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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 07:04 am:   

What a display in the first half! Argentina has to be considered, at this point, the favorite.
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neil williamson
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 07:15 am:   

Without a doubt, Lucius.

They played excellent football in their first game against Ivory Coast, but they're exceeding even that today. Their second goal was outstanding.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 07:50 am:   

Wow, Messi comes in and gets a goal and an assist. He looks as good as advertised, even taking into account that SMT was dispirited...
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neil williamson
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 08:03 am:   

I haven't seen the second half (had to go back to work), but it sounded fantastic on the radio. Will watch it after the Holland game when I get home tonight.

But it's for sure that Argentina will be the team to avoid in the next couple of rounds.

Yeah, Messi and Tevez are a neat pair of standby's to have up you sleeve, aren't they?
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 08:40 am:   

And there's Palacio behind Tevez and Messi. Yeah, you're right. Don't want to see Argentina. Their one-touch passing is out of this world. Right now, I can't see anyone who can stay with them. They play with so nuch more organization than Brazil, at least to date.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 10:09 am:   

It was a mind-blowing performance, one of the most comprehensive routs I've seen in a World Cup. Right now, it looks like no one can touch them. The combination of organisation and skill was out of this world. Wow.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 10:13 am:   

And even Cambiasso, who often looks pretty mediocre playing for Inter, his club, was such a solid presence. Plus it was him who put away that second goal, by far the best goal of the tournament so far.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 10:19 am:   

By the time the semis and quarter roll around, Brazil may be playing better, but yeah, right now, you have to say it's Argentina's cup to lose. That second goal was breathtaking,

What are they saying about Beckham in England? I guess he takes a lot of shit, but without his crosses, I think England would be in trouble.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 03:33 pm:   

I haven't heard about how the English are reacting to their, well, pretty abysmal but adequate performances so far (I live in Italy, by the way, Lucius, which is why I keep harping on about Italy like a mister know-it-all of the "calcio" universe. And remember that me and Neil are Scots which makes us, shall we say, a little ambivalent about England's chances :-))

But judging by what I've read in newspaper websites, you've got it spot on. Here's a quote I've lifted from a summary of England v T&T in the Guardian which is making exactly the same point as you are:

"With apologies to Gerrard, England have won against fundamentally weak opponents in Group B only because of the whip and menace with which Beckham strikes the ball."

from this article: 1798922%2C00.html,http://football.guardian.co.uk/worldcup2006/matchreport/0,,179 8922,00.html

I agree totally with this. England have been extremely poor and are only remaining in this WC thanks to Beckham's persistence, notwithstanding the great contribution by Lennon when he came on against T&T, and the presence of Rooney which certainly made a difference to the direst England display I can remember seeing in a major tournament.

Looking at all this from another point of view, how2ever, there have been quite a few examples of teams who end up winning the WC who begin by playing like donkeys during the group stages. As I remember it, England have always started off pretty strong in their groups and then went out on penalties against good, but not necessarily better, opposition in the later stages.

I've read one or two things about how England normally start off slow, but I disagree. I have a vivid memory of England beating France in Spain '82 by 3 goals to 1 in the group stage, and this was the France of the amazing Platini, the France that should have reached the final and played Italy, but didn't. And also in Euro '96, England thrashed a highly talented Dutch team 4-1, perhaps the best performance by England in any major competition.

So, all this to say, it wouldn't surprise me if England got better and better and perhaps peaked at the right instead of the wrong (too early) time like they have in the past. A part of me doubts this very strongly, based on their two performances to date. But, at the same time, they can't get any worse. They've played at their worst and still qualified, so if they start playing better they could still be serious contenders.

Just now, I'm looking forward to the Italy-US game tomorrow. It'll be interesting to see if Italy can pick up the gaunlet that the magnificent Argentinians have thrown down. As I see it, Italy and Spain are the only teams who've really came close to matching the Argentines. Actually, let me rephrase that. Italy and Spain are the only two teams who look like they might come close to coming close to matching the Argentines.

The US, meanwhile, have been talking some real fighting talk, using metaphors about wars and battles that have got the Italian media immensely agitated and fuming with indignation. They're really angry, the Italians, about this. I think it might be the first time I've seen them being angry at another team. Usually they're angry at themselves, but Bruce Arena has got them going big time. Excellent! A bit of spice has been added. Should be a very interesting encounter.

