Tag Archives: Mexico

World Cup Brainstorming – the largely incoherent thoughts of a sleep deprived man

If you thought we’d been lazing around, doing nothing and watching football – then ahh, you’d be right! Despite the distraction of university exams for the majority of our correspondents, the World Cup has reigned supreme with daily FFTD conferences in front of the fireplace and SBS HD. And after all our late nights and maccas runs we’ve got a little to say:

Blast Off - The World Cup kicks off!

Blast Off - The World Cup kicks off!

Goalkeeping – The Tale of 2 Extremes

Shot stoppers in South Africa have been making the headlines far too often for most football fan’s fancy. First it was the ongoing whining about the Jubalani (shut up! We get it! It does funny thing and you can’t play the long balls so well! Cool!). Now it’s the remarkable keeping blunders that have towered over many a contest so far. Indeed it seemed that the “goalkeeping error” was the highest scorer throughout the first week. Amongst many other predictions, I suppose if you predict every possible outcome you’re bound to get something right, a lack of quality goal keepers was a more blatantly obvious theme than the theme of romance in Romeo & Juliet. More than half of our previews featured concerns over the goalkeeper including England, who produced the most significant blunder to date. Don’t think they can blame it all on the ball either – if you’re playing with an inflatable pool toy you still have to make the right decisions to come out and meet a cross or punch away.

Enyeama has been a veritable standout. Simply mesmerising against Los Pumas with his often beyond comprehension elasticity, I’m currently watching the poor boy shake his head after yet another keeping howler. Heartbreaking camera work, as the keeper looked like tears weren’t far away. In truth, Enyeama had kept his side in the contest, with remarkable save after remarkable save, but in the end, it seemed even he wasn’t immune from the goalkeeping curse that seems to be sweeping the Cup by storm. (As I finish the sentence – live reporting at its best – Enyeama pulls another cracker to hold the marauding Greeks at bay.) Another honourable mention goes to Tim Howard who showed his full array of shot stopping expertise against the English. His smothering save from a Heskey drive will stay in the memory for a while.

All in all, we had the good, bad and ugly.

“Our 10-0-0 just didn’t work today… maybe we’ll reconsider” Every manager so far

Defence has been the overwhelming centre piece of South Africa so far. Almost half the managers have opted for negative formations, and in many cases, formations counter to their standard practice. The Swiss were arguably the most dogged, although the Japanese, Uruguayans and Paraguayans all deserve mentions. Focusing on the Swiss, Grichting and Senderos (while he was on) were dogged and tireless. Employing a 4-4-1-1, they played a man-marking system rather than the regulation zonal system. Defenders would push up to 15 metres to latch onto their opposition’s shirts, ensuring he has no space to turn and little time on the ball. They’d obviously done their research, because the vast spaces in behind the central defenders at these moments were never exploited by a toothless Spain. No one was prepared to make the run in behind the Swiss into the space once Villa had dropped deep to have a touch on the ball. Further, the Spanish offered almost no width. At times you could throw the proverbial blanket over the midfield and striker. Ramos was the only man who looked to move forward into the space, but he lacked technical ability in the touch and in truth should have scored on at least one occasion. Although I’m not personally a fan of Jesus Navas – that kid just can’t cross the ball – he changed the game after his arrival, consistently popping up in dangerous wide positions.

Man-marking could be having a renaissance amongst tacticians. Chile have opted for such a defensive system and employ a deep lying sweeper who looks to trap any balls played through their back 3. Their 1-3-3-3 is highly unusual and unique, but hasn’t been tested as yet. But in theory, the formation is the ideal for what we’v been considering so far. Apparently, they’ll swap to a 3-1-3-3 when they face the better sides, not that that’s particularly defensive. The Asian teams so far (besides Australia) haven’t surprised with their prodigal defences. Their idea of football is to swarm the opposition akin to bees to a honey pot. Japan particularly, looked to be playing with 15 men at stages against the Cameroonians, who didn’t have enough time to shout Eto’o before the whole Japanese squad was standing on their feet.

