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Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Round of 16 Finale

Dave, of upcoming band After The Explosions is back with his latest evaluation of the World Cup’s heroes and villains.

Winners


Spain

So it seems the world is still in love with the European Champions. Alan Hansen described it as a “victory for attacking football” and while that point is certainly arguable given Portugal’s suffocation tactics, Spain are looking very shaky indeed. There are holes in their defence and a better team should exploit it. I expect them to ease past Paraguay but once they come against Germany or Argentina, we shall see if they are World Champions material.

David Villa


Barcelona’s new boy can do no wrong.

Holland


Another win, another curious and not overly impressive performance. The question has become whether or not Holland are deliberately not playing at their best. The question will be answered on Friday when they line out against Brazil.

Brazil

Barely broke a sweat. Like Holland they haven’t really been challenged yet which makes their forthcoming clash all the more interesting. I would say mouthwatering but neither team has really excited thus far, despite showing flashes. Hopefully Friday will see the record being changed.

Paraguay

Into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. Gave us a fairly boring game but deserved their win.

Losers

English punditry


Tuesday saw a new low in the English presentation of the World Cup. It began with ITV’s Adrian Chiles, Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate openly mocking the Paraguay/Japan game. While the match was undeniably dull, the relentless negativity from the ITV team was unprofessional and unnecessary.

Meanwhile over on BBC, commentator Jonathan Pearce dared to throw out some facts during the Spain/Portugal clash, leading his co-commentator Mark Lawrenson to sneer; “What were you doing before the game?”. Erm I don’t know Mark, his job perhaps? Lawrenson is a joke that is no longer funny, a decrepit and miserable dinosaur who violently lowers the quality of any football match he is allowed commentate on. Of all the complaints in this World Cup (and there have been many, both valid and invalid), my biggest one is the presence of “Lawro”. I’d rather get trapped in a lift full of tarantulas than listen to him again, but then again the alternative is George Hamilton so you can see my dilemma.

BBC also presented a solemn arthouse style film package about the the goal-line technology debate. A patronising easy listening piano plays over various footage of contentious refereeing decisions. The ref in the Germany/England game is jingoisitcally referred to as “England’s nemesis” while we get a cute little interview with nice English referee Howard Webb (who has never ever made mistakes EVER) who says he’s in favour of goal-line technology. There’s a shock.

But leave it to Alan Hansen to take the prize for the biggest idiot on display for offering the following during his analysis of David Villa’s match-winning goal; “There’s a hint of offside, but, who cares?”. His ill-timed, ill-informed and just plain disgraceful comment elicited laughter from Lineker and co but probably couldn’t have come at a worse time. If he was trying to be satirical, he failed. If he was trying to be funny, he failed. Terrible, as the man himself might say.

Portugal

Negative negative negative. With the exception of the mauling of North Korea, Portugal failed to score a single goal in the competition. That game flattered them hugely and gave false hope to anybody hoping to see the attractive attacking football shown by the Portuguese in Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006. It would seem those days are over, with Carlos Quieroz and his team choosing to employ negative anti-football tactics throughout, resembling a Greece side with more flair by the end of their campaign.

The autopsy report will make for grim reading. Ronaldo was ineffectual throughout, Deco signed off his international career with a whimper while once again Portugal were absolutely toothless up front. A lot of work needs to be done before Portugal become just another football team.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Lived up to his reputation as someone who vanishes in big games by entering in several anonymous performances. He also made sure to enhance his reputation as a petulant brat by spitting at the camera as he trudged off the field in defeat. Many are hesitant to place Ronaldo in the elite “best of all time” bracket and it’s disgusting acts like this that hold him back from such greatness.

While many footballers have their dark side, including Lionel Messi who seems to get away with his gradually increasing petulance due to his ability, there is no excuse for lowering yourself to such a level. It’s frustrating because we all know just how phenomenal Ronaldo can be, but it’s times like these that give his biggest defenders no cause to do so.

Joan Capdevila

The worst piece of simulation to get a player sent off this World Cup will (hopefully) see. Absolutely shameful, but not surprising considering the actions of Torres in the previous round and Sergio Busquets for Barcelona against Inter Milan in the Champions League semi-final.

Fernando Torres

Substituted just shy of the hour mark after another poor showing. He is clearly unfit and by starting him repeatedly, Vincente del Bosque risks harming both his player and his team. It will be interesting to see if  Fernando Llorente lines up alongside golden boy David Villa on Saturday night.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Bumper Edition!

