fredag den 25. juni 2010

World Cup 2010 Best of round 3: 1st team + notables

It was a dramatic last round of the group stages. One that had both very good and very bad games.

I watched on a couple of TVs simultaneously, which especially with some groups were very exciting but for the specific purposes of this particular exercise it wasn't all good since it resulted in some very divided or other times very one sided attention. Some matches I watched paying nearly 100 percent attention to over the other and in other cases it was more like 60-40 or 80-20.

Therefore this is definitely the entry where I have the least confidence in my choices and it is entirely unlikely that I haven't missed some worthy performances.

Group stage:

Round 1:

1st Team

2nd Team

Round 2:

1st and 2nd Teams


1st Team:

Gk: Rais M'Bolhi - Algeria

Lb: Jorge Fucile - Uruguay
Cb: Bruno Alves - portugal
Cb: John Terry - England
Rb: Philipp Lahm - Germany

Mf: Bastian Schweinsteiger - Germany
Mf: Tim Cahill - Australia
Rw: Landon Donovan - USA
Am: Keisuke Honda - Japan

Fw: Chu-Young Park - South Korea
Striker: Robert Vittek - Slovakia

Notables: Fabio Coentrao, John Mensah, Rios/Perez, Alonso



Rais M'Bolhi - Algeria

The normal first choice Algeria keeper Faouzi Chaouchi was dropped after his costly error in the 1-0 defeat to Slovenia giving newcomer M'Bolhi playing only his third cap. the chance to shine at the biggest stage.

In the game against the U.S - M'Bolhi held on right until the very end making many good saves and interventions and afterwards the American (and best of round 1.) goalkeeper Tim Howard was nice enough (unlike what he is doing to his defenders, I'm really starting noticing, who he is abusing like he was Peter Schmeichel!) to pay compliments to M'Bolhi calling him exceptional:

“When you create so many chances, you expect to at least put one away. But their keeper was exceptional. Our finishing wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that M’Bolhi was in incredible form and managed to get his body in the way at crucial moments. It was really extraordinary.”

So, in a round where rightly or wrongly I didn't notice too many great goalkeeping displays, M'Bolhi beats the rest.


Jorge Fucile - Uruguay

Retains a spot on the team and this round at the position he has actually been playing.

In the game against Mexico we saw a little bit extra emphasis on defending from Fucile compared to against South Africa where Uruguay came out attacking, and definitely extra impressive this time that he was the first defender to keep Mexico's Dos Santos, who has been in great form, largely under control.

Centre back:

Bruno Alves - Portugal

Another defender from a team who is yet to concede a single goal.

His partner Carvalho also had a good game, as well as the whole team did of course, defending, but Carvalho unlike Alves I thought was caught gambling a few times.

Brazil box striker Fabiano made the "best of team" last round and I talked about how well he complemented the other attacking Brazilian players coming from behind moving close to him.

Kaka and Robinho in Fabiano have the skilled box presence they can combine with and the likes of Maicon, Bastos and Elano as well as having that, have a great athletic target for their quality deliveries.

Now before I call Portugal's or Alves defensive performances great it should be noted that quite a few of those names were missing in this game, giving Fabiano worse players to work with, affecting his effectiveness I'm sure, but credit to especially Alves, who it was my impression mostly was on Fabiano, for largely, or at least better than anyone so far, reducing that particular all important Brazil weapon.

We didn't, like many recent Brazil games, watch Fabiano being effective with deliveries from the wings and we didn't really see him being able to combine with the skillful attackers coming from behind. Bruno Alves (mostly I think) would always be in the way.

Now, stopping most of the Brazil attacking players is very much a team effort and not a question of one on one matchups, but this particular one is extremely important not to lose for the central defender closest to Fabiano in the box. The Ivory Coast defenders lost at times badly, which put their Eriksson midfield team defense pretty much to waste, they had done pretty well actually in the beginning preventing passing lanes for both Maicon and especially Kaka, stopping them getting the ball even or quickly taking it away, but the one player they couldn't stop neither getting the ball or giving it back again to other attacking players moving close to him taking advantage in the final third where it hurts the most, was Fabiano though, and with really bad consequences.

There is no doubt a lot of it was less quality around Fabiano. In this game there were only 4 passes exchanged between Fabiano and Julio Baptista and 3 of those was Fabiano finding the "beast" who then predictable was not able to do much with it.

With Kaka against the Ivory Coast on the other hand he exchanged 11 passes. Then in what I think you can also call a bad attacking game for Brazil, against North Korea, Kaka and Fabiano only combined 3 times!

Interestingly in both of those "bad games" Fabiano then saw increased passing from the wingers. Today again and again from Daniel Alves playing instead of Elano, but not to much effect at all and I don't think there is any doubt you'll rather deal with non-getting to the baseline-crosses (which is hard to concede if you sit deep like North Korea and Portugal) than Fabiano being close to the likes of Kaka, Robinho, Elano and Maicon combining around your penalty area.


John Terry - England

On the field at least, quietly having a good World Cup where he as one of very few England players has played well in every game so far.

The highlight of that so far was the all important game against Slovenia where apart from being mistake-free he also had to save the team from danger on more than one occasion.

More than a bit worrying how the England centre-backs have had to do that against pretty ordinary attacking teams so far and the team/Capello will have to find a better balance against the first really good attacking team they'll meet, Germany of course in the round of 16. Otherwise neither Terry, or Matthew Upson for that matter who also had a good game, will make enough of a difference to prevent them getting knocked out.


