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Euro 2012 Match 15: Ukraine vs France pre-game predictions

Ukraine is not going to surprise France.  Shevchenko is not going to surprise Mexes.  Yarmolenko is not going to surprise Evra.  Blokhin is not going to surprise Blanc.  France hasn’t lost in 22 games.  This will not be the first loss.  I also don’t  believe they can be comfortable with a draw as that would put too much pressure on their last game against Sweden.

This is going to be a more open game and France will have more space than they did against England.  I respect Ukraine’s front three and Tymoshchuk did a great job in the holding midfield position.  However, Ribery and Nasri will be too much for the Ukrainian defense.  I would like to see Blanc be more aggressive and putting Ben Arfa in the starting lineup.

Pre-match prediction: Ukraine 1 France 2

Benzema and Ribery will score for France and Yarmolenko to reduce the margin for Ukraine.

 

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How to stop Lionel Messi

Relatively straightforward in concept, but hard to do in reality unless you have the personnel.

First, water the pitch as much as you can.  That’s why Messi didn’t really get going against Chelsea at the Nou Camp in the first leg.  He couldn’t plant and cut with the pitch so wet.  Also, he couldn’t get the ball rolling naturally to use his usual feints to get the defender off balance.

Second, get a quick left back.  Messi didn’t get much change out of Patrice Evra against Manchester United last year.  He didn’t get much out of Bosingwa in the first leg either.  Quick defenders take away Messi’s main advantage of burning the left back one on one down the wing before turning for goal with the defender on his back and too many options for the center backs to deal with.  That’s when he either cuts in and blasts past the keeper or sets up late arriving Xavi and Iniesta or goes to the far post for Henry.  I bet he struggles against Ashley Cole though Ashley has lost a step since leaving Arsenal.  I’d even consider playing Bosingwa as a shadow for Messi.  He’d be more productive than Ballack was in the first leg.

Third, get him moving right to left parallel to the goal line.  Do not give him the wing and do not let him play a one two to get behind the left back on the wing.  That’s death.  As he cuts across, the defensive midfield player has to pick him up, the center half has to stay goalside of Eto’o for the diagonal run to receive the Messi reverse ball and the left back has to stay goalside and to the outside of Messi so that he cuts off the one two reverse to Messi.

Fourth, have disciplined center backs to mark Eto’o’s diagonal runs.  Let Messi have to take you on with a longer run.

Five, make him use his right foot.  He isn’t entirely left footed, but he doesn’t have long distance power in his left foot and is below average with his right foot.

If people think this is theoretical, pull out the tapes of Man U vs Barcelona from last year (yes, he was just returning from injury) and Argentina vs Brazil from the South American Cup.  That’s what happens when you put a fast marker on him and back that up with physical play on him and his teammates.  Messi doesn’t like it when he can’t blow by you.  Frustrate him and he’s easier to control.  Kicking him is not going to work.

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Man Utd v Arsenal: Champions League Semifinal 2nd Leg – Pregame

I have a hard time believing Man United doesn’t go through.  It absolutely can happen, but hard to see.  It’s not that the Gunners can’t score a couple of goals nor that they can’t win.  They have done that this season.  However, no way does that defense keep Man United from scoring at least one goal.  It’s been a long time since Arsenal has kept United off the scoreboard.  And it’s hard to see it starting tomorrow.

So if United score one, Arsenal need three scores to win.  Hard to see that.  The only shot Arsenal has is if they score first and score the first one early.   The longer it goes, the more they will come forward and the easier it will be for them to be caught by United on the break.

Issues for United: Rooney played 90 minutes on Saturday and is on a yellow.  Will he melt down late in the game or if he gets a yellow which means he knows he will be out of the final.  I feel as if Sir Alex purposely played him 90 minutes on Saturday as he is not going to allow Rooney to play the full 90 on Tuesday in order to save him for the final assuming that United is up going into the last 25 minutes.  The other issue is that Evra may have an ankle knock and is also on a yellow.  I have to think that Walcott is going to get one of them on a yellow during the game.  Which means – Rooney needs to play in the middle and Park plays on the left with Berbatov and Tevez potentially on the bench.   Tough to see that happening but you never know.

Issues for Arsenal:  They are screwed if Silvestre is fit enought to play and screwed if he is unfit to play.  If they play to win from the start, they will play Robin Van Persie up front with Adebayor along with Fabregas, Walcott and Nasri in midfield.  Which means only one holding midfielder.  Bad news against the  United break.  If they play it conservative like the first leg, they will not be able to deal with the United midfield and defense.

