Archive for September 8th, 2007

Gattuso-Malouda: friends forever

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Gattuso-Malouda: friends foreverBy the way, in case you’re wondering why Gennaro Gattuso and Florent Malouda were so amicable during the Italy-France match, here’s why.

Ahhh, the power of Nike ads… :mrgreen:
.Nike, Just Do It

Italy-France: in a 0-0 draw, the real victors are tension, fear, and a lot of boredom

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

A lot of hype, considerable pre-game preparation (both physically, tactically, and psychologically) but on the big day, this clash of World Cup finalist titans for the Euro 2008 qualifiers left a lot to be desired. The 82,000 spectators of San Siro stadium surely expected something more out of this match, which in the end gave both teams a single point, one that the French team will take with a welcome hand, because it puts them ahead of their direct rivals Scotland (+1) and Italy (+2). When push came to shove, instead of playing for the win, both Italy and France essentially played to avoid the loss, and considering this match was on home soil for the Italians, they should have tried a bit harder.

Italy-France final score

Few surprises concerning the tactical line-ups of both teams. Donadoni fielded the expected 4-1-4-1 formation (the same I predicted in yesterday’s post, with the exception of De Rossi substituting Ambrosini in midfield), with Del Piero and Camoranesi wide on the wings to support the lone striker Pippo Inzaghi. Domenech on the other hand mixed up the cards a little bit, by removing Evra from the starting lineup, inserting Julien Escudé in center defence, and placing Lassana Diarra as a right-back (an uncommon role for the Chelsea midfielder, but one he had to chance to try a few times at his new club). Up front, no surprises in not seeing Trezeguet start the match (his relationship with Domenech still iffy), the striker tandem was formed by Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka.

The Azzurri supporters honoured Pavarotti’s memory SaturdayAfter a rocky pre-game ritual (in which the touching moments of remembrance for deceased tenor Luciano Pavarotti, was followed by the shameful booing of the French national anthem by the San Siro stadium), the match immediately set off to a very tense showdown, in which none of the players of either team were pulling any punches. Only 3 minutes had passed before Claude Makelele got into the book for elbowing Del Piero, a clear indication that Les Bleus meant business in San Siro today.

The tactical set-up of Domenech’s men called on the constant involvement of wingers Malouda and Ribery to try and open up the Azzurri defense, both through runs down the wing and dribbles towards the center. In the latter case, the role of the Azzurri central mid line (De Rossi, Pirlo and Gattuso) was key in providing a filter through which most of France’s chances would have to seep through, before being neutralized by the attentive defense lead by Cannavaro and Barzagli (in excellent form tonight, by the way).

The first chance of the match would be to the credit of the Azzurri, following a bending Pirlo corner kick to the far post. Running from his defensive position, captain Cannavaro managed to slip behind his marker and intercept the ball, but a slip on the moment of finishing caused the chance to go begging, and enabled French keeper Mickaël Landreau (in for injured Coupet) to parry the ball into corner.

A Makelele-Gattuso duel, one of the many that took place during this matchMinutes later, it was France’s turn to send shivers down the Azzurri’s spine, as a good pass by Franck Ribery was blasted tremendously wide by Nicolas Anelka from a good position. Little would then take place for the next 20 minutes, because the French team was extremely skilled and disciplined in removing all space for the Italians, preventing them from reaching their seeked one-touch combinations that were so lethal in the last World cup. On the other side, Cannavaro (finally back to his finest form) and Gattuso (a dynamo, a pittbull, a lion, a… scroll down to the end of the report for the quote of the day) were playing equally well and preventing any good ball from reaching France strikers Henry and Anelka.

At the 30′ mark, Italy decided to shift into higher gear, with two great back-to-back chances. The first, following a great Zambrotta-Del Piero-Camoranesi exchange, put the Juve captain in good position to finish, but the incessant pressure of the French defense forced Del Piero to produce a weak shot on Landreau, which the French keeper easily neutralized. Then, a great spot pass by Pirlo to Inzaghi found the Milan striker in good position for the cross. Pippo’s effort ended up being more of a shot really, one which surprised Landreau, and ended its course on the crossbar!!

Camoranesi tried to evade the close marking of DiarraThe half ended with two great scares for the Azzurri, first as Ribery obtained the ball on the edge of the box, accelerated toward the center, and seemed to be in perfect position for the left-foot finish on the 2nd post (optical illusion from the TV camera however, as replays showed that Ribery’s shot from a good position was miles wide), then following a powerful blast by Malouda from 25 yards, neutralized by Buffon in two saves.

