Tag Archives: nigeria

When a Win Feels Like a Draw, and a Draw Feels Like a Loss

The first game in this group was set to feature a set of superstars versus a young upstart squad.  The second game was supposed to have a continental champion overwhelm an also-ran; fail on this one as well.

What a disappointing performance from Argentina.  Expecting a fearsome foursome at the top, Alejandro Sabella decided to drop Gonzalo Higuaín and Ángel Di María, plus he fielded essentially six defenders.  So it’s no shocker that they only led at the half because of an early own-goal from Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Higuain's introduction was critical

Higuain’s introduction was critical

Sabella changed it up at the half and brought on Higuaín and Fernando Gago.  More option meant more men for the Bosnians to defend against and that allowed Lionel Messi to score.  Check out the goal here… Messi makes his run, passes it to Higuaín, who gives it right back to Messi, who hadn’t stopped running until he’s ready to take his shot, and then it’s in.  Bosnia would get one back late but that was it.  Argentina 2-1 Bosnia & Hezegovina

As for today’s match, let’s just say Nigeria blew their best chance at three points in this group.  Iran was content to batter down the hatches, but as the game went on, so did the Persians’ sense of adventure.   Stephen Keshi’s frustration showed early when he subbed on Shola Ameobi for Victor Moses in the 52nd minute… and then Peter Odemwingie for Ramon Azeez in the 69th.  Neither Ameobi nor Odemwingie exactly lit up the Premier League this season… and their work rate was no better today.  Nigeria dominated possession… but as we so often see, possession means nothing.  This  World Cup gets its first draw after five days of play.  Iran 0-0 Nigeria

Brent P. Lanthier

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil 2014, World Cup

World Cup 2014 Preview: Groups E & F

Argentina v Mexico: 2010 FIFA World Cup - Round of SixteenThese two groups offer one sure thing — Argentina will go through on top — and then a bunch of questions.  Are Switzerland really sixth in the world? Have France overcome their attitude problems*?  Can Ecuador/Honduras/Iran/Nigeria push away the perception biases against their continents and actually challenge the European/South American powers?

Albanian blood, Swiss heats

Albanian blood, Swiss hearts

GROUP E
Switzerland’s football team is a reflection of the country itself: a multicultural nation whose style is cold and boring. That is, of course, unkind (the bit about being cold and boring) but you can’t argue that Switzerland is a very defensive team. That’s because the Swiss play to their strengths.  Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and LB Ricardo Rodríguez both had decent seasons with Wolfsburg, likewise RB Stephan Lichtsteiner with Juventus.   Napoli midfielders Gökhan Inler, Velon Behrami and Blerim Džemaili join Bundesliga wunderkinds Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.  This is a team marshaled by the great Ottmar Hitzfeld, a man whose club pedigree is as great as any manager in the tournament.   This team made it into the World Cup because they won a weak group.  That doesn’t mean they’ll be pushovers.  ROUND OF 16

Deschamps seems to have cleared out the rot in the French team

Deschamps seems to have cleared out the rot

Over the last six years, France‘s national side has been the very opposite of disciplined.  The side revolted against its manager, Raymond Domenech in South Africa, and the team failed to get out of the group stage.  Then in Euro 2012, a dressing room bust-up after losing 2-0 to Sweden in the final group game resulted in the firing of French legend Laurent Blanc.  That era appears to be over.  Didier Deschamps has put together a very competent team that is short on star power, but no less flashy.  The biggest name here is Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema, after Franck Ribery was ruled out through injury.   From that infamous Sweden match, only four players remain: captain Hugo Lloris, Mathieu Debuchy, Benzema, and Olivier Giroud.   This year’s World Cup Squad only features five other players who even travelled to Ukraine.   The problems are gone, the pedigree remains.  QUARTER-FINALISTS

Ecuador has Valencia... and not much else

Ecuador has Valencia… and not much else

When Ecuador played England, many outlets wrote about how the South Americans gave England a good run, and how the heat makes a difference, and blah blah blah blah.  Here are the facts: 1) Ecuador won seven of their eight home qualifying matches (plus they drew Argentina) because they play in Quito, a city sitting at almost 2900m.  But away from home, they managed only an 0-3-5 record.  That’s basically saying they advanced because their opponents couldn’t breathe.  2) They perpetuate old stereotypes about South American teams that don’t score, but kick the hell out of their opponents.  3) They only have one player who regularly started in a major European league, Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia. This side snuck in because they had a better defensive record than Uruguay. That won’t help them here. THREE AND OUT

This is his face when it's just a friendly...

