England v. Portugal
The grudge match for England over their past vanquishers. Both sides with a 4-5-1 formation, meaning a midfield battle is the order of the day.
1 - First minute Wayne Rooney takes a through pass to the corner of the box and hammers it off a Portuguese defender. Portugal runs it back, Figo with a good effort. Early on its the purple with the run of play.
3 - C. Ronaldo makes his first plaintive sad puppy face to the ref as he falls to the ground.
4 - Great long ball by Figo, almost gets ahead of Robinson to C. Ronaldo.
6 - Nice pressure by Englad, starting from the deadball into a great wide pass by Gerrard. This is more like it. Happy to see Hargreaves in the back - he's the winner from the move to the 4-5-1, allowing him to play a holding role.
8 - England is scrapping in the midfield in a style befitting their nation.
9 - Rooney makes the heart skip a beat as he blasts one, nice stop by Pereira. C. Ronaldo follows up with a similar attempt. This is a great game so far, plenty of action on both ends, wide open.
10 - Hargreaves is fishing for a yellow-card with some banging clashes. Play goes on. If only he had a hockey stick he could lay some Canuck lumber to the neck with a cross check.
11 - England fail to clear. Bad Ashley Cole. Even worse of that corner! Neville how could you let that bounce off you into the middle of the action? Why even get in the way of the ball when you're on the far side of the corner? Defensive lapses need to sort themselves out and soon.
13 - Big pressure by Portugal. Maniche is causing problems from the heart of the midfield.
14 - Hargreaves is getting under Scolari's walrus-like hide. Good penalties to be taking.
16 - England's build-up after slowing the game down creates a chance. More promising stuff.
18 - Lampard and Backham on the give and go. Rooney with a flick. C. Ronaldo gets it quickly on the other end and collapses the defense - so far he's the best player on the pitch. This is riveting stuff.
20 - Lampard fails to connect on a brilliant lob from Gerrard, started by Rooney on the flank. This is more like a 4-6-0 formation. Lampard has been jinxed thus far in the World Cup, so many chances, so many whiffs. Is he on drugs? The Sun will have pages of baseless speculation on the subject tomorrow.
21 - Gerrard schools C. Ronaldo, and Neville, in a one on one breakaway. Perfect stripping of the ball - this is why he's England's best. Neville is showing his lack of fitness off of injury.
25 - My landlady called. "Am I calling at a bad time?" Well my heart is in my stomach. Does that count as bad?
28 - John "Sid Vicious" Terry clashes heads with Tiago. I think the head-butting tactic is a good one. I don't see him coughing blood or spitting teeth, he's fine. Damn that's a yellow on Terry, no semi-final for England's best defender.
31 - Neville does something right. Yay!
32 - England keep giving it up. It's been a while since a proper build-up.
34 - Better but no finish. Hargreaves hand-ball. They guy should get his own whistle it blows for him so much.
35 - Damn Rooney why so far back? Get up into the play. Seriously you're not a midfielder.
37 - Gerrard can do anything. A full tilt cross to Beckham on the other side of the box in the absence of a play. Small displays of skill that can add up.
38 - Nice knee to the back of Tiago there Wayne. Very yobbish.
39 - Figo makes my heart stop. Wide shot.
40 - Nice pressure - good forward play by Terry. England cause some scrambles but can't lance it forward.
41 - Portugal on the pressure, I have to say they look more with it, more composed on the ball.
43- Hargreaves wins a great corner. Yellow on Petit who also misses the next match. Amazing how the cards wreak havoc on line-ups in the World Cup. This is Beckham's bread and butter. Off the wall, for naught.
44 - Lampard you would bury that shot 10 times over for Chelsea. Get some muscle on it. So far you suck. I'm glad we had this little talk.
Halftime whistle. The game has been a see-saw and I disagree with the announcer - all the match is missing is more finish.
Hey they just showed the full 10+1 ad. The fat kid actually calls Damien Duff off the bench. Awesome.
So far the strikers haven't figured at all on either end. Rooney hasn't been in position from what I can tell, he looks discombobulated by the formation. I like what I see from Gerrard and Lamps is only lacking in finish - he's had a few hero chances but has failed to deliver. Figo and C. Ronaldo on the other end are spearheading the play and causing fits for a line of backs that are showing more composure after some shaky moments early on. England are their own worst enemy with the turn-overs at the start of the build-up. They have to break out of their end because Portugal is showing themselves to be capable of making opportunities out of very little.
Second half underway. The team talks have to favor Scolari. What is that master tactician up to. The FA could have poached him as a coach if only they'd kept their traps shut - Luis Filippe didn't like having 200 journalists camped out on his lawn so he balked. He loves his job - he gets to sleep in till noon every day and gets great seats at any football games with Portugese players. The English press rudely woke him up early one day onto the wrong side of the bed and effectively shot themselves in the foot. We can all agree that Sven is useless. If England win, its