Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Spanish Bottled It Yet Again, Eh?

Spanish Armada Stopped By The French

AWD Arena



ESP - D. Villa (pen 28min);
FRA - F. Ribery (41min), P. Vieira (83min), Z. Zidane (90+1min);

When I saw Joaquin and Luis Garcia coming on for David Villa and Raul, I saw it coming, maybe you knew what's going to happen as well. Negativity was the word. As I have stated on my previous post, Spain is notorious for screwing up big games and bottling it and this time round, no difference and their armada have come to an abrupt end, after an encouraging start to the
tournament while the French stuttered and were lucky to get into the 2nd round after some inept performance against the South Koreans and Switzerland. But the French had the last laugh as they put up thier best performance so far to put an end to Spain's hope.

(Shame, I loved that jersey and was about to buy it...should I?)

Spain seemed to stamp authority early in the game as they passed the ball around smoothly with Xavi, Fabregas and Xabi Alonso in the middle of the park and Raul playing just behind Torres and Villa. The French seemed to struggle a little at the beginning as Fernando Torres constantly uses his pace and ran at the ageing French defence consisting of Thuram and Gallas.

I wasn't long before Spain found the opening. Pablo Ibanez was fouled in the French penalty area by Lilian Thuram and referee, Roberto Rosetti point straight to the spot with much conviction. It was David Villa to step up and he calmly smashed the ball past Barthez into his right hand post. Advantage Spain, early in the game.

The French to be honest, looked a little disjointed and they actually left Henry isolated up on top and the closest player are Zidane and Ribery. He could've won himself an award for the most number of offsides in a game when he constantly got caught offside by the Spanish offside trap. But there were a few moments were the Spanish defence was caught square and needed some intervention from Puyol and Ramos to stop the French from breaking. But against the run of play, the French found a way past the untidy Spanish defence. The defence was caught up field with sixes and sevens and Zidane managed to thread a throughball to the onrushing Ribery, who's had a fine game. He rounded Iker Casillas before firing home his first goal in the tournament. Therefore both teams going into the break one apiece.

The French came out a little more positive in the second half, perhaps taking the inspiration from Ribery's goal. Zidane showed more of his old self and was the pivot of all the French attacks while Ribery was lively throughout and seemed to be on form and raring to go. Spanish however became a little complacent and a change by Luis Aragones means the formation of the team have been changed and they went from a 4-3-1-2 into a negative 4-5-1 with Joaquin and Luis Garcia supporting lone striker, Fernando Torres.

Suddenly France found themselves ahead just 6 minutes before time as Spain paid for Puyol's silly action, but to be honest Henry went to the ground a little too easy, as if he got shot by a sniper. Henry and Puyol were chasing for the ball while Pernia was already back covering and will get to the ball. But Puyol had his elbow into Henry's chest and the French striker went down. Yellow card for Puyol and a freekick for the French. Zidane delivered and found Vieira on the back post. He headed goalwards and although Casillas might have saved it, Sergio Ramos deflected the header into the net. That's the punishment for not putting the French under pressure.

As Spain poured forward to find the equaliser, Spain's offside trap failed once again as they were caught out by Zidane's perfectly timed run as he took the ball into the box, skipped past Puyol and buried the ball past his Real Madrid team mate, Iker Casillas. A fantastic finish from a legendary player, whom we thought was already past his sell-out date. He once again showed that he IS still the player that could bring glory to France.

Poor substitution decisions from Aragones cost Spain the game, I fear. Let's not take the credit away from the French though. They played well and actually managed to limit the Spanish to only a few shots on goal and Barthez was rarely troubled. Zidane was immense and Ribery has improved greatly from the first few games, where he was disappointing. Tough luck Spain, as the under-achiever tag's gonna stay with them for another 2 years until they start to perform in th European Championship in 2008.

Quater-Finals (WC '98 Finals Once Again):

1st July


Anonymous said...

I kind of lost some respect for Henry I thought he got hit on the chest.I have'nt seen alot of replays of the incident,but the ones I did did'nt show him taking an elbow to the face.I do agree that the subs and formation changes did cost Spain the game.They played not to lose instead of trying to win,very dissapointing.I guess I underestimated the French.It seems that Spain winning their group actually hurt them,Ukraine got the Swiss and Spain got France,go figure :/

BTW I found this video and found it kinda disturbing that a team would actually practice taking dives.Very sad when you have to resort to this to help you win a game.


Drogballs said...

Yea, Henry's a shame, but I can't get why Puyol did what he did. I thought I saw Pernia tracking back and would have gotten the ball with ease. Ah well I would have to agree with you on the Spanish team's complacency. Maybe because they strolled through the group, they've got this air of over-confidence and therefore led to their ultimate downfall.

Anyway thanks for the link, I'll have a look later and actually I'm not surprised that players actually learn to dive and fake injuries. Chelsea seemed to be the school of excellence :D