Winners

Germany
Total destruction and total football. All four goals were of supreme quality as was the build-up play in general, featuring flicks and tricks normally associated with Brazil. What was particularly impressive was the patience of the Germans. The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw them very much on the backfoot, fending off a rejuvenated England. Ultimately they played possum and picked their moment before delivering knockout punches to the opposition.
While England have themselves to blame for giving so much room and respect to their old enemy, the Germans earned their praise by playing outstanding football and by being three or four steps ahead of their opponent at every turn. In the end 4-1 was somewhat respectable considering Joachim Low’s men took their foot off the pedal during the final stretch and were content to pass the ball around.
If Germany can match this performance for the remainder of the competition then they must be considered favourites, however it is doubtful that they will have an easier task than this ahead of them.
Mesut Özil

A star is born.
Argentina

Benefitted from a poor decision to kick things off before putting Mexico to the sword as expected. One wonders what they would do with the space England afforded the Germans.
Javier Hernández

Mexico are going home but the young striker has given Alex Ferguson something to think about.
Uruguay

Few predicted they would have gotten this far and the South Americans will fancy themselves to at least make the semi-finals. It’s a pleasure to see the inaugural tournament winners play with such confidence and composure in 2010.
Luis Suárez
Finally coming good after a quiet start, the 23-year-old Ajax forward won the game with a goal worthy of winning the tournament, made all the more emphatic by being framed by the lashing rain.
Ghana

The sole remaining African team kept their heads and were worthy victors. It was a shame to see time-wasting and play-acting tactics employed at the end but that’s the modern game for you.
Brazil & Portugal

Did what they had to do, boring everyone to death in the process.

Losers

England


But will they learn anything from it? Not likely. While they will rightly feel aggrieved following Lampard’s “goal that never was”, England had plenty of opportunities to level things and failed to take them. It’s the oldest cliché in the book that goals change games and 2-2 certainly makes things much more balanced, but hypothetical arguments are a waste of time when you are outplayed and outclassed by a superior side, as England unquestionably were.
Since the opening game these players have not played together. In this game they committed footballing suicide by repeatedly straying from their positions, thus giving the Germans the space they needed to duly tear England apart.
Fabio Capello
While the F.A.’s appointed talking head was quick to assure gathered journalists that Capello’s contract runs until 2012, his body language and veiled statements painted a different picture. The truth is that should Capello get his marching orders, he’s better off for it. Not only shall he benefit financially but why would a man of his pedigree wish to be denigrated by a myopic media and idiotic fanbase that place the blame of England’s failure directly at his door?
The reality is that the England job is a poisoned chalice for any manager. How does one get the best out of a team that fails to play like one? In the aftermath of their humiliation, the majority of fingers are being pointed at the Italian. This is no surprise and of course the manager must accept responsibility (and Capello has) but the real questions must be asked of a collection of selfish individuals who refused to follow their orders and were mauled because of it.
Wayne Rooney
It really is unfair to single out one English player considering they were all abject but considering Rooney was touted as the man to carry the hopes of a nation on his broad shoulders and deliver glory only for him to fail to turn up in any of the four games played, it’s a pretty poor ending to a story laced with optimism, hope and unrealistic hyperbole.
Frank Lampard
A shame to see one of the only players to emerge with any semblance of credit piss it all away by proclaiming that “Nobody can tell me that Germany were much better than us. Not 4-1 better.”
Sorry Frank but even Stevie Wonder can tell you that.
Gabriel Heinze

The ex-Manchester United defender was most certainly not ready for his close-up.
Linesmen

Both of Sunday’s games featured terrible officiating from the men at the side of the pitch. England will debate long into the night about Lampard’s Pedro Mendes-esque “goal” while Carlos Tevez was clearly offside for Argentina’s first goal. The ugly debate about goal-line technology has reared its head once again while FIFA remain stubborn. Perhaps a more pertinent question would be why FIFA didn’t employ the additional goal-line officials that worked so well in the Europa League?
USA
Ran out of comebacks. Their admirable team spirit and work ethic masked a worrying lack of depth. Outside of Donovan, Dempsey and Howard the Americans lack leaders and special players. They simply have not progressed enough since the previous World Cup (where incidentally they also fell at the feet of the Ghanaians) and despite the profile of “soccer” rising in the country, the team hasn’t evolved enough.
South Korea

Captain Ji-Sung Park wanted a repeat of their semi-final charge of 2002 but it wasn’t to be.
Optimists
Gary Linker claimed before Brazil/Portugal that anything less than a 4-4 scoreline would give license payers the right to complain. Considering the stage of the competition and what was needed from both teams it was silly to expect anything other than what we got.
Mick McCarthy

Like the French, poor Mick just doesn’t want to be there. Greeting the additional five minutes at the end of the game with howls of derision, Mick exclaimed “Get them off! It’s been awful!”. Poor chap.
Cheats
Friday saw a splurge of poor sportsmanship. The Brazil/Portugal snoozefest saw Duda and Tiago booked for ordering the referee to send a player off and diving respectively while Fernando Torres continued to endear himself to everyone other than Liverpool fans by pulling off the most embarrassing dive seen on a football pitch since Alberto Gilardino took the piss against Celtic in the Champions League a couple of years ago.
Perhaps Torres belongs in the winners column as his pathetic actions got Chile’s Marco Estrada sent off but El Nino would later tweak his ankle and his game would end in the 54th minute. It’s been a poor showing from the Liverpool striker thus far, and he will know it.

