Saturday, 26 June 2010

A blog for all Africa

"Bye bye big American sigh" Peter Drury screamed at us as the minutes ticked by in Rustenburg. Whilst the way he put it was incredibly cringeworthy, he wasn't wrong. The USA are going home. Perhaps they'll bump into the South Koreans at the airport, as they too are out of the World Cup.

Credit must go to Ghana (not Africa, who Drury seemed to believe were playing) for a fantastic performance, and one of incredible maturity for such a young side. They wobbled a bit in the second half as the Americans came at them, but after going ahead again were hardly troubled in extra time. We've seen a lot of teams sacrifice possession and defend deep if they're leading late in games, but Ghana did not do that, they kept the ball magnificently and were happy to let the US try the long ball over the top. They were happier to do this especially after Jozy Altidore was taken off and pace was no longer a threat.

The Ghanaians' last 8 opponents will be Uruguay, after their victory over South Korea. A win they made slightly more difficult for themselves than it probably should have been. It took a stunning strike from Luis Suarez to win it in the end, but had they not forgot to mark about half the South Korea team from a free kick they would have maintained their mean streak in defence. Once again, they didn't seem to get out of second gear, they are quite happy defending a lead and only really commit men forward when they have to. They will fancy their chances in the quarter final, and are most definitely not to be underestimated by any bigger sides.

Now, what do we think about tomorrow? It seems England are going to pick the same side, and I fear this is a mistake. The USA tonight demonstrated the problem with a 4-4-2 against a 4-5-1, a man short in midfield means that the opposition win that particular battle and will dominate possession. If we leave Frank Lampard to deal with Schweinsteiger and Khedira on his own then we are starting at a serious disadvantage. On top of that is the Gerrard issue, I keep bringing this up but it is still relevant, he will not stay on his wing, and this is going to be hopelessly exposed by Phillip Lahm unless our heroic skipper discovers some positional sense overnight.

The Germans' weak point is their defence, the left back Badstuber and centre back Friedrich in particular, they must be targetted if England are to have any chance. Going forward they are extremely talented and there have goals in them. I think we are going to have to score at least twice to win, so the emphasis must be on taking the game to Germany, something no one has done to them as yet. It might actually be better for us if we concede an early goal, as that would force us to attack them from the start. I'm not optimistic, I really rate this German side and fear they might overwhelm us, especially given our rather simplistic formation.

The winner of our game will face the winner of the other last 16 match tomorrow, Argentina vs Mexico. I've said on numerous occasions how much I like the Mexicans, but I have a real feeling that Maradona is going to win the whole thing again. Lionel Messi is long overdue a goal, and perhaps it's finally going to come tomorrow night. Mexico's best bet is to get Carlos Salcido, their left back, forward to try to take advantage of a slightly lopsided Argentine formation - there's no genuine right sided midfielder - and the laughable selection of Newcastle left winger Jonas at right back. Giovani Dos Santos will also be a threat, since he is extremely quick and tricky, and should look to run at the walking mistake Martin Demichelis. Despite their rather error prone defence, Argentina should come through this, but it will most definitely be their toughest test so far.

My Predictions:

England 1-3 Germany
Argentina 1-0 Mexico

Take hope from the fact I definitely do not have an 100% record so far.

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