Tag Archives: Germany

Argentina – Genuine Contenders?


The general consensus in the footballing world at the moment is that Germany and Argentina have been the teams which have impressed so far at the World Cup. Germany did it against a rather poor Australian outfit, and it could have easily been a repeat of their 2002 opening encounter against Saudi Arabia. Argentina first beat a respectable Nigerian side 1-0, a team that lacks a bit of quality, but to be fair to the South American’s it was just one of those days where the ball wasn’t finding the back of the net. Then last night they played some breathtaking football, to brush aside Asia’s best footballing nation in South Korea. Messi and Tevez ran the show, and Gonzalo Higuain continued on his brilliant goalscoring form which we saw throughout the La Liga season. But the real question is, are Argentina good enough to win the World Cup?

Diego shows how it's done from outside the white lines

Jubalani Shmubalani

Rewind back to the 2006 World Cup, and Argentina were in the “group of death”. They strolled passed Ivory Coast and then produced one of the better international performances in recent times, beating Serbia & Montenegro 6-0. Qualifying with ease, pundits around the word lauded over the Argentinians, putting them down as the team to beat. Then came the round of 16, and an unimpressive  2-1 extra-time victory over Mexico. In the quarter-finals, Argentina lost to the German’s (typically) on penalties. Pekerman came under intense criticism over his decision to use Lionel Messi as a substitute throughout the tournament, as well as the decision to start Cambiasso on the bench in the quarter-finals. But the overall story of Argentina’s tournament was their breathtaking form in the group stages, in contrast to their rather flat performances in the knockout rounds. One would hope this will not be the case this time round.

This World Cup we see a fairly different side though. Mascherano and Heinze are the only two players who regained their spots in the starting XI from the last World Cup. Messi, Tevez, Higuain and Di Maria are some of the most exciting players at the tournament, and they will be the men who can lead Argentina to World Cup glory. Sadly, Gutierrez still finds himself in the team; even more worryingly at right-back. Maradona as a matter of fact cannot fathom an Argentine team without Jonas: “Mascherano, Messi, Jonás and eight more”. Argentina once again also have Jewish representation in their squad – Walter Samuel, who I have been led to believe is a non-practicing Jew. Let’s hope that hamstring injury won’t rule him out the the rest of the tournament.

Last but not forgotten is Diego Maradona. He may not be a tactical genius, but he certainly seems to be a motivational phenomenon. He seems to instil confidence into every player in his team. They all look very comfortable on the ball, and what is very important is that they have been encouraged to express themselves with the ball at their feet. Maradona stuck with Higuain after his assortment of misses against Nigeria, and as we all know, it paid off massively. What Maradona has done brilliantly, is give Messi the license the roam. Messi has been everywhere, and there is no doubt Maradona knows where to start the man, who’s playing style is almost identical to the infamous gaffer. Most importantly, the Argentinian squad all love Diego to bits. They trust him and they respect him, something which cannot be said for the French camp.

While we have to wait and see whether or not Argentina’s brilliant performances will carry through the knockout stages, we can certainly say we have been greatly entertained by Maradona’s men (And Maradona himself, he just can’t help himself when the ball rolls up to him!). Unlike Michael Cockerill (PTS’s favourite journalist!), I am not sensationally claiming that Argentina are the best thing since sliced bread, but with Lionel Messi, and his incredible supporting act, who knows what this team can achieve?


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Group Matches (P)review


Round-up Groups A-D

So the 2010 World Cup is well under way, and with a paltry average of 1.56 goals a game after the first round of group games compared to 2.43 at this stage in 2006, I think it’s fair to say that this has not been quite what global audiences hoped or expected. A closer look, however, would suggest that perhaps this lack of goals is not so surprising; the defensively minded 4-2-3-1 formation du jour has certainly made itself known at the competition. Let’s hope for some more goals second time round!