At the restart, no changes in the line-ups of either team, so we restarted right where we had left off. 5 minutes in the play, a great acceleration by Camoranesi on the center-right, and a powerful ensuing shot that stung the fingers of Landreau to deflect into corner. Minutes later, Anelka managed to slip behind Cannavaro and Barzagli, and almost surprise Buffon from close-range, but the tight-angle shot was blocked by Italy’s nº1, always attentive to come off his line.

Pippo Inzaghi was left frustrated today, due to some very close French marking

That would be the last real chance of the game, as neither Donadoni’s substitutions (Perrotta, Lucarelli, and Di Natale in for Camoranesi, Inzaghi, and Del Piero), nor Thierry Henry’s poor form tonight managed to revitalize a game in which both teams, tired from their efforts, had settled for the draw. The Azzurri will definitely have to be of a different colour Wednesday, if they intend to beat the Ukraine (a game in which Gattuso and Toni will unfortunately not take part, respectively suspended and sent home due to injury).

To finish off, the quote of the day (to the credit of the eternal GolTV commentator Ray Hudson): “Gennaro Gattuso is playing like a tyrannosaurus rex with hemorroids”. Priceless.

 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
 Fédération Française de Football
ITALY (4-1-4-1): Buffon – Oddo, F.Cannavaro, Barzagli, Zambrotta – De Rossi – Camoranesi (58’ Perrotta), Gattuso, Pirlo, Del Piero (83’ Di Natale) – Inzaghi (65’ Lucarelli). (bench: Amelia, Panucci, Grosso, Ambrosini). Coach: Donadoni
FRANCE (4-4-2): Landreau – L.Diarra, Thuram, Escudé, Abidal – Ribery (87’ Toulalan), Vieira, Makelele, Malouda – Henry, Anelka. (bench: Frey, Evra, Govou, Clerc, Mexès, Trezeguet). Coach: Mankowski (Domenech suspended)


General impressions

Not much to add except for the obvious fact (and I’m repeating myself) that this was a match in which both teams were afraid to concede goals, more than they were motivated to score any. “Tension” and “fear” are accurate descriptors this group B clash, and following Scotland’s 3-1 victory over Lithuania, the situation has become a must-win for the Azzurri in their next 3 games. Indeed, the ranking now sees France at 1st spot with 19 pts, Scotland 2nd with 18, and Italy 3rd with 17. The Ukraine is trailing behind with 14 pts, but they have played one less game in the group, meaning they could still potentially aspire to create some upsets.

Cannavaro keeps Anelka in check. The Italy captain was one of the best players on the field todayOn the positive notes of the evening, Cannavaro and Barzagli were top notch in central defense today. As is often the case for Italy games, great players rise to great occasions, and this was no exception. I was especially impressed by Barzagli’s performance (Nesta who? Materazzi who?), who paired up perfectly with Cannavaro to provide an iron-tight defence.

On the negative notes, Donadoni might have to revise his modified 4-1-4-1 formation, because one lone striker at the front hasn’t provided the Azzurri with many scoring chances so far (a consideration based also on previous matches, not just tonight). Considering Toni’s out of the Ukraine game, I’m hoping for a traditional 4-4-2 formation with Camoranesi and Perrotta on the wings, and Inzaghi paired up with another striker in offence (be it Lucarelli, Del Piero, or even Quagliarella). Knowing Donadoni though, I doubt he’ll make any changes, but I think that would be a mistake.

MISN – Summer Lachine game 17 (vs. Cyclone FC)

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

MISN? What’s this?

Hello MISN,

On Thursday September 6th we played game nº17 of the Summer 2007 Lachine indoor league, vs. Cyclone FC.

Continuing our 9-points-in-3-games mission, MISN came from a very convincing win the previous week (8-3 vs. MU1) which had brought our morale back up and given us the confidence that we needed! Our rivals Trakia had obtained a victory as well, unsurprisingly beating last-ranked Love-a-Life (albeit only 4-2), but their slim scoreline had given us a glimmer of hope towards the final rankings. As the first third of our mission was completed, we needed to win our remaining two games!

Team rankings after game 16


Our opponents for the day were Cyclone FC, the big rivals from our first ever Lachine summer season in 2005. Their ranking after game 16 was mid-table, with 68 goals scored and 52 conceded, and our first encounter with them this season had ended on a 6-1 scoreline (goals by Güven (2), Amer (2), and Can (2)).

Attendance-wise, a two-game streak of great player turn-out meant that we were officially out of the tunnel. Effectively, despite some remaining absentees, we were almost at full capacity.

1) Absent long-term: Saad, Renaud, Güven, Can, Santi, Denis
2) Injured long-term: Amer, Tevin
3) N/A this week: Nafee, Danny, Zaid, Simiso, Sami

Also, more good news: Alex was finally back from Greece, and occupied his place in the MISN defense, Kevin was now at full capacity following his foot injury, and our new recruit Jonny confirmed his presence for the remaining games!

