Tag Archives: hiddink

Chelsea vs Barcelona: Semi final 2nd Leg Pre game prediction

I know what Barca did to Real Madrid on the weekend.  I know Messi is supposed to be the player of this generation.  I know Iniesta and Xavi are incredibly talented midfielders and Eto’o is one of the best strikers in the world.  But the only things that are matter are these:

Barca has the away goals shut out of Chelsea in its favor.  If Barca scores at least one goal, Chelsea needs to win the game.

Messi is going to be determined to show he is the best in the world after the performance Ronaldo put on today.

The game is being played at Stamford Bridge where the pitch feels smaller than the Nou Camp which means less room for Messi and company to play their football.

No Marquez and no Puyol in the middle.  That means Pique, who for all his game is a relative rookie, and Caceres in the middle with the mercurial Valdes behind them.

Eric Abidal got skinned by first Robben and then Ramos for the first goal.  Hiddink, if I were you, I’d start Kalou on the right.  Dani Alves on the right is at best an average defender.

Henry might not play due to a knee injury.

Hiddink is a scarily successful coach no matter the squad he has – and he has a tough, experienced, motivated squad playing at home.

Based on these factors, while I still think its going to be tight, I think Chelsea goes through.

Guus, this is what you need to do to win.  As I said in the prior post, (1) water the pitch well to slow Messi down.  (2) Start Kalou on the right and Malouda on the left.  Lampard in the middle.  Drogba up front.  Essien and Mikel holding midfielders.  If you go one down, then bring on Anelka up front in the second half for Mikel.  For now, Ballack needs to start on the bench.  (3) Make sure Cole doesn’t give Messi the sideline – funnel him inside and then have Essien pick him up.  Not Mikel who gives away too many fouls on the edge of the box.  If Messi tries to go to the middle as he did against Real Madrid, even better for you.  That’s when you have Essien man mark him with Mikel sitting in a holding position behind him.  (4) If Henry doesn’t start, I believe Keita or Busquets will play in holding midfield along with Yaya Toure to help out the two kids at the center of defense.  Resist the temptation to play Ballack even with the reduced Barca team speed if Henry is out.  Yes, he may be good for headers off set pieces, but that’s a luxury you can’t afford in this game.  (5) Make sure Chelsea pumps more diagonal balls into the box.  See how Barca was all at sea during the Real game with crossed balls – they scored both goals on balls like that.  Cech was wasteful with his long clearances straight to Valdes.  (6) Keep possession better than you did at Barca.  Don’t be so nervous.  Barca isn’t that strong at pressing.  You play in the EPL.  You can hang with Liverpool and Man U.  Why be so concerned about Barca’s pressure up the pitch.  Pass your way out.  You always have Drogba to hold the ball up.

Pep, this is what you need to do.  (1) If Henry is out, then play Iniesta down the left and start Keita and Yaya at holding mid behind Xavi, Eto’o and Messi.  Hold Chelsea first, give cover and confidence to Pique and Caceres and wait for Messi to deliver.  If it’s tough going, then bring on Bojan for Keita and push Eto’o wide.  (2) Score a goal.  In fact, score two.  Because I think that’s what you are going to need to win with the defense you have for this game. (3) Shave and get a decent tie.  (4) Start Messi going up the middle to confuse the crap out of Chelsea’s backline and then move him back to the right.

Prediction:  Chelsea 2 Barcelona 1

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Chelsea v Juventus: Pre match prediction

Still sticking with Chelsea to go through.
Keys: Del Piero unleashing some magic and getting on the scoreboard. I think Amauri will have a better game and will be a handful for Terry and Alex. It just feels like Juve are a little light in midfield with Sissoko gone for the season. I have a hard time believing they can handle a packed Chelsea who will probably play with Drogba alone up front.
Potential surprise matchwinner: One of Juve’s center halves on a set piece – let’s say Chiellini. Or an unused player like Iaquinta.
Observation: Chelsea has won every game since Hiddink became head coach. Without, I believe, conceding more than 1 goal in any game. With that said, I have a hard time believing Juve can score more than 1.
Predicted score: 1-1.

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Spain v Russia – post game comments

While the scoreline was a bit harsh, much like it was in the first game they played, this time there was no doubt who the deserved winners were. Spain outplayed Russia in the second half. Yes, the first goal made a big difference because it made the Russians come forward more and so there were more gaps in midfield and at the back for Spain to capitalize on. However, Russia really didn’t create many opportunities themselves. The best chance they had was off a free kick near the end of the game.