This is his face when it’s just a friendly…

More of the same from Honduras.  Only Maynor Figueroa and Wilson Palacios have any big league experience (and let’s please not muddy the waters by countering that MLS or the Scottish Premier is big league).  They will be strong on the ball (why physicality is so prized in the Western Hemisphere, I’ll never know) but their fate will be the same as fellow CONCACAF qualifiers, Costa Rica.  THREE AND OUT

GROUP F

Could this be King Leo's year?

Could this be King Leo’s year?

Argentina will perform well at this World Cup for many of the same reasons as the hosts: a well-rounded squad (though not as good as Brazil), a tournament based in South America, and a fairly easy progression into the knockout stage.  One thing that Alejandro Sabella’s men won’t have to contend with is pressure… not on the scale of Brazil’s pressure anyway.  But Argentina haven’t won a trophy in almost 30 years, and they must think they can pull an Uruguay, circa 1950 against their old foes.  La Albiceleste boasts the scariest offence in this tournament: Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero… and of course, Lionel Messi.  The three share an understanding… and just behind them is Ángel Di María looping in and out from the right wing.   A dream final between Brazil and Argentina is possible in a tournament promising several tasty end-scenarios.  SEMI-FINALISTS

"Uh, question? Why am I the only striker?"

“Uh, question? Why am I the only striker?”

The  build-up to Bosnia-Herzegovina‘s maiden World Cup appearance was fun to watch, as Safet Sušić built a team to attack.  The Bosnians tore through a relatively weak group, scoring at least three goals in six of their 10 qualifiers.  But this is not qualifying and now it appears the coach has had a rethink in World Cup warm-ups, adding an extra defensive midfielder and playing with a solitary striker.  In fact, he’s only bringing two out-and-out strikers: Eden Džeko and Stuttgart’s leading scorer, Vedad Ibišević.   Roma’s Miralem Pjanic will likely play just behind Džeko, but what about the rest of the side? This is a team that should be proud of its accomplishments, 20 years after a devastating war.   But the party is over.  THREE AND OUT

Hey it's... that guy... and... yeah...

Hey it’s… that guy… and… yeah…

It’s not a good sign when the biggest name on the team is the manager.  Former Portugal and Real Madrid manager, Carlos Queiroz has taken Iran to Brazil.   This is a side that is reportedly ill-prepared for the tournament (the government is a police state and the team doesn’t have a lot of resources).  The assumption is that Queiroz will make them very defensive… and no one wants to see that.  They won’t make it to the 60-minute mark, let alone the knockout round.  THREE AND OUT

Moses, Emenike, Mikel... get used to hearing that combination.

Moses, Emenike, Mikel: get used to hearing that combination.

Pride has been restored to the one of Africa’s biggest footballing nations.  Nigeria took the 2013 African Cup of Nations, winning it for the first time since 1994.  That was the same year the Super Eagles won the group at USA ’94, where they took Italy to extra-time in the Round of 16.  In France ’98, the same thing: winning the group by beating Raúl’s Spain and Stoichkov’s Bulgaria.  Since then, they have qualified for two more World Cups and finished dead last in their groups.  This tournament’s squad features a quality mix of young forwards: Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa are both only 21, while Emmanuel Eminike is the veteran at the ripe old age of 27.   Stephen Keshi is bringing six strikers to Brazil.  What does that tell you? They came to play.  ROUND OF 16

 Brent P. Lanthier

*The team, not the nation;  changes, not miracles.

Up Next: Groups G & H

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil 2014, World Cup

French are toast, while Yakubu’s howler burns Nigerians

It was a contrast in dignity. One team — lowly-ranked before the World Cup even began — put up a desparate last-gasp effort to remain in its own tournament. The other team made a mockery of it.  In the end, both France and South Africa are out… with Bafana Bafana winning 2-1, sending last year’s finalists home to face the wrath of their countrymen. Of course, there was a sending-off, and “Le Fou” Domenech couldn’t leave without one last petty gesture. From the Guardian: Not Everybody Loves Raymond.

In the other game, Uruguay won the group, after it beat Mexico 1-0, who have backed into second place. Before the tournament, many pundits talked about the strike force of Forlan and Suarez (who have both scored), but the Uruguayan defence has yet to concede a goal.

In Group B, Diego Maradona made seven changes to his team, yet they still won comfortably against hapless Greece, 2-0. Maradona has started talking sense, as well. That’s no fun…

The other game was South Korea-Nigeria. (Here’s where I admit my few shortcomings: I wrote Nigeria needed to win by more than a goal. Not true; they just needed a win). Lots of back and forth, with a nice first goal by Nigeria. But the Africans got caught on two set pieces and ended up down 2-1. Yakubu missed a goal that I could have scored drunk.  The Nigerians ended converting a penalty kick, making it 2-2, but it wasn’t enough.

