Really enjoyed the games today well except the Holland game, but we had a mixture of European technique, Asian organisation and African spirit, coming together in an enjoyable day of football, it was also a very momentous day, as I managed to predict the correct score in a game for the first time in the tournament, much to Cameroon’s disgust, oh and I’ve seen 3 examples today that show that there is bugger all wrong with the Jabulani ball, Sneijder’s shot, Bresciano’s free kick and Kjaer’s 60 yard pass. 

NETHERLANDS

1

 

JAPAN

0

Wesley SNEIJDER (53′)        
         
1.Maarten STEKELENBERG     1.Eiji KAWASHIMA  
2.Gregory VAN DER WIEL – Y     2.Yuki ABE  
3.John HEITINGA     3.Yuichi KOMANO  
4.Joris MATHIJSEN     4.Marcus Tulio TANAKA  
5.Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST     5.Yuto NAGATOMO  
6.Mark VAN BOMMEL     7.Yasuhito ENDO  
7.Dirk KUYT     8.Daisuke MATSUI OUT – 64
8.Nigel DE JONG     16.Yoshito OKUBO OUT – 77
9.Robin VAN PERSIE OUT – 88   17.Makoto HASEBE © OUT – 77
10.Wesley SNEIJDER OUT – 83   18.Keisuke HONDA  
23.Rafael VAN DER VAART OUT – 72   22.Yuji NAKAZAWA  
         
Subs     Subs  
17.Eljero ELIA IN – 72   9.Shinji OKAZAKI IN – 77
20.Ibrahim AFELLAY IN – 83   10.Shunsuke NAKAMURA IN – 64
21.Klass Jan HUNTELAAR IN – 88   11.Keiji TAMADA IN – 77

MY THOUGHTS: 

Not the best of matches to watch from a neutral point of view, Japan played to stifle the Dutch attack, when defending they had 10 men behind the ball, and the Dutch looked nervous to attack in numbers so not to be caught on the break and that stopped the game really going anywhere in the first half.  

The best thing that happened in the second half was Sneijder’s goal, a superb strike a rocket from the edge of the box, it may have moved in the air, the keeper Kawashima got a hand to it, but he couldn’t stop it bulging in the back of the net, this opened the game up, Japan came out and tried to attack.  

Matsui was the most inventive looking of the Japanese side, good on the ball, looks to pick a good pass and him, Honda and Okubo again worked tirelessly but never really threatened the goal, Endo played great in the middle of the park charging down the ball, and controlling the play, another player that impressed was the young fullback Nagatomo had a good game charging down the left wing all game, never really got caught out defensively and had a good chance to score when he cut inside and had a shot in goal. The other dangerous player was the centre back Tulio Tanaka every set-piece Japan had he more often or not won the ball and just couldn’t get an attempt on target, the Dutch defence seemed to struggle against his height.  

From the first half performance you would say they would struggle to beat Denmark, but from the 2nd half showing, you would give them a chance, they could have snatched a point if Okazaki cold have kept his shot on the turn down and troubled Stekelenburg.  

Wasn’t impressed by the Dutch today, noone really to pick out, good goal from Sneijder, no real chances to speak of until the subs Elia and Affelay came on, it was the Hamburg man that found the PSV man and Affellay chased through on goal and was 1 on 1 with Kawashima and the Japanese keeper made a good save.  

GHANA

1

 

AUSTRALIA

1

Asamoah GYAN (25′ PEN)     Brett HOLMAN (11′)  
         
22.Richard KINGSON     1.Mark SCHWARZER  
2.Hans SARPEI     2.Lucas NEILL  
3.Asamoah GYAN     3.Craig MOORE - Y  
4.John PANTSIL     5.Jason CULINA  
6.Anthony ANNAN - Y     7.Brett EMERTON  
8.Jonathan MENSAH - Y     8.Luke WILKSHERE  OUT – 84
12.Prince TAGOE OUT – 56   10.Harry KEWELL - R  
13.Andre AYEW     14.Brett HOLMAN  OUT -  68
19.Lee ADDY - Y     16.Carl VALERI  
21.Kwadwo ASAMOAH OUT – 77   21.David CARNEY  
23.Kevin Prince BOATENG OUT – 87   23.Mark BRESCIANO  OUT – 66
         
Subs     Subs  
20.Quincy OWUSU-ABYIE IN – 56   11.Scott CHIPPERFIELD IN – 66
11.Sulley MUNTARI IN – 77   9.Joshua KENNEDY IN – 68
14.Matthew AMOAH IN – 87   17.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA IN – 84

MY THOUGHTS: 

3 points for Ghana and they are all but through, and 3 points for Australia and the group is wide open, I had thought it would be a tight game and I wasn’t wrong, the Aussie’s started so well, an early free kick, Bresciano dipped it over the wall, Kingson fumbled the ball and Brett Holman was the quickest to react and he put it past the Ghanian keeper.  