Here was our line-up:

Marco / Bruno
Jon / Kevin
Alex / Imad
Bardia / AC

It makes every little bit of difference to have a team at full-complement, properly warmed up, and well-prepared at the time of kick-off. Usually, the “MISN starts” aren’t very glorious (despite we almost always seem to catch up in the end), but this time our team was cohesive from start to finish, and once we got a solid grip on the game we never let go.

It follows that we were actually the first to get on the scoreboard. With MISN in possession, our new recruit Jonny obtained the ball in the center of the field, and accelerated past a defender on the right wing. Continuing deep, our French striker got inside the box and ripped a low shot into the left bottom corner!! A powerful goal for the 1-0 scoreline!

Bardia scored 2 goals todayMinutes later, we made it 2-0! On a turnover, the ball was fed forward to the center towards AC: our Turkish striker controlled, let it drop and fed a great through ball into space for Marco on the left wing. Lifting his head, Marco spotted Bardia on the far right, slid the ball across the center for him, and all our Iranian playmaker had to do was to apply the finish! 2-0 for MISN!

Scoring the first goal had a radical effect onto our opponents’ morale, because right from the get go we had set off to prove we meant business! Cyclone had had a bit of trouble to reorganize, and for the first part of the half our keeper Jan had a somewhat quiet evening. Things would be about to change however.

Our opponents suddenly injected more verve into their game, and instead of coming to pressure high on us, they decided it was best to wait into their own half, form a solid defensive block, and operate on counterattacks. This tactic proved to be quite effective, because as MISN set to push forward, we sometimes became too enthusiastic (our defense especially), leaving our backline vulnerable. On one such turnover, a Cyclone striker was left all alone on the right wing one-on-one vs. Jan, but with a great diving effort our Slovakian nº1 man parried the ball away!

The Cyclone players kept pounding at our defense however, and unfortunately found the break a few minutes later. On yet another good save by Jan (stealing the ball from the feet of a Cyclone striker, to clear into touch), our opponents obtained a corner-kick from the left. As the cross was delivered to the center, our man-marking got a bit lost in the process, and a Cyclone striker was able to adjust the header towards the first post, where another player simply tapped in from close-range. 2-1.

The Cyclone goal put the game back into balance somewhat, in terms of playing momentum at least. Both teams had a few more stabs at their opponent’s goal, but eventually the half came to rest on a scoreline of 2-1 for MISN. We had played well so far, with accurate passing and organized defending. A small mistake had cost us a goal on set pieces, but overall we just needed to maintain our current efforts and the game would be ours.

In the 2nd half, Cyclone tried their luck a few more times, especially from long-range since our constant pressure (from both defenders and strikers) gave them little space to maneuver, but their accuracy wasn’t too great. Besides, all shots that were on target were deftly neutralized by our keeper Jan. Eventually, it would be MISN to hit the nail in the coffin.

AC, author of another good performanceOn a forward run, AC obtained the ball on the left wing and ran at the Cyclone defence. Spotting an opening in the goal, our Turkish striker decided to curl a low shot into the right bottom corner from long-range! The keeper went for the dive, but couldn’t prevent the ball from entering the goal! 3-1!

MISN finally had the break they needed, and could now play a little bit more relaxed. It wouldn’t be too long before the other goals came to finish the job.

On yet another turn-over, Bardia obtained the ball in midfield. Dribbling one, then two players to bring the ball forward, our Iranian playmaker found the space to slip the ball for an upcoming AC on the right wing. Our Turkish striker took a few steps towards goal, then slid the ball between the keeper’s legs. 4-1!

A few minutes later with MISN in possession, the ball was passed through on the left wing into open space. Bardia pointed the defender, brought the ball to the center back to his right foot, and fired a low shot into the left bottom corner! 5-1.

The fifth MISN goal meant effectively the end for the Cyclone team, who in the final 15 minutes had gotten increasingly frustrated at their lack of effectiveness (both defensively and offensively). No matter though, as MISN would have the last word in a dominated game: getting the ball from Jon on the right, our returning player Alex took a few steps on the left wing, and armed a powerful curling left-footer into the top left corner!! A nice finish to cap the game!

6-1 final scoreThe MISN players celebrate the victory

Bardia (2)
AC (2)

Yellow cards:

Another great convincing win boys! MISN is back, and getting ready for our playoff adventure! We may not win the league (although there is still a very slight chance), but we all know we can take this cup in the playoffs!! We’re getting there people, only one game to go!