Showing posts from June, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread #2 For 6/30/14: De Survival

FT (aet): Germany 2-1 Algeria - (Schurrle 92', Ozil 120'; Djabou 120+)
Photos from & Getty Images
The greatest Algerian effort ever, one of the most nervy and listless performances from Germany ever. And yet, it still wasn't enough for the massive upset.
In between Manuel Neuer's amazing half-goalkeeper, half-centerback performance and Andre Schurrle's arrival, it was enough for Joachim Low and his side to breathe a sigh of relief with their countrymen and women. 
Valid Halilhodzic, slammed in 2010 for not getting the most of an Ivory Coast side, was terrific on the day with his tactics after a curious 5 changes made. His moves were just purely sensational, as the inclusion of Lacen, Taider, and Mostefa were excellent against a somewhat lethargic duo of Lahm and Kroos. Ghoulam was having his way with Mustafi on the left, and Feghouli with Howedes and Boateng on the right. And Soudani beat the speed challenged Mertesacker on many occasions. 
It was all t…

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread #1 For 6/30/14: After France-Nigeria

FT: France 2-0 Nigeria (Pogba 79; Yobo 90 OG) 

Even a great goalkeeper in fine form is always susceptible to a mistake. And that is what happened to Vincent Enyeama today. 
Just his moment allowed Paul Pogba the difference making goal to have France survive a Nigerian side who had better tactics than them. 
Deschamps decision to start Benzema with Giroud was a disaster, as Efe Ambrose was having his way all day due to Patrice Evra having no one helping him. 
The change to Grizemann should have occurred sooner, but came on to push Les Blues back into the quaterfinals. But Pogba did well to maintain his composure and score what turned out to be the winner, with Joseph Yobo on his 100th (and maybe final) cap a bystander for the header. 
France will need a lot better if they are to be a Germany team with Joachim Low's side get through a revenge laden Algerian side.  But he likely will return to supporting Benzema with two wingers instead of placing him in a world of confusion with Gir…

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround and Postgame Thread For 6/29/2014: Keylor The Ticos God

Photo from
Whether it was the beginning of the match or the end, it was all about Keylor Navas.

The 27-year-old keeper added to his amazing year by coming up with the denial of Theofanis Gekas to allow Michale UmaƱa to hit the winning penalty, sending Costa Rica through to their first World Cup quarterfinal.

It was the latest great performance from the in-demand Levante man, as his stop of Gekas was the only penalty not given in the deciding kicks.

Maybe the only man more coveted for Los Ticos than Navas is manager Jorge Luis Pinto, who saw his team muster up another magical display by his courageous underdog side when Michael Umana picked up a poor second yellow with a rash challenge on Jose Holebas in the 66th minute.

That came 14 minutes after Bryan Ruiz added his second goal of the tournament with a clever finish past Orestis Karnezis to give Costa Rica the 1-0 lead. It seemed the CONCACAF side would produce another resolute defensive play with the Greeks unable to get …

The FIFA World Cup Halftime And Postgame Thread #2 For 6/28/14: King James

Full time: Colombia 2-0 Uruguay 

The image that fits this game completely, king James once more.

No one else on Colombia did anything today to break down Oscar Tabarez's fine tactics for the day. There were no clear chances for both Teo Gutierrez or Jackson Martinez, as Jose Pekerman may want to rethink the two forwards for the rest of the tournament. And there wasn't a major sniff for Juan Cuadrado either.

But both Cuadrado and Gutierrez were instrumental in the buildup play for the second goal that lead to "King James" doing what he was just destined to do this tournament.

Score of create goals.

A star turned into a superstar this evening, and it was a joyous thing indeed for a 22-year-old growing before our eyes.

Halftime: Colombia 1, Uruguay 0 

Nothing more need to be said about that.