Philipp Lahm - Germany

Not much to add really from when he made the first team in round 1. Other than like with Fucile earlier, I now have Lahm back at the position he is actually playing, and I'm also further realizing that there is no doubt, defensively, that he is more comfortable in the 1on1 situations that tends to find sidebacks, defending on the right rather than the left.

Germany will of course face England in the next round and with Lahm now fully installed on the right we should see an interesting clash of elite fullbacks between him and Ashley Cole.

It would be great for England if Cole could force Lahm to defend against an athletically superior opponent, giving him something to worry about, maybe even halting his forward progress, but I fear for England most of the worries go the other way, with either a Milner placed on the left, who struggled there (even) against the U.S, or perhaps worse, notoriously unreliable defender this season, Steven Gerrard with important defensive responsibilities on the left.

AT THE VERY LEAST it might force Ashley Cole to play yet another game where he is mostly staying back but can even he if he isn't getting enough support deal with what by far looks like German's strongest side to me, the dynamic Müller supported by Lahm and to some extent Ozil.
It will be interesting to see what Capello does there. I'm in no way ruling out a return for Emile Heskey with defensive duties on the left, like we've so many times over the years for his club teams. It would be an unpopular and controversial decision but one it's easy to see Capello make.


Bastian Schweinsteiger - Germany

Schweinsteiger was possibly even better this game than in the first one against Australia.

Secure short passing with all the right decisions and with his impressive range he sprayed many good longer ones as well.

Defensively he also looked good with many well timed interventions.

All in all this was a game where he hardly put a foot wrong ruling the German midfield.

The only negative is that he picked up an injury and had to come off towards the end. Hopefully that's not something that will bother him the rest of the tournament. His team desperately needs him.


Tim Cahill - Australia

I think my eyes in the beginning at least mostly were on the Germany - Ghana game but the other game between Serbia and Australia kept getting more and more interesting and towards the end there was a clear case of both teams having to chase the dream and push men forward in pursuit of goals.

Serbia of course ended up once again suffering World Cup heartbreak and are going home early while Australia with good performances in both of the last two games really, and by winning this one, at least has some to smile about.

Cahill as he has so many times before, I felt was the player mostly responsible for that, with a great box to box performance, working hard defensively and being dynamic in attack, making well timed run after well timed run threatening the opponent penalty area, and as he has also done so many times before, with a trademark header scoring a goal in the process.


Landon Donovan - USA

Donovan has been good in every game so far being the one U.S player who can provide an extra bit of pace or skill and with that make a difference.

None bigger or more important than what he did this round scoring a crucial 90th minute winner against Algeria that put his country through, top of the group, to the knockout stages.

A great (or the greatest?) moment in U.S soccer history.

Attacking midfielder:

Keisuke Honda - Japan

Honda interestingly the most fouled player out of anyone in the group stage makes his first appearance on the team.

In beating Denmark 3-1 he showed once again that he is the Ferrari on Japan's workman like team.

Not that he doesn't put in the extra miles himself. He impressively does that. But his ability with the ball is what sets him apart and against Denmark he showed it plenty.

Usually most noteworthy is his kicking-technique and it was fitting that it was Honda who became the first player to score on a freekick this tournament. Definitely not one of his most impressive, and more the fault of keeper Sorenson than anything and his compatriot Endo's freekick goal later in the game was easily the better one, BUT STILL, it was Honda who broke the duck!

In this game he worked hard defensively and with gliding movement and overall skill he was Japan's main instigator when going forward. Not least exemplified when he brilliantly set up Okazaki's winner.


Chu-Young Park - South Korea

In what was a wild fun back and forth game against Nigeria, Chu-Young Park was one of the few I think who actually played a really good game!

Worked very hard and with his quickness and skill he was a nightmare for the big Nigerian defenders all game long.


Robert Vittek - Slovakia

As an avid Azzurri supporter this is still too soon to talk about (or even look at! Hence the above).

If I try start writing about the events in this game, Italy, Slovakia or even individual players there is no way I can avoid going into emo-rage-tilt mode ruining my whole day and possibly my sleep! Shock, anger and sadness not helped, to say the least, by my own country Denmark then also going out later that very same (fateful) day.

I'll just say congratulations to Slovakia. I had a great time myself in the very nice city of Bratislava once and met some cool people there, and of course (what this is supposed to be about!) also well done to Robert Vittek who with his good target-man display was a key factor in securing the win.

There is no 2nd team this round where like I mentioned in the beginning there were just a little bit too many of the games going on at the same time where my attention was either split or almost entirely focused on one instead of the other.

But I do at least have some NOTABLES:

Left-back: Fabio Coentrao - Portugal

The most notable of all perhaps, missing out once again only by the closest of margins. Had one bad decision on a pass that could have been costly but that's it really. Other than that he was very good and not faced at all by squaring up to the grueling double dose of Maicon and Daniel Alves.

Centre-back: John Mensah - Ghana

Isaac Vorsah the Ghana centre-back who made my first team after the opening games has unfortunately since been injured and the experienced journeyman defender and captain John Mensah (currently at Sunderland) now finds himself playing with another Mensah, the 19 year old Jonathan who was one of the stars for Ghana when they won the U-20 World Cup last year. My first impression though of Jonathan is that he is pretty raw still and make too many bad decisions, meaning more than ever it's the older Mensah who really has to hold it all together.

Against Germany I was surprised how easy Germany got through the Ghana midfield organization that has troubled other teams. Part of it I'm sure is just great German quality with Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Khedira plus Lahm rarely not present with excellent contributions and then there was the choice of Cacau as the striker who was very often dropping deep adding to the midfield numbers.