The first goal was not lucky – it was fortunate. It was lucky that Iniesta’s shot was way off target. It was a good, instinctive, pre-meditated run into space by Xavi and it was fortunate that his side footed redirect went between Akinfeev’s legs. Xavi does this all the time for Barca, especially this season, where he makes a late run into space and finishes off crosses. So, I will give him all the credit for the goal. After that, it was tough to imagine that the Russians would get back into it given that Arshavin and the midfield never really got going. Maybe Hiddink should have brought in another left back and let Zhirkov get up the field more often as he seemed to be the only one to get any penetration against Spain. Ramos had his best game of the tournament but I think a lot of it was due to the fact that Zhirkov didn’t have anyone in front of him and so had to stay home too often. Russia should have made Ramos pay for coming forward so much. Guiza and Silva finished off good set ups by Cesc once the gaps had opened up with the Russians having to press upfield in search of an equalizer.

Man of the match – Cesc Fabregas.

Some other observations:

Aragones, why won’t you start Cesc? Especially against the Germans, Iniesta is too slight to play in the midfield with Xavi. He also is not as good at starting moves – he is better in the last third. You need Cesc there to provide an alternative to Xavi else the Germans will put someone on Xavi to stifle the ball getting forward. If Villa is out (as he is supposed to be at the timing of writing), I would prefer you drop Iniesta and start Xabi and Cesc alongside Senna, Silva and Torres.

Also, Aragones, stop substituting Torres. He had two chances at goal in five minutes and looked good all game. He needs a goal for confidence. Why put Guiza on? Torres could have scored in the last 15 minutes and felt good going into the final. Whatever.

Still don’t like Puyol and Marchena in the middle. I have to believe the combination of Klose and Ballack in the air along with Schweinsteiger and Podolski’s quickness is going to give them problems. Get ready Casillas.

Ramos and Lahm. Look out Sergio because if you thought Zhirkov was problematic, Lahm is going to be even tougher for you since he has carte blanche to go forward just as you do, is low to the ground and cuts quickly and is backed up by Frings so you can’t just bomb down his side. Don’t foul Lahm with your usual tackling. Free kicks on the wing are exactly what you don’t want to give up.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Russia 1

Result: Spain 3 Russia 0

Scorers: Xavi Hernandez, Daniel Guiza, David Silva (Spain)

The Euro 2008 final should be great. I still think Spain will win but let’s see if Villa is going to play…

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2nd semi final: Spain v Russia – pre game prediction

While this is a toss up, I pick Spain to beat Russia. Pundits have commented on how Spain seems to have slowed down while Russia has picked up their speed and look like world beaters. Yes, Spain slowed down, but a lot of it was down to playing against the Italians and their catenaccio system of play. In fact, I would suggest that Spain needs to play at a slower tempo so as not to give Russia gaps to exploit in the Spanish half and to negate Russia’s late game fitness edge.

Forget about the first game. As I said then, Russia was in that game and if they had put away one of their early chances, it would have been a very different game at 1-1. The final scoreline is irrelevant and the Russians didn’t have Arshavin or a firing Pavlyuchenko. I believe this game will be decided by three factors. The absence of Kolodin is a big loss and one that is going to hamper the Russians’ ability to keep Villa and Torres in check. Torres is due. Another key battle is how well Ramos and Capdevilla deal with Arshavin. I think they are faster than the Dutch defenders and so should be better capable – they have also been forewarned that Arshavin is a real player. Ramos also needs to concentrate on staying home as Arshavin will be backed up by an overlapping Zhirkov on the left wing. Finally, Spain needs to put Cesc in from the start. They need his drive and two way play. If he starts instead of Iniesta, Spain have a better chance of winning the midfield battle and it will give Xavi more room.

Arragones, please listen to me. Start Cesc for Iniesta. Silva did well, so I am okay with him starting, but you need Cesc to help Senna and Xavi out.

Hiddink, I have nothing to tell you. You are the best at the international game right now. Good luck.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Russia 1

Wouldn’t be surprised if this went to extra time though I doubt it will go to penalties. I just can’t believe that Spain will crash out again to a Hiddink team after the heartbreak in Korea in 2002…

Here are the links to the blogs from the first Spain v Russia matchup in group play

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/group-d-pre-game-predictions-spain-vs-russia-greece-vs-sweden/

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/spain-vs-russia-half-time/

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/spain-vs-russia-post-match/

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Who will win Euro 2008 – pre semi finals

Why Germany will win:

I believe Germany will beat Turkey in its weakened state. That leaves Germany playing either Spain or Russia for the trophy.

