Sunday, June 25, 2006

England v. Ecuador

Pot of coffee. Check. England mug. Check. England jersey. Check – although it’s slightly more snug than it was for the 2002 tournament. Note to self: when asked, describe this effect as “Ronaldoesque.”

Three quarters of this Stuttgart stadium is filled with white-shirted Englishmen.

0 minutes. I don’t know much about the Ecuadorian side, other than Valencia. But I’m not alone. We’re not even at kick-off and the commentator has run out of things to say about the country – he’s reciting a list of their major exports (bananas, cocoa).

4: Already there’s skepticism that Rooney’s not suited for his role today heading up the attack. But England are showing some life up front, and Ecuador are managing little more than clumsy tackles.

It’s a steamy day today. A lot of creepy-crawly things around us.

9: A long-ball to Rooney—but the keeper’s to it first. The kid taps hands with the South American defender who was back. Hopefully his good mood holds: England can’t afford to have their lone attacker carded.

10: A stunning collapse by the English defence: the ball glances off Terry’s head, and Tonorio is in alone on goal. A late lunge by Cole diverts the strike onto the crossbar. I’m filled with a combination of relief and terror, a typical mix for an England fan.

The last thing England would want in this heat is extra time.

Typical English optimism: we’re only 15 minutes into a scoreless match, and the mind is running ahead to contemplate the possibility of a draw.

19: Terry has trouble from a high ball again, and his careless boot draws blood from Tenorio, a card from the official, and a free kick in a dangerous position. It comes to nothing, but sets an ominous tone: will the storyline for this match hinge on an English blunder?

20: A dead ball for Beckham, who ignores the wall in favour of Gerrard at the far side; a subsequent cross looks dangerous, but is kicked away.

36: Tonorio’s booked for a challenge on Terry. This may be the best news the defender could get – the striker will need to be a bit more cautious.

England are still devoid at front. They are lacking a cutting edge.

42: This comment after a poor service to Rooney; and it’s distressingly true. But most of the blame rests with the service rather than the striker.

44: Hargreaves is writhing in pain on the sidelines. Ferdinand and Robinson collide leaping for the ball. Ecuador sails in corners from both sides. The momentum is all wrong.

45+2: England escape the first half: which is how they should be thinking about it. They are lucky not to be down a goal. I’d look for Terry to come off in the second half, and possibly Carrick. Neither have looked impressive.

Second Half

We continue to be bombarded by nasty little creatures in the box…it’s the warm weather that brings them out.

47: We’re informed that Rooney’s girlfriend has gifted him with a £177,000 car – while the Ecuadorans will win $12,000 if they take home the cup. Who’s more motivated?

49: English corner from the right side. Nothing. But England returns to the attack and a flip-on of the ball produces a dangerous low cross. They are beginning to show their potential.

53: Ecuador’s defence are swarming like those creatures in the press-box. They’re physical, they play close, and they deserve credit for stifling the English attack. The commentary has now turned to reciting England’s list of penalty-shootout losses: an air of fatalism is emerging.

55: Two defenders block Rooney in the box as he lunges for the ball. He’s beginning to look frustrated at the coverage on him – but if two or three defenders are on him, someone else must be free. Rooney should start looking for the cross rather than the strike.

60: Another Beckham kick, from about 40 yards. It curls left and looks to be going wide, but rifles into the low corner of the net, at the limit of the keeper’s reach. England 1, Ecuador 0

Ecuador’s resistance is broken at last.

62: Lampard misses another strike from the top of the box. England’s best player coming into the tournament has still not scored. Crouch, who was warming, has been told to sit down. England will apparently look to hold the lead for 30 minutes.

65: Lampard gets the ball on a giveaway, but his confidence shattered, he elects to pass and nothing comes of it.

70: Ecuador has made two substitutions, including one for “the little Devil.” Tonorio is receiving “the treatment” on the sidelines after slipping in England’s end. The treatment normally consists of a spray from the magic aerosol can, and a quick recovery, but for once the player’s not responding.

72: Lampard again! Rooney slips him the ball near the penalty spot, and his sliding strike sails 40 feet over the net.

He does not know what’s going on. It’s like there’s a demon here.

75: England is now attacking fluidly, as Ecuador’s play opens up space.

