Archive for February 11th, 2008

Udinese 1-2 Juventus: Bianconeri With a Second Half “ON” Switch (Serie A Matchday 22)

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Udinese 1-2 Juventus: Bianconeri With a Second Half

Serie AThere is one freaky statistic going on the Serie A league these days, and it concerns a certain club from Northern Italy, more specifically Turin. Just have a look at KwSport’s Juventus page, in particular the “gol” section: you will find that since the 2007-08 season started, the Bianconeri have scored 33 out of 40 of their goals in the 2nd half!! That’s 82.5%!!! Does it really come as a surprise then, to see Juventus come from behind at the Stadio Friuli of Udine today, and reverse their 0-1 half-time deficit to a 2-1 final scoreline, courtesy of the goals by Mauro Camoranesi (playing his first starter game since his injury) and Vincenzo Iaquinta (coming on in minute 76 and litterally scoring on his first touch of the ball)? Second-half magic, 100% made in Juventus.

Udinese 1-2 Juventus: Bianconeri With a Second Half “ON” Switch (Serie A Matchday 22)

Serie A Matchday 22 - Udinese 1-2 Juventus

Tactically, this game was also the opportunity for some of Juve’s key pieces to make their return (some from injury, some from suspension), namely Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Mauro Camoranesi, and Cristiano Zanetti. The presence of the world’s nº1 goalkeeper notably made a huge difference in the Bianconeri’s victory today, because despite a few initial problems (on which the entire Juve team shares the blame), SuperGigi showed once again why his hands are worth their weight in gold.

In the first half, there was litterally only one team present on the field and it wasn’t the visitors. Udinese might just be coming back from a painful 5-0 loss to Napoli, but they were showing nothing for it: coach Pasquale Marino evidently had his troops well-prepared for this match, because the Bianconeri (for the day, Juve was wearing their away blue shirts) were aggressive, made perfect use of short passes, and utilized every space to perfection, wings included (Damiano Ferronetti and Andrea Dossena were a real thorn in Juve’s backside the first period). Fabio Quagliarella in particular (who just came back from his Azzurri goal vs. Portugal) was constantly varying his position from right to left, often provoking Juve’s right-back (Jonathan Zebina, also back from injury) into one-on-one challenges.

The first goal of the match (as early as minute 6) came precisely from Udinese’s left-wing, with Quagliarella provoking, entering the box, and slamming a powerful shot onto the first post. Buffon couldn’t manage to parry the ball away to safety, clearing it onto the feet of Andrea Dossena instead: hard shot into the roof of the net, and 1-0 Udinese.

Normally, you would have expected a team of Juventus’s caliber to benefit from the early cold shower (and shake things up a bit), but instead the Turin Bianconeri continued their slumber and allowed their Friuli color-cousins to keep attacking unopposed. In minute 21, Gaetano D’Agostino hit the post straight from the corner-kick (with Buffon standing to watch), and 5 minutes later a Chiellini slip set up Antonio Di Natale with a golden opportunity, what you may call a ‘moving penalty shot’ straight in front of the net! Fortunately for Juve, on this one Buffon really saved the day by parrying Di Natale’s shot into corner. A real miracle on which the Juve keeper received the congratulations of Udinese’s nº10.

The half thus ended on a 1-0 Udinese scoreline, with Juventus really trying very little to change the result. Del Piero and Trezeguet weren’t receiving many playable balls, also due to the good pressure applied by Udinese onto the Juve midfield. Surely however, all that was going to change once the Mr. Claudio Ranieri had a talk with his boys, or rather (considering the terrible performance of his team in the first 45), a scream.

And indeed it did. After the break, Juventus came back onto the field with a lot more determination and more fighting spirit. Udinese did get another good chance in minute 54 (a Floro Flores one-time finish from a deep pass, saved by Buffon), but at the hour mark Juventus tied the score on their first real chance of the game! On a corner-kick delivery by Alessandro Del Piero, the Udinese defenders man-marked the usual Juve target men, leaving Mauro Camoranesi completely undisturbed for the strong headed finish past Samir Handanovic’s hands. 1-1.

Much like the first half had been seen a complete domination by Udinese, the second period was turning into a real siege from the visitors, with Juventus tying the game and obviously being hungry for more. The ensuing 15 minutes went by essentially inside the Udinese half, with penalty calls being claimed on either side (Andrea Coda on Alessandro Del Piero, and Giorgio Chiellini on Cristián Zapata) but not given. All the way to minute 76, time for one of Udinese’s ‘old glories’ to make his way onto the Stadio Friuli pitch: the moment of Vincenzo Iaquinta (on for a poorly-incisive David Trezeguet). And boy, was he not going to waste time: just 20 seconds after coming onto the field, the ball was lofted forward to Pavel Nedved, who controlled on the edge of the box, switched the ball from his right to his left, and trickled a penetrating pass for Iaquinta inside the box. The ex-Udinese man then touched his first ball of the game, and sent it past Handanovic’s arms low into the net! 2-1 Juventus.

