Monday, June 26, 2006

The Hosts progress.

Germany 2-0 Sweden.

I knew that Sweden had been in bad form generally this year. I knew that their much lauded triumvirate of Ibrahimovic, Larsson and Ljunberg had not been in amongst the goals as they should. I knew that they couldn't score against T&T and I knew that they left it until the last minute against Paraguay. But I thought given that this was Sweden's biggest game since their second round exit against Senegal 4 years ago (what a golden goal from Henri Camara that was!) that they would give Germany a good go, a real fright at least, perhaps push them to extra time or penalties even if they ended up bowing out.

Instead the match was a frustration from the first minute to the last.

Germany: Were on top right from the outset scoring their first goal after only 4 minutes. The ball broke to Klose in space in the penalty area, goalkeeper Isaakson dived in to block the shot only for Podolski to hit the ball home via the head of Teddy Lucic. Podolski doubled the lead after only 11 minutes as Klose pulled 3 defenders with him, creating the space for him to lay the ball off to Podolski who made no mistake with his smart finish. Having ended a mini draught against Ecuador Podolski is now obviously sky high on confidence and the Polish born front pairing will cause any team problems. Germany were very much dominant in the first half with the likes of Ballack, Schweinsteiger and Klose all going close. The Germans were given an extra boost when Lucic was sent off for a second bookable offence, allowing the Germans to play the last 55 minutes with a numerical advantage.

The Germans did look a little shaky in defence at times, their back four often a little too flat, and even with 10 men Sweden did cause the occasional problem. Lehmann had to be alert on a couple of occasions, and Germany also contrived to hand Sweden a lifeline by conceding a penalty that Larsson was unable to convert. Ironically Germany actually looked a little weaker after the sending off, perhaps taking their foot off the gas and Ballack must be wondering when he will score after so many efforts on goal. Admittedly they were all long range but many of them came within a whisker of nestling in the net. jurgen Klinsmann as well as getting plaudits for the unusually attacking nature of a German tea, demonstrated his exuberance and demonstrativeness, celebrating the goals with such delirium that he was asked to calm down by the fourth official. Germany are well and truly doing themselves proud as the host nation so often manages to do.

Sweden have to be devastated by their performance. In the first 20 minutes or so they seemed to have forgotten they were at a football match as they handed Germany far too many opportunities. After an encouraging second half against England, and being a solid team that has proved itself capable in both offence and defence, they will be very upset at the manner of their loss. Perhaps Lagerback only giving his troups a light training session the day before the game and ordering them to sleep backfired. The sending off decision was perhaps a tad harsh and affected the flow of the game. Isaakson had a magnificent game in goal, a couple of his saves were breathtaking and world class, one shot from Ballack in particular seemed destined to be a goal until the magical fingertips of Isaakson intervened. Larsson and Ibrahimovic found themselves with a couple of chances they could have profited from but it was not to be. Larsson's penalty miss was also unfortunate, the TV commentator I listened to perhaps put the curse on him as he extolled Larsson's penalty taking prowess, in particular being one of the one's to convert in the penalty shoot out against Romania back in the 1994 quarter final, the year in which Sweden did exceedingly well to finish 3rd. He completely and utterly stuffed the penalty up, the ball going high and wide, Larsson even admitting later that he was actually aiming for the other corner! For me the penalty miss was enough to tell me that destiny was at work, not that I believe in that garbage! Sweden ran out of any ideas and almost let Germany in with more goals especially in the last ten minutes. Back to the drawing board for the Swedes, will Larsson retire, is Ibrahimovic past his best, is it time for Allback to take the mantle as #1 striker, can Kallstrom finally deliver the goods he always promises ???? , answers to these on a postcard: we will see if you are right at Euro 2008!

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