Strikers with an eye for the wrong goal

The other feature so far has been defensive minded strikers. What? Hold on, let me explain. While the notion of defending from the front has become somewhat of a bedrock within the modern footballing rhetoric, 2010 South Africa has possibly thrown up its first major tactical addition to the collective brain trust. A pattern has emerged in which teams pass the ball along the ground, eventually finding a lone front man, who drops back towards midfield, opening space in behind the defender who has hopefully pressed up the pitch with his man. Attacking wingers or midfields such as Oezil, Gerrard, Muller, Robinho, Sneijder and Honda are prepared to run into the space left in behind the defence, posing their own direct goal threat. It seems that these creative midfielders are more about scoring themselves than assisting others. The Gerrard and Oezil goals were the clearest demonstrations of the feature. Maybe the Jubalani has had something to do with the pattern, as the long ball into a target man has so far been ruled out by players who can’t seem to get a grip on a ball nicknamed “the snitch” by at least one colleague.

So all in all, we’ve seen a disappointing opening to Africa’s 1st World Cup. But already, the standard has lifted. Last night was probably the best football I’ve seen in 2010, with a pulsating Greece/Nigeria clash displaying the type of urgency we’ve come to expect. The Mexicans continued on their impressive way over a dismal and dispassionate France and Argentina leapt to favouritism and qualification on the back of a Lionel Messi extravaganza. But more on all that to follow…

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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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Just thought I’d give you an idea of the fever in South Africa – got sent this by family in Cape Town! The best line is the extreme last one… C’mon Bafana Bafana!

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World Cup Preview – Group A – Mexico

The Mexicans are famous for more novelty items than anyone else, and when it comes to the football field they have a particularly novel approach – attack, attack, attack!

Check out the other Group A contenders – Uruguay South Africa France

The Basics

• Nickname: El Tri
• Colors: Green and white with a hint of red
• FIFA Ranking: 17
• How They Got Here: Qualified second in CONCACAF.
• World Cup pedigree: 14 World Cups, advanced as far as the quarterfinals only twice (’70 and ’86, when they were hosts).

The Plot

Historically the Mexicans have struggled and to be honest don’t look to have the side to mount any serious challenge this time round. A largely anonymous bunch of youngsters and attack-minded, right-sided players leave them unbalanced at best. They’re ranked 17th so are right on the cuff of the next stage on paper. They couldn’t have hoped for a better draw and should feature beyond the group stages.

The Director

Javier Aguirre (Mexico)

In the central American nation, Aguirre is considered somewhat of a sporting god, having overturned the run of poor results under the guise of Sven Goran Eriksson. El Tri were very much an under fire side, but since he’s stepped into the role, they’ve gone 5 wins, 1 draw and just the 1 loss. They’re yet to face any serious tests however, with a relatively timid qualifying zone, and Aguirre will have to ensure that they’re not underdone in South Africa. He hasn’t been afraid to shake things up – handing recalls to legendary Cuauthtemoc Blanco and Guillermo Ochoa between the sticks.

Leading Man

Giovani Dos Santos (midfielder, on loan to Galatasaray from Tottenham)

Dos Santos is a typically Mexican player. Largely overrated, and a bit of a flop. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of quality in the youngster who wears much of the attacking responsibility for the side, both in terms of creating and finishing chances. He’s featured at a number of clubs on several loan deals. The latest is a spell at Turkish giants Galatasaray. He has plenty of pedigree, winning the prestigious silver ball for second best player in the 2005 under 17 World Cup in a side that took the cookies. By all reports, Dos Santos has progressed considerably in a team full of experience with the likes of Kewell and Neill sure to pass on a few world cup secrets to the boy. On the big stage, however, he’s known to struggle, achieving little in spells at Barcelona and Tottenham. If he fires, however, the Mexicans should be a handful. Check him out below…

Supporting Cast

Mexico have enough quality across the pitch to be a bit of a dark horse. Indeed, it was a tough challenge to pick one standout player, and in the end Dos Santos isn’t that much of a star. Instead, the Mexicans have a core group of players who possess the talent to succeed (get passed the group) in South Africa. One of the most publicised moves by the new manager has been the inclusion of Blanco (midfielder, Veracruz) who has already attended Korea and Germany as a World Cup participant. He’s the centre of everything for the Mexicans and his performance and ability to stay injury free (he’s 37 years young) will go a long way to determining their success. Rafael Marquez (defender, Barcelona) is struggling under an injury cloud. If he recovers he could be the difference between qualification and failure. Their largely porous defence will get a huge boost with his inclusion in the lineup. Additionally, Ocho (goalkeeper, Club America) is held by many expert pundits to be the best shot stopper on the planet.