So now it’s Uruguay vs. South Korea, and Argentina-Mexico. Note that three of the five South American teams have now qualified, yet three of six African teams are going home.

Brent Lanthier

Leave a comment

Filed under World Cup

Fiesta time in Mexico as France sings Les Bleus

You know they’re gonna party like it’s Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, with people marching through the streets and even the chihuahuas waving au revoir to France, after El Tri saw off Los Tricolores 2-0 at the World Cup today, a huge result in Group A that puts Mexico and Uruguay on the front foot to move on. Manchester United-bound striker Javier Hernandez was sent in clean alone to nab the first, while Aztec Emperor Cuauthemoc Blanco converted the second from the penalty spot. Raymond Domenech looked awfully calm for a guy whose team is still scoreless at this tournament…maybe he’s finally read in the stars that he’s out of a job when the tournament is over, which could come after the final group game against South Africa. Could Bafana Bafana still have a shot against this lifeless French team?

Earlier, my Sports Guapa (she grew up in Buenos Aires) shook off a cold and got out of bed early to watch Argentina have their way with South Korea in a 4-1 victory, with Gonzalo Higuain picking up a rare Albiceleste World Cup hat trick . Maradona’s men looked sharp in this one, and made the coach happy enough to say sorry to Michel Platini, but not Pele.

Finally, there was drama aplenty when the so-called boring Greeks took on Nigeria, with Sani Kaita’s reckless red card in the first half proving disastrous for the Super Eagles, who watched a 1-0 lead become a 2-1 defeat as Greece did some work to control its debt crisis by scoring the nation’s first two World Cup goals, a feat sure to get the crowd hopping on the Danforth in Toronto.

Sara Carbonero

Sara Carbonero, girlfriend of Iker Casillas

Nigeria might well have suffered an even worse defeat if not for the superb effort by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, clearly the star of his position at the tournament so far. It took a deflection to beat him on the first goal, although he did have a bit of a Robert Green moment when he spilled the shot that led to the decider. Here’s hoping his girlfriend doesn’t get the blame, with Iker Casillas of Spain the latest to get that treatment.

Elsewhere, it seems Fabio Capello is coming under a bit of criticism for his team selections. There certainly are some options with Gareth Barry fit to start. But if Capello loses to Algeria, his decisions could prove as costly as they did to this fellow.

Ian Harrison

1 Comment

Filed under World Cup

Dr. Z’s World Cup Predictions: Group B

Dentist by day, football prognosticator by night, our own Dr. Hadi Zogheib is scouting out each group at World Cup 2010 and predicting first round scores and standings. Here’s what the good doctor says about Group B:

Argentina:  Clear favourites in one of the easier groups of the tournament.  Questions persist over Diego Maradona’s appointment as manager, but consider this;  Argentina had only one victory in its first seven matches in South American qualifying and was struggling badly under then-manager Alfio Basile.  Maradona’s record, while not great, was still better than Basile’s.  Besides, with little Lionel Messi in the lineup (not to mention Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, or Diego Milito) , even crazy Maradona could be made to look like a genius.

South Korea:  Strong on technique and speed, but short on organization and aerial strength, the Koreans are a bit of a question mark.  They definitely have the ability to spring an upset but could just as easily go home without a point.  They come into the tournament full of confidence, however, having just knocked off bitter rivals Japan in their home stadium.

Greece:  The Greeks have never been the prettiest team in the world to watch, but they will definitely be tough to break down.  Ask any of their Euro 2004 opponents.  Completely opposite to the South Koreans, the Greeks use organization and strength to compensate for their lack of flair.  They will also rely heavily on striker Theofanis Gekas, who led all of Europe with ten goals in qualifying.

Nigeria:  Historically the most successful African team at the World Cup, and traditionally the most-feared team from the continent.  But make no mistake, this is not the same Nigeria people are used to.  They barely qualified for the tournament by leapfrogging Tunisia on the final day, as the Tunisians were upset in Mozambique and an 81st minute strike by Obafemi Martins sent the Nigerians through.  Nevertheless, under Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, the men in green should have the talent and support to do well in South Africa.

Results:

Argentina 1-0 Nigeria

South Korea 0- 1 Greece

South Korea 1- 3 Argentina

Greece 0 – 0 Nigeria

Argentina 1- 1 Greece

Nigeria 2-1 South Korea

Group Standings:

Argentina 7 pts

Greece 5 pts

Nigeria 4 pts

South Korea 0 pts

Also: Find out who Hadi picks to emerge from Group A.

Alpha Inventions Ranking

4 Comments

Filed under World Cup