76: Joe Cole comes off for Jamie Carragher. 14 minutes to go.

78: Robinson’s carded for time-wasting. Some of the Belgian official’s decisions are suspect, but none have changed the result.

82: Carragher is now carded for time-wasting. The English are risking a great deal.

83: Robinson makes an uncomfortable dive for the ball, then hurls it out of play because he’s injured. (To lie there at this point risks a second card.)

87: England brings on Aaron Lennon for the final minutes. Beckham comes off to a grand ovation, and a well-deserved rest. His defensive play this match was well above his usual standard.

89: Lennon’s in against one defender, and draws a corner; a free kick follows from near the right corner. Three minutes of injury time are added.

They’ve so enjoyed themselves here. They’ve gone further than they expected.

Those are words no one wants to hear, even when they’re true.

90+1: Downey comes on for Gerrard. What the point of this is, I don’t know.

90+3: It’s over.

Analysis: A win is a win, but the English side remains unconvincing. The lesson for the Dutch/Portugese is that the English attack can be stifled by double-teaming Rooney, and tackling aggressively in the midfield. Hardly a unique prescription, but one that very nearly gave Ecuador an upset win. Lampard desperately needs a goal if he’s going to regain his confidence and form, because Rooney alone is not enough, and the team needs more than 4 shots on goal in a match.


At 2:34 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

What is going on with this Dutch/Portuges game? I came in late, just as Figo gave the JYD head-bunt to a Dutch players face. Then a fight broke out ten minutes later. And why is Nistelrooij still on the bench?

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

This game is CRAZY!!! And the thing is, the ref is making all the right calls. But he might get lynched by the Portugese fans, who look ready to storm the field at a moments notice.

Deco with the red card for diving!!! This is awesome.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Two red cards, one injury, and surely Figo will be suspended for that headbunt. The English must be desparate for the Portugese to advance.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Yup, I'm really hoping that the Portugese advance, since half their team will be suspended (and Ronaldo might be hurt).

Andy, I have to disagree with you on the officiating (quick plug for Avi's piece on officiating from a week ago). I think they've treated the Portugese unfairly towards the end. For example, why does the Dutch player only get a yellow for shoving the Portugese guy to the ground? Perhaps he took objection to his opponent checking on the status of an injured Dutchman, but still, there's no excuse. Secondly, how Deco got his second yellow (necessitating the red) for pushing a Dutch player away from the ball, while the Dutch guy got nothing for throwing him into the ground in retaliation boggles my mind. This is how games get out of hand, when the refs don't call it down the middle.

With that being said, the refs also blew the call by not giving Figo a red for the headbutt. Just a terrible day all around by the refs.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Also, as I write this in the 88th minute, am I the only one expecting about 12 minutes of added time?

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Great work by TSN switching to the ESPN feed as soon as technical difficulties with the English one happened. We barely missed a second of action.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Alex said...

After watching the highlights, I realize that Figo headbutted another player, not the ref. I misunderstood what the announcer said.

As for the England game, great recap Avi. Even with half of the Portugese starting lineup suspended, I'm not willing to punch England's ticket to the semis until they put together a consistent effort for 90 minutes.

At 3:17 PM, Blogger DR said...

The Dutch might have won if they'd put Van Nistelrooij on instead of Jan Venegoor of fuckinj Hesselink.

Suddenly England in the semi-final doesn't sound totally ridiculous anymore.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Does FIFA review game tapes? Because if they do, I presume Figo will not be playing next game.

England may be the Carolina Hurricanes of the World Cup!

Cue outraged Canes' bloggers response.

Preemptive strike against outraged response - check my posts - I never shorted the Canes their due.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Avi Schaumberg said...

Does FIFA review game tapes? Because if they do, I presume Figo will not be playing next game.

The answer is "yes" and "no."

FIFA will review tapes and assess penalties for infractions that were not seen/dealt with by the official during the game. This has happened with some 'spitting' offences (unseen by the official but later proven on video) and physical attacks that were unpenalized.

However, if the official ruled on the matter during the game (which the official did -- Figo was shown a yellow card when he should have seen red), then it's unreviewable. So Portugal will be two men down against England (Costinha, Deco), and possibly 3 if Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't recover.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I just heard Figo was going to be eligible and was wondering why.

Thanks for the explanation.


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