So, a quick round up and summary of what can we expect from the rest of the group matches:

Group A

Ok, well South Africa have already lost 3-0 to a far more attack minded Uruguay outfit than we experienced against France back in the second match of the tournament, quite understandably. Whilst the scoreline is slightly flattering in favour of the South Americans, they certainly deserved the win, and South Africa’s discipline was poor. South Africa didn’t show the energy and creativity they did against Mexico, and talismanic midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala was wasteful. Diego Forlan proved his worth to Uruguay, scoring the first two goals and playing a part in the third and they now look well-placed to go through the group.

Coming up tonight is France v Mexico, a must-win game for both teams. France will surely drop the awful Govou for Florent Malouda, in the form of his career, and perhaps Franck Ribery will pass the ball to a player? It’s anyone’s guess! It would be nice to see ‘Handball-Henry’ for more than 20 minutes but seems unlikely given Raymond Domenech’s tendency to be a stubborn imbecile. Mexico will look to speedy youngster Giovanni dos Santos again to provide the flair for the team, as well as the basis for everything good they create – another example of a player who hasn’t had much club game time in recent years experiencing a resurgence in his fortunes at the World Cup. And perhaps ManU new boy Javi Hernandez will get a decent run?

Prediction: France 2-2 Mexico

Group B

Argentina escaped the brick wall of Nigeria with a less than convincing 1-0 win, but we were still lucky enough to witness some of the gold that makes Lionel Messi the best player in the world. Some strange decisions by mad-man Maradona, but that’s not really a surprise at all, is it? He came out and said that the only three players guaranteed starting positions were Messi, Mascherano, and Gutierrez – a fairly startling claim considering the wealth of talent in the squad. Then we witnessed the latter playing at right back, quite different from his left-wing berth at Newcastle – another instance of players too good to be left out, perhaps.  A tough game tonight against South Korea will likely prove a greater challenge than Nigeria. The Super Eagles looked strong at the back but were undone by Heinze’s rocket-header into the top-corner early on. They didn’t look so good up front, but with attacking players like Obafemi Martins, John Utaka, and Kanu supporting the Yak, they will always pose a threat, especially in the air.  Vincent Enyeama put in a great display between the sticks to keep them in the match, and they’ll fancy their chances of picking up 3 points tonight against Greece.

South Korea showed that they’ve got what it takes with a solid 2-0 win over a poor and frankly negative Greece. South Korea meet Argentina tonight in what will hopefully prove to be the most exciting game the group, and could well decide first place. Park Ji-Sung looked good, and their stylish play is in stark contrast to most teams in the tournament thus far. They will have to hold back a bit against Messi’s men, but should put up a good fight. Dark horse for the quarters?

Greece have a reputation for being a strong and organised defensive side, but here they were undone by some slick passing, much more of which is to come when they face Argentina. Up front they looked lacking in ideas. Points for them in the rest of the group will be hard to come by. They have a chance to sneak a draw tonight against Nigeria, but my guess says they will finish as group B whipping boys.

Predictions: Argentina 2-1 South Korea

Greece 0-1 Nigeria

Maradona quotes this week:

“I am not afraid of anyone or anything – unless they are wearing a mask…”

On Pele: “He should go back to the museum and stay there.”

On Michel Platini: “He’s French and we all know how French people are. If they say ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ that’s something.”

More insightful than I could ever hope to be. Wonderful stuff, let’s hope they keep coming!

Group C

England opened their campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with the USA – a decent result for them, despite what most people seem to think. St. Stevie’s early goal – a real skipper’s goal – was cancelled out by Rob Green’s decision to let Clint Dempsey’s pass trickle over the line. What? Surely that wasn’t an accident? Whatever. England should still win the group, and they’d better hope they do, otherwise they can expect to face a rampant Germany in the second round, who on first showing will tear them a collective new asshole.  Despite what most critics seem to think I still reckon Heskey was rubbish and should make way for Crouch, or alternatively, Gerrard move forward and Barry take over in the centre. Cole should replace the lacklustre Milner on the left.