Resolute Swiss conquer Spain

Spain 0-1 Switzerland

In what will surely rank as one of the greatest upsets in this tournament’s history, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s rugged Switzerland caught Spain on the counterattack to record a famous victory. Spain dominated possession, controlling the football for an astonishing 88% of the game, but were unable to find a way through a terrific Swiss defensive effort.

Spain entered the World Cup as favourites to lift the coveted trophy for the first time, with recent performances in the World Cup warm-ups doing little to dampen the expectations placed upon them.

The first half was a catalogue of quick, accurate passing but the European Champions had few opportunities to test Diego Benaglio. Valencia’s David Silva felt that he should have had a penalty in the 14th minute after finding himself on the receiving end of a kick from Philippe Senderos. Despite his protests, referee Howard Webb was unmoved and allowed play to continue.

Sergio Ramos was operating in his usual marauding fullback role and was looking to break forward frequently. On one such run, he cut inside the Swiss penalty area but instead of rolling the ball back to David Villa he fired harmlessly into the side-netting.

La Roja continued to search for weakness in a wall of Swiss defenders, who appear to have been trained exceptionally by one of Europe’s most decorated coaches in Ottmar Hitzfeld. Gerard Piqué came the closest to breaking the deadlock before halftime, his exquisite drag back shook off the challenge of Senderos before he shot into the outstretched body of Diego Benaglio.

Spain’s trouble in front of goal continued towards the end of the half when David Villa found himself with just the goalkeeper to beat from the right. He failed to adjust the ball to his bodyshape, however, and his chip bounced away from goal.

Ottmar Hitzfeld, winner of two European Cups with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München, had brought nine players in front of the ball at almost all times in an attempt to suppress the passing flow of the Spanish. The tactic was working perfectly. Spain’s possession statistics at halftime were undoubtedly impressive but they had not seriously threatened the Swiss goal and found themselves suppressed by the careful marking of Grifting, Von Bergen and Huggel.

Spain started the second half brightly. David Silva controlled a wonderful pass from Xabi Alonso who beat his man before his cross was poked away for a corner. In terms of territory the ball was fixed firmly in the Swiss half. For all of their defensive intentions, Switzerland kept both strikers forward. Their resilience was rewarded in the 52nd minute. Benaglio sent a long kick forward into the Spanish half where it broke for Nkufo. The newest member of the MLS’s Seattle Sounders laid the ball off to his strike partner who was promptly challenged by Ilker Casillas. The ball rebounded loose. Gelson Fernandes was the fastest to react, poking home to score what would ultimately prove to be the pivotal goal.

Del Bosque attempted to wrestle control of the tie away from the Swiss, springing Torres and Jesús Navas from the bench in an attempt to add width and potency in front of goal to his hitherto blunt Spanish attack.

Attempts from Torres and Iniesta sailed harmlessly wide of the goal as Spain were forced to rely on long range efforts. Their best chance of the match fell to Xabi Alonso who’s first time effort from a corner roared onto the crossbar.

Switzerland almost found themselves two goals to the good just minutes later. Eren Derdiyok, standing in for regular striker Alex Frei, pressed forward with the ball, exercising breathtaking skill and guile to evade Piqué and Puyol before hitting the post with a low shot. The look on Hitzfeld’s face told us that this was a glorious opportunity to seal victory.

Spain poured forward in the dying minutes and exerted immense pressure on the Swiss. Their efforts proved to be in vain as they failed to create a genuine opportunity despite all of their possession and territory and Switzerland held on to secure a historic triumph.

The result is sure to be dissected in the Spanish sporting dailies. La Furia Roja shot 27 times in the game with only eleven of these attempts hitting the target. Spain will need to improve dramatically in front of goal. What looked to be a group which they should navigate with ease has now become a potential early stumbling block. Chile impressed against Honduras, while the Swiss already enjoy a three point advantage over the European Champions. Spain’s next fixture against Honduras represents an opportunity to re-calibrate their World Cup challenge. Anything less than an expected victory there may prove disastrous.

USMNT revealed

United States Men’s National Team coach Bob Bradley has finally disclosed the identities of the the twenty-three members of his World Cup squad. Bradley has decided to risk fielding injured defender Oguchi Onyewu but has omitted veteran striker Brian Ching in favour of his younger counterpart Robbie Findley.

