others, as I love intelligent conversation. I am sorry about how late this is and how I didn’t get to do a quarterfinals pre-write. When you do not get paid to do these things, no one supports or respects what you do, even if it is completely out of love.

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Euro 2012- England vs Ukraine

Final Score- England:1/Ukraine:0

48′-Rooney

The co-hosts take their exit in an exciting fashion as they give the supposed favorites a run for their money. On the other side of the of the headline, Wayne Rooney makes his entrance and leaves his mark as his goal was the deciding factor in the match. Ukraine beating down on England in the first half with strong shots and quick ball movement were surprised not to have one end up in the back of the net, partly the fault of Joe Hart. He was not the only player of note in the white shirts as Steven Gerrard played unbelievably well. He was the heart of the attack today, on top of his pinpoint accuracy.  Although John Terry had a great game today, including causing the miscall from the 5th referee on Devic’s attempt on goal, but more on that later. Regardless, it was an exciting match and I felt like Ukraine deserves more than to be sent out this early. Of course, winning is just as important as playing well, and with the array of opportunities that the Ukrainians acquired it is hard to sympathize too much with the home team. Great game to watch and a great conclusion to the group stages.

In the 62′ minute, Devic from Ukraine made a break in the box and hit it over Joe Hart towards the box, just to be cleared by John Terry at the last second. Replays show that the ball was, in fact, in the goal and Ukraine deserved the goal. In the moments before this play, however, a clear offsides on the Ukraine team was not called and therefore allowed the continuation of the play up until the controversial call. Up until now, the refereeing has been remarkable, omitting the first game, of course. But this call was missed by the 5th referee, a solution that UEFA came up with in order to make a secondary solution to miscalled goals in crucial times. This officially negates this idea and brings back the idea of goal line technology, which Micheal Platini has been actively avoiding. On that note, I’ll make a different write-up about the pros and cons of goal line technology, as well as my personal thoughts on it.

Also, I will do a pre-quarterfinals write-up tomorrow on what to expect in the coming games.

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Euro 2012 – Netherlands vs Portugal

Well its’ half time! I decided to watch this game over the Germany vs Denmark game for a couple reasons, mainly because of the huge controversy over Holland failing to get a point in this stage of the tournament. Still, some of my thoughts for the teams.

Netherlands- The defense looks okay at times, but this is not enough to hold down a Ronaldo that is back on his feet. The Dutch were hoping they weren’t going to have to worry about him, but this is definitely not the case today. Without the defensive help of Mark van Bommel, Holland are going to have to pick the defense up by at least twice the amount to ensure that no looks are found on the goal. Ronaldo has shown that he will stop at nothing to put in another one in, and with the history of the previous games, we know that other players can definitely do the same. Once this happens, Netherlands needs to work on building up to get a good feel on touching the ball and get into the rhythm again, something they haven’t done since the 28′ minute after Ronaldo’s goal. Also, they have decided to go with a very aggresively-based 4-2-3-1, so looking for counter-attacks is essential and might decide the match.

Portugal- After a shaky first part of the first half, Portugal looked great coming off the feel at the half. Ronaldo’s goal has given him great confidence, and hopefully he can take that on to the next half to score that second goal he is dying for. I usually refrain from saying such things, but Nani is playing out of his mind. Beautiful touches, experienced-based movement, and destroying defense is a small amount of things that he has done in this half. Using him will be key to gaining another goal. Portugal needs to feed the corners more balls and let Ronaldo and Nani work the magic that they have been using so far. Other than that, making sure that the defense don’t get lazy and the defensive wingers help the offense like they did on Ronaldo’s goal will help the pressure of Portugal, making Holland subside into their half for at least a great amount of time.

Final Score- Netherlands:1/Portugal:2

11′-van der Vaart, 28′-Ronaldo, 74′-Ronaldo

What an exciting game. If you asked me exactly nine days ago who would move on in Group B, I would of referred to the FIFA ranked 4th place team and predicted them to take the group. But after this crazy three games, Netherlands, for the first time in history, lost multiple games in a row and exited a tournament without any points. Although I’m disappointed to see one of the pre-tournament favorites to go, everything that happened in this game was not out of the ordinary. Holland came out guns roaring and ready to put themselves in a contending position for second place in the group, with a remarkable goal by Rafael van der Vaart in the 11′ minutes. My first impressions were to think that the Dutch could make the comeback of the year, but sadly fell short and a few moments later, Portugal up’ed the tempo and put Ronaldo in the pilot seat, leading the Portuguese offense.

After that, the Netherlands offense was not to be seen again, giving up a goal in the 28′ minute to a beautiful combination of Joao Pereira and Cristiano Ronaldo, who silenced all doubters for sure with that beautiful +40 yarder at Stekelenburg. I bring up this shot because I believe that this was a major turning point in the mental minds of Holland. That shot showed that Ronaldo’s goal was not a fluke, that he was truly there to put points up and take his team to the next stage of the tournament. That shot shut up everyone who said Messi’s name in the Denmark game, and further more, let his team know that this was not going to be easy for Holland. The lethality of that man is unparalleled in this tournament, and this is something that they will have to breed on in the upcoming games.