Hey, this is such a long post. It almost fulfils my favourite fantasy of the moment of being a world cup correspondent for, I don't know , the Orkney Islands Gazette or something
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neil williamson
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 04:01 pm:   

"This is Alistair Rennie, Kirkwall..." Sounds about right!

Yep, Lucius - spot on. Beckham's been taking a fair bit of flak, and that's partly because many people think that the best formation for England (the midfield diamond) wouldn't have a place for him in the team. But without his crosses, they'd be in real trouble.

At the moment the team really looks like they're playing under the weight of expectation, but now they've got past the group qualification, perhaps they'll lighten up some and play football.

Tomorrow's games should be fun. The mighty Czech's are on display again, and then as Alistair says, it's Italy vs the USA. I fancy the US might make a bit more of a fight of it than their last game. I hope so, but I think Italy will be too classy for them in the end.

I didn't know about the verbals from Arena though - that'll definitely add to the atmosphere.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 04:03 pm:   

Well, I'm glad to hear there's some appreciation for Beckham -- he doesn't do a lot else, but he sure can bend it accurately. And I hear what you're saying. In any long tournament (for example, our basketball playoffs and college tournament), there can be development and, as well, deterioration, which is why it's way too early to annoint Argentina. Actually, I have little rooting interest, other than to wish for a final between two teams who push the ball, Argentina and Brazil, say.

Tell the truth, I think Italy will trounce the USA. I don't believe that the US is fighting mad or all aimed like an arrow at Italy's heart. I think that veneer is an inch deep and will disintegrate at the first sign of adversity. The war comments were issued by a young player and shouldn't be taken for much -- most of America has no idea of war and so they use it as a metaphor for sport. If the US lucks out an early goal, they have a chance; but I don't think that will happen and feel that Italy's patience will eventually lead to a US mistake.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 04:11 pm:   

I like Beckham where he is. He's delivered the ball beautifully much of the time and I think he'll continue to be a creative asset as long as England stays in the race. They seem to lack something in the way of creativity as a squad.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 03:00 am:   

Yeah, you're right Lucius, it was comments that came from Johnson. Bruce Arena seems to be playing things down, saying that Johnson's young and made a mistake. Calm seems to have been restored between the two, although I do sense, like Neil, that the US are going to give it their all. And I'm wondering whether the Italians are perhaps being a little too casual in their approach to the game. They seem very self-assured about it, too much so. But maybe they can afford to be. They've got one hell of a team. I reckon my man Toni is going to be a real livewire tonight. He's itching for a goal.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 03:24 am:   

I'm heading off to the Adriatic coast for the night where I'll be watching the game on the beach alongside hordes of crazy Italians. I'm really looking forward to it. I was here during the last world cup, but it wasn't the same because of the games being played during the day for us. It's great being able to experience the world cup in a country that has a realistic chance of winning. And it's hot and sunny! A far cry from Kirkwall!! (Sorry, Neil. Honestly, you've know idea how much I'd love to be watching the games in a pub in Glasgow!)

Enjoy the game, guys. And good luck to the US.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 04:48 am:   

Have fun, Alastair. An unnecessary Instruction, I know. :-)
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JV
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 05:42 pm:   

Well, I have more respect for the US side now. A lot more. I thought they fought their hearts out.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 05:54 pm:   

Well, they did fight. Respect. But they don't have great skills, and Italy really punked out, I thought.

Looking forward to Australia-Brazil.
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JV
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 07:35 pm:   

Yeah--I still think they don't have great skills. I never like Italy, either, though. Just the style of play.

You think Australia-Brazil will be close?

Jeff
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 07:49 pm:   

It could be closer than Brazil expects, but even if it's not close, I want to watch Brazil, see if they improve over their first match, and contrast them with Argentina...
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 10:21 pm:   

you know that australia vs brazil match is on at two am in the morning here? wrong time zones in the world, man.

i missed that first brazil game, but people say they weren't so crash hot. australia might be able to pick up a draw. it'd be nice to see them get out of the round.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 10:43 pm:   

I think Brazil may play better than they did, but one can certainly hope... They didn't play well the first game, but they're incredibly talented.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - 07:00 am:   

yeah, i don't think anyone is expecting australia to win. that said, man, they are expecting three thousand people down at circular quay in sydney for the match (it's where the opera house is, if you don't know). it's the middle of winter, man.

