Tag Archives: Greece

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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the pecking order


The Pecking Order

The pecking order is our latest invention, or rather the latest thing we’ve pinched from Eurosport. The list starts with all 32 sides ordered based on their official FIFA ranking. After each round we’ll update the pecking order to represent good form on the pitch and also good form off it. This is the place for all your injury news, scandals or just for plain results. In brackets is their official ranking.

1 (1) – Brazil – Scrappy, but comfortable against a surprisingly robust North Korean side. Still plenty of room for improvement. Look destined for a 2nd round clash with Spain.

2 (6) – Germany – Easily the most impressive of the “big” nations in the opening round. If you’re looking for ruthless efficiency in the dictionary, you’re likely to find the word Germany straight after the phrase.

3 (4) – Netherlands – Similar to Brazil, unspectacular (if not downright boring), but still showed glimpses of their potential. Looked the goods with a little width from the impressive Elia.

4 (7) – Argentina – Poor, but move up thanks to the failing of others. Messi was all class and improving their finishing could see some routs coming up.

5 (3) – Portugal – Offered nothing going forward and were content with the draw in the 2nd half. Improvement needed.

6 (5) – Italy – Held by an impressive Paraguay, but were the better side and moved the ball around effectively – they always start slowly.

7 (2) – Spain – Showing that “tippy tappy” football is not necessarily the way to win… Were toothless up front despite the mercurial midfield and sublime skill of their side. If the Swiss win a game, then Spain could finish 2nd in the group and face the Brazilians – messing up everyone’s World Cup form guide.

8 (18) – Chile – While the opposition was only Honduras, the Chileans showed why they finished 2nd in qualification. Sanchez on the right proved Real Madrid’s interest is certainly not wasted. Darkhorse.

9 (16) – Uruguay – Boring and defensive against France, but attacking and explosive against South Africa. Have almost sealed qualification from a difficult group.

10 (8) – England – Were poor, but not terrible against the US. Expectations are so high they’ve been just about deserted by fans. Looked frail in defence and a little weak in attack, but don’t hit the panic button just yet.

11 (24) – Switzerland – Showed the same kind of defensive skill that saw them concede no goals in the group stage in 2006. They also had technical skill aplenty in the forward half. Injuries to key players may derail their campaign (and stop them from a higher place in the pecking order)

12 (14) – USA – Showed tactical astuteness against the English and have a sneaky chance to top the group, which would take them a long way to Quarter final action. Look to be the real deal.

13 (17) – Mexico – Offered plenty in the 1st half against South Africans, but didn’t give the best display of water tight defence. Dos Santos was brilliant.

14 (9) – France – One word: Abysmal. Actually 2: Atrocious.

15 (27) – Cote d’Ivoire – Drogba returning is an enormous boost. They showed promise in the 2nd half, but still face an uphill battle to qualify.

16 (32) – Ghana – They’ll be smelling qualification after a crucial win over Serbia. A win on Saturday over the Aussies will just about do it. Not particularly fluid however.

17 (47) South Korea – Typically Asian, one of PTS’s smokies were impressive in their first outing. Probably because of the Greek deficiencies though…

18 (45) Japan – Will be almost impossible to break down for mid tier sides. Not impressive, but a big win for their chances.

19 (31) – Paraguay – Were lucky against the Italians, but move a long way up the pecking order with their unexpected point.

20 (83) South Africa – Showed glimpses in the opener, but flopped miserably last night. Probably the end of their campaign.

21 (21) – Nigeria – Were better than expected despite losing to Argentina.

22 (34) Slovakia – Robbed of 3 points and that could see them miss out on qualification. Were the much better side for the majority of a dour affair.

23 (105) North Korea – Who would have thought? But grabbed a goal and some respect against Brazil. Could snatch a draw against a much more fancied side.

24 (36) Denmark – Weren’t outclassed against Holland, but need to lift in their next 2 games. Showed little ambition.

25 (78) New Zealand – Outplayed, but showed bounds of tenacity. Described by some as the biggest moment in sport in New Zealand… ahh probably not, but still an historic point.

26 (25) – Slovenia – Boring

27 (30) – Algeria – Boring

28 (15) – Serbia – Despite being talked up as outside chances due to their resolute defence, showed absolutely nothing at the back. Disastrous for the Europeans.

29 (19) – Cameroon – Confusing tactics and listless performance. Eto’o and Assou Ekotto were 2 of their worst and need to lift if they are to have any chance of qualification.