Prediction: Man United 2 Arsenal 2

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Man U v Inter – prognosis

Smells a bit funky for Man U. If they get out 2-1 down, that’s a good day. If O’Shea or Evans can play with Rio in the middle they have a shot. If Evra has to play with Rio with Fabio at left back, it will be a disaster given how small they are and how big in the air Adriano and Ibra are. Inter played great against Milan. However, here is the ray of light for Man U – Inter couldn’t deal with Pato’s speed. The back four are not that good defensively. If they couldn’t handle Pato and the old Milan team, they will get taken apart by Ronaldo and Rooney’s pace. Key for United is to get a goal, but I think it will be 2-1 to Inter in the first leg with United torching them in the second leg to go through. If United had Vidic, it would be easy to say they would easily handle Inter’s forwards. But that is not the case.

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Group C Day 3 pre-game predictions – France v Italy, Holland v Romania

Who would have thought pre-tournament that France v Italy could have no meaning for either side? As it stands, if the two draw, Romania would go through unless they lose by more than three goals. If, however, Romania doesn’t beat Holland, the winner of the France v Italy game goes through.

France has apparently not lost to Italy in regular play over 90 minutes since 1990. While this is too close to call and Panucci and Chiellini don’t really inspire that much confidence in me, and Zambrotta is going to be struggling against Henry or Ribery, I think Italy wins this match. Buffon is going to be tough to beat and will make the difference. Also, Italy has been creating chances – they just haven’t been able to score. I think that changes today.

There have been rumblings that Cassano is going to start alongside Toni. I think that’s the right move. He’s been very creative and slippery while playing in the hole behind Toni. That’s the way we assume Del Piero would have played, but he didn’t do much in the last game. So start Cassano on the left behind Toni and keep Camoranesi on the other side to do a lot of the running. The midfield has got to start Aquilani alongside Pirlo and De Rossi. While there may be a desire to start Gattuso, given the magnitude of the game, I would not do that. Aquilani and De Rossi are more offensive minded players and De Rossi can play the holding role very well. Bring Gattuso on late in the second half if you are ahead and need to protect the lead. Aquilani has a very good shot, is good going forward and has young legs, which you are going to need today. Perrotta is not the answer for this game.

For France, it is simple. Play the best team, Domenech. Here, I will do it for you. Henry and Benzema up front. Ribery, Nasri and Malouda behind them, with Maka or Diarra as the holding midfielder. While Toulalan has played well, I think Diarra has more quality going forward. Evra, Gallas, Thuram and Sagnol at the back with Coupet in goal. If you are scared of this lineup being too aggressive in the first half, start both holding midfielders and drop Malouda. However, you need to be aggressive and try to score the first goal. You are not playing Turkey, so you should be good if you score the first goal.

Romania – everything seems to be in your favor. The Dutch will be aggressive and open but without their best players executing the total football game plan. That plays into your hands. Plus, you have taken four points out of six from them in qualifying. So you know their personnel and style. Just don’t give up the first goal to the Dutch and you will be fine. The other issue, of course, is that you are going to have to play for 90 minutes without a let up as the Dutch are going to try to score, and are capable of doing so, for 90 minutes. Don’t give in to the temptation of starting only Mutu upfront. That’s fine as far as the lone striker goes, but you have to have at least two wingers close to him and coming up with him in attack all the time. That’s how you can score against the Dutch on the counter. Looking forward to Huntelaar starting. Rat, get ready for a tough game – you are going to have to excel.

CH12 predicted that France and Holland go through. It will be interesting to see if that happens. I don’t think so, as I believe Italy will beat France.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 France 1, Romania 1 Holland 1

I have said Hup Oranje, Allez Francaise, Forza Italia. It’s only fair to say Hai România…

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Holland vs France – half time

Domenech – bring on Benzema at halftime for Gouvou – you need his heading ability as Henry can’t head.  Bring on Nasri for Toulalan or Maka at the 55 minutes mark if the score is still the same.  Evra needs to overlap more down the left flank.

Van Basten – get your team to counter attack with more speed.  You have to get one more soon or it’s going to be tough at the end.  France will come forward increasingly.  Bring on Van Persie or Robben.

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France vs Romania – post match

Domenech is a bad coach whose arrogance grew following a surprise final showing at the 2006 World Cup.  That was due to Zidane’s brilliance and not the coach’s decisions.  He knew Romania would set up a defensive shop.  So play Benzema up front along with Anelka.  He had him play on the wing ortoo deep for too long.  Also, bring in Nasri sooner and have Sagnol and Abidal come up the wings more often on overlaps.  I would probably play Evra over Abidal.  Anyway, he’s paid the price for a cautious set of tactics.  The only person who showed any urgency was Ribery.  The grass looked like it was too long as the ball didn’t seem to be rolling easily – another issue that hindered France… along with Romania’s eight behind the ball.  Benzema and Anelka should have scored at least one of the chances they had – especially Benzema with the sidefoot.  If you sidefoot, you need to put it towards one of the corners, not straight down the middle at the keeper.  Not looking good for France.

Pre-game prediction:  France 2 Romania 1

Result: France 0 Romania 0

Smells more like Group of Attrition or Last Man Standing.  On to Netherlands vs Italy….

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