Still, Ghana themselves have everyone of their non defenders being cagey in midfield so it's not like they were outnumbered and it's not a good sign for them (it is for Germany though!) that they had to rely too this extent on good defending in their box.

There I thought Mensah out-muscled anyone in sight and how he lead the defense to mostly deal. with all those incoming German passes and runs without the ball from behind. was impressive.

Yes there were a few glitches but if you compare to how another midfield who also failed against Germany, the Aussies and how their defenders were then exposed, then I thought the Ghana back-four lead by John Mensah did admirably in not allowing (many) more clear goalscoring chances.

Defensive midfielders: Arevalo Rios and Diego Perez - Uruguay

The workhorses on the Uruguay midfield has defended well this tournament and when the time has been right for attacking they've also been capable of fulfilling their roles requiring them to pass the ball well enough on to the attacking outlets. Not least Forlan of course, but Cavani's movement and performance as a whole also really picked up this round, doing a good job in many places.

Midfielder - Xabi Alonso - Spain

Before the very anticipated match between Spain and Chile somewhere in the second half came to a truce almost, Xabi Alonso had been a very important player.

Chile did show some restraint in their normal high pressure but what we saw was still what we've never seen before, a team meeting Spain up high defending (literally) mano e mano almost all over the pitch.

On the surface perhaps, it looked like a decent success. They actually in many ways prevented Spain's usual fluid possession game through talisman Xavi. And you could say that's an achievement in itself and its a shame we didn't get that intriguing battle for a full 90 minutes because of the Chile sending off and then a full blown stalemate.

But a sending off I think that's also a clear symptom of Bielsa's tactics against a really good opponent.

Defending against, maybe even far more talented individuals - individually instead of "their space" zonal marking collectively as team, just comes with a prize. In this game not least tons of freekicks.

Very often when a Chile defender lost their individual matchup we saw a foul, either out of need cause in a man to man defending scheme there isn't automatically a man occupying space behind. Instead that teammate is likely marking some other man, allowing potentially tons of free space for the opponent winning the individual matchup!
Or other times it would just be a foul as a result of being late against quick technical opponents getting ahead through a nice pass or good first touch.
To put it simply, in their individual marking, too many of the Chile markers were outmatched individually.

Where Alonso then comes in is taking advantage of that as best as possible under the (not to Spain's liking normally) circumstances and with Chile actually largely succeeding in the Xavi individual matchup Spain were hitting more passes from deep, more direct, than you usually see. You could say they were forced to, but I see it more as the natural order of things.

The best at those passers is Alonso and with Spain players put under pressure and marked high up their own half it makes sense to get the ball quickly instead to where the Spain players are man marked in the Chile half, and where a won matchup means oceans of space behind the Chile defender and a lost one nothing serious at all.
Of course very unlike a Chile matchup won in the Spain half where it would be giving away a serious goalscoring chance (to Chile's credit there were actually examples of this).

But enter the goal where an under pressure Alonso in his own half hits a good long pass towards Torres (somewhat harsh but Alonso able to hit that is this sequence's individual matchup number 1 won by Spain) who is marked up high up by a Chile defender, they get into a one on one race into symptomatic non occupied Chilean space. where I'm guessing the Chile keeper then doesn't like his defender's chances (this actually looks like a miscalculation when watching it again) and he comes out trying to clear the ball (meaning individual matchup number 2 won by Spain - even if conceded by the Chile keeper is the more accurate).

It lands in the free space where David Villa using his pace has gotten away from his marker (individual matchup number 3 won by Spain) and he strikes it brilliantly for the goal.

mandag den 21. juni 2010

World Cup 2010 Best of Round 2: First and second teams

Another round of fixtures gone and another "best of" team from me.

This time much harder selections to make with many more eye catching performances than in the opening games.

Round 1:

1st team

2nd team

Round 2:

First team:

Gk: Diego Benaglio - Switzerland

Rb: Jorge Fucile - Uruguay
Cb. Diego Lugano - Uruguay
Cb: Lucio - Brazil
Lb: Carlos Salcido - Mexico

Mf: Rafael Marquez - Mexico
Mf: Raul Meirelles - Portugal
Mf: Cristian Riveros - Paraguay

Rw: Dennis Rommedahl - Denmark
Fw: Diego Forlan - Uruguay
Fw: Lionel Messi - Argentina


Diego Benaglio - Switzerland

It's very possible he was robbed the first time around and his performance in the first game, possibly being better as well.
But at least I'm making good on it by including him this round where I had more trouble finding (or remembering?) outstanding goalkeeper performances.

Bengalio was kept possibly even more busy by Chile than in the first game by Spain and he responded with another mistake free game where especially in one on one situations he proved to be the great wall that the small Chileans just couldn't get the ball past.

Right back:

Jorge Fucile - Uruguay

Another round where I have to cheat. This time my list of worthy left-backs completely dwarfs the right-backs so I'm putting Fucile who played excellent on the left for Uruguay against South Africa on the right where he has played before anyway.

Against South Africa this round Fucile played a very aggressive left-back role doing a great job of relentlessly going forward playing left midfield, making up numbers when his central pairing behind him Lugano and Godin, had South Africa's lone striker Mphela completely under control anyway. Then whenever it was needed and South Africa were pushing more people forward in the transition which they rely so heavily on, he would quickly be back at their side defending strong without much trouble at all.

While Uruguay doesn't quite go for the tactical fluidity of Mexico or Chile, when they're in attack mode like they were, especially early against South Africa, there is still quite a bit, and by attacking as a midfielder or left-wing and defending fullback and often central defender, as well as he did, Fucile certainly did his part to making it work.