The US, on the other hand, looked lively and much hungrier than England, but still failed to trouble the England defenders too much. Altidore was probably the pick of the bunch, strolling past the creaking bones of Jamie Carragher. Some increased invention from his team-mates in their next match against Slovenia could see a fair few goals scored, and if they’re lucky they might edge England out at the top of the group.

The Slovenia v Algeria match was one of the poorest matches yet. No one on the field could come to grips with the diabolical Jabulani ball, with passes being floated almost out of the stadium. The highlight (lowlight?) of the match came when Algerian keeper Faouzi Chouachi threw West Brom alumni Robert Koren’s tame strike into the side of the net. Both teams looked defensive, with chances on goal coming at a premium. Nadir Belhadj looked lively for Algeria, getting forward regularly from his left-back role, but failed to inspire a goal. Interesting statistic: Abdelkader Ghezzal picked up two yellows in just 14 minutes and 19 seconds, making him the fastest substitute to pick up two yellow cards in World Cup history. There’s really not much else to be said about this game. Both teams will struggle again on Friday night and one would expect England and USA to push on from Group C.

Predictions: England 2-0 Algeria

USA 1-0 Slovenia

Group D

Aussie Aussie Aussie! Nein!

No cheering from the Aussies after their 4-0 demolition at the hands of a clinical German outfit that could have scored even more goals. Lucas Podolski played a big part just as the webmaster predicted, and his fine finish in the 8th minute started the rout. Mesut Ozil also had a strong showing, playing in the roaming role behind Klose. Ballack’s absence was hardly noticed with Bastian Schweinsteiger effortlessly slotting into a deeper role. That said, Pim Verbeek’s tactics were extremely negative, choosing not to field a recognized striker in a compact but ill-disciplined and ill-prepared 4-2-1-2-1 formation. Lucas Neill and Craig Moore looked out of their depth and far too slow at the back. Tim Cahill clearly forgot to eat the Weetbix he so heartily endorses. The only positive comments can come from the performance of Brett Emerton, Wilkshire to a lesser extent, and Brett Holman who injected some much needed energy at half-time. Verbeek’s questionable tactics have come under much criticism, and the Aussies will need to bounce back with gusto against Ghana on Saturday night if they are to have any chance of going through.

Ghana and Serbia produced the first victory for an African nation at the tournament, and it was quite an entertaining game to boot. Serbia looked surprisingly frail at the back, and human giant Nikola Zigic was wasteful up front. They failed to produce sustained pressure on the Ghanaian goal and suffered for it. Ghana were slightly better, pressuring the Serbian defence whenever they were in possession. Asamoah Gyan netted a penalty to take the lead after Serbia had gone down to 10 men, and this win gives them a good chance of going through to the next round. Serbia will struggle with the speed and efficiency of the German attack, and a loss will probably knock them out of the running for second round qualification. Ghana face Australia who will be desperate for a victory, and perhaps in this case, desperation will prevail over superiority.

Predictions: Australia 1-0 Ghana

Germany 3-1 Serbia

Acknowledgements: Thanks to editor and minor contributor, Fishface Shakur.

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WORLD CUP HIGHLIGHTS


With so much football action being almost suffocated by university exams and other joyous ventures, FFTD has taken a bit of a hit, but just to make the 1 reader we have happy, here’s a quick post…

These videos are outstanding!

In case you wanted to take a peak at the Socceroo’s drubbing again, well here it is! (Analysis to follow) (It’s awesome that Cacau has a black face, but white/yellow hands – Michael Jackson eat your heart out)

The opening game has still probably been the best spectacle and you can check it out here:

Who could forget Mr Green’s howler:

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World Cup Preview – Group D – Germany


What better place to start in the “vice-group of death” then the Germans. These guys are a genuine title chance.