Oscar Tabarez's side otherwise had great tactics and did win the battle with Jose Pekerman that half. But players decide games, not coaches, and James Rodriguez and Colombia'…

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround Thread #1 For 6/28/14: Brazil/Chile (Halftime Version)

Final: Brazil 1-1 Chile (3:2 Brazil go through on penalties)

The cruelty of penalties once more for us all to see takes more victims, with Gonzalo Jara being tops of them. 
Jorge Sampaoli just played his tactics as right as he could, as almost saw Mauricio Pinilla be in the history books forever with a strike that beat Julio Cesar and would have silenced a nation for a long time. 
Even if it seemed like they played for penalty and Brazil had the more positive play in extra time, Sampaoli was there for a famous win. And that is what is going to make today so rough for them, and so fortunate for the host nation. 
Halftime: Brazil 1, Chile 1

With Neymar being allowed to go all over the field, it has made Oscar's job a little difficult, as he is playing on the right instead of in the middle. It's made his touches ineffective or in non-threatening positions. 
Scolari may have to alter that a bit to allow him in the middle more and have Fernandinho located on the outside. Outside of …

The FIFA World Cup Thread #1 For 6/28/14: The Group Stage Best XI

For explanation for the team can be found with the good folks at World Soccer Talk from me.

The bench of the team included guys who obviously just missed out on the nod. However, it speaks to how you have to play really well in all three matches to get the nod. Also, being steadfast to not just pointing all "offensive players" in center midfield spots is vital here for the team selection.

Bench: Guillermo Ochoa; Ricardo Rodriguez, Rafael Marquez, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Jerome Boateng; Thomas Muller, Juan Cuadrado, Miralem Pjanic, Alexis Sanchez, Karim Benzema, Asamoah Gyan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Cahill 

The Flashback Fridays #2 (World Cup Edition) For 6/27/14: K'Naan - Wavin Flag (2010)

Still the best World Cup song ever and the one that should have always been the official song of 2010 competition instead of that "Waka Waka" forever crap (another "genius" move by FIFA), it's the timeless classic "Wavin Flag" from the always underrated K'naan.  

Stay tune for TWD's Round of 16 coverage of The FIFA World Cup Finals tournament, beginning with Brazil and Chile at noon ET on Saturday.  

The Flashback Fridays (World Cup Edition) For 6/27/14: Deuce feat Big Hawk and XO - Don't Tread (2006)

While most people are still surprised to hear that Clint Dempsey is a rapper, yours truly has been on his alternate profession since it all started.

From 2006, with his rap alias Deuce, it's Dempsey with the late Big Hawk and XO repping Texas music pretty good in the era when the Houston Chopped and Screwed scene was at its most prominent.

The World Cup Flashback Friday edition, it's the 2006 American World Cup theme anthem "Don't Tread."

More to come today, stay tuned.

The FIFA World Cup Day 15 Recap Thread For 6/26/14: Group H Recap

FT: Russia 1-1 Algeria ; Korea Republic 0-1 Belgium
Photo from
Valid Halilhodzic and Fabio Capello made gambles on their selections during their three group games, including the last one today. While Halilhodzic dropped captain Madjid Bougherra, Capello finally brought in Alek Kerzhakov like he needed to at the start of the tournament. 
But the move to keep Igor Akinfeev in the net from the last match instead of Yuri Lodygin proved to be the biggest gamble for Capello, as the CSKA Moscow man's failing attempt on Ibrahim Brahimi's set piece lead to Islam Slimani's goal that eventually lead to Iran's first knockout stages at a World Cup. 
Capello never placed Igor Shatov in positions to be a true playmaker this tournament and probably should have given Alan Dzagoev a chance to break out of his funk. Considering how poor Shatov was the first two games, Dzagoev at least deserved a start but was again a second half sub that could never get into the game. 
Samedov bl…

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround and Postgame Thread For 6/26/14: Group G Finales

Postgame Version  Photo from Getty Images 
Goalkeeper Fatau Dauda and defender John Boye were the determining factors in the US going through over Ghana, with Portugal realistically out of it because of goal difference. 
Germany really could have found the opener early on, but good backline defending by the US kept them scoreless. The US even countered with a few moments on the other end, but it was all about Omar Gonzalez remerging as a vital cog for Jurgen Klinsmann's side. 
But both Gyan and Portugal had their opportunities today, with Ronaldo guilty of spurring four golden chances to sum up how dreary his World Cup was. Paulo Bento had to deal with injuries (Coentrao, Almeida, Meireles, Postiga) and stupidity (Pepe) in these three matches, but his tenure looks set to be over. 
For Kweshi Appaih's side, against a Portugal team that could have been exhausted after Manaus, they could not produce outside of Gyan's leadership. They fell behind for the third straight game, an…

The FIFA World Cup Team of Day 14 Thread For 6/25/14: Lead By The X-Man

It takes quite the achievement to top Lionel Messi on a day where he scores two goals at a World Cup, but that is what one young exciting Swiss has done.