Centre back:

Lucio - Brazil

Lucio's warrior aggression and fierce strength once again proved a very difficult matchup even for Didier Drogba and he hardly put a foot wrong in his side's impressive dismissal of the African pretenders.

We even saw him on those trademarks runs going forward spreading needed unbalance down the Eriksson rigid defensive lines.

He didn't even seem as slow as he has the last couple of years, but had a lightness almost to his movement (which I can't believe I'm saying. Maybe the opposition was just very slow?) and whenever close to the poor soul he is targeting with his marking, it's pretty much game over for the attacking player.

His partner Juan would also have been a worthy entry this round. He doesn't rely as much on athleticism anymore as Lucio still does with his power, but Juan defends extremely smart and reads the game incredibly well.

Centre back:

Diego Lugano - Uruguay

Him and his partner Godin is a good candidate for the strongest centre-back duo in the tournament so far.

Godin was probably a little better in the first game against France while this time around I thought Lugano was the best.

He completely dominated South Africa's striker Mphela and was flawless in all his actions even when stepping out or up expanding his command area.
As usual he was very aggressive and on top of all situations whether physically winning a tackle or reading the game making a timely intervention.

A flawless centre-back performance.


Carlos Salcido - Mexico

Not dissimilar to Fucile's performance for Uruguay but had more challenges and difficult conditions to overcome both when defending and going forward, yet as mostly a wing-back managed to do both very well, even causing a very good defender like France's Bacary Sagna problems along the way, contributing to a Mexico performance where great tactical fluidity easily beat France's not so good tactics at all and superior talent.


Raul Meirelles - Portugal

As usual he was showing range of passing in the Portugal midfield but what was more key this time around against a very organized North Korea team that had frustrated even Brazil was his runs forward, something the Brazil central midfielders rarely did (if ever), and if it had not been for those causing unrest, and generally with new partner Tiago doing more good forward passing (compared to Deco's good sideways passing) who knows if the game would have broken open the way it ultimately did, forcing a trailing North Korea to go forward and really allow the much more skilled Portuguese players to rain in one important goal after another. Very likely securing their advancement.


Cristian Riveros - Paraguay

Like rarely seen this World Cup Paraguay completely neutralized Slovakia in their 2-0 win over them this round.

A significant part of that was already done by the three very hard working forwards. Santa Cruz, Valdez and Barrios meeting the technically weak Slovakian defenders up high, forcing them to make clearances going nowhere or passing it back to their keeper, but further back dealing with what could have been Slovakia's passing savior Marek Hamsik, Cristian Riveros was commanding midfield guarding passing lanes and helping out teammates seemingly everywhere, whether it was being the backup defender or a passing option left or central when the team was in possession.

Also in possession, he wasn't bad himself at all and showed good range of passing effortlessly finding the three forwards who would then give the Slovakian defenders all kinds of trouble.

Just a great all round midfield performance which he even crowned by scoring a goal.


Rafael Marquez - Mexico

Torrado on the Mexico midfield is the more consistent performer and would have been a worthy inclusion as well but against France, Marquez had one of those very good looking games where he was just conducting play with his passing.

In that game he was found mostly just ahead of the defense where he is clearly better these days than being a liability in a four back line and especially his ability to find Dos Santos on the right created all sorts of trouble for France.

Still guilty sometimes of holding on to the ball a little bit too long risking losing it in dangerous positions but when that isn't the case his overall technical ability, exquisite passing and reading of the game is a pleasure to watch.

Right wing:

Dennis Rommedahl - Denmark

The most criticized player on the Danish national team for the last 10 years was definitely not someone I expected to ever make these teams, but in the win against Cameroon, his perhaps best ever performance in a Denmark shirt does the job.

Cameroon was pressing up high with several players. Something that could have resulted in a lot more goals for them, but with the nearest to the left Cameroon midfielder always moving central making room for Tottenham left-back Ekotto to storm forward, then often himself coming forward in support, it left acres of space the other way for Rommedahl who at 31 still has his clear strengths in the speed and stamina departments allowing him to take advantage all game long.

That's not really anything new however. Danish coach Morten Olsen's lineups (especially in the past) with classic wings has often had that effect, but where Rommedahl time and time again has failed to execute. His technique letting down what his pace had created, this time, this game, it all came together and his ball control, deliveries and finishing were nothing to complain about at all.


Lionel Messi

Pretty much a repeat performance from the first round so look for the finer points in last week's writeup.

Argentina again with two other forwards had the scenario where Messi was extremely dangerous throughout creating numerous threatening situations both for himself and for teammates.

South Korea until they fell far behind defended better than Nigeria and with Veron missing we saw less passing quality on what was an unbalanced Argentina midfield, forcing Messi to spend a little bit too much time further back, but again, it was the kind of game that for anyone else would have been extraordinary.


Diego Forlan - Uruguay

Simply in a league of his own for most of the game against South Africa.

Extremely intelligent play with all the right runs and passes plus of course the technical ability to execute to perfection.

Two goals doesn't hurt but for Uruguay Forlan is much more than that and is the one player in attacking midfield (especially when both Suarez and Cavani are in the lineup) and the final third that all the others can look to, who will make them better. The talisman of the team.

My only worry is his stamina where it seems he has to take some longish breaks sometimes but in all other periods he definitely works at high intensity.


Rabaah Sadane
- Algeria

A coach I know very little about. What his tactical philosophy or tendencies are I have no idea so I can't offer much insight, but credit to him for making England, a team usually very threatening, even against teams defending in numbers, look very toothless.