30 (20) – Australia – Bereft of creativity, sub-par defending and negative tactics/mindset see the Aussie slide down the rankings. Need to rekindle their ’06 spirt, and fast! It’s not all lost, however, they were always expecting a loss to the Germans.

31 (38) Honduras – Proved they really are making up the numbers. Too much time and space for every Chilean and they were dominated from start to finish.

32 (13) – Greece – Our biggest sliders of the opening round. Were woeful against the South Koreans and could be in for more spankings in the coming weeks. Book your ticket home now!

Before it all started:

A few interesting points – on paper, forget Group D or Group G as the group of death, it’s Group C featuring England that have the smallest range between their sides. England are top in 8th and Algeria are bottom in 22nd. Just to clarify, Group F is the worst ranked group, with 3 teams featuring in the bottom 10 sides… Group E also features 2 sides in the bottom 6. The struggle in Group A will be titanic between Uruguay and Mexico, who are the closest teams on the list that are in the same group. They’re separated by the solitary place! (South Africa will cause a few upsets in that group though…)

Just to confirm: On paper, the teams below Ghana should be watching from the stands. They should be replaced by Croatia, Russia, Egypt, Norway, Ukraine, Israel, Romania and Turkey. Out of that bunch, I would have particularly loved to see Israel and the Romanians – but maybe next time…

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World Cup Preview – Group B – Greece


I like Greek food, but does Greek football have the same aromatic punch?

THE BASICS

• Nickname: To Piratiko (literally, it means, The Pirate Ship. How awesome is that!? and thank you wikipedia…)
• Colors: Blue and white
• FIFA Ranking: 12
• How They Got Here: Finished second in their qualification group, defeated Ukraine 1-0 aggregate in a two-leg playoff.
• World Cup Pedigree: Qualified for one World Cup (’94) and failed to score a single goal.

THE PLOT

If you were to stop reading now, then I couldn’t really do much to stop you. Do not watch any games that involve the Greeks. Definitely do not attempt to get your non-football loving friend to like soccer by showing them the Greeks. These guys are down right boring. It is little wonder that the majority of Greece has moved away from football and towards basketball. Also, if someone mentions Euro 2004 once more, whether it be in commentary, analysis or post game interviews, then passthesugar will just let the game go. For how long can this side simply hold onto the ghosts of 6 years ago and rely on that fluke to prove their footballing worth? How they are ranked 12th is beyond belief…

THE DIRECTOR

Otto Rehhagel

The septuagenarian German is a folk hero in Greece after his anti-football approach (read: suffocatingly boring soccer) led the upstarts to their highest plateau — winning Euro 2004. The man they call King Otto has quite a bit of coaching pedigree, particularly his golden 14 year stretch at Werder Bremen. To say he is idolised would be an understatement, and he is probably their coach for life. If he has a heart attack on the side line, then don’t be surprised. After that little blast, however, like any good manager he has a way with words and have a look at some of these quotes. Particularly memorable is the one about no opposition, and his expert insight into goalkeeping.


“I told the lads: don’t be too afraid if Thierry Henry appears in your dreams at night.”

Rehhagel ahead of a quarter-final meeting with France at UEFA EURO 2004

“I want to know the aftershave used by every player in Europe.”
Rehhagel on getting his players to stick to their men

“Saving easy shots is easy. Saving difficult shots is always difficult.”
Rehhagel on goalkeeping

“Some you lose, and some are won by your opponents.”
Rehhagel after a bitter defeat

“If you finish first, you’re in the right. So I’m in the right. You can speak to me again when I finish fifth.”
Rehhagel to a reporter unconvinced by success

“We play our best football when there’s no opposition.”
Rehhagel asked how he would return a team to winning ways

“The truth is out there on the field.”
Rehhagel answering criticism of his defensive tactics

“Football is like maths, two plus two makes four. If you reckon two plus two makes five, you lose.”

