Thursday, July 15, 2010

World Cup Awards/Wrap Up

Time for my final World Cup post. Sad, but necessary. I've got a few awards and final observations.

Best Game - Ghana/Uruguay - Yes, had to go with this one. You have the stuff you can't make up with the Suarez handball, the Gyan miss, the Gyan make, the Abreu chip for the win, but the rest of the game was high quality too. The second half and overtime were great eb and flow stuff.
The fact that this is the game of the tournament might shed light on the fact that though the tournament had parity, and many close games, there wasn't really many truly great, memorable games.

Runners-up: US/Slovenia - The Algeria game had the moment and anticipation, but as an overall game, US/Slovenia one was much better, better play and entertainment. 2-0 to 2-2, the disallowed goal, and Slovenia unlike Algeria, played pretty well at the end.

South Korea/Nigeria - Most probably forgot about this game, but it was edge of the seat stuff for me. 1-0 Nigeria, 2-1 South Korea, the Yakubu miss, 2-2, then chances at the end to win it. Plus you have the drama of flipping back to the other game, and in the end knowing that all Nigeria needed to do was score to go through to the next round.

Best Moment - Donovan Goal vs Algeria - It's hard to think of a moment that could top this one in any other sport. For 90 minutes the anticipation and anxiousness is growing and growing and just when you think it's over....GOAL!!!!

Best Fan:
Goodness

There were stories about the Dutch porn star who was going to blow all her twitter followers if Holland won and the Paraguay lingerie model that would run through the streets naked if Paraguay become champions, but I'm pretty sure neither has anything on this Australia fan.
Damn.

Runner up: Bill Clinton

Most fun team to watch - Germany - I definitely want to rewatch Germany against Australia, England, Argentina, and Uruguay. Fun young team and it isn't just about their counter attack ability. They are great in possession as well.

Tightest Jerseys (Physically tight, not tight meaning cool or fly) - Llorente (Spain) and France team. Adidas makes tight jerseys. I think Llorente's is painted on. It actually ripped from him just running. And France, well, at least they have one award.

Biggest Surprise - For me it has to be Japan. I had them getting zero points. Not only did they win two matches and make it to the next round, but they played well and made it through on skill not luck.


Last words: Lots of commentators are saying that this wasn't a very good World Cup. They complain about the lack of scoring, the lack of great games, the vuvuzelas and the ball, but I disagree. This is by far the most I have invested in a World Cup. I probably only missed about 5 games and saw a little more than half in their entirety.
I loved it - the passion, the skill, the different styles of play, the shear number of games, the ups and downs and surprises. My only complaint is I now have to wait 4 years for another one.
But all in all, to me, it was a great World Cup. I'll remember the awesome US games and people at home actually caring, the great German team, the African disappointment on the field, Spain's mastery, and much more.
South Africa 2010!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big Dunc's World Cup XI

I'm still in denial about the World Cup being over, so I will continue to pound you with World Cup posts. It's now time to look back on the exciting (sometimes) 5 weeks with Big Dunc's World Cup XI


Goalkeeper:
Iker Casillas (Spain) - Picking a best goalie was difficult. This World Cup was marked by a lot of goalkeeping errors. Casillas and Neuer for Germany were probably the only ones that didn't make obvious mistakes and Casillas saved a penalty and saved the Robben one-on-one to win the Cup for Spain

Honorable Mention: Howard - tough to blame Ghana's first goal on him despite positioning that could've been better, amazing otherwise, Steklenberger (NED) - mistake vs Forlan, but great tournament otherwise, Vincent Enyeama (NIG) - lots of spectacular saves in his three games, but one glaring mistake against Greece.

Defense:
Carlos Puyol (Spain) - The World Cup is a short selection of games. Many say Pique was better than Puyol, but Puyol made the huge play against Germany, the one people will remember.
Per Mertesaker (Germany) - Mertesaker was brilliant against Spain. Seriously check out the game and see how many times he intervened in dangerous situations. Great against England and Argentina as well.
Gio Van Bronckhorst - Goal of the tournament? If not, then pretty close. Held it down for the runner-up, but people will remember the goal.