(on the telly in the background saying there'll be ten thousand in melbourne? fuck me.)
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - 07:04 am:   

You better hurry and get down there, then! :-)
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - 07:56 am:   

fuck that. it's cold. :-)
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JV
Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - 08:05 am:   

Hey--Lucius. Don't forget about Ecuador--only team to beat both Brazil and Argentina in the last year.

JeffV
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - 05:42 pm:   

well, not a win, but i thought australia put in a good showing. if they play like that vs croatia, who were not real inspiring vs japan, i think they could get a victory.

brazil didn't look so crash hot until the last twenty minutes, though. nothing compared to agentina a couple of days back.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - 09:22 pm:   

Yeah, Ecuador. They got a pretty sweet team, but didn't they beat Arg and Bra at altitude?

Brazil was spotty, but they've got to bench Ranaldo or, as Eric Wynalda described him on ABC, that bloated piece of.....sky. When they put Robininho in, they play more as a unit.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2006 - 10:55 pm:   

yeah, robininho did really pick them up. i'd be surprised if in the next round he isn't starting, and ronaldo is on the bench, especially if ronaldo doesn't perform against japan.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 04:31 am:   

It's weird. There almost seems to be something underlying this insistence on playing Ronaldo, some kind of ulterior motive. He did OK against Australia but Robinho simply lifted Brazil to another level, the level everyone expected from the start. Shame for Australia, though, cause they played well, but they've got a great chance of qualifying.

I had a great time watching Italy - US. And the result certainly wasn't down to Italy hitting the auto-destruct button. The US really took the game to Italy and thoroughly deserved a draw. This group is amazing, too, after Ghana beating the Czech Republic. Probably the most exciting group of the tournament. I guess the US will be underdogs against Ghana but, you know, I think they might get more space than they did against Italy and might be less cagey. And the Italians are shaken, trying their best to maintain a cool head but they do fear the Czechs. It's a great group.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 05:16 am:   

Yeah, but Italy didn't exactly pick up the gauntlet flung down by Argentina, did they. That said, the US could beat Ghana -- Amoah is out for them and that's a huge loss. But they're not going anywhere, I don't think.

They're trying to get the goal record for Ranaldo. The US announcers say he's headed for the US and the MSL. Send us your lame, your overweight, etc...

Ecuador-Germany and England-Sweden tomorrow.

The most amazing new out of the cup to me was that FIFA backed up that ref who officiated the USA-Italy match and said all his calls were correct and that he will likely will officiate in this years cup again.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 05:49 am:   

Oh definitely, Italy look a long way from Argentina. I pretty much agree with JeffV about their style of play. They're just not adventurous enough. They rely too much on tactics rather than flair and are often disappointing to watch. This current team has been billed as an unconventional (for Italy) attacking side, but are they? Maybe more than usual, I suppose, but the US showed them to be vulnerable, which might prompt them to return their excessive caution.

Yeah the ref was getting a little carried away with himself. FIFA seem to like that sort of thing. I thought Eddie Pope, above all, should never have been sent off. There was nothing malicious about his tackles and the second one didn't seem that bad to me.

Ah, the goal record. Forgot about that. At this point in time, you've got to say he doesn't really deserve it. Used to be such a nice kid, too.
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neil williamson
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 05:50 am:   

Lucius said: >The most amazing new out of the cup to me was that FIFA backed up that ref who officiated the USA-Italy match and said all his calls were correct and that he will likely will officiate in this years cup again.

**I'd like to say I'm shocked by that - after all, later on in the game the guy wasn't even giving free kicks for fouls that had warranted a card either side of half time - but FIFA do tend to get behind their men in these situations.

As for Italy, USA etc group - I think it's still open too. Any two of the four could end up going through. Will be fun to watch!


Spain tonight should be fun - I'll be watching on the late shift after I get in from band rehearsal, but I've liked what I've seen of the Spaniards so far.
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neil williamson
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 05:57 am:   

Alistair - I reckon that with Rino Gattuso back in the side, Italy will be more attacking. I know that's ironic given that he's ostensibly a deep ball-winner, but he's so sharp at spotting the early ball that I reckon you'll see defenses more often and more quickly stretched by the Italians now.