Holland were not there for the rest of the match, as I predicted. As history showed in the games before, the goal against Holland usually spelled their demise for the rest of the game. The second goal, which was expertly created by the old Manchester United teammates, killed the Oranjes off, and everyone on the pitch knew that this was the end for Holland. Holland’s tournament showing should not stop at the lack of wins, as maybe the chemistry is something that also needs to be improved on. The counter-argument is that this is basically the team that took runner up back in 2010, but my rebuttal to that would be that this is not the same team, obviously.

My words of advice to the Portugal team is to use this momentum against the Czech. They are a strong team who showed that the Russia game was just a misstep, and with the monster Petr Cech behind them, goals will not come easy. Headers near the goal will be tough because of Cech’s height and the tight defense that the Czech play will make it hard for the Portuguese to puncture the line like they did against Holland. With the beaming confidence that Portugal acquired in this game, I suspect to see them in the semi-finals in this tournament.

 

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Euro 2012 – Netherlands vs Germany

Final Score- Germany:2/Netherlands:1

24′, 37′- Mario Gomez, 73′-Robin Van Persie

Netherlands came out guns a blazin’ aiming to get on top of their cup rivals, but a few critical misses from Van Persie and the poor defense from Holland created the opposite, with two put in the back of the net for Germany by Mario Gomez. He was assisted both times by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who played a great game and was the keystone for this German offense. Now that Germany is in the best spot and Holland in the worst, here are some key tips to note from the game and what they need to take a win in the next game.

Germany- Although both goals came in the first half, Mario Gomez showed what it meant to play for a world-class club. Scoring two goals he is tied with Dzagoev for the most goals in the tournament, albeit the difference being Gomez has all the goals for Germany. This worries me quite a lot, as it cannot be said that the others didn’t have looks. Yes, they weren’t as clear as the ones Schweinsteiger created for Gomez, but they can’t fall into a state of dependency. Regardless, Schweinsteiger did he job flawlessly today, playing a major part in the win for Germany today .Neuer had a couple of beautiful saves to keep the Germans in it, and something tells me we will be seeing more of that in this tournament from him.   I would say that a goal for Germany is to attempt to get someone else one in the back of the net before the knockout rounds for confidence’s sake. Knowing that you have multiple strikers who are scoring to work with is a good feeling as a team. Other than that, we saw the scoring side of Denmark, so Germany will  need to step up the defense, especially against tougher sides in the knockout rounds.

Netherlands- A sad game to watch if you are Dutch fan. Robin Van Persie did not have his scoring boots on despite putting a late one in as consolation. He had many opportunities earlier in the game, something that would of made the game entirely if he raised the score before Germany did. But he is not the only one of fault as Van Bommel has a terrible game through and through, along with an unconvincing Robben, who was quiet for most of the game. Sneijder had a pretty good game, as he is the most consistent player by far on this orange side. Stekelenburg is still making some weird decisions, something I am surprised that hasn’t hurt them yet in the form of a goal.  I think that Tim Krul is a better keeper, but I’m not the coach, obviously. But one thing that is obvious that the coach can’t see  is Van Persie’s track record for his national team, something that many people criticized me for bringing up before the start of the tournament because of his recent year with Arsenal. Huntulaar has had a much better qualifying show and I felt like he deserved a chance to start over Van Persie after his performance against the Danish. Regardless, after all the pain and misery, the orange team is not completely out of the tournament yet will need an amazing show from their stars to even have an chance at staying in this tournament. Portugal proved that they do not need Ronaldo to score, and this is a scary thing to bring up to a defense where Heitinga was completely out of place for most of the game. Scoring is a problem, but they need to make sure that the defense problem is solved first.

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Euro 2012- Portugal vs Denmark

Final Score- Portugal:3/Denmark:2

Pepe-24′, Postiga-36′, Bendtner-41′, Bendtner-80′, Varela-87′

A clinic of strong finishes, this game turned out to be high scoring game despite both teams have notably strong defensive players. The key to this game was finishing, as many players took their chances to finish. Many people are criticizing Cristiano Ronaldo on not being a finisher, but I will talk about that later. Regardless, this was an attacking game, and both defenses seemed out of wack and out of place. But all the goals were very clean and clinical, something that both teams would like to take to their final group stage game. With this win, Portugal has virtually put fate in their own hands.

Denmark- For a team that was prized for their defense in the earlier game against Holland, shutting out the mass array of superstars to no goals, they were outdone countless times. The line was constantly broken and easily manipulated by the attacking Portugal, making it easy to slip ball after ball behind their line. Although this isn’t how they scored, it is a problem that needs addressing. The defense needs to be more disciplined, making sure to keep their shape regardless of the tricky movement and responding to the ball accurately without leaving gaps. Another thing to note on the defensive end is that the midfield did not help on defense as much as they did on offense. Maybe this was a coaching choice, maybe they were tired and could not move around as much. Frankly, this game should of been over much earlier than it was, but the last first half goal by Bendtner kept them in the game for another half. Bendtner will have to be the key in order to pass the Germans in their next game, which will not be an easy feat. Also, they will need that tight defense that I referred to earlier, making sure that Bastian Schweinsteiger does not break the line.