Honorable Mention - Lugano (Uruguay), Pique (Spain), Ramos (Spain)

Midfield:
Thomas Muller (Germany) - Golden Ball winner and Young Player of the Tournament
Xavi (Spain) - Pulling all the strings for the Champion
Iniesta (Spain) - Great tournament, but it was the winning goal in the final that secured his place here
Wesley Sniejder (Netherlands) - Got some lucky goals, but it was his overall play that guided the Dutch to the final.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) - Ballack who? Schweinsteiger was the most instrumental player for the most enteraining team of the tournament. Check out the Argentina highlights if you don't believe me.

Honorable mention: Donovan (USA) - three goals and the driving force of team USA, Ozil (GER) - coming out party for Ozil, was amazing versus Australia, Ghana, England, and Argentina, but faded at the end

Strikers:
Diego Forlan (Uruguay) - Player of the tournament, did more for his team than probably any other player.
David Villa (Spain) - 5 goals, seemed to score them when Spain needed them most.

Honorable Mention: Asamoah Gyan (Ghana) - one penalty away from making the starting line-up, but his goal against the USA really showed America what we are missing, Luis Suarez (URU) - handball saved his team, but the goal against South Korea was pure class, Miroslav Klose - this guy just scores World Cup goals, the opener vs England was sublime, exactly what you want a center forward to do, too bad he missed the 3rd place game.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

World Cup - Big Dunc's Players to Watch

Time to check my predictions. I did not mention in my World Cup Final post that I indeed did pick Spain to win it all and I had 3 of the 4 quarter finalists correct. Not bad, but not great either.

Time now to check on my prophesy skills in my Big Dunc's Player to Watch. Before the Cup began I picked a player from (almost) each team as a player to watch. I tried not to pick the most obvious player, so my picks mostly ranged from young players who could have a break out World Cup to players who were most instrumental in their side's success or demise. Now that the tournament is done, I'm scrutinizing and praising my picks and breaking them down into "Revelations" , "on the money", "off the mark", and "just dead wrong" picks.


Revelations - these are players that very few people had previously heard of or players that people did not expect to make a mark on the World Cup.



Siphiwe Tshabalala - South Africa - This is probably my best pick, scored a cracking goal to start off the World Cup and played well in all three games for the host country. Gotta give myself props for that one.

Luis Suarez - Uruguay- 4 goals, great combination play with Forlan, oh and a handball to save his team.

Mesut Ozil - Germany - Ozil was a revelation for Germany, the man pulling the strings in the German midfield. He did fade out after the Argentina game, though, but still a rising star of this tournament.

Kalu Uche - Nigeria - The prototypical player to watch - missed a great chance against Argentina, then scored against Greece and South Korea

Shane Smeltz - New Zealand - Scored against Italy and help New Zealand be the only team in WC 2010 without a loss.

Justo Villar - Paraguay - Keeper made a mistake against Italy but was virtually flawless after that, shuting out Slovakia, New Zealand, Japan and saving a penalty vs Spain. I've seen him as honorable mention on many World Cup Best XI teams.

Milan Jovanovic - Serbia - Scored the winner against Germany and now signed a big deal with Liverpool.

Asamoah Gyan - I think we all know about this guy by now, but may not have before the Cup began.


On the Money - these picks were correct but less risky or not as influential on games

Spain - I didn't pick a player for Spain because they are all so good. I think they showed I was correct there.

Gervinho -Ivory Coast - For my money, sans Drogba, Gervinho was the best player out there for Ivory Coast. Look for more in the future from this guy.

Maicon - Brazil - Most people already knew about Maicon, but if they didn't, they took notice after his great goal.

Jong Tae-Se - Didn't score, but was North Korea's best player.

Martin Skrtel - Slovakia - Strongly led Slovakia to the next round.

Samir Handanovic - Slovenia - Could have done better on the Donovan goal, but strong overall, wears pants, now being linked to Arsenal.

Ji-Sung Park - South Korea - No brainer there

Georgie Welcome - Honduras - Not much to choose from for Honduras, still has a great name.


Off the Mark

Suazo - Chile - Injury held him back

Pepe - Portugal - also recovering from injury

Van Persie - Netherlands - I said Van Persie would be key for Dutch success. Not really the case.

Christian Poulsen - Denmark - Didn't really do too much

Pierre Webo - Cameroon - Looked good in flashes, but didn't contribute too much to a struggling team.