Most eye catching was that through their advantage in numbers in midfield, Algeria didn't just manage to obstruct England play with defending, but with the ball they passed and moved with it well enough using the available space and most attempts of England ball-pressure were made to look hopeless with little effect.
There were never any panic at all and that they actually ended up having the ball more (even if only slightly) than a team that was supposed to put them under great pressure speak volumes and they held on to a shockingly comfortable 0-0 draw.

Second Team:

Gk: Mark Paston - New Zealand

Lb: Fabio Coentrao - Portugal
Cb: Diego Godin - Uruguay
Cb: Tulio - Japan
Rb: Sergio Ramos - Spain

Mf: Sami Khedira - Germany
Mf: Enrique Vera - Paraguay

Rw: Elano - Brazil
Am: Roque Santa Cruz - Paraguay

Lf: David Villa - Spain

Striker: Luis Fabiano - Brazil

Coach: Gerardo Martino - Paraguay


Mark Paston - New Zealand

I don't know if he really was the second best keeper this round. Stojkovic from Serbia had to make some really good saves and Thomas Sorensen from Denmark as well. Sorensen did however, indirectly at least, contribute to what was the farcical passing in the Denmark defense, so he couldn't really be included.

Most importantly Paston just didn't make any mistakes in what was a situation where he saw plenty of crosses and shots from the outside. By flooding space deep central in their own half with a great collective effort against Italy, New Zealand was definitely counting on Paston to deal with outside efforts as well as all deliveries that entered goalkeeper territory. He did all of those things very well and New Zealand held on to a great 1-1 draw against the defending champions from Italy.


Fabio Coentrao - Portugal

In Portugal's first game we saw him defend well under what was considerable pressure from a physical Ivory Coast team that had won the midfield battle.

That alone almost won him a place on one of my teams but in the end he just missed out.

This round we really saw what he could do going forward as well and that he is a former or sometimes winger definitely makes sense.

There were signs of a very good understanding with Cristiano Ronaldo and if Ronaldo doesn't neglect his fullback but take advantage of both their talents, instead of just his own, then Portugal will have a very dangerous combination coming from the left.

Centre back:

Diego Godin - Uruguay

With his partner Lugano, he was responsible for the most dominant central defender display this round. Simple as that!

Heitinga, Juan and New Zealand hero Nielsen were other impressive centre-backs this round but all just miss out.

Centre back:

Tulio - Japan

Good looking defender with a very impressive performance against the Netherlands where he was reading the game well and winning duels against the Dutch attackers throughout.

Most impressive to me was the range he commanded. He made great interventions out left especially and as Japan later in the game pushed up playing a higher line he was comfortable even there as well.

Right back:

Sergio Ramos - Spain

I had trouble finding good right-back candidates this round and even though the Ivory Coast put a lot of effort into blocking his forward progress, I was looking at a repeat Maicon inclusion. Ramos though with his persistent attacking display against Honduras, steals the spot in the last minute.


Sami Khedira

Khedira's midfield partner Schweinsteiger had another really good game but I'm going with Khedira this time who throughout the game against Serbia showed splendid two-way play.

Even when Germany was reduced to 10 men and playing without a striker he managed to take on him coming from behind Özil, who was put on top, and make run after run forward without the ball keeping the Serbian defenders very busy and under pressure - creating space for both the passers like Schweinsteiger and Ozil to exploit as well as other runners like Müller and especially Podolski who unfortunately just couldn't find the net on the very good amount of chances Germany created while being one man down.

Overall Khedira was an everywhere man in this game for Germany with all the right movement and good solid passing whatever his position on the field.

Noteworthy midfield performances that didn't make it this round (mainly to make room for strikers where even a hattrick wasn't enough) were: various Algerian midfielders frustrating England, Yebda, Lacin and Ziani on the wing being a passing option always and showing ability with the ball.

Birsa the Slovenian number 10 played a great first half against the U.S where he hardly put a foot wrong, but then faded badly in the second half. For team USA Landon Donovan had another good game and up front in the second half Jozy Altidore was causing havoc in the Slovenian back four with his athleticism and aggression.

For Brazil, Melo had one of those good games he rarely had for Juventus all season and for the Oranje Mark Van Bommel showed signs of life with a very controlling midfield display not least featuring his impressive passing range. Personally I look forward, when like at Bayern, he can get some real wingers to pass it diagonal to, and I'm sure I'm not alone...

Finally these three (deeper) central midfielders also played very well, Carmona for Chile and for Spain Alonso and Busquets. You can question if they should both be there playing at the same time but at least they're having no trouble playing together and don't step on the eachother's toes.

Also for Spain, Xavi was being Xavi, and if Spain make it out of the group, I'm sure that sooner rather than later, that will be more than enough for a place on the team.


Enrique Vera - Paraguay

Another great performer from Paraguay's very dominant display against Slovakia.

Vera worked extremely hard in what was mostly right-central midfield but this was another everywhere man performance where as the picture above shows he was also up there applying that key high pressure which completely neutralized the Slovaks.

Good defensively by putting on pressure always and a threat going forward with fast running, supporting the front three, even earning him a goal. Very good.

Attacking midfield/Forward:

Roque Santa Cruz - Paraguay

Santa Cruz looks to have hit form just at the right time and really surprised me with this performance.

The other Paraguay forwards, the Dortmund boys, Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez also had very good games but it was Santa Cruz with the best all round performance I thought.

Especially his movement often behind the other two, just ahead of the midfielders, I didn't expect and throughout he was able to keep up the hard work putting on similar pressure on the defenders as the younger lighter guys, and then in possession he was even more of a presence in more places than they were, leading the way for his team in the final third.
In some ways similar to what Forlan is doing when playing with both of Suarez and Cavani for Uruguay.