The addition of Findley has been received by the media as an attempt to replicate the speed and guile of Charlie Davies, whose recovery from a serious road accident seven months ago has not been quick enough.

Elsewhere, winger DaMarcus Beasley has been recalled nine months after his last appearance for the United States.

The United States now boasts a group of players of unquestionable quality, many of whom have experience in the preeminent leagues of Europe.

USMNT begin their campaign on June 12th against England in Rustenberg. The opening fixture is predicted to be the most watched football match in the history of American television.

For a full profile of the USMNT visit: https://worldcupdaily.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/usmnt/

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Stade Rennais), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Hull City), Edson Buddle (L.A. Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Pachuca), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

Del Bosque’s 30 Man Provisional Squad

Barcelona’s talented young forward Pedro Rodriguez has been named in Vicente Del Bosque’s provisional 30 man squad for the FIFA World Cup. The injured trio of Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas are also among the shortlisted.

Goalkeepers Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), David De Gea (Atlético Madrid), Diego Lopez (Villarreal), José Manuel Reina (Liverpool), Víctor Valdés (FC Barcelona)

Defenders Raúl Albiol (Real Madrid), Alvaro Arbeloa  (Real Madrid ), César Azpilicueta (Club Atlético Osasuna), Joan Capdevila (Villarreal), Carlos Marchena(Valencia), Gerard Pique  (FC Barcelona), Carles Puyol (FC Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Midfielders Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergi Busquets (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao) Marcos Senna (Villarreal), David Silva (Valencia), Xavi (Barcelona)

Forwards Santi Cazorla (Villarreal), Jesús Navas (Sevilla), Juan Manuel Mata (Valencia CF), Pedro Rodriguez (FC Barcelona), Dani Guiza (Fenerbache), Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), David Villa (Valencia CF)


World Cup Daily: International Press

El País Del Bosque: “No pedemos esparar a todos los lesionados” ( Del Bosque: “We cannot wait for all of the injured”. Another classic babelfish.)

Vicente Del Bosque tells the Spanish media that he cannot include all of Spain’s injured players in his World Cup squad. The news will worry the likes of Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta and Torres, all of whom are either currently injured or struggling to overcome injuries. Torres, especially, is in danger of missing the World Cup after Liverpool’s club doctor has announced that he may miss the opening fixtures. Moving on to speak about the vacant spot for a third goalkeeper, Del Bosque refuses to name Victor Valdés yet.

La Repubblica <<Lippi e gli assenti “Totti? Vedrete…”>> (Lippi on the absentees, “Totti? We’ll see…”)

Marcello Lippi appears to end the World Cup hopes of Alessandro Nesta and Amauri, who recently declared for Italy. The Azzurri coach hinted that World Cup winner Francesco Totti may yet be coaxed out of international retirement, but we’ll have to wait until the May 11th announcement of another 30-man squad.

Marca La afición ya tiene clara la lista de 23 para el Mundial 2010 (The fans have a clear list for the 2010 World Cup)

A poll of nearly 700,000 voters online have selected what they believe to be Spain’s squad for the World Cup Finals. There is no space for Marcos Senna, David Guiza, Michel Arteta or José Antonio Reyes. The Marca readers squad reads: Casillas, Reina, Valdés, Piqué, Puyol, Ramos, Albiol, Arbeloa, Capdevilla, Marchena, Silva, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Xabi Alonso, Jesús Navas, Pedro, Busquets, Mata, Villa, Torres, Llorente and Negredo.

The New York Times World Cup Gets Closer and U.S. Roster Remains Unsettled

Bob Bradley is not yet decided on his final 23 man squad for the World Cup. He tells The New York Times that 16-18 of the spots are filled at this time. Jermaine Jones, who recently declared for the United States instead of Germany, has been told that he may not be included.

France Football Une liste de 25 dévoilée & Barrios dans la liste de 30

France’s premiere football publication reports on the naming of the training squads of Algeria and Paraguay, with no major shocks in either side.

Die Zeit René Adler fährt nicht nach Südafrika (René Adler will not travel to South Africa)

German goalkeeper René Adler will forgo the World Cup to have rib surgery which might be necessary to prolong his career. The coach of ‘Die Mannschaft’ ,Joachim Löw, was disappointed by the news. The 25 year old goalkeeper, who is rumoured to have been targeted by both Arsenal and Manchester United, said that the decision was hardest of his life. Die Zeit also report on how in-form striker Kevin Kuranyi will not be selected by Löw despite scoring eighteen goals in the Bundesliga so far this season.

And finally
The Telegraph Shakira’s official song ‘Waka Waka’ fails to impress South Africans

Colombian songstress Shakira’s official World Cup song (previously reviewed by World Cup Daily) has not been well received by the South African public. “It’s horrible,” one fan told the Telegraph, “I’m not standing for it. I mean what is our president doing about it?”