  • The psychological edge: Neither Russia nor Spain has been at this level in the lifetimes of these players. That is going to weigh heavily on them if the game is close, goes to overtime or in penalties. Germany, by contrast, is battle tested. Ballack and Klose were in the squad that lost in the 2002 World Cup Final to Brazil. While Puyol, Marchena, Casillas, Xavi and Iniesta have been in Champions League winning squads, that’s not the same as a quadrennial tournament for your country. I know Spain won their shootout, but I will take the Germans in a shootout if it comes to that – Lehmann is very good at penalties as well. I believe it will be less of an edge against the Russians as they have nothing to lose. They have overperformed and have a great coach to take some of the pressure off the players.
  • The physical edge: Russia has been particularly vulnerable on free kicks as evidenced by the slack marking against the Dutch. That will bury them against the Germans who demonstrated their aerial capabilities against Portugal. Spain has also struggled with the high ball – they gave up a headed goal to Pavlyuchenko and had trouble against Ibrahimovic on the diagonal cross. In midfield, it’s going to be tough for Spain to match up with the speed and aggressiveness of the Germans. Podolski, Klose, Ballack and Schweinsteiger are also going to be a handful for the Spanish rearguard.
  • In-form players: Ballack, Klose, Schweinsteiger and Podolski are all on the board. Look out.

Why Spain will win:

They can beat Russia by keeping possession – the less time the Russians have on the ball, the less damage Arshavin can do. If I was Spain, I would slow the game down so that the Russians’ late game fitness is not an issue. Spain also has enough mobility in midfield to stay with the Russians. It’s a toss up, but I think Spain can win because of the scoring threat that Torres and Villa will provide. They will not be flat like the Dutch were. However, Casillas is going to have to have the game of his life to keep the Russians from scoring with Pavlyuchenko set to give Puyol and Marchena fits.

  • Spain has the bench: Their depth will be the key to counter Germany or Turkey if the game goes into overtime. Arragones has a depth of midfield choices to change up his gameplan as well.
  • In-form players: Villa leads the tournament in scoring. Torres has scored and all the penalty kick takers, excluding Guiza, should be full of confidence. Casillas is on form as well.
  • They believe now that they have thrown off the quarterfinal jinx.
  • They are quicker at moving the ball around than anyone Germany or Turkey have played so far. That will give them fits. I think Spain should want to play Germany because only Genghis Khan’s hordes will be able to keep Turkey from winning the title if they beat Germany with half a squad. Tuncay, Turan, Volkan and Asik will be back for the final, so beware.
  • It’s their time – it just feels like it.

Why Russia will win:

They can beat Spain if they score first. Spain will have to be more aggressive playing from behind and that will leave more space for Arshavin to exploit. It’s going to be tough as Spain has been warned after seeing the Dutch get served up. So if Russia can get past Spain, they will beat Turkey handily in my opinion. The Turks will not be able to recover from giving up as many chances as Russia creates. Can they beat Germany is the question. Yes, they can.

  • Russia plays the best football of any team in the tournament. It’s pretty, one touch, direct, motion football. As a result, they create a ton of chances regardless of the pace of play.
  • They have nothing to lose. They are already heroes.
  • They have in-form players in Pavlyuchenko and Zhirkov as well as the player of the tournament in Arshavin.
  • They have Hiddink.
  • Their movement will make it tough for Germany to shut them down even if Germany plays five in midfield.
  • They will have learned their lesson against Holland and mark people tighter on free kicks and corners.

And after all that, CH12 picks…

My gut says the winner of the Spain v Russia semi final wins the tournament with my choice being Spain. More after the semi finals…

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Russia v Netherlands – post game

Sorry Holland, but now that you have lost, you are back to the Netherlands. Frankly, the Dutch were lucky to get the game to extra time. Russia dominated this game from the beginning to the end. The only thing that the Dutch had going for them was the slack marking – frankly baffling given how good a coach Hiddink is – off of free kicks that almost had Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Nigel De Jong scoring in the first half. Other than that it was Russia that dominated midfield and looked the more dangerous going forward. Sneijder and Van der Vaart had below average games and Ooijer and Mathijsen looked pedestrian. If it wasn’t for Van der Sar’s heroics, this game would have been over by the 60 minute mark. As it was, he kept Russia out till the 56th minute when Pavlyuchenko brilliantly finished on the near post after getting goal side of his marker. The fault lies with Heitenga who had just come on for Bouhlarouz and was nowhere near the crosser, Semak. Too much time allowed him to deliver a perfect pass for Pavlyuchenko to leave Van der Sar flat footed.