Right wing:

Elano - Brazil

Really close between a number of players this time around.

Dos Santos from Mexico has a good case for a second inclusion after another spectacular game. To a lesser extent the same could be said of Sanchez from Chile, who if certain teammates would have just passed to him when he was open towards the end against Switzerland could have scored some goals as well.

And then there is Krasic who absolutely terrorized German left-back Badstuber but in the end I'm going with Elano who until he was carried out injured after a bad challenge was Brazil's best attacking threat of the stars behind striker Fabiano.

Good pace and dribbling. Great shooting and excellent deliveries when on the ball, and without it very hard working managing to support the midfield a lot better than his partner in crime on the other wing, Robinho.

An impressive performance, really making me regret (I did have a feeling it would happen) that I cut him late from my 200 best players in the world list. He did at least get an honorary mention...


David Villa

I did consider if him making the stupid mistake of lashing out against a Honduras defender should cost him and put one of the other good forward candidates this round ahead of him. Unlike the first round of games, there were many excellent performances this round.

Higuain might not even be up there among the very best, he had an inconsistent game I thought, but he still scored a hattrick taking advantage of his teammates great play.

Then there was Bendtner and especially Eto'o in the crazy wild attacking Denmark - Cameroon game.

Barrios, Valdez and Altidore I have already mentioned and what about Ozil for Germany continuing with quality playmaking even when reduced to 10 man and put out of position on top after Klose was gone.
Unfortunately coach Löw decided to mess with a good thing and substituted him too early, costing both of them really, a place on the team.

I should also mention Carlos Tevez who had a really good game against South Korea.

Overall though, Villa when he was good, was better than all of them. For Valencia towards the end of the season he started struggling and had games where he was looking a shadow of himself.
Then to have a game like this, looking like his usual deadly self, has to be a massive boost for Spain. Especially when their other star striker Fernando Torres is still battling back from an injury, layoff looking not at his best yet.


Luis Fabiano - Brazil

Despite what replay showed was great hands on one of his goals, an overall excellent box striker performance from Luis Fabiano who just complements the rest of the Brazil attacking players formidably.

He is an effective target for quality deliveries from Elano or Maicon on the right and central or lefthe can be the centerpiece in quick passing combinations with Kaka, Robinho or Bastos coming from behind. You couldn't ask for more and he is an absolute key to Brazil looking as dangerous as they do in the final third.


Gerardo Martino - Paraguay

Close call between a number of coaches. Tabarez - Uruguay for his tactical timing switching between attack and defense not just between games but in them and of course New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert organizing a team far behind in talent well enough to frustrate their opponents.

I'm gonna go with Paraguay coach Martino though for masterminding the complete neutralization of an opponent to an extent which you rarely see.

In a turnaround from the game against Italy where they sat deep, but from what I understand not unusual for Paraguay, he played 3 players up front with clear instructions of putting as much pressure without the ball on the Slovak defenders.

That created countless of 2 on 2 or even 2 on 3 situations for the Slovak defenders who were just nowhere nearly good enough technically to handle it, resulting in one desperate clearance or backpass to the goalkeeper after another, completely preventing the whole team from ever getting any rhythm.

With plenty of strong forwards at his disposal (especially now after Barrios has joined) it also looks like a good move playing Santa Cruz in more of a Forlan role. One I didn't think he would be capable of but against the Slovaks at least he did very well.

Everywhere in the Paraguay formation there is hard work and defensive discipline and when attacking the decisions are good and the movement quick. There is even fluidity across midfield and from the forwards.

It just looks like a very well coached team.

torsdag den 17. juni 2010

World Cup 2010 Best of round 1: Second team

1st team

And here is the 2nd team:


Tim Howard - USA

He didn't make any mistakes and had many good saves in a game where his team was under a lot of pressure. Just not quite as difficult ones, or as many I don't think, as Enyema in the Nigeria goal.

Another candidate was Swiss keeper Benaglio but overall I thought the other two prevented more clear chances.


Siaka Tiene - Ivory Coast

Had trouble finding suitable candidates for this position but he edges out Portugal left-back Coentrao cause he offered more forward in that game, as well as take care of his defensive duties, including, at least some of the time (he was drifting around) dealing with C. Ronaldo. Which he did very well.

For Argentina and in general it's always a good thing when Gabriel Heinze doesn't have an erratic game. He was solid defensively but I have to think about how I should rate good Argentina fullback performances when they rarely go past the halfway line. But at least, unlike compatriot Gutierrez on the other side, he is taking of business defensively.

Maybe Bastos the versatile out of position Brazilian could also have been a candidate but I just can't give out too much praise for having a good game against North Korea.


Bruno Alves - Portugal

Another centreback from a team who lost the midfield battle but then handled the ensuing pressure from the opponents (Ivory Coast) very well preventing many chances.

Carvalho his partner also did well but in this particular game Alves work in the air handling the very strong Ivory Coast players was extra impressive I thought.


Kolo Toure - Ivory Coast

Very close here between several players. Mensah, Godin, Lugano, Carvalho, Chiellini and even Cannavaro and Terry (and probably many more including various Koreans!) were people I think you could make a case for, but Toure had one of those very commanding games where he completely dominated Portugal striker Liedson.
He also looked very good starting attacks with runs or passes and generally showed good leadership.

Right back:

Steven Cherundolo - USA

Edges out Duri from South Korea and Isla from Chile, because he faced and beat tougher opponents than they did.

