Monday, June 14, 2010

Group C opening games

England 1-1 USA

Capello decided on the following lne-up:

Johnson King Terry Cole
Lennon Gerrard Lampard Milner
        Heskey Rooney

England had a brilliant start with a goal for Gerrard after less than ten minutes. Kudos goes to Heskey for a perfectly weighted pass and to Gerrard for a clinical finish.

Milner played poorly down the left hand side, fouling Cherundolo on a number of occasions which eventually resulted in a booking. He didn't get a chance to show his attacking wares and Capello replaced him with Wright Phillips after only half an hour. Milner had apparently been suffering with a stomach bug/virus all week so it is no wonder he was far from his best. Wright Phillips was very poor himself for the rest of the match, I think Joe Cole would have been far the better replacement, particularly as Wright Phillips is actually a right winger by trade.

The equalising goal came 5 minutes before half-time and what a terrible, shocking blunder from Green it was. Dempsey hit a tame shot straight at the keeper and Green somehow contrived to spill the ball into his own net After so much debate over who the goalkeeper should be and Capello's final choice managed to do this. 'Calamity James' hadn't been picked but 'Calamity Green' (could that catch on?) had turned up. It is odd that Capello considers Hart as too inexperienced when Green has only had ten caps himself. Hart is an excellent and confident goalkeeper, he should be in the team. Should Capello replace Green for the next game (and subsequently), and I think he might, he will probably opt for veteran James.

The England tabloids as expected have had a field day. The News of the World: "Rob still too Green for England". The Sunday Times: "One disastrous spill the Yanks won't complain about". Sunday Mirror: "God save the Green". One thing I can't believe is that some people have blamed it mostly on the Jabulani ball. This is preposterous, one only has to watch the incident to realise this...surely?

The second half produced no goals although there was plenty of industry from both sides. Green partly redeemed himself after a good save from Donovan (who had used his pace to easily get past Carragher - a player who had equipped himself OK as replacement centre-back but who in my opinion was the wrong choice as replacement). Lampard tried a number of hopeful long-range shots and Rooney was strangely quiet. Lennon had a decent game except for the fact he failed to beat the first man with the vast majority of his crosses. Heskey played well but he not surprisingly fluffed both a one-on-one and a header. Heskey hasn't scored since February and is hardly a goalscorer despite being a striker. He is there because he forms a good partnership with Rooney. Gerrard was probably England's man of the match.

The USA worked hard throughout. Onyewu was superb in the centre of defence. He composedly dealt with everything England threw at them. The rest of the team were also decent but fashioned very few real chances for their weak forward line to have a go at. Dempsey and Donavon are the best attacking players for the USA but they operate from midfield. How Altidore who scored 1 goal for Hull City all season can be expected to provide the goals is beyond me. The USA did in general prevent too many chances for England.

Slovenia 1-0 Algeria

This was a match whose main features were a red card and a soft goal as it generally lived up to its billing as one of the least exciting contests of the World Cup. Having said that both sides played some engaging football at times.

Overall Algeria probably had the better chances. They had a great headed chance when Halliche headed just wide. Both teams had dipping long distance strikes expertly tipped over by the respective goalkeepers. Yet both teams gave away possession too easily and were generally sloppy. Passes went astray fairly often and touches were often too heavy. Handanovic almost handed Algeria a goal on a plate before managing to recover, thanks to one of those heavy touches to which I refer.

Algeria imploded with just under 20 minutes to go when substitute Ghezzal was sent off for a second yellow card. The first was deserved as was the second - a blatant handball. Not long after, Koren received the ball 20 yards from goal and had a reasonable effort to the left of Chaouchi's goal...the ball sneaked into the back of the net as Chaouchi flapped ungainly at it. He seemed to approach the save in an odd way - instead of diving horizontally to tap it round the corner he approached it head (and arm on) which perhaps contributed to the mistake.

Slovenia held on for their first ever victory at a World Cup as they moved to the top of Group C.

[I'd just like to also point out that Algeria's manager Rabah Sadaane has stated he will quit after the World Cup because of the attitude of some of the players. He left their captain Mansouri on the bench for the game, which on the surface seems an odd decision, but could be something to do with this. This nonsense is likely to have a negative effect on Algeria's World Cup].

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