After that, the Dutch tried everything to get back into the game but most of their efforts involved long range blasts by Sneijder. Unfortunately, my prediction for man of the match, Arjen Robben could not play due to injury and that limited Dutch penetration on the wings. They played too narrow which didn’t work against the Russians who packed it inside and didn’t give Van Nistelrooy or Sneijder much room. Meanwhile, Van Der Sar and De Jong somehow managed to keep Russia from scoring with Ooijer and Mathijsen clearly struggling with the pace of Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko and Zhirkov. However, there was just one free kick too many for the Russians and Ruud headed in unmarked to tie it up in the 86th minute. The game may not have ended the way it did if not for the referee overturning his decision to give Kolodin a second yellow card for a foul on Sneijder after consulting with his linesman who told him the ball had gone out of play before the foul. I have never seen that happen before. Good thing he did, because otherwise it would have unfairly given the Dutch an advantage in extra time, as replays showed no contact.

In extra time, it was clear that the Dutch were just hanging on and that it was Russia’s to win. Man of the match, Andrei Arshavin, demonstrated clearly that he was the best player on the park by showing the same pace at the end of the game as he did in the beginning. His stop start left his defender standing before he crossed for Torbinsky to turn the ball inside the far post when Van Der Vaart and Gio Van Bronckhorst left him get between and ahead of them. Arshavin finished the scoring with a diagonal run, received a throw in and put it between Van der Sar’s legs. Wenger, you better add some more millions to that transfer fee.

The result didn’t surprise me. As I had suggested in my pre-game post, IF both teams played the way they could, I thought the Russians would win. The Russians played the way they can and the Dutch didn’t even reach their regular potential. Russia and Turkey in the semi finals. What a tournament.

Pre-game prediction: Russia 1 Holland 3

Result: Russia 3 Netherlands 1 (a little dyslexia from HC21)

Scorers: Roman Pavlyuchenko, Dmitri Torbinsky, Andrei Arshavin (Russia) Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)

Spain, could you please win one for the pre-game favorites and have CH12 at least correctly predict one of the four quarter finals…

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Group D final day post match – Russia v Sweden, Spain v Greece

Let’s get Spain v Greece out the of way.  Spain came back and won 2-1 with Guiza setting up the equalizer from de la Red and scoring the winner in the dying minutes.  Spain started a brand new squad with only Iniesta starting from the first team.  They still won.  Xabi Alonso had a great game and almost scored from the middle of the pitch as he did against Newcastle.  As a reward for getting 9 points out of a possible 9, Spain gets to play Italy.  Sweet.  Before everyone goes on to talk about how this is just terrible for Spain, let me say this – sitting here today I think they got lucky by getting this Italian squad instead of the full French team.  Spain will beat Italy… but more on that later in the week.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 1 Greece 0

Result: Spain 2 Greece 1

Scorers: Ruben de la Red, Daniel Guiza (Spain), Angelos Charisteas (Greece)

Russia put on a master class display.  As CH12 had hoped, they moved the ball around brilliantly.  Arshavin was as good as advertised – he never seems hurried and he seems to put the ball wherever he wants to.  I can’t wait for the Russia/Holland quarter final – and Holland, you better watch out because this Russian team (especially with Hiddink in charge) could have CH12 referring to you as the Netherlands again by the time the match is over.

I said the Russians played pretty football.  They do.  I said they would win.  They did.  I said they play sort of total football.  They actually don’t.  What we saw was pretty football that looks like total football.  What they have are players who all seem very comfortable with playing one touch, on the ground, passes, moving off the ball, creating space and making the extra pass (Pavlyuchenko excluded).  It’s unbelievable how calmly they look for, and make, the extra pass in the opposing box.   Sweden is lucky they didn’t concede 4 or 5 goals – two came off the post and Russia missed a couple of breakaways as well.  Hiddink will be doubly pleased that other than a Henrik Larsson header off the crossbar, his defense kept Sweden well in check with Akinfeev looking confident as well.  Man of the match for Russia was Yuri Zhirkov (picture below).  He was brilliant down the left wing and looked like a rich man’s Fabio Grosso.  The one issue that I see is that the Russians seem to zone mark in their own box.  That will get them in trouble if teams avoid high crosses and instead play one twos on the ground against them.

Pre-game prediction: Russia 3 Sweden 2

Result: Russia 2 Sweden 0

Scorers: Roman Pavluchenko, Andrei Arshavin (Russia)

CH12’s crystal ball was working in Group D.  Look out world, because the Russians are coming.  On to the quarters – the predictions slate in now clean.   I still feel quite comfortable with my original prediction of Spain v Portugal in the finals…

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