Tuesday, 17 June 2014

World Cup Observations 2: How Ghana reminds me of Arsenal, in some senses

Ghana was quite disappointing today, I was going for them. Just as I had foreshadowed in my previous post, Costa Rica, and now the USA, have proven my view (somewhat, but not completely) wrong, namely that CONCACAF is overrated.



Ghana had the majority of possession but simply could not execute a finishing touch in the last third of the pitch. In particular, the crosses by the Ghanaians were quite horrible. In that sense, on this particular occasion at least, they reminded me of what Arsenal is sometimes renowned for: all flair and possession but no substance when it came to scoring (particularly in big matches at least) coupled with the usual lack of defending.

This was epitomized when Ghana scored a brilliantly worked goal through Andre Ayew, yet shortly after that, they conceded a cheap and ridiculously unnecessary corner from which USA substitute world cup debutant (now-hero) John Brooks scored an unlikely goal. After they worked so hard to score and dominate proceedings, Ghana simply gave it away.

With that criticism of Ghana being said, the United States made the best of their chances, scoring at the very beginning and at the end as well. For the most part the United States also defended very well and credit should be given to them for doing that.

A classic example

It just goes to show that "general" possession is an unhelpful indication of a team's success. Rather, what is more important is this: possession in the last third, and perhaps more accurately, possession in the penalty area and crosses into the penalty area. Obviously shots on target is key.

Barring illegal conduct or bad refereeing decisions, I am a firm believer that there is never such a thing as a "team that should have won". It always comes down to whether a team can make the most of what they are given. If they can't, they probably lose - simple as that. Cruel as it may be to say this, but no one cares if you have attacked or dominated all match but it comes down to nothing.

None of what I have said is new or ground breaking - it's all obvious stuff really.

Other observations about the World Cup thus far
  • Dempsey's goal at the 32 seconds mark was quite the entrance. I think it caught everyone off guard. They made use of their chances, there's very little else to say. Still, the USA will have to play infinitely better in terms of possession if they are to get something against Portugal or Germany.
  • I did not get to watch the full Switzerland and Ecuador game (I was out when SBS showed the replay - unfortunately, from my understanding, no other replays exist), but I did watch the highlights. What a way to seal a victory at the last-gasp by the Swiss! It must have left fans on the edges of their seats, but at least it will be talked about in Switzerland for years to come. Quite obviously, Switzerland have a good chance of progressing. A win is a win.

  • I didn't see the majority of the Nigeria-Iran match but from the limited footage I saw, Nigeria appeared to demonstrate more attacking flair than Iran, though Iran had a good chance to go ahead with Reza Ghoochannejhad's header on target drawing a good save from the Nigerian keeper. I think there was also another moment where an Iranian player scored an own goal but the whistle had already blown for a foul on the Iranian keeper - I think that was a bit harsh on the Nigerians as it looked like the keeper fell over on his own accord rather than it being John Obi Mikel fouling him. Iran also looked like they were in their own half more often than not, but of course, I didn't watch the whole match so could be wrong on this. Iran were predicted to be overly defensive though - they'd be the happier of the two as it would have been their goal to stay compact and not concede.
  • I should have mentioned this earlier but Argentina weren't that convincing. But of course, as was the case for the USA, a win is a win. A sign of a champion team is that you win even when you aren't playing well. But was it all luck? Messi's goal was very good though.
Own Goal?
  • The Valladeres own goal in the Honduras-France match again brought to the fore the distinction between a goal scored and an own goal. Here's my understanding of the FIFA rules (without having actually read the rules). It seems to me that if the original shot by the attacking player was on target, and was deflected in by another player, that is a goal from the attacking player. However, if the original shot was not on target, and then deflected into the goal, the original attacking player cannot be credited with the goal. Hence, the key is always whether the original goal was on target. Here, Benzema kicked the ball and it deflected off the post: at this stage, clearly the trajectory of the ball was not going into the goal. Once the ball rebounded off the Honduran goalkeeper, the causative effect of the ball going into the goal was from the goalkeeper and not Benzema.

Germany v Portugal: Red Card and Resting Ronaldo?
  • There is much to say about the Germany v Portugal clash. First of all, the reason why the Germans are a good team is, in my view, because of three things: 1) they make superb decisions in key moments 2) their passing is precise 3) they are fast. Importantly, and more specifically, they are able to demonstrate precise passing whilst being fast in open play. It is obviously difficult for teams to have both pace and accurate passing and that's why they are so strong. 
  • Though I know that it was probably merited, I think the referee spoiled the match by giving Pepe a red card. I saw that Craig, I think, on ESPN FC Press Pass argued that it wasn't a headbutt and that Pepe merely "leaned" into Mueller. If you define a headbutt as contact from one person's head to another person's body, then that definitely was a headbutt, no matter how soft it was. However, in the context of the situation, Mueller certainly milked that reaction from Pepe and the "headbutt" wasn't that strong. In that context, it seems a bit unfair on Portugal for them to lose a player. That being said, Pepe should have kept his cool (though we've seen him lose it before). My basic point is that it was a red but there was a culprit on both sides.
  • Ronaldo looked dangerous as always whenever he got the ball, especially with his pace. But perhaps the Portugese coach should have rested him when they knew it was a hopeless case -- sure, there is an argument to be had that Ronaldo was on to reduce the negative goal difference (which could conceivably make a difference for the race for 2nd place, likely against the USA), but given his recent injury and raw recovery, it may have been wiser to save him up for the upcoming, and more critical, USA match.
  • Rui Patricio, the Portugese keeper, was lucky on at least 2 occasions - he kept passing it to the Germans when the Portugese were vulnerable and exposed.

In other news, Balotelli is still a joker - why always him hey? He's made an Italian team full of himself.

From: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/jun/16/mario-balotelli-panini-italy-facebook-world-cup

Cheers,

Andre Lim

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