THE BASICS

• Nickname: Die Mannschaft (sounds awesome, just means: The Team)
• Colors: White, Red, Yellow and Black
• FIFA Ranking: 6
• How They Got Here: Qualified without a loss in a European group with Russia, Finland and Wales.
• World Cup Pedigree: 6 World Cups as Germany (’34, ’38, ’94, ’98, ’02, ’06), runners-up once, third place and quarterfinals twice; 10 World Cups as West Germany (’54, ’58, ’62, ’66, ’70, ’74, ‘ 78, ’82, ’86, ’90), winners three times (’54, ’74, ’90), qualified for the knockout round every time; 1 World Cup as East Germany (’74), qualified for second round.

THE PLOT

The Germans are always there, or there abouts, at the business end of a major tournament. Whether it’s their consistency, perfection or profound winning culture, the Germans are one of football’s downright superpowers. It’s been a stellar year for German football, with strong showings in the Champions League and the Europa League. The Bundeslega has revolutionised itself. Bayern, in particular has a raft of talented players, while retaining their German essence. The German squad is now entirely based in Germany (thanks to Mr Ballack’s withdrawal) making them only one of two squads (England is the other) to enjoy this feat. That means that all the players will be familiar with the same tactical system – typically German – and also have regular contact with each other. This is one united front, that will be a threat for the title – as always.

THE DIRECTOR

Joachim Low

Low enters the tournament under consistent pressure. Despite leading the side to a final at Euro ’08 and by all reports, being the mastermind behind their third place in ’06, Low is disliked by many. He’s more of a tactician than an inspiration, but his low profile isn’t necessarily a weak point; look at Maradona. (Did you see what he said about the toilets!??!) Germany is the most decorated soccer nation in Europe and with that pedigree comes certain responsibilities. Low knows that a trophy is the bottom line.

LEADING MAN

Miroslav Klose

This spot was reserved last week (when I started this preview) for Chelsea’s midfield boss Michael Ballack. Maybe it’d be more appropriate to leave this section blank? Who will step up into the role? The side is full of players who, for their club sides, often play second fiddle to genuine superstars. The German players at Bayern, such as Klose, are overshadowed by those Dutch and French dudes. In South Africa, the experienced players will have to step into the limelight. Klose fits the bill. He’s done it all before, and already has a double figure goal tally in World Cups. If Klose fires then the Germans will be almost impossible to beat.

SUPPORTING CAST

Bastian Schweinsteiger (midfielder, Bayern Munich) is only 25, but seems to have been around forever. He’ll wear the captain’s armband without Ballack around, despite a poor season in clubland. With injury trouble in “the number 6 role” (It’s a German term for the two holding midfielders that their side always includes) Bastian will have to be the major bread winner and creative muse going forward. Lukas Podolski (forward, FC Koln), is another player who has had a turbulent couple of seasons. The Polish born striker always seems to save his best for the adopted country and will be looking to rekindle the form that had him as the world’s hottest talent once upon a time. PTS is an enormous fan of Philipp Lahm (left back, Bayern Munich) who is consistently overlooked by his colleagues. Don’t worry about Evra, Cole, or anyone else, Lahm is the best in football. In ’06 he was arguably player of the tournament and his wide overlapping runs for Bayern were a dominant feature of the Champions League. He’s like the Duracell bunny (for all you Australian advertising moguls) and just never seems to run out of puff. He can also play either side of the pitch. Lahm could destroy sides like Australia, who don’t offer much going forward, and will allow Lahm to be employed as an extra midfielder more than a defender. Christoph Metzelder (defender, Real Madrid) and Per Mertesacker (defender, Werder Bremen) make up the hard to break down center of defense and are known in Germany as “die bruder schnarch und schleich” (“the sleepy and the slow”). Not sure if that’s really what I’d want to be labelled as, but don’t worry, these guys are good.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

I couldn’t split two players to be slapped with this tag:

Mesut Ozil

Of all the young players to keep an eye on in the Cup, the 21-year-old naturalized German (he also could have played for Turkey) is the player that will raise his profile the most. He can play just about anywhere on the pitch and was the highlight of Germany’s European championship U-21 team in 2009. He plays for Werder Bremen (for now) in Germany. Apparently, Low loves to rotate his squad, so expect Ozil to get a run against the likes of Ghana.

