Old Futbol Buffet–Day Off Pay Off
So I took Friday so that I could concentrate on the Euro 2012 playoffs, with a focus on the Turkey/Croatia First Leg. A weak internet connection gave me a poor feed at the outset, with blotches of red and blue singing the anthems and running around the pitch. An early foul on Modric set up what looked like to be an innocuous free kick, but Corluka took it into the channel, beat his defender and sent a ball in. Volkan parried the shot from Mandzukic and Olic tapped in, putting the visitors up after three minutes. The hosts looked very shaky to start, with Croatia picking their spots with confident possession. Midway through the half, Turkey were definitely out of sorts, but coming into the match, and it seemed like they could have done more with their extra man in midfield. Croatia finally starting using the ball, with Olic finding some joy on the right. His first foray did not pay dividends but minutes later his cross created havoc in the box. The clearance fell to Modric who played it wide for a cross, which was headed in by Mandzukic. 2-0 up with ten minutes to go in the half. Halftime came with Turkey’s defenders hanging their heads in shame. Schoolboy errors it has to be said.
The second half started in much the same way as the first, with Turkey committing a foul on Croatia. The ball was served in from the right hand channel just outside the penalty area to a completely unmarked Corluka inside the six yard box, and he headed in to put Croatia up 3-0 and in complete control of the tie. And that’s how the game ended.
I switched to the France/US friendly because the Turkey/Croatia match was D-U-N. The Americans looked decent at times, but the French are a different class. There is a noticeable difference all over the field in the pace, technical ability and physicality of the French players. Menez saw a lot of the ball but have to say, didn’t do much with it. Thought Benzema was solid, his movement creating space for others and his touch bringing others into the game. I imagined the French subs would cause the game to peter out, and it did to a certain extent, but then a ball over the top put Remy in a foot race with Goodson, who was able to keep up but the French player shrugged him off to bury the ball in the far corner. Seriously. You cannot get beat there. Anyway, the Yanks stepped up the attacking pressure but nothing came of it.
As for their performance, Howard made an amazing save on a free kick and wasn’t at fault for the goal. The midfield was blech. I just don’t get what Beckerman does. Didn’t feel that the outside mids did enough either. Cherundolo was kept in check going forward due to Menez and Ribery and anyone else pinning him back. Dempsey did cause trouble, especially in the second half, as the defenders tired and his tricky footwork caused several hard challenges. The pleasant surprise for me was Altidore, who had some sublime touches and was able to hold up the ball at times. His creative flick put in Dempsey towards the end, who was hauled down, but his shooting was a little wayward. All in all, the best game I’ve seen from him a while and looks like he is translating his success at AZ to the National Team.
Here are some of the post-match comments I found over the weekend:
Richard Farley on Foxsoccer.com talked about how Klinsmann is finding out what Tracksuit Bob already knew: US has no creative spark.
Eric Wynalda did a video rant on the game, talking about how he wants this team to go out to win instead of just playing the game.
The Shin Guardian saw some positives from the performance, with a higher line of defense and tactical shift of flooding area, forcing the opponent to play over the top. I’m not sure I saw all of that, but if that’s the case then the Yanks need central defenders who are positionally and physically strong, which seems to be a definitive weakness over the last couple of games.
Grant Wahl’s post on si.com summarizes everything above.
- Jurgen Klinsmann’s team looked a lot like a Bob Bradley team.
- Longballs hurt the Americans.
- Jozy Altidore had some encouraging moments.
As for the rest of the Euro 2012 playoff games, I watched the last ten minutes of yet another scoreless performance from Portugal. The pitch in Bosnia looked absolutely dreadful but still. Again, I hope the Portuguese don’t progress. Yes they have CR7 but they are painful to watch. I was also able to catch a chunk of the Ireland game and saw them score two more goals to push their lead to 3-0. They go back home up 4-0 and are all but in Poland and Ukraine.
Due to the efforts of Croatia, Ireland and the Czech Republic (who won 2-0), I really don’t have to worry about the Tuesday games. I’m not watching Portugal, so maybe I’ll try to catch the US/Slovenia game. Of course they are painful to watch too. Six games, two goals, one win I believe is Klinsmann’s record in charge. His job isn’t under pressure until World Cup Qualifying, but I’m not sure the team is improving.