There was still time for Buffon to pull yet another miracle save (parrying away a powerful left-footer by Gökhan İnler), Antonio Floro Flores to miss a few chances from close range, but eventually the game came to a close and brought a vital 3 points to Juventus. In light of the Champions League qualification battle, Ranieri’s team will be needing every point they can get, and surely getting out of their 6-points-in-4-games series is great news. As for Udinese, they played really well in the first half but suffered the technical superiority of their opponents over the whole game. Coming from their brutal 5-0 defeat to Napoli however, the team responded well and based on that, Marino shouldn’t have too much trouble to keep his team motivated until the end of the season.


 Udinese Calcio
[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 6’ Dossena (U), 60’ Camoranesi (J), 76’ Iaquinta (J)
UDINESE (3-4-3): Handanovic – Zapata, Coda, Lukovic – Ferronetti (87’ Candreva), D’Agostino, Inler, Dossena – Floro Flores, Quagliarella, Di Natale (bench: Chimenti, Zapotocny, Colombo, Isla, Eremenko, Siqueira). Coach: Marino.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Zebina, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro – Camoranesi (86’ Sissoko), Nocerino (70’ Palladino), C.Zanetti, Nedved – Trezeguet (75’ Iaquinta), Del Piero (bench: Belardi, Salihamidzic, Grygera, Tiago). Coach: Ranieri.


Cameroon 0-1 Egypt – A Pharaoh Triumph: Egypt Win Their Sixth African Cup of Nations

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Cameroon 0-1 Egypt - Pharaohs Make It Six: the African Cup of Nations is Theirs!

When the 2008 African Cup of Nations began on January 20, few would have put any serious amount of money on Egypt as tournament winners. Despite entering the competition as title holders, the Pharaohs were ranked 6th in the outright betting charts (odds 14/1), far behind big-name favorites such as Ghana (3/1), Ivory Coast (7/2), and Cameroon (6/1).

Yet despite the unfavorable pre-tournament odds, the Egyptians really surprised everyone match after match, displaying a disciplined tactical organization, a great spirit of teamwork and sacrifice, as well as a newfound glory for their iconic goalkeeper Essam Al Hadari. In the end, it doesn’t matter much if their victory in the ACN final stemmed from a tremendous defensive blunder: over the course of playoffs and the tournament as a whole, the Egyptian Pharaohs deserved their 2008 African Cup of Nations trophy, the record-breaking sixth title of their history.

After a short presentation ceremony, Egypt are crowned Africa Cup of Nations champions for a record sixth time

African Cup of Nations Final - Cameroon 0-1 Egypt

Tactically, Egypt is the team which at end of this tournament demonstrated the most rational and organized approach to a line-up formation: a 3-4-1-2 tactic that manager Hassan Shehata never modified since game 1, instead utilizing his roster to the best of its potential and inserting his key players when time required. The best three examples of this approach can be found with captain Ahmed Hassan (suspended for the first two games, slowly making his way into the starting line-up), Mohamed Aboutreika (author of the winning goal today, despite not being in the best physical shape at the start of the tournament), and Mohamed Zidan (recovering from injury during the playoff stage, he was the author of the assist for Aboutreika’s goal).

Not to be outdone by the Cameroon ‘rivals’, the Pharaohs’ smaller band of travelling supporters do their best to add to the atmosphereIn a team that has made teamwork its main weapon of choice (lacking a “star” player in the traditional sense of the word, unlike Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, Ghana’s Michael Essien, or Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o), each individual’s contribution to the team effort was capital: from the timely runs forward of wingers Ahmed Fathi and Sayed Moawad, to the attentive Egyptian defense lead by the best goalkeeper of the tournament, 35 year-old Essam El-Hadary.

On the other end, Indomitable Lions’ coach Otto Pfister chose a more traditional approach to the game with a “safe” 4-4-2 formation, lead by the the expert hands of Idriss Carlos Kameni in net and the experience of center-back captain Rigobert Song (author of an excellent ACN tournament… until tonight that is). The German coach’s plan was to base the game on physical power (Cameroon’s superior ability) and defensive tactics, hoping that a few well-adjusted stabs of Samuel Eto’o, supported by the likes of Achille Emana, Joël Epalle, Alexandre Song, and semi-final hero Alain Nkong (who partnered up with the Barça striker in attack) were going to be a winning strategy.

Excited fans of the Indomitable Lions arrive at Accra’s Ohene Djan Stadium ahead of the big gameUnfortunately, none of these players would prove decisive today (with the exception of captain Song, for other unglorious reasons). Song’s nephew Alexandre would be forced to an early substitution in minute 15 (muscular injury), Emana would surprise many viewers today with gross mistakes (for a player of his level) in control & passing distribution, while Nkong (much like Eto’o) would be largely unproductive the entire match (also because of the pressure applied by the attentive Egyptian defense).