Re Ronaldo - to be honest I've never really "got it" with him. I was shouting at the TV for them to haul him and get Robinho on from... oh, the first couple of minutes of yesterday's game.
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trent hergenrader
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 06:22 am:   

Ronaldo's the classic cliche' of a striker who can be on the pitch doing nothing for 88 minutes and then score twice in the dying moments. I think the idea is to keep him on the pitch for that moment of brilliance. He did have a lot to do with that first Brazil goal, drawing three defenders over before laying the ball off.

Before Saturday's game I thought the US' only chance was if Italy came out overconfident and if the US came out hopped up. Both happened, and the refereeing was tragic in that it ruined the game.

And can someone explain the reasoning in not using your last sub if you're Bruce Arena? You've got nine guys playing 45 minutes...surely one was tired? Everyone I've talked to thought Arena would chuck on Eddie Johnson for McBride with twenty minutes to go yet it never happened. I can understand not wanting to throw an inexperienced player on at that point (sort of) but it doesn't make any sense, unless of course Arena gets $50 back for every sub he doesn't use...
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 06:44 am:   

I see what you mean, Neil, Gattuso could certainly do the trick. He can also deal with the physical stuff and free up the other midfielders maybe. I was hoping to see more from Totti, too, but he's just back from a bad injury and needs a bit of time. But my tip for the top, Toni, let me down big time. He never got close against the US, though the US did a mighty job defending.

And Spain were great last time round, very much along the lines of Argentina.

Hey, but we haven't mentioned France! Dear oh dear. Zidane is probably doing a better job of ruining his reputation than Ronaldo. The French just don't look up for this at all. It's maybe not surprising. I mean, they didn't take Giuly with them and he's surely one of the in form players in the world this year. Bizarre.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 07:01 am:   

That's a fair point about Ronaldo, Trent. I think the thing that's puzzling, though, is that Brazil seem to play so much better with Robinho. With Ronaldo, it's true that he can turn a game in an instant, but they look pretty devastating with Robinho. It'll be interesting to see how things develop with this one. It's arguable, after all, that this ploy (using Ronaldo, then subbing him with Robinho) is working well.

With Bruce Arena not using another sub - Could be that he was happy the way things were and worried about messing with the formation (after the ref messed it up for him). It's true that Italy were putting on some pressure, but the US were dealing with it. That game certainly showed that the US, reduced to nine players, are one hell of a fit team. They've got a reputation for that, but they really showed it this time.
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neil williamson
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 07:03 am:   

I thought France played much better yesterday than they did in their first match. But that's not saying much. Henry took his goal well, but he needs help. And Zidane's just not the man he was. The Koreans were up for it though and deserved their (rather bizarre) goal in the end.

I can't believe they didn't take Giuly over, say, Wiltord. Haven't seen much to speak of of Ribery either.

Think there'll be a substantial changin of the guard for France once this competition is over.
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 07:19 am:   

Yeah, the omission of Giuly is a mystery. There surely mmust be something more to that than meets the eye. I heard that there's not a lot of harmony among the French players. Henry and Zidane don't get along well and, apparently, Henry has said he doesn't want Trezeguet to play. Maybe the Giuly situation is part of all that.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 08:44 am:   

Well, to be fair, France actually did beat Korea, as replay plainly showed. Isn't it time for FIFA to use replays? In a game like soccer, I doubt it would be used more than once or twice a game.

I like to see Brazil play an entire game with Robinho. I bet they would score more than they did. I agree with Ben -- I wonder how much we'll see of Ronaldo after group play.

And yeah, Trent, what was Arena thinking about in saving that last substitution? Well, he got his result, and I doubt it would have been better if he had substituted, but it might have saved someone's legs.

So Alastair, what were the Italians saying about their team the other night?
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Rajan
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 09:24 am:   

I really wanted Australia to win, or at least draw, but Brazil seemed to come back renewed in the second half. Ah, well, I got to enjoy it in an Aussie bar with many shouts of Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 12:00 pm:   

The reaction to the game was pretty tame actually, Lucius. There hasn't been any criticism directed against the Italian players or manager, though there was some mild complaining about the referee, funnily enough. The US have been rightly praised for their efforts and the media seem happy with the fact that they didn't draw because Italy played badly but rather because of the tenacity of the US. But almost immediately the talk was of the game against the Czech Republic and, to be sure, the Italians are extremely nervous about thiis game. At the moment, there seems to be a certain feeling of dread about it in the media. It's not quite panic stations, but it may get there by Thursday.