Gareth Barry - England - When I said that Barry played a large part in the level of success for England I was kind of correct. Barry played poorly and so did England.

Yebda - Algeria

Di Maria - Argentina - Played well, but really didn't make an impact on such an offensive team. Signed a big contract with Real Madrid.

Samaras - Greece

Vela - Mexico - Injured

Altidore - USA - The World Cup has led me to reevaluate Altidore. He is currently not good enough.


Just Dead Wrong

Gignac - France - I guess any France pick would be dead wrong, but Gignac barely played and was not one to watch when he was on the field. Anelka or the fitness coach would have been better choices.

Bresciano - Australia - Not sure if he did a thing.

Gilardino - Italy - Did he take a shot the entire tournament? Man

Alexander Frei - Switzerland - Injury led him to play on 63 minutes in the tournament.

Japan - I didn't pick a player for Japan and instead picked a character from the movie Battle Royale. I did not think Japan would even score a point. I was wrong. I hope the nation of Japan accepts my apology.


Well, looks like I was about 50/50 with my predictions. Not bad I say.

World Cup Final




The World Cup is over. I am sad. What will I now blog about?
Well, I think I can still squeeze out 2 or 3 World Cup posts.

World Cup Final

In a game that lacked the flow and creativity and disappointed on many counts, at least the better team won. Spain deserved the victory and are now deserving World Cup Champions.
The game itself was not great, but this is expected as the final game. Really no World Cup final has been a truly exciting game since 1986. This one wasn't horrible, with both teams having genuine chances, but it wasn't really fun either. Yellow cards were everywhere.

Neither team really pushed forward as much as they have in past games. There is little you can really point to as key strategic moves or driving forces of the game. Kuyt and Sneidjer were pretty quite compared to previous games. Robben was the only real threat for Holland. They played defensively, but not as much as Portugal or Paraguay. Spain did there short passing thing, but were disrupted often by the Netherlands.
The introduction of Fabregas helped Spain some, but in the end, it was the red card that did the Dutch in. That central defensive pairing was gone and Holland had multiple chances to properly clear the ball before the goal. Great finish by Iniesta. He succeeded where Fabregas and Robben had failed and Spain are World Champions.

I feel for a 116th minute goal it was a bit anti-climactic. But, just like the NCAA tournament and the Champions League, the first rounds of the World Cup are often times far more interesting and entertaining than the last few games.
No real complaints. Make sure to check out the emotions in the pictures. Amazing. Thrill of victory, agony of defeat. The post goal one is best. Iniesta exstatic, Holland desimated. Love it.

Look for more World Cup Coverage to follow.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Semis Review, Finals Preview

Uruguay/Netherlands - This was a fun game to watch. I thought Holland would take it a bit more easily. Again, the second half adjustments were huge. It's not that Van der Vart did so much, but the attacking style really help. I agree with the no offsides call. The late Uruguay goal made it interesting, but the deserving team is going to the final. Congrats to Uruguay for a greatly played tournament.



Spain/Germany - My pre-match analysis was pretty spot on for this one. Great football was played, but this would not be one that would awe the neutrals. Big soccer fans can see how great Spain plays, but they pass too much to be super entertaining. I do enjoy hard fought 1-0 games, but in actuality, neither team had loads of great chances. I wish Germany would have come out more aggressively. They wanted to counter attack, but needed a goal first to be as affective as they were vs. Argentina and England. Ozil has not looked as sharp these last few games, but Schweinsteiger has looked very impressive.



Final Preview

Spain/Netherlands - We will have a first time World Cup winner, that is cool.
I'm thinking this one will be more fun to watch than the Spain/Germany game. The Dutch will keep the two holding midfielders Van Bommel and De Jong in there to contain the amazing midfield of Spain, but are by natural a bit more aggressive than Germany, Paraguay, or Portugal.
I think the two important battles will be Villa against the Dutch central defenders. Mertesaker and Freidrich stayed very close together for Germany. They cut off many through balls and longer crosses. Holland will need to do the same against Spain. The lack of togetherness of the center D can definitely be blamed for the Brazil goal and maybe the first Uruguay one as well.
The other one will be Capdevila and Ramos against Kuyt and Robben. Will Spain's outside backs continue to push forward and exploit the wings or will the be more worried about the counter attack? This is an important question. With Van Persie being relatively ineffective, the best attacking play from the Dutch has come from the outsides. If Robben and Kuyt have to consistently mark Ramos and Capdevila, then they cannot support Van Persie and Sneidjer.
I think these matchups will tell the tale.