After the first 45 minutes of the match came to a close, it was fairly evident that one team was dominating the other, not necessarily in terms of an overwhelming amount of scoring chances (quite the contrary in fact), but rather in terms of ball possession. Egypt’s collective movement allowed the Pharaohs to get much nearer their opponents’ net than Cameroon, and as a result the few opportunities the first half did create, came essentially in favor of Hassan Shehata’s side.

The first half ends without there being any goals, largely thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Idriss KameniAmong the chances worth mentioning: a 35-yard shot by Aboutreika in minute 13 (pushed around the post by Kameni), two back-to-back chances for Moteab and Aboutreika (respectively parried away and wide), and an excellent Moteab chance inside the area (9 minutes before half-time), on which Kameni summoned his best reflexes to keep the score goalless. Cameroon in all of this? A timid Geremi instep free-kick, accurate and well-placed but with not enough power to worry Al-Hadari.

Cameroon came back from the break with purpose, causing the tempo of the match to increase, but Egypt quickly took control of the game again. Kameni had to make two more fine saves, from a close-range Amr Zaki shot, then from Hosni Abd-Rabou’s 25-yard cracker. If there was anyone keeping the Indomitable Lion boat afloat today, it was the Espanyol goalkeeper.

The deadlock ends in the 77th minute when Song’s error allows Mohamed Zidan to find Aboutrika who sidefoots homeThe Pharaohs continued to pile on pressure, eventually obtaining their single best chance on net yet: in minute 61, an Aboutreika cross from the right wing found an unmarked Hosni inside the box, but the header of the Ismaily SC midfielder (who will probably now be destined for Europe, on account of his excellent performances in the tournament), hit the base of the post and went wide.

With 13 minutes remaining, Egypt finally got the goal they deserved, but not without some great help of Cameroon captain Rigobert Song who paid a heavy price for his untidy defending. Intercepting an Egyptian pass from the right wing, the ex-Liverpool and West Ham defender controlled the ball awkwardly and eventually ended up losing it in a battle with Mohamed Zidan. A battle which brought the pair all the way back to Cameroon’s penalty box, i.e. the danger zone. By the time the other Cameroon center-back arrived to help out, Zidan managed to poke the ball across goal for a now completely unmarked Mohamed Aboutreika. The Al-Ahly midfielder armed a precise instep finish low into the bottom right corner, putting his team in the lead! 1-0 Egypt.

Cameroon are allowed a lot of possession in the closing stages but they do nothing with it as Egypt hang on for the winAs Egypt celebrated, Song covered his face with his shirt, knowing that he should have cleared the ball away. He had a half-chance to redeem himself minutes later, when he found himself in good position for a headed finish on Geremi’s right-wing cross, but alas his effort ended over the bar.

As the referee called full time, it was a triumph for the Egyptian team and coach Hassan Shehata, who became only the second coach to win successive trophies (the first being Ghana’s CK Gyamfi, who won the tournament in 1963 and 1965). The Pharaohs, who now hold the record of ACN Championship titles (six), also won the first two editions of the tournament (1957 and 1959). With the competition far more intense now, the victories in 2006 and 2008 have far greater significance, and should really motivate the players into qualifying for their first FIFA World Cup since 1990.

Egypt’s Omar Gamal (L), Ibrahim Said (C) and Emad Moteab (R) celebrate after their victory over Cameroon in their African Nations Cup soccer final match in Accra February 10, 2008.


 Fédération Camerounaise de Football
[Match Highlights]
Egyptian Football Association
GOALSCORERS: 77’ Aboutreika (E)
CAMEROON (4-4-2): Kameni – Geremi, Tchato, R.Song, Atouba – A.Song (16’ Binya), Mbia, Emana (56’ Idrissou), Epalle (65’ M’Bami) – Nkong, Eto’o. Coach: Pfister.
EGYPT (3-4-3): Al Hadari – Gomaa, H.Said, Mohamed – Fathy, Hassan, Hosni, Moawad – Aboutreika (89’ H.Said), Moteab (60’ Zidan), Zaki (84’ Shawky). Coach: Shehata.



Egypt’s goalie Essam Al Hadari celebrates atop the goal post after they beat Cameroon in the African Nations Cup soccer final in Accra February 10, 2008.

Egypt’s Essam Al Hadari (L) and Mohamed Zidan (R) celebrate victory over Cameroon in the final of the African Nations Cup soccer tournament in Accra February 10, 2008.

Egypt’s captain Ahmed Hassan holds the trophy after they beat Cameroon in the African Nations Cup soccer final in Accra February 10, 2008.

Egyptian players celebrate victory over Cameroon in their African Nations Cup soccer final match in Accra February 10, 2008.

Egyptians celebrate the country’s victory against Cameroon in the African Nations Cup final played in Ghana, in Cairo, February 10, 2008.