Xherdan Shaqiri's hat trick makes him the standout player of Day 14.

Messi's two latest goals were matched in the same game by 21-year old Nigeria rising force Ahmed Musa, who was at his best against Argentina and showed why he is one of African football's luminous talents.

Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic had fine departures to a World Cup that surely will not hurt their reputations. They earned the goals their performances in the previous two matches warranted and will be a major part in a Bosnia side that will be tough in Euro 2016.  

While Shaqiri got all the praise, Gokhan Inler's captaincy to a Swiss revenge victory over Honduras four years in the making shouldn't be overlooked. The Napoli man showed his underrated value with another solid display in midfield, including delivering the key pass for Josip Drmic si…

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround, Halftime, and Postgame Thread #1 For 6/25/14: Group F Finales (First Version)

FT: Nigeria 2-3 Argentina; Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-1 Iran 

A day after his 27th birthday, Lionel Messi gave himself two joyous belated gifts to continue erasing all arguments from his international career naysayers. 
Although Angel Di Maria is almost deserving of the same great plaudits, Messi tactically exposed young Onazi throughout and produced the best direct free kick of the tournament. When you leave Vincente Enyeama of all goalkeeper's motionless, you have hit a special free kick. And that he did superbly. 
The attack at least today for Argentina wasn't just all about Messi, as Di Maria played by far his best game of the group stage. But Alejandro Sabella will have to be concerned with two things. 
An ailing Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain haven't even gotten a proper sniff in front of goal, while the backline again opened up too easily especially on Ahmed Musa's second goal. 
It was a breakout performance for Musa after a disappointing first two games for h…

The FIFA 2014 World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread For 6/24/14: Day 13 Recap

Best XI for Day 13

Georgios Samaras moving up front made the difference for a Greece attack that finally calm to life, and credit to Fernando Santos for that vital move. 
Santos also deserves approbation for bringing in Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, whose good performances were helped by great displays also from Jose Holebas (Chloveas) and the ageless captain Giorgos Karagounis
Arevalo Rios' getting Claudio Marchisio sent off was one of the important things overshadowed by "JAWS-uarez 3", but the dogged defensive midfielder had another commendable performance for his country and help take way any space for Andrea Pirlo to try and move his deep lying playmaking forward. 
Also as vital as Rios was for Oscar Tabarez was the young-old centerback pairing of heading hero Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. Mario Balotelli, Ciro Immobile, and Antonio Cassano could do nothing all day. 
Colombian explosive duo James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez fully warrant their places in the Best XI…

The FIFA World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread #2 for 6/23/14: Day 12 Recap

Day 12 Team of The Day 

Four games to pick from for the second time this tournament, but this is the best eleven for day 12. 

Neymar and Arjen Robben have taken the star men role this tournament, while David Villa has given his nation a proper goodbye to his international career and his team's involvement in Brazil 2014.

Guillermo Ochoa didn't have to produce nearly as much as he did against Brazil, but another solid performance of organizing sees him garner a place over Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. Ochoa's surprisingly easier day than expected against Croatia was helped by his captain Rafael Marquez, who continues to resemble the top class defender he was a decade ago.

Although his teammate Hector Moreno is unlucky to not make this list, Ron Vlaar of The Netherlands deserved his place with his best national team performance in helping shutout Chile. Assisting Vlaar in that rare solid defensive display for Van Gaal's was Dirk Kuyt, the offensive player transformed i…

The FIFA World Cup Kickaround Thread #2 For 6/23/14: Group A Finale Day

Photo from Getty Images 
Mexico-Croatia Tactical Thoughts

While an unchanged first eleven for Miguel Hererra, some interesting adjustments made by Niko Kovac.

Talented young Sime Vrsaljko will come in at left back and be protected by Danijel Pranjic to combat the quality that Hector Herrera has displayed this tournament and the energy that Paul Aguilar has offered at right football.

