Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Day 11 Round Up: Switzerland 2-0 Togo, Ukraine 4-0 Saudi Arabia, Spain 3-1 Tunisia

Sheva Inspired Ukraine Win

AOL Arena
Ukraine 4 - 0 Saudi Arabia

UKR - A. Rusol (4min), S. Rebrov (36min), A. Shevchenko (46min), M. Kalinichenko (84min);

While Substitutes Inspired Spanish Comeback:

Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion
Spain 3 - 1 Tunisia

ESP - Raul (72min), F. Torres (76min, pen 90min);
TUN - J. Mnari (8min);

The world watches as Spain did a comeback from their Group H match up against African side, Tunisia. It was a pretty good match for fans and neutrals alike, but I believe Spanish fan, like myself, were caught pulling their hair during the first half. Spain went into this match brimming with confidence after their 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine whereas the Tunisian side needed a late, late goal from Bolton defender, Radhi Jaidi to steal a precious point for them in the 2-2 draw.

Maybe a little complacency, or maybe were caught out by Tunisian's approach to the game, the Spanish defence were caught off guard in the 8th minute, where the Tunisian exploited Spain's weakness in defence, that is the wing-back position and they striked hard. Mariano Pernia was out of positione and Hatem Trabelsi, reknown for his attacking full back role, came forward and the Tunisian caused confusion in the Spanish penalty area. Carles Puyol's slip was not spared either, even with several Spanish players back in the box, Jaouhar Mnari managed to find space for a shot. Although it took a fine save from captain Casillas to stop them from going behind, the rebound fell kindly to Mnari again and he made no mistake in the follow-up. The Spanish found themselves behind early and needs to step up their gear in order to find the equalising goal.

To be honest, they looked a little lacklustre in the first half. Their passing was not up to the mark and the forward line seemed to be a little disjointed, with Luis Garcia behind David Villa and Fernando Torres. The had a few chances from set plays but did not capitalise and Luis Garcia was the main culprit, missing several open headers and misplacing far too many passes for Luis Aragones' liking. They went for the break trailing Tunisia 1 goal to nil.

So the Spanish came back for the second half with drastic changes. Disappointing Garcia and Marcos Senna came off to be replaced by Cesc Fabregas and former captain, Raul. Credits to the Spaniards, they were VERY patient in their play, passing the ball around nicely and with conviction. But they still find Tunisia a little hard to break down with Jaidi having a stormer. So Aragones had to made a last ditch change and he brought on winger, Joaquin for striker David Villa, presumably pushing Raul back to the striker role and Joaquin drawing defenders away to the wings. They persevered, tried their luck and it all paid off in the 72min when Joaquin, one of the substitute, crossed for Fabregas to shoot from distance and Raul was there to apply the finishing touch. The 3 substitutes combined brilliantly and it's nice to see Aragones' plan paid off.

Tunisians were demoralised at that stage and again it wasn't too long before the Spanish found the net again. This time Fabregas threaded a wonderful through-ball for Fernando Torres to latch upon. His first touch took the ball away from Tunisian keeper, Ali Boumnijiel before finishing it beautifully with the outside of his right boot. That was not the last of the action as Spain hammered the final nail into Tunisia's coffin when Yahia was adjudged to be holding Torres down and Spain was awarded the 2nd penalty in 2 games. It was Fernando Torres himself to take it and he converted it, abeit a little luck. It was a poor one but it still counts anyway.

An encouraging comeback from the Spanish and they have every reason to believe that they could go all the way this time round. But still, they need to sort out a little in defence, as they looked pretty vulnerable today with Puyol having an off day. the flanks were being exploited frequently, as Pernia and Ramos spent most of their time in the opponent's half. Bad luck for the Tunisians, who were quite brilliant in the first 15-20minutes but faded as the game wore on and were pretty negative to say the least.

Last words: I LOVE YOU, SPAIN !!

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