Maybe his direct opponent Milner was sick and not at his best but forcing him out of a game like that is still something you rarely see and an achievement in itself almost.

Then later he dealt with whatever else was thrown at him from the England bench and all in all made an important contribution earning a point against a very good opponent.


Gelson Fernandes - Switzerland

Tough to say who really did the best all important job on the Swiss defensive midfield.

You can't really put a finger on either of Gokhan Inler or Huggel, but I did notice Fernandes defending both wing and central at times while looking comfortable.
He also covered possibly more ground than anyone else so far in the tournament at 12244 meters (someone should check). And he even scored the goal.

Over the years I haven't seen him consistently but whenever I have he has always looked very promising. Didn't make it at Manchester City though.


Yaya Toure - Ivory Coast

Quite simply the major contributor in winning the midfield battle against a Portugal team normally responsible for creating many chances through their passing and pace. That just didn't happen against the Ivory Coast and the pressure Toure put on both ways, defending and going forward, was very important.


Anthony Annan - Ghana

He did the holding midfielder anchor role close to perfection against Serbia. Supported the defenders, the midfielders and passed the ball around very well.

If this just happens to be something he does often then I don't think he'll be at Rosenborg for very long, since it's something a lot of clubs seems to be looking for.


Thomas Müller - Germany

Has definitely become one of my favorite players this season and is superb without the ball which we saw again this round.

Great work-rate and movement, he helps defend and he attacks. Has pace and strength. Anything good he does with the ball is just a great bonus and against Australia he did plenty.

Müller's piercing runs and Özil's passing finding him could terrorize defenses this world cup.


Giovani Dos Santos - Mexico

Has been a positive surprise the recent games where I've seen him (including some of Mexico's many friendlies that hopefully won't end up costing them) and it is obvious that he feels much more at home playing for Mexico than what we've mostly seen in European club football.
He continued his good form in the opener against South Africa and with his pace and skill created many dangerous situations for himself and others.


Robinho - Brazil

Lineup for this 2nd team doesn't really make much sense, which isn't a priority either, and I have a hard time finding good candidates for the last couple of forward spots and maybe I should have added another midfielder instead.

Diego Forlan was also good in his opener against France but will be a much stronger candidate next time around. Gervinho from Ivory Coast perhaps another decent candidate.

Robinho I think could easily become one of the stars of the tournament being a key player in Brazil's attacking game. Against North Korea with excellent skills he was one of the few Brazilian positives creating for himself and others.


Kim Jong-Hun - North Korea

Edges out Rajevac, Bradley, Eriksson and Bielsa (just for being Bielsa) who all did very good things with their teams.

But most credit of all goes to Kim Jong Hun (whatever the method..) for installing exemplary teamwork into his players. Hard work, correct movement in attack and defense. And all the right passes too! Especially in transition.
Without those ingredients this team wouldn't be able to do much at all. Instead they just gave mighty Brazil a pretty close match. Well done.

onsdag den 16. juni 2010

World Cup 2010 Best of round 1: First team

No the list isn't dead but any hope of finishing it before the World Cup obviously is...

Right now I'm living and breathing the World Cup 24/7 so realistically I don't know how likely new list entries will indeed be. Probably not all that likely to be honest.

I might write something about the World Cup though, but already do plenty on forums or blogs...

But what I will and can do (right now) with every country having been in action is put down my 1st round of fixtures all star team. A first and a second team of the players and coaches I think have been performing the best.

I'll compile these teams for each round of fixtures right till the very finish with the final itself and the 3rd place game.

By then of course there won't be many performers left to choose from but hopefully at the end, if nothing else just by looking at who has the most Long throwins all star entries, we'll have a very good idea of who (according to me!) the real stars have been this World Cup.

It also goes without saying that the accompanying writeups will be a nice excuse to put some thoughts down on both players, teams and matches that have been played.



Vincent Enyeama - Nigeria

A number of keepers made bad errors these opening matches. Enyeama made none and then quite simply, and quite clearly I think, was the keeper with the highest number of spectacular and difficult saves to keep his team in a match were they were under a lot of pressure.

The Nigeria team recently taken over by longterm Sweden national coach Lars Lagerbeck didn't really yet look like one of the rigid 4-4-2 Sweden teams. One those that put a stop to Bielsa's exciting 2002 Argentina team. Something for which Lagerbeck rightly feels proud.

This however was a far cry from that and there were plenty of holes between the Nigerian defensive lines to exploit for the Argentinian attackers, and more than anything it was down to Enyeama that Nigeria stayed alive in the match right until the very end.

Unfortunately for Nigeria though that didn't result in them getting a point, but that's no fault of Enyema who was outstanding.


Phillipp Lahm - Germany

Contrary to the right-back position I had enough trouble finding excellent left-back candidates, that I'm going to cheat and put the best right-back in the first round, on the left instead.

On that note I've always felt Lahm was more excellent on the left anyway.

I'm not sure why exactly but it could be that I don't really see Lahm as the type of fullback who is relying on being dynamic or athletic limiting himself almost to the type of play where the great fullback-life objective is to deliver crosses into the box from his natural right side, not that there is anything wrong with that, but Lahm is more than that.

I like him more getting lots of touches, including cutting inside more central, and with his excellent technique and intelligence be very involved in possession. Then good things happen.

That can happen on the right as well of course but I just feel he is more of a standard fullback out there, while on the left his craftsmanship makes him unique.

With all that being said though, playing on the right he definitely had a very good start to this World Cup.

He defended with his usual class (when it comes to defending actually I do think it's safe to say he is more comfortable on the right) and in true Lahm style he was consistently able to occupy the right-midfield and there, like I just talked about what I love from on the left, with skills and intelligence make great (or simply very constructive) contributions whenever Germany were in possession.