Rehhagel attempting to explain football

“If I lose a couple of matches, the people who were throwing flowers at me suddenly throw the pots as well.”
Rehhagel asked what would happen if a losing streak continued

“In the past, they all did as they pleased. Now, they all do what they can.”
Rehhagel on the secret of his success with Greece

“I started thinking about the Swedes back in 1958, when Pele scored his first goal.”
Rehhagel on opening day opponents Sweden at UEFA EURO 2008

“I need players who are better with the ball than with a microphone.”
Rehhagel on media interest in his players

LEADING MAN

Georgios Karagounis

It’s very likely that, without the Panathinaikos midfielder’s superb play, Greece wouldn’t have won Euro 2004. But really, he is well past his prime, despite popping up with a few goals of late. For a lot of the season he’s been stuck behind the re-energised and impressive Cisse and he must be sick of seeing those tattoos.  He scored this goal to open the tournament against Portugal in 2004, and will have to rekindle the glory days if they’re to stand any chance:

SUPPORTING CAST
Theofanis Gekas (forward, Bayer Leverkusen) has an awesome name and sells the most shirts for the Greek authorities. He’s their top scorer and biggest goal threat (compared to the teams already profiled is he really a threat?). Surprisingly, he topped the scoring charts across Europe during qualification. Sotirios Kyrgiakos (defender, Liverpool) seems to save his best for the national side. At Liverpool he has widely been held as one of Benitez’s better transfer decisions and largely a success. Throughout January, particular, many experts labelled him as the rock that Liverpool were looking for in defence. Honestly, I didn’t see it, but he’ll at least add a bit of muscle and experience to the squad. Kostas Katsouranis (midfielder, Panathinaikos) is the glue that holds the midfield together and was a star on the Euro 2004 team. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really done all that much since then…

AT LEAST TWO COMMENTATORS WILL LABEL HIM AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Georgios Samaras plies his trade for Celtic with some success. Think Peter Crouch, but not as tall and not as good, and then you have young Georgios. Rehhagel would never risk playing two up front, so his best chance will be off the bench when the side needs goals (this should happen on all 3 occasions) With a new manager at Celtic, a couple of poacher’s goals and he could pop up on the radar of a few of the Premier League’s lesser clubs (hint hint Mr di Matteo)

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Rehhagel

Don’t really have anything here – so let’s blame the old man. I’m sure you’ll recognise him too, so he gets his picture on the blog. A possible villain could be the fans, who aren’t renowned for their politeness or etiquette.

FORMATION

Rehhagel will employ a 4-5-1 which is often actually a 5-4-1. (I told you not to watch!) It’s boring, but effective. Unfortunately, sitting back against the likes of Messi probably isn’t the smartest option. With this formation, they’re always a chance of two draws and a loss, which probably won’t be enough anyway. There were times during qualification where the team adapted a more progressive 4-3-3. It won’t rear its head unless the team is chasing the game.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“My Dinner With Andre”

Only, without the promise of food at some point. And slightly longer and less interesting. (I just like Greek food, so searched for any movie with Greek food, but nobody needs to know that right..)

THE ADVERTISMENT

The “highlights” of their 1-0 victory over Ukraine in the second game of the two-leg knockout. Click play at your own risk!

USELESS TRIVIA (ACTUALLY NOT SO USELESS)

In the entire history of the World Cup, Greece has never, ever, not once scored a goal in the competition. Of course, they’ve only ever been in one World Cup… but still.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

After frustrating mighty Argentina for 90 minutes and holding onto a precious 0-0 draw, who are missing one Lionel Messi, the Greek goalie lines up a stoppage-time freekick. He clobbers it. It seems to hang in the air forever. It hangs. It hangs. It is perfectly weighted and falls to some Greek dude, who gracefully cops it in the face. The ball falls to a cluster of players, who collide, leaving the ball perched precariously on the pile of bodies. Maradona is heard groaning from afar, wishing he picked Cambiasso and Zanetti (and hadn’t ruined passthesugar’s Argentina write up). Rehhagel gets involved in a side line tussle with Diego that threatens to spill onto the pitch (yes the ball is still sitting there use your imagination!). Some Greek idiot has thrown a flair goalwards and as it hits the ground, it creates enough wind to push the ball off the mound and roll it goalwards. The ball slowly rolls into the back of the net giving Greece their first and last goal at a World Cup. The entire country is blindfolded to their 20 goal drubbings in the other group games, showing the same sort of memory loss that they possessed when they erased everything except Euro ’04 from their small brains last time.

FINAL VERDICT


The draw could’ve been much, much worse for The Pirate Ship (seriously, how awesome is that nickname?). Besides Argentina, there’s not another team that consistently puts goals on the board. South Korea is a workman-like team with supreme fitness and Nigeria are a physical team without a ton of bite. If they were in almost any other group (except maybe H), the Greeks wouldn’t have bothered turning up in South Africa. This group could easily be decided on goal difference and this probably isn’t their strong suits. Draws won’t be enough and it seems to difficult to predict a victory over the other sides.

(insert plus sides here) – lack of plan B – lack of quality in attack – the fact that they’re Greece = three and out with maybe a draw.

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