Monday, June 26, 2006

Tonight's second round previews.

England v Ecuador.

The leaked news (if indeed it is true) is that Sven is going to play 4-5-1 with Carrick to play the holding midfield role, Crouch to drop to the bench, and someone like Gerrard to play a more attacking role just behind lone striker Rooney. Hargreaves is supposedly taking over from Carragher at right back. Ferdinand should be fit to start.

I don't like this news. I still think England should well because the class of their players will ultimately pull through, but I'll tell you what I don't like about it.

1) Why is Hargreaves playing at right back instead of Carragher? Hargreaves is a player in the defensive midfield role and it is this job he performs for Bayern Munich. We got a chance to see Hargreaves in this role against Sweden and he did a good job, much better than the many critics expected. Carragher is a natural defender, he has filled in at right back for Liverpool and England before. Part of the rationale is thought to be that Hargreaves will be able to help out Beckham more on the right. Sven's obsession with Beckham has obviously led to playing Hargreaves out of position. Some have suggested this means Beckham should be dropped but I'd keep him in there if only for his dead ball delivery. Players should not be played out of position unless in the direst of circumstances (Kevin Blackwell are you listening, do you sleep with Sven or something?) Carrick is a good player and passes well but if we are to have a holding midfielder I'd prefer to see Hargreaves retain his spot, and Carragher his.

2) 4-5-1? Personally I would have Crouch in the lineup ahead of Carrick. Crouch has scored 6 goals in his last 10 internationals, he has proved reasonably effective thus far and there is no reason to suggest he will be unable to partner Rooney. In fact he did so against Sweden after Owen had crawled off the pitch. It is also not ideal to keep changing formations. When everyone is guessing how England will lineup it really is no good. We should have a first team properly sorted, and emphasis should be on getting it right. This formation also means that one of the midfield will be pushed forward, probably Gerrard. Whilst he should be able to do quite well in this role it would be a waste of his talents which we'd much rather see patrolling the midfield.

I do think England should have too much for Ecuador but even if the match is a 4-0 win I will still have doubts over this chopping and changing formation. Ecuador welcome back the players they rested for the Germany match and they should give England a game. Ecuador have been pleasing on the eye this world cup and have proved to be a bit of a surprise package. Watch out for the likes of Delgado, Carlos Tenoria, Valencia, Hurtado and Espinoza. They are the key. Ecuador will likely play a wide game.

If you are an England fan put up you're hand if you are worried. Surely you don't want to see England fall to one of the minnows of world football. Will the English be rueing Sven's apparent desperation or will a big quarter-final match-up with Holland or Portugal be in the offing? England are the team facing pressure with the team expected to win, can Ecuador instead muster a huge surprise?

Holland v Portugal.

HUGE HUGE GAME. This is the kind of game that should be gracing a quarter or even a semi-final and here we have it in the round of 16. Both teams have quality throughout the side and both love to attack. This could suggest that a lot of goals are in the offing but who knows? One thing is for sure, this is probably the most eagerly awaited second round match up. One of these teams will be going home, what a shame. Both sides have looked impressive in the group stages. Can Scolari increase his run of 10 consecutive world cup finals matches victories? Can Holland fight the portents of history that suggest Portugal will win? Well Deco, Ronaldo, Figo and Pauleta of Portugal and Robben, Van Der Sar, Schneider and Van Persie of Holland (to name but a few) will be going at it hammer and tong. Apparently Van Basten has had a bit of a public spat with Van Nistlerooy who Van Basten feels has not lived up to expectations. He will consider playing Kuyt instead but may end up fixing on Van Nistlerooy. Both sides should be fresh after leaving out a few men in their final group matches. Both sides have huge respect for each other.

What will eventuate?

This has the potential to be the best, most explosive match of the world cup to date. But having said that they will probably now fight out a goal-less draw!

This game is a mouth-watering prospect. I would hate to pick a winner, so I won't! Hopefully we will see extra time though.

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