Can Vasquez continue his great tournament along with a rejuvenated Guadrado versus the infamous combination of Modric and Rakitic.

Even more than the Brazil game, this will be the toughest test for the Mexican backline, especially Rafa Marquez and Maza Rodriguez against how formidable Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic can be. Maybe the matchup going must under the radar is who will win any duel when Ivan Perisic has to face up against Hector Moreno. Both players are in fine form and could be the difference to whether their side goes through.


The FIFA World Cup Postgame Thread #1 For 6/23/14: Group B Finale Recap

FT: Netherlands 2-0 Chile 

No Van Persie, no problem for a great mental performance today from the Dutch side. Although Chile did not have Arturo Vidal and Arjen Robben will get the headlines again, most encouraging for Van Gaal will be seeing the best defensive display of the three matches for his team.

The inclusion of Dirk Kuyt at left back and moving Daley Blind on the inside in the three centerback role prove to be quite effective. Although Alexis Sanchez did have his moments,  most of them happened on the outside of the box. Eduardo Vargas didn't have anything significant in this match and that is a testament to the organized displays from Ron Vlaar and Stefan De Vrij.

If there was one team in this tournament who do not fear facing Brazil in a Round of 16 encounter, it is certainly Chile. With Vidal fully rested now, they will need everything from the Juventus man to cause the big upset.

Meanwhile, the Dutch will await Mexico or Croatia in the Round of 16. And although both …

The World Cup Kickaround Thread #1 For 6/23/14: Group B Finales (Only Version)

Pre-game Thoughts

For the Dutch vs Chile, Dirk Kuyt's inclusion into this World Cup will be so key, as Van Gaal has placed him at outside wingback to make Alexis Sanchez have to defend a bit. You could also see Nigel de Jong play deeper to monitor Sanchez, especially with Arturo Vidal on the bench

Jeremaine Lens is preferred over Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the little more mobility up top to pressure the diminutive pairing of Medel and Jara. Isla may have to comeback and contend with that.


Meanwhile, as the final international game for Xabi Alonso (and maybe the last for David Villa as well) gets all the attention, it will be interesting to see what young Adam Taggart does as life after Tim Cahill begins.

(Will be a Halftime and Postgame Thread)

The FIFA World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread #2 For 6/22/14: Day 11 Recap (Final Version)

Day 11 Best XI 

Algeria is so deserving of having the most members in today's Best XI, a historic performance for their nation. 
The front four of Slimani, Brahimi, Djabou, and Feghouli set the tone with the desire to make things happen and were justly rewarded, especially after Feghouli was robbed of a penalty by referee Wilmar Rhodan. Feghouli and Brahimi are owners of the finest one-two combination goal in the tournament. 
They are joined in the front five by Dempsey, who played maybe his best game in a US uniform, especially considering it was at the toughest spot for him (lone forward).  
DaMarcus Beasley got caught out one time against the dangers of Portugal's speed, his #1 job of the evening, and really only got beat once by Nani (compare that to the evenings of Andre Almeida and Miguel Veloso, more on that in a bit). Thankfully for him, Ronaldo had one of his worst games in a long, long time. And when Beasley did venture forward, the former Chicago Fire prospect provi…

The FIFA World Cup Halftime And Postgame Thread For 6/22/14: After Algeria-South Korea (Multiple Versions)

Photo from Getty Images 
FT: Korea Republic 2-4 Algeria 

As mentioned at halftime, Kim Young-Gwon and Hong Jeong-Ho reputations diminished massively today. Islam Slimani gave them constant problems, and when they needed Han Kook-Young to protect them, he could not on that sweet 4th goal from Yacine Brahimi.  
A dream day for Valid Halilhodzic, as the tensions between him and the Algerian federation will subside for tonight. Concerns though will be how his captain Madjid Bougherra lost focus on Son's goal while his backline couldn't prevent Koo finishing the second.  
Hong Myung-Bo will have to ponder major chances heading into a must win side against a Belgium team who will at least look to have one good performance before the knockout stage. 
It's one thing to have Messi and company score a boatload of goals on them four years ago, but it is another to have a talented but decent at best Algerian side do the same. 
(More to come with halftime of USA-Portugal) 
Halftime Versi…