Ukraine 0 Greece 1: Grecian Formula Works Again

18 November 2009

Greece never play pretty football. It’s what they know best. It’s what it takes for them to get results. Today, Ukraine huffed and puffed but were undone by a wonderful Georgios Samaras pass to Dimitrios Salpigids just after the half hour as Greece got the away goal, then held on for a 1-0 win to advance to the World Cup.

Let’s be frank, the game was not a good advertisement for those who happened to watch on ESPN2. Greece were more than happy to sit back and counter while letting the Ukraine, mainly Andriy Shevchenko, fall flat on their face. While the Ukraine created plenty of shooting opportunities, nothing threatened the frame after halftime. Greece on the other hand, countered with ease and could have put the game away shortly before halftime and about 10 minutes from full time when Gekas, who had replaced Samaras after halftime got in on goal, but was too late in getting a shot off.

Greece kept their shape exceptionally well for the entire ninety minutes, at times having all 11 players behind the ball in defense. The Ukraine were more worried about their attack, and were undone by Samaras’s pass that caught their center backs flatfooted.

So after missing out on the 06 World Cup, the 2004 European Champions are South Africa bound. For the Ukraine, they will be kicking themselvfes for not being able to break down a Greece defense that was never in danger of giving up a goal over 180 minutes.

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The Bundesview Round 12: Could Van Gaal Be Out After the Weekend?

05 November 2009

Kicker is known in Germany as a sports magazine that is not afraid to pull punches. A bi-weekly publication, it's main focus is on all things Bundesliga. In their late week edition, Kicker pulled no punches about how Bayern Munich have played under Louis Van Gaal.

Under the headline (this is the English translation), Van Gaal: The Barvarian Crisis, it was noted that a loss for Bayern Munich against Schalke could spell the end of Louis Van Gaal's reign as the Bayern Munich manager. Now understand, no direct quotes from the higher ups in management have said anything of the sort. The only evidence the magazine could produce was the shocking revelation that Bayern Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge did not appear in the dressing room after the club's 2-0 loss Tuesday against Bordeaux. A lower blow came when the magazine openly questioned Van Gaal's training methods, comparing them to those at youth levels. "Van Gaal should question himself, if training low passing without opponents isn't too much youth training", the rough translation, is a damning verdict for a side that has severely punched under their weight.

It's just not Bayern's training either, the in game tactics have been all too familiar. While Kicker took a look at just the Bordeaux game as it's prime example, the same things could be said about the majority of Bayern Munich's games this season.

  • "Under pressure, his team isn't capable to do anything creative with the ball, both left and right defenders are playing too high up, further narrowing the field of play for their own offense. They are running into a brick wall and need tactical help by their coach." Munich's high line and narrow play has allowed teams to run roughshod on the counter attack.
  • "The one dimensional and aimless passing of the ball to the sides, to the back and so forth is a cry for help and tempo. Tempo that this team lacks significantly on offense. Add to that, horribly planless pounding of the ball high into the opponent's half, hoping for the best, and laughable crosses by Pranjic and Braafheid." Bayern Munich as a team has not shown any flow in their squad. The only exception was the forty-five minutes Ribbery and Robben were on the park agaisnt Wolfsburg. They look clueless in how they want to move forward. Frankly, that's all on the coaching of Louis Van Gaal.
  • "With his 'everyone is equal' approach, Van Gaal has managed to drain players like Gomez, Toni and Klose of confidence, who are, on a sidenote, three strikers who are way too similar in their style." Luca Toni getting close to be fully match fit will help that problem as it will give Van Gaal the abilityto have a main target forward as a player for the second striker. I think Gomez will end up being that second striker to Luca Toni, but Gomez's confidence has been shot. Klose has just never fit in at Bayern Munich.
With Schalke coming into the Allianz Arena on Saturday (9:30 am live on ESPN360), Bayern Munich are in a must win situation. Toni looks set to be in the starting eleven, Robben only fit enough for a spot on the bench. Schalke should have confidence in the fact they were able to come back from two goals down last weekend against Bayer Leverkusen to snatch a point late. Bayern Munich at home have only allowed three goals in five matches, Schalke have scored seven in five away. Last season, this same fixture saw Schalke beat Bayern. Farfan and Kevin Kuranyi have the ability to run the Munich defense ragged; but Schalke's back four will have to watch out for the lethal Luca Toni. I see a draw here, something I am sure Schalke will take. However, Bayern Munich fans (and management) will see that result as yet another black eye on their start to this season. It should be noted that Klose is slated to start with Gomez relegated to the bench.

Other Weekend Fixtures (Note: all times at Eastern, with TV in parenthesis).

Friday 2:30 pm: Bayer Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt (Live on GolTV). Rene Adler will miss this game due to an inflamed cornea, meaning Fabian Giefer will be the starting keeper for Leverkusen on Friday. It's a good thing then that Sami Hyypia will be fit after dealing with an ankle injury that limited his time in training this week. This is a strange series in that Bayer Leverkusen has only won one of the last six meetings. I may fall flat on my face with this prediction, but I think Eintracht Frankfurt gives Bayer Leverkusen their first loss of the season. We should see at least one goal, as these two teams have never played in a goalless game against each other.