Sami Khedira

So who is going to fill the boots of Ballack? It’s causing quote a headache at the moment, with fringe player Trasch picking up an injury in a friendly against third division Italians (didn’t know that division even existed), FC Suditirol. Khedira is now an automatic started next to Schweinsteiger in the 4-2-3-1. There’s no back up anymore, however, with the likes of veteran Torstan Frings falling foul of the manager. Khedira will be the weak link of the side and will have to step up in a big way for his country.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Jorg Butt

This might be slightly unfair, as it’s not really Borg’s fault that he’s in this position. Obvious first choice ‘keeper, Robert Enke, sadly committed suicide last year after battling depression. Borg is a serviceable netminder for Germany’s best team (Bayern Munich) but he’s not a world-class goalie and is the one weakness the Germans have.

THE FORMATION

Low favors the strong midfield play normally found in a 4-4-2. Though, at times, he’s tried a more defensive 4-2-3-1. The papers are favouring a 4-2-3-1 setup, but the injury concerns in midfield may leave the side a little unbalanced in such a formation. Ballack is a fantastic ball hog and the possession he always attracts will have to be recovered from somewhere. Unlike the majority of other nations in South Africa, Germany are settled up front and at the back, but look to be underdone in the centre of the pitch.

THE STRIP

They will probably wear their very drab white uniform most of the time. But it’s the return of “Ze Black Shirts” that had England up in arms last year. The black shirts might dampen, slightly, the good guy image.

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”

Once feared (and, often, for good reason) on the old continent, this is a much softer and friendlier German team. Much like Darth Vader at the end of “Jedi,” when he helps atone for his past mistakes by dumping the Emperor over a balcony to his death. This isn’t meant to be a literal analogy, just a theoretical one.

THE ADVERTISMENT

USELESS TRIVIA

Melitta Bentz invented the coffee filter in Germany in 1908. Yes! Taking useless up a notch.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

Germany could settle some old scores this year. (No, not like the way you’re thinking. This will be done on the soccer field.) Possible second-round foe? The USA (a rival for obvious reasons). Quarterfinals? Argentina (a rival who toppled the Germans in ’86 and are just about even with Germany behind Brazil in the Cup pecking order). Semifinals? Spain (a continental rival who ousted them in Euro 2008). Finals? Brazil (the only team with a better World Cup record)

FINAL VERDICT

Considering that Ballack won’t feature in the World Cup, it’s remarkable how many times he’s managed to filter into this article. (Michael Ballack – once more for good measure) More than being the group of death, Group D looks to be the group of injury, with the German and Ghanian captains (Essien) and Australia’s best player (Kewell) under heavy injury clouds or ruled out altogether. The absence of these players can not be understated (and opens the door for Serbia in a big way). Germany were once a well-oiled machine. Against them, you’d never get a sniff. You wouldn’t even touch the ball. But, the fierce mentality doesn’t seem to exude off their squad this time around. Who’s the bloke that’ll slide into “that” challenge and break someone’s leg? Who’s the bloke that looks like he’s about to explode with rage?

The Germans have only missed out on knockout action once before (’38 – the start of a dark period) and it’d be hard to bet against them in 2010. They’re a no-fuss side and don’t be surprised to find them in the semis before you realised. But they’re a young side and have a tough draw, so don’t be overly surprised if they do better in 2014 than this year.

World Class defence and attack + Winning Culture + The best travelling fans – terrible group (it’s physical too and will wear the side down) – lack of midfield depth – inexperience – goalkeeping issues = 2nd place in the group, mouth watering clash with England, where anything could happen.

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