Portugal- First off, Pepe played the international game of his life. A goal in the first half, another with constant beautiful defense was such a major part in the win. Another man who played unbelievably well was Pepe’s  club teammate, Fabio Coentrao, who played like Mourinho wanted him to when he made the decision to buy him. He attacked very strong  when he went up and defended strong and without fouls, something I saw out of him in the World Cup 2010 and loved him since then. Sadly, Real Madrid can’t say the same, but I guess we’re not worrying about that at the moment. Ronaldo will have a lot to think about after this, missing two easy goals that would of been in the back of the net had he be playing in a Real Madrid shirt. Portugal, being in a cup drought for quite a while now, have rested their hoped in ending that on Ronaldo, who his completely aware of his situation. In my opinion, this is his Achilles heel and until people can stop making him the savior of Portuguese football, he will not be of help. In the next game, he will need to be strong but should be reassured that he does not need to be the goal scorer against Holland. The greatest thing for Portugal in this game is that Ronaldo does not need to score to win, and both Portugal and Ronaldo specifically should take that to heart and move to the next game.

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Euro 2012 Group B Round 2 Pre-Game Analysis

With the loss that the Danish handed the Dutch, Group B has forced its second round into a do or die situation. Losing what was considered to be their easiest game, the Dutch now have to find an answer against no other than my favorites to win the tournament. Before that game, however, is the Portugal vs Denmark match, which should be another excited bout. A few notes for each team to effectively give their side the edge that they so need for this second round in the group stages.

Germany- Although my favorites, they were unconvincing in the win against Portugal. The Dutch have a much stronger offense, with the midfield filled with the mastermind Wesley Sneijder, who always plays at the top of his game. But the list of worries don’t end there for Germany, as you can add another five names to that list. One thing that Germany has that Holland does not is a win, and this will force the Dutch to be more attack focused than defensive. With this note, the Germans have to worry about getting stuck in their half, as their defense will get broken down by the array of superstars. Germany also has their set of superstars, but the absence of their work in the first game should be troubling. Of course if we see some great chemistry early on I don’t think that they will have too much problems on the opposite end, as the average defense of Holland will not hold up. The main players to note for Germany is Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who are both going to need to start the build up and keep the tempo up for Germany, in which doing so shall probably win a spot in the next round for their side.

Netherlands- After a surprise failure from my other favorites for the title, I question the idea of starting Robin Van Persie over Klaas-Jan Huntulaar, who has shown more promise internationally. Other than that, the Holland line up is fine, and honestly should work its magic in the game. Whether there will be another flop on a team chemistry level is hard to see, but it is something that needs to be found. They do need a win from this game to make the next set of matches all on them, but seeing them through Germany is a tough thought, as both teams are too strong, theoretically. If both teams played to optimum levels I would believe that the Dutch side would come out on top. I say that the best formation for this side is a 4-4-2, making sure that there is enough people behind the ball at all times, and attacking swiftly and in numbers. Germany’s defense is headed by their strongest defender, Phillip Lahm, and catching him making a run can prove to be a goal at any time. Holland’s main plan is to apply constant pressure against the Germans and put them on their back foot in order to make sure that nothing is built from the bottom up. This formation only works against the 4-2-3-1 if everyone on the team moves back and forth to defend and attack.

Denmark- With the upset against Holland, Denmark is put into a spot that no one thought would be theirs. With the weak offense that Portugal has, Denmark should not have a problem with the attacks, but should worry about the creators on both sides, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. The former teammates are both insanely good players and can create goals by themselves, and given the gift they will take their side to the win. That being said, conceding a goal would spell death for Denmark, as their strong defense is the hallmark of this side. The offense is lacking but in terms of power, and moving in numbers is essential for putting pressure on the surprisingly strong defense of Portugal. I think that Denmark is in the greatest position to seal the deal to the next round, even possibly winning the group against anyone’s previous beliefs before the tournament.

Portugal- I like this team for the mainly players that have been through this squad. Sadly, the main men in this squad are all alone in terms of strength, and the old teammates will need to dig deep to create for their side. Portugal’s main problem is their midfield, as it seems nonexistent, but playing the 4-3-3 is a good idea for this match, unlike the previous one. The strength of this defense should hold against the Danish unless they get stuck in a beatdown. This formation is best because it will minimize the seemingly useless defense and add more constant attack against the Danish, which seems like the only way to break this side other than a well timed counter attack with Cristiano or Nani. This is why I can see the 4-2-3-1 as an opinion, but I think that Portugal should see if this is a good idea and NOT start with this formation. For this reason, I think keeping the line up as is is understandable, given the fact that Hugo Almeida may or may not be needed for this strategy. However this needs to be executed by the unconventional 30′ or 45′ minute marks to make sure that there is enough time to settle and work this. I believe Portugal does have the strength to make it out of the group stages and these are key points to hit if they want to.

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