What about in the US? And what's the mood about the game against Ghana?
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 12:09 pm:   

Indifference, basically. Though ESPN is making a big deal of it, ratings aren't high. But among soccer fans, the feeling is one, I think, of fatalism. We rather expect the US not to come through.

I heard the Italian press was calling for the guy who elbowed McBride not to play anymore in the Cup.

Wow. Tunisia scores in the ninth minute against Spain.
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 02:27 pm:   

I think that Italy's fear may be bleeding over to the US. Anyone who watched the Ghana/Czech game and the USA/Italy game should be seriously concerned. At least that's the opinion of most of the soccer-fans I've been talking to over here. I don't know what the media is saying. Fact is, I don't care much what they're saying. :-)
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Alistair Rennie
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 02:49 pm:   

I haven't read much about De Rossi, the guy who elbowed McBride, but you're probably right about some people calling for him not to play again. I heard and read one or two things before the world cup saying he was a risk because of his temperament, and so it proved. Marco Tardelli, an ex-player who scored a memorable goal in the final in Spain '82, said after a friendly Italy played a couple of weeks before the WC started that De Rossi better calm down or he was going to get red-carded at some point during the finals. An accurate prediction. He's a talented player, no doubt about it, but a total liability.

Tardelli is a man worth listening to it seems. Before tonight's game, he predicted a 3 - 1 victory for Spain. Not a bad game either. A weird first half for Spain, creating lots of possibilities but hardly getting a shot in, and Tunisia were always a threat. Torres is a revelation though. He missed a couple of good chances maybe, but his goal was pretty classy.

Yeah, Forrest, Ghana look a very handy outfit, a frightening prospect for anyone. A draw's no use for the US either, so it's win or bust. Maybe that's a good thing, though.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 03:01 pm:   

But Ghana's style of play will give the US plenty of opportunities...though with Amoah out they may be more conservative. Anyway, I think this a game where the US needs some breaks. I mean they haven't really scored a goal yet, and I don't believe they're likely to unless they get some help.

That was a good prediction and a good game, though France came out for the second half with all cylinders engaged and I felt it was only a matter of time.
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 08:46 pm:   

Even with a win, the US is going to need some breaks on things over which they have no control. It's cool, I like Ghana. :-)

Seriously, their goalie is something else.

I knew that the US's group would be tough, but it's really, really tough. In any case, if the US loses, I'd like to see Ghana go far. I have a soft spot in my heart for African teams, plus I have a really good Ghanaian friend.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 19, 2006 - 10:20 pm:   

I think the group is pretty desultory, a bunch of teams going nowhere, especially since the winner of the group has to face Brazil. That said, Ghana likely beats the US, though beating the US is no big woof and against a better team their defensive liabilities may well be shown up. Anything can happen in a game, but I'd bet that whoever makes it through from the group will get KOed in the next round and certainly won't survive the quarters.
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trent hergenrader
Posted on Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - 11:22 am:   

People like to forget that the US lost their third game in Korea to an average Polish side and ended up needing South Korea to beat Portugal, even though that result did nothing for the Koreans. So even in their fantastic run in '02 they still didn't "control their own destiny." Miracles can happen!

I have a soft spot for African teams too, mostly because they're fond of constantly attacking. The Ivory Coast is the best elimanated team. They played so well and narrowly lost to two of the best teams in the tournament. In any other group they'd be through.

Historically, the penchant for attacking play leaves teams vulnerable and that works to the US' advantage, especially since Ghana's attack will be blunted with their suspensions. Alas, the US' defense will be suffering from its own suspensions which likely neutralizes the advantage. Can you imagine Berhalter or Conrad keeping up with a pacy attacker? Sends shivers down the spine...

A draw between Italy and the Czechs seems imminent which doubly screws the US. The Czechs don't look nearly as good with Koller out of the lineup and the Italians are masters of stifiling a game. But anything can happen. I'm glad I took that morning off work to watch the games!

The most likely scenario seems to be Brazil(F1) vs. Ghana(E2) and Italy(E1) vs. Australia/Croatia(F2). Still, the US can't finish first in their group regardless so should they advance they'll be facing Brazil. Thanks for coming.

Interestingly, the winners of the second-round swap brackets and play the winners of the G and H groups. So by winning the group, Italy would likely avoid Brazil until the semifinal. As of today though, I'm guessing it's Spain and Brazil on a collision course for the semis but so much can still change...

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