Unknown Talent

It seems a little strange to include Carlos Vela (forward, Arsenal) in this category, but he hasn’t made his mark just yet and remains on the fringes at Arsenal (Wenger picked him up as a 16 year old out of absolutely nowhere for the measly 150 00 smackaroos). He’s the type of player that could really shine at the Cup and make a name for himself as one of the best young talents in the world. However, in keeping with the name of this section, the bloke that you wouldn’t know about is Andres Guardado (winger, Deportivo de La Coruna), who is yet another quality attacker to wear the green shirt. He’s in the same mould as a Lennon or Walcott and is a nightmare for defences. He was also a member of that under 17 winning side. If he shines then look for Wenger to come running for this creative youngster.

The Likely Villian

Marquez. No one in America has forgotten his studs up challenge on keeper Tim Howard. He has a worrying history of dismissals in big games. It may be true that we only chose him because of the photo – but it looks as if he’s about to launch a zorro-like attack on the dude who he’s staring at.


Mexico claim to play the conventional 4-4-2, but on the pitch its more like a 4-1-5, not dissimilar to the Gunners (is this about Mexico or Arsenal). Guillermo Franco will partner Vela up front and then the rest of the midfield is given free reign in a fluid and attacking set up. Dos Santos, Blanco and Guardado often feature as forwards in their club sides and will constantly press up the pitch. In qualifying this trio was described as lazy and disinterested as they often fail to trackback and help out in their own half. This makes the holding midfielder Gerardo Torrado (whoever that is – but say his name five times fast and you’ll get the idea) a pivotal player.

The Strip

It’s Sorta Like…
The Mexican
Pretty bizarre and very confusing, but featuring enough big name players to just get it over the line. In a typically two-faced story, you’re sure to be left guessing what’ll happen next.

Usless Trivia

Mexico is the proud record holder of the most people to ever dance the Michael Jackson epic “Thriller” thanks to their tough jail standards. It’s the one in orange jumpsuits if you can’t remember. And yes, there’s 12,937 of them. And yes, I’m running outta hosting space, so you’ll have to search youtube for this one yourself.

The Fairytale Script

The Mexicans will burst onto the World Cup radar with an impressive 4-0 victory over the hapless South Africans to spoil their party (and possibly kill already underwhelming local interest in the tournament). They’ll snatch an impressive draw against under fire France and with a narrow win over the dangerous Uruguayans, they’ll be sitting pretty top of the group on goal difference. They’ll account for the Nigerians/Koreans in the round of 16 and key man Marquez will have put his injury woes aside in time for a showdown with the Poms. The arrogant and pompous English will sing a lot but be played off the park by their prodigal attacking force winning in a classic 4-3. They’ll go all the way from here gaining a wave of momentum on the back of special taco sauce that is shipped to their training camp. Alternatively, they’ll finish second in the group and polish off the Argentinians next. USA will follow suit and oblige by knocking off Group D winners Germany. Confused? Well… this would leave a mouth watering clash between bitter rivals USA and Mexico and for many, this will be enough of a fairytale…

Final Verdict

The side, under new manager Aguirre, looks electric. They’ll loom large as a danger game for the Frogs and could have enough class to upset the group favourites. Even if they progress in second and face the Pumas they’ll be a darkhorse to keep going forward. They have an extremely solid looking spine to the line up in keeper Ochoa, defender, Marquez midfielder, Blanco and Dos Santos and forward, Vela. Goals won’t be a problem and if Marquez recovers in time then they’ll be good value to outperform their surprisingly poor official ranking of 17. The Mexicans typically struggle away from home and discipline is not their strong suit either. They have the world cup opener against South Africa which is not a kind draw and will have to spoil the entire continents party to progress to the next stage. If they look good at the outset then start telling your mates that they’re a real darkhorse threat. Most of their world cup winning under 17 team will be pushing for a start and they’ll be expected to put forward a strong showing. However, this may not be their time and they’ll be building for a cup winning side in nearby Brazil ’14. (You heard it here first)

Outstanding attacking weapons + impressive qualification + easy draw – poor discipline – weak defence – inexperience = top of the group and a loss to England in the quarter finals.

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