Tag Archives: semi final

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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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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Spain v Russia – half time comments

A few things to watch for in the second half

The rain.  Someone’s going to make a mistake.  Both goalies are good, but it’s tough in these conditions.  Good thing both teams like playing on the ground.  The ball’s going to move faster.  Expect the pace of the game to increase in the second half.

Zhirkov.  He’s going to get a breakaway a few times with Ramos caught upfield.  Will be interesting to see how Puyol deals with him.

Torres.  Ignashevich is having a hard time staying with him.

Iniesta.  He needs to come off.  Cesc is on, and should have been on for him instead of Villa (hope the injury is not bad), and these weather conditions are ideal for him – he’s used to playing in rain in England.  Bring on Guiza – his height is going to bother the Russian central pairing.

Arshavin.  He hasn’t expended much energy or seen enough of the ball.  Look for him to get more going in the second half.

Pavlyuchenko.  The stage is set for him to tuck one away after getting in between Puyol and Marchena.

Both teams look like they could win the game…

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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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Germany v Turkey – post game

I am just exhausted. You know what the Turkish team reminds me of – the trick birthday candle that you just can’t blow out. So you finally get a big bucket of water and douse it. That’s what Germany had to do. I still don’t believe the Turks lost since the last two minutes of injury time were black screened due to technical difficulties. I had absolutely no doubt that Turkey would come back and score during that time. However, it was not to be. It is amazing that everyone who saw this run will talk of this Turkey team’s performance long after anyone remembers who won the tournament. Hats off to you. You played with possibly four starters and almost made it to the final.

However, the Dwarf (that’s not my nickname for him – it’s what they call him in Germany) made Turkey pay. First he crossed for Klose to leap and nod in in typical Miroslav fashion, then he got turned inside out by Sabri who crossed for Semih to score with the touch of the tournament and finally he cut in on the left wing, dished off, kept running and finished off by wrong footing Rustu with a high blast at the near post. It was a brilliant finish. And it didn’t give the Turks enough time to get another goal back.

Turkey started the game very well and had the Germans looking very ordinary. Ballack really had a sub par game and Lehmann was up to his usual walkabout tricks. Kazim Kazim blasted one off the crossbar before mishitting another one off the other side of the crossbar. Lehmann was totally lost on the rebound, Friedrich was ball watching and Ugur Boral put it in between a confused Lehmann’s legs. This after Lehmann almost let a cross by Altintop leave him stranded too far out of the six yard box. So, Germany was lucky it was only 1-0. They were also lucky that the Turks didn’t immediately shut up shop for the half and instead allowed Podolski space on the wing to cross for Schweinsteiger to make a brilliant touch finish to the far post.

Pre-game prediction: Germany 3 Turkey 1

Result: Germany 3 Turkey 2

Scorers: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Philip Lahm (Germany) Ugur Boral, Semih Senturk (Turkey)

I didn’t see enough from Germany in this game to change my prediction that the winner of Russia v Spain wins this tournament. The German backs are going to have a hard time dealing with the movement, passing and trickery of Villa/Torres/Silva or Arshavin/Pavlyuchenko/Zhirkov. I hope the Russia v Spain semi final delivers what it’s capable of – the best game of the tournament…

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