Antolin Alcarez - Paraguay

Italy didn't really have trouble getting the ball in and around Paraguay's box area in the sides 1-1 draw and I thought clearly won the midfield battle in front of a defensive line pushing high up.

Where they didn't win however, despite wide forwards moving central to increase pressure further, were the individual matchups against the Paraguay defenders.

Alcarez in particular was good and while scoring a good goal, which he also did, isn't a qualification itself, it certainly doesn't hurt!


Isaac Vorsah - Ghana

In Ghana's match against Serbia he completely matched giant opposing striker Zigic in strength and outplayed him in all other areas, taking completely out of Serbia's game what playing with two strikers was perhaps the only getaway for their outnumbered - under pressure midfield.

From early on it was apparent that feeding Zigic with longer passes was going to get them nowhere and instead Zigic was forced on an uncomfortable mission seeking passes further back in midfield, away from where his true strengths are, trying to help out his midfield in different ways.
Predictable to no avail though and Ghana could control most of the match. When Antic finally acted and brought on Lazovic a player providing different movement than big Zigic and potentially able to help out the outgunned midfield, it proved too late with a red card soon after and then Ghana scoring with Serbia not able to come back.

All in all then a clear effect on winning the game by a centreback. I like it.


Maicon - Brazil

Many good candidates here and I'm gonna mention them when I get to the 2nd. team.

Lahm was probably the best but like I said I'm cheating and placing him on the left, which then leaves Maicon as the right-back prime candidate.

There really isn't a more dominating right-back in world football and after a slow start to the season he has been back to his best for a while now, marauding up and down the right wing, with not least power, but good skills as well.

In a largely uninspired Brazilian performance against a North Korea team showing exemplary team work it was from Maicon's qualities that Brazil were at their most dangerous throughout and eventually where they broke the deadlock as well through an extraordinary goal.

I have a feeling this won't be his last appearance.


Sebastian Schweinsteiger - Germany

The versatile midfielder has played a new deeper central role all season and with Ballack missing out on injury it was "Schweini's" time to take control.

In midfield for Bayern he has helped control games all season and predictably enough Australia were not the team who was going to put a stop to it.

Hard working, disciplined combined with decent skills from his attacking midfielder background and then that very good range of passing means this probably won't be Schweinsteiger's last appearance either.


Ji Sung Park - South Korea :

Fantastic trademark two-way performance. Park controlled central midfield outworking and outplaying any nearby Greeks and then in his usual relentless style managed to contribute just about everywhere else both attacking and defending. Can't ask for more and don't need to.

Attacking midfielder:

Mesut Özil - Germany

Already a star in the Bundesliga and just like that, one World Cup match performance doing what he usually does, and now a star everywhere!

Supremely gifted playmaker who creates and scores goals.


Alexis Sanchez - Chile

He did all the things I was hoping to see for Chile and with a striker presence around him which was lacking in Chile's first game, unfortunately Suazo was out injured, I think Sanchez can be even better.

Like I said in the profile of him in that "2oo best players in the world entry, this is a cannonball of a player. Very explosive and skilled making him a persistent danger in Chile's dynamic attacking game.

He is also very hard working and therfore also a real defensive asset in Bielsa's high pressing game where he'll often win the ball back quickly.


Lukas Podolski - Germany

As always he is coming of yet another terrible club season but as soon as he puts on the Nationalmannschaft jersey he becomes great. Go figure!

No I don't really think it's some strange psychological effect. Overall he is just a great fit for the way Löw wants to play and many of the players surrounding him. Not least Klose of course.
Though that doesn't explain then, as I remember it anyway, that when they were together at Bayern, Podolski still wasn't able to perform.

So yeah, maybe after all this born Pole is just a great German patriot saving himself for national duty!


Lionel Messi - Argentina

This was Messi's best performance in an Argentina shirt for a long time.

Probably the best ever for Maradona, by some distance, and while it may not have been anything extraordinary by Messi's own godly standards, I think it's fair to reward him for finally getting over that very frustrating hurdle.

With two other forwards in the Argentina lineup (both Higuain and Tevez) there were finally somewhat similar conditions to Barcelona with people around Messi making runs, being threats, being dynamic with their movement, creating space so that Messi himself could work himself into positions where he was fronting the goal.
Messi consistently with his back to the goal is just something that should make everyone who loves football sad and it seems finally Maradona (or Bilardo) had seen enough.

Now unlike at Barca there isn't a Xavi to find him like that almost anywhere no matter where he is, in comparison Argentina's passing game is much slower (thank you Veron), so sometimes he had to come quite deep before he would get it. The truly amazing thing though was that almost where ever he would receive the ball, just as long as he was fronting the goal, with skill and pace, he was able to create a dangerous situation for himself or someone else. Time and time again. From out wide or some way back central, it somehow never failed. No one else in the world could have done that. He has to be on the team.


Ottmar Hitzfeld - Switzerland

We just saw Switzerland pull of a great upset by beating Spain. I don't really know if what we saw were true defensive greatness or just the day where everything went well for the Swiss and the final touch never for Spain.

No matter what though, it was a very good defensive performance and no doubt organized by the veteran master on the sidelines.

Stopping the World Cup favorites who have gone from victory to victory and doing it with exactly the same tactics that so many have tried yet in the end failed with, IS an achievement. No matter what.
Therefore it just has to be Hitzfeld then, who steals the 1st team coach spot on the last day.

I'll post the perhaps more interesting 2nd team tomorrow.