Saturday 9:30 AM
Hoffenheim v Wolfsburg (Live on GolTV): Two teams that love to score goals. However, Wolfsburg have had a harder time scoring away from home. Hoffenheim's defense has been a rock at home. Should still be a plenty entertaining affair. Ba will be missing for Hoffenheim, Grafite looks set to make a return to the starting eleven. Prediction, Hoffenheim win 3-2.

Borussia Monchengladbach v Stuttgart: Both will be coming into this game on highs after results last week. A win by Gladbach moves them comfortably mid-table while a win by Stuttgart will move them temporarily away from the relegation zone. It will still be an uphill climb for Stuttgart however. Gebhart will be missing due to yellow card accumulation and Cacau is out with a hamstring injury. Expect the pressure to only intensify for Babbel. Prediction: Gladback 2 Stuttgart 0.

Mainz v Nurnberg: Don't expect this one to be a competitive contest folks. Nurnberg have only scored two away from home. Mainz have scored eleven. Both teams are about as fully fit as they can get. Prediction: Mainz 3 Nurnberg 1.

Bochum v Freiburg: This will be a more interesting match than people will expect. Both teams are tied for second worst in the league with 23 goals allowed (only team worse: Hertha Berlin), so expect goals a plenty. Dabrowski and Ono will miss out for Bochum due to cards, Freiburg are fully fit. Do I expect a winner? No I do not. Prediction: a 2-2 draw.

Sunday 9:30 am: Hannover 96 v Hamburg. I am curious to see how Hamburg play here after Celtic played so well against them on Thursday. Their defense this season has been on the shaky side. Hannover haven't been all that bad at home, but their scoring problems are a major issue that needs addressing somehow. Form says Hamburg should win, but I just can't pull the trigger on them doing so. Prediction: a 1-1 draw.

Sunday 11:30 AM
Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund (Live on ESPN 360): Dortmund loves to set out the stall when away from home, and I don't think it is going to work here. Bremen have too much firepower up front. Even on two days rest, being at home will be the difference in this one. Prediction: Werder Bremen 3 Borussia Dortmund 1.

Hertha Berlin v Koln: OH MOMMY DO I HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT THESE TWO BOTTOM FEEDERS? Damn it I do. Hertha should feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves for scoring three goals against a Dutch side that threw three perfectly good points away. Koln quite frankly, can't score. Sadly, if you're watching this match, it'll be the perfect replacement for a sleeping pill. Prediction: Hertha Berlin 0 Koln 0.

Don't forget to check out The Third Half Twitter page this weekend as I do my 'as long as technology comes through' coverage of the games Saturday. If I can't, I'll keep updated on those games that are on TV.

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'Hunt'ing for Forwards Will Get England Nowhere

02 November 2009

He's twenty-three, has a German father and an English mother, and his double on the weekend against Nurnberg to steal a 2-2 draw for Werder Bremen has all of a sudden put this man on the radar of Fabio Capello.

Just one small problem, Aaron Hunt wants nothing to do with the English National Team.

Aaron Hunt, until this season, has been a troubled individual. A person who could never seem to stay on the straight and narrow: either with Werder Bremen or as a member of Germany's U21 national team. A kid with raw talent and the potential to blossom into one of Germany's better forwards for years to come had been halted by his own blatant stupidity. A race row while playing against England in a U21 European Championship (note: it was overturned and the case dropped), a kid who stupidly fought with Diego in training; but above all, a kid who couldn't adapt with the expectations of a man.

I am convinced this was Hunt's last chance to convince at Werder Bremen. With Diego out of the picture, Hunt would have to up his game. Not only has he done that, but he has thrived under pressure. In eleven matches this season, Hunt has scored five and set up another. Hunt has also stayed booking free. Only Claudio Pizarro has more goals for Bremen, but the partnership has been a thing of beauty to watch. Hunt's improved play should see him called into the German National Team, a place that would be nothing but deserved.

This sudden interest from Capello is a shock, but it was not at all shocking Hunt flat out rejected any possibility of playing for The Three Lions. If anything, this should be an insult to the players who have been called in at forward under Capello. Rooney, Defoe, Heskey, Crouch, and Carlton Cole should be insulted that Fabio thinks someone other than themselves would be needed up front.

This is also a move that screams desperation for Fabio Capello. With the World Cup about seven months away from starting; a move like this, even if it is nothing but paper fodder, will unsettle a striker core that hasn't exactly been the definition of harmony. And if you're Hunt, you can't blame him for not wanting to play for a side that doesn't have a prayer at winning the World Cup in 2010, 2014, or 2018 (as controversial as that maybe, England will not be winning the World Cup unless it's played in England in 2018). Sure, Hunt might not feature for Germany at all in South Africa. However, I'd argue that once the 2010 World Cup is over, he will be a feature for Germany in the next two World Cup cycles.

Aaron Hunt should play for Germany. He's grown up playing in the youth set up in Germany, he's been a feature as a youth at international tournaments, and based on this form will be called in by Joachum Low (or any other manager who would come in post 2010 World Cup) eventually. When he is, I'll be one very interested viewer.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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