Sunday, June 18, 2006
Not Over Yet
Before too long I'll get back to posting about films. (Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven sucks, by the way.) I can't even put out thoughtful game analyses or even larger intellectual musings about the culture of the sport. Only fannish reflection. This World Cup fever has been intense--and it's a really good tournament so far. At the end of the day all I want to do is drink. Sometimes not even eat--I think there were 3-4 days last week when I didn't break 1000 calories.
Italy 1 : 1 USA
Shit! The US still have a chance. They played a physical game, and even though I think the two red cards were harsh, the foul tally was pretty high. I think that our boys need to fine-tune the art of playing tough without playing rough, because yellow cards can hurt you in this tournament. The other thing USA need to do is figure out how to attack in the penalty area--too often they'd get to the Italian box and then just pass it around among their midfield, desperately hoping someone either got a breakaway or a cross. So they'd get up there quite often, but not go for that final slog. They need more team confidence in the attack! (Especially lacking players with long shots like Lampard's or Gerrard's, though Mastroeni's one effort yesterday was good.) Overall they played well against Italy, they showed that fighting spirit that makes them fun to watch even when they're not the most skilled team. Italy were disappointing, they were definitely the weaker side in the first half (though they capitalized on US defensive flaws very well with the one goal they scored), and it's to the US' credit and their demerit that they couldn't score a go-ahead goal in the second half.
Ghana 2 : 0 Czech Republic
Wow! Even more so than the US/Italy game, we see a completely reversal, and Ghana dominate the Czechs almost as much as the Czechs dominated the United States. Group C may be the real Group of Death, but by this second go-round Group E (the Group of Injury?) shows at least that all four teams want it (whereas Group C showed only three contenders: Serbia & Montenegro didn't seem to show up).
Ghana will be a dangerous match for the United States, but a doable one--what throws the US off so much is, I think, that daunting European tactical professionalism. Sometimes they can prepare themselves well against it (as with Italy yesterday), and sometimes they just crumble horribly (as against the Czech Republic). Ghana won't present that exact challenge, and so the US will have to play athlete-to-athlete, speed-for-speed, shot-for-shot. It should be an intense match. Either team could win it.
The one bad thing about the US and Ghana doing well is that if the Czechs actually exit in the first round, it'll be a big loss for the tournament overall.
Portugal v. Iran was a little bit boring. Cristiano Ronaldo bugs the hell out of me; we get it, you can move your legs around the ball really well. In these last two games, at least, has his fancy dribbling (as opposed to, say, his speed) actually made him at all dangerous!? As for today's games--the Brazil-Australia one should be excellent, hopefully the Socceroos can not only put up a good effort but also lull Perreira's squad out of lethargy. Croatia should trounce Japan. I have a weird feeling that Korea might upset France. They've got team organization whereas France don't give any indication of having found their form or their synergy.