Prediction: 1-1 after 90 minutes, 2-1 Netherlands aet.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Catch-up

Well, the long holiday weekend has thoroughly worn me out. Lots of soccer and lots of drinking has prevented me from updating my World Cup thoughts. This quick entry will contain reviews of the great quarter final games and previews of the semi finals.

Brazil/Netherlands - This was one that could have been the World Cup final. Brazil dominated the first half. It was crucial for the Dutch to remain only one down at half time. If they went in 2-0, it would have been pretty close to over, but a few nice saves and some luck allowed them to come out in the second half only down by one. The second half was completely different. The Dutch did not make any personnel changes, but they were much more attacking. The first goal was luck and the second came from a nice corner, but both were created through attacking football. They were deserving of the win.
Melo was super idiotic on the red card. What was he thinking?
Robben can only go to his left and that was evident from the start.
I thought Kuyt played a great match. He was everywhere setting up his teammates, making tackles, and clearing balls off the line. His energy is tremendous, as one of my friends said (referring to his similarities to Sloth from Goonies) "Man, Goonies is everywhere.

Uruguay/Ghana - Wow, the World Cup is great, amazing, awesome. I love it. You cannot write this shit. That has to be the most unreal ending to a game I have ever seen. Most people fail to mention that Suarez cleared the first attempt off the line with his leg before he handled the next one. You have to feel for Gyan, even though he sent out the US. All he had to do was make a PK to become the first African team to get through to the next round. Wow. And then the last penalty, pretty audacious.
The entire game was back and forth, Ghana would be in control for 10 minutes, then Uruguay for 15, then Ghana for 15, then Uruguay for 10. A great World Cup quarter final. Drama.

Germany/Argentina - Germany again got the early goal they needed. I think it was super important for the Germans to keep the Argentines from scoring in the last 15 minutes of the first half. That is when they looked their most dangerous. Germany kept Argentina out and then again made some great half-time changes to hold out for the counter attack. Germany definitely deserved this one.
I think the play of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has been vastly under rated. We've seen lots of keeper mistakes this tournament, but none by the German. He faced a lot of shots from outside and caught them all, leaving no chance for Argentina to get the rebound.
The loss of Thomas Muller will hurt Germany in the semis and it was a super soft yellow card.
I don't know what to say about Miroslav Klose. This dude was just meant to score goals in the World Cup. He is never flashy or even super impressive, but he gets it done.
It looked like Argentina was paying close attention to Ozil and that gave more freedom to Bastian Schweinsteiger. He stepped up and was the one pulling the strings for Germany.
Lots of weapons and play makers on that team.

Spain/Paraguay - First half was dull, but second half was great! Again, I can't remember a more unreal 5 minutes of play. 2 missed penalties, one after the made one was called back. Another that should have been called and a ball cleared off the line. Wow. This is the World Cup! I love it!
In the end, Spain scored and they deserved it, but Paraguay still had a chance through Santa Cruz, but he couldn't tie things up. Either way, it was a great end to a great quarterfinals.


Semifinals

Netherlands/Uruguay - I'm not as excited for this one as I was for most of the quarters. Look for a close, defensive game. I expect the skill players for Holland - Sneijder and Robben - to make the difference in this one. Holland haven't been too impressive, but that did beat Brazil, so they are the favorites in this one. Look for a 2-0 Dutch win. I'm thinking one in about the 40th minute and one in the 90th.

Germany/Spain - A rematch of the '08 European final. I'm not sure how this one will play out. Will Germany sit back and play for the counter as Portugal and Paraguay did? That would make sense as they are so strong on the counter attack, but they have more quality than Spain's previous opponents. Look for Germany to try to disrupt some of Spain's possession. Spain knows that they cannot make mistakes in the midfield. My gut tells me this will not be as open a game as people are expecting. I could see 1-0 either way or maybe even 0-0. I'm seeing a shootout win by Spain.

Fun times ahead. I hope the semis are as exciting as the quarters.