The great start was followed up by a nightmare moment, the ball dropped to Asamoah Gyan in the Australian’s box he thumped a shot towards goal and standing on the goalline was Harry Kewell andhis arm stopped the ball, the referee had no choice but to send him off, disaster for the Socceroos, the dream start was over and they didn’t really recover till the 2nd half.  

Moore and Neill had a good game at the back, coping well with the pace and power of Gyan and Ayew, Carney looked bright in the first half trying to get to the byline I like his industry.  

Australia improved in the second half when Kennedy and Chipperfield came on with 20 minutes to go, creating more problems for the young Ghana defence but they couldn’t capatilise on the inexperience defensive duo.  

Australia have 1 point and need to beat Serbia and hope Germany beat Ghana by a bigger scoreline than their lose, it doesn’t look likely.  

Ghana played a decent match, has to be said Addy and Jonathan 18 caps between them although at times showed their youth but they handled most things that were thrown their way, Tagoe, Boateng and Asamoah had quite quiet games and apart from Boateng’s shot in the first half there was not much else to note from the trio, Gyan had a great game, using all his strengths and attributes, his power and pace cause numerous problems and maybe with more experience he would have cause more problems.  

Ghana should have capatilised on the fact Australia had 10 men for best part of an hour, they should have won this game and will be disappointed with the point, but qualification is in their hands.  

CAMEROON

1

 

DENMARK

2

Samuel ETO’O (10′)     Nicholas BENDTNER (33′)  
      Dennis ROMMEDAHL (61′)  
         
16.Hamidou SOULEYMANOU     1.Thomas SORENSEN – Y  
2.Benoit ASSOU-EKOTTO     2.Christian POULSEN  
3.Nicolas N’KOULOU     3.Simon KJAER - Y  
5.Sebastien BASSONG - Y OUT – 72   4.Daniel AGGER  
6.Alexander SONG     6.Lars JACOBSEN  
8.GEREMI     8.Jesper GRONKJAER OUT – 67
9.Samuel ETO’O     9.Jon Dahl TOMASSON OUT – 86
10.Achille EMANA     10.Martin JORGENSEN OUT – 46
15.Pierre WEBO OUT – 78   11.Nicolas BENDTNER  
18.Eyong ENOH OUT – 46   15.Simon POULSEN  
19.Stephane M’BIA - Y     19.Dennis ROMMEDAHL  
         
Subs     Subs  
11.Jean MAKOUN IN – 46   7.Daniel JENSEN IN – 46
17.Mohamadou IDRISSOU IN – 72   12.Thomas KAHLENBERG IN – 67
23.Vicent ABOUBAKAR IN – 78   14.Jakob POULSEN IN – 86

MY THOUGHTS:

The weight of a continent lay on the shoulders of the Cameroon players today, lose and they become they first team to be elimanated from the competition, and what a start they had, a lose pass from the Danes, Emana found Eto’o in the box and he made no mistake putting Cameroon 1-0 up, this was as good as it go though 80 mins later and it’s an early exit for Le Guen’s men. 

Some of the team played well, Eto’o was busy and dangerous, justifying his move to the centre of the attack, always dangerous and more like the Samuel Eto’o we know and love, his foil was Achille Emana he too played really well, floating round the pitch linking up with Eto’o and Webo, he had a chance to level the game when he went through on goal, but couldn’t finish it off, if only both had played in these positions against Japan. 

For the players that played well a could played pretty bad, Assou-Ekotto had an awful game getting pulled out of position on many an occasion and with the dangerous Rommedahl exploiting the space he left caused Cameroon the 2nd goal, Song and Enoh were too quiet, the latter was pulled off at half-time. 

Such a shame for the competition that Cameroon are going home but if they had showed this level of commiment and adventure in the first game they would probably still be in the competition. 

The Danes faced the do or die game tonight and took it by the horns after going a ball behind they played really well, Rommedahl was a constant threat down the right, still showing he has the pace to play at the highest level, collecting a lovely 60 yard pass from Kjaer he then found Bendtner in the box for the equaliser, he then took advantage of Assou-Ekotto’s attacking desire by breaking down the right, cutting inside Makoun and placing a lovely left-footed shot past Souleymanou, Kjaer, Agger, Jacobsen and Poulsen were good in defence, as much as Cameroon’s strikers cause problems the defence never looked stretched, I wouldn’t say it was one of Bendtner’s best games, good finish for the goal, but quiet apart from that. 

The Danes played well, much better than the first game, they now face a winner takes it all game with Japan and they showed enough about them to think they could beat the Japanese, will be an interesting game.

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A lot of the discussions at work this week have got me thinking, What makes a great striker? After a few conversations about Arsenal’s Niclas Bendtner to varying opinions it got me thinking, how do you class a great striker, then my mind wandered to what players right now would be classed as GREAT, does the conventional idea of the striker still exist or has the role changed to suit the modern game.

I have also had the opinion that to be class as a great striker there are two targets you have to reach, for your club you must average a goal every two games, and for your country 1 in 3 is fine, is that enough of a system to define greatness, right now I am questioning my own system in this Wikipedia driven time, it is far too easy to pick a player, lets go with Adrian Mutu (picked by a colleague) a player with a very chequered past, has played for numerous teams, first came to my attention playing for Verona, then the 21 year old managed 16 goals in 57 games roughly 1 in 4. Fast forward now to his time in Florence, 50 goals in 91 games for Fiorentina better than 1 in 2, in his whole club career he’s played 329 games and scored 130 goals that’s 0.40 goals per game, a pretty good record 29 goals in 67 games, this would put Mutu in my bracket as a great striker, however I wouldn’t put him in the GREAT bracket, he’s a talented player that’s no doubt, however greatness is not a word I would choose to describe him.

My quick method is clearly flawed then players can hit these targets and still not be seen as the greatest strikers around, growing up the first strikers I was drawn to were the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Gary Lineker, and Romario, then getting older Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta and going to watch Henrik Larsson for Celtic all 6 players to me can be classed as GREAT, the one thought that combines all of these players is finishing, given 5 chances they would score at least 4, and could conjeur a goal out of less than half a chance, how many of the modern day players can you say the same for.

Throughout Europe these days the players scoring the goals aren’t the out and out strikers, players like Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrei Arshavin more of a support striker or winger, these players over the past few years have scored a lot of goals between them, Ronaldo’s 42 goals in the Premiership is unheard of for someone playing as a winger, I think the game is changing and allowing these type of players to be more dangerous in or around the goal area, and on first thought how many penalty box strikers can you think of playing at the top end of European football.

The modern day strikers the likes of Drogba, Eto’o, Villa, Torres, Tevez, Luis Fabiano, all 6 players spanning the global game all very prone to missing chances, I would say out of 5 chances, they would score 2 or 3, most Liverpool fans will be upset with me including Torres in that bracket however before his Liverpool days Torres never scored more than 20 goals in a La Liga season, his first season in England really was his break out year, I have managed to dig up some OPTA stats from May 2008 and from Fernando’s 96 shots on goal he scored 33 goals, this proves my thinking, works out in 5 attempts on goal Torres would score 1.7 goals.

Stats can do a lot to prove and disprove various thoughts, I’m sure I could have found some stats that make an player the greatest striker ever, the hard truth is stats are only worth the paper they are printed on. The real way to judge a players ability is to watch them over a vast number of games and then decide on the quality of the player, usually once his career ends, 2 examples spring to mind almost instantly, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Fowler, Roman came to England after an impressive record in the Russian League, however at Euro 2008 for Russia his performance weren’t as good as previous season had promised, so Spurs and English fans didn’t think much to the latest recruit to White Hart Lane and then a few weeks into the season he was already classed as a dud, I have had the privlidge of watching quite a few Spartak Moscow games 2/3 years before his move, and also the Champions League qualifier against Celtic in 2007, Roman was a constant threat, scoring at Celtic Park, a very opportunist goal pouncing on a defensive mistake, he looked a very talented player, this made me not jump on the bandwagon of doubters after his slow start to his English career which is now showing signs of promise a goal machine of late, he is causing the normal fan to think twice on his opinion and hopefully can keep his place at the London club.

The other example is Robbie Fowler, started out as a 17 year old wonderkid for Liverpool, scoring goals by the bucketload the world was his oyster 173 goals in 236 games for Liverpool is a fantastic record, I still remember the TV pundits swooning over his ability quotes like “If he’s this good at 21, imagine how good he’ll be at 28 in his prime”. The hard truth is when he was 28 he was playing for Manchester City and managed 10 goals that season, only 1 goal the season after, Robbie’s career was plagued with injury from 2002 onwards, and after leaving Liverpool in 2001 he never really reached the same level of success, it is impossible to forget the great results he had at Anfield at the time he was classed as one of the greatest finishers in England, but outside of Anfield the same cannot be said, and at International level again his record is less than impressive, with Robbie for 8 years you could easily class him as a GREAT striker, but after this, Average is the best way to describe him, so how do you classify his career as a whole, impossible really.

Personally I try not to define a player by their “Stats” but in what I’ve seen of the player, a striker could easily have  a 1 in 2 record but when you watch them they need 4 or 5 chances to get 1 goal, or some else with the same record however that players had half as many chances, I know which players I would have in my side, in this world of Sky Sports News and super fast broadband it is very easy for people to take opinions from what they hear around them without judging  the player on what they actually see, this brings me back to the first point.

Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick last night in the Champions League game against Porto, what could be classed as 2 tap in and a penalty, but still 3 goals, his record in Europe this season is 4 goals in 3 games, now if that’s all you look at, then yeah Bendtner looks fantastic, however if you  have actually watched the game or the game  against Burnley, you would not think he was as impressive as his record, the boy is still young, only 22 so he still has time to improve and become a great striker, right now though, no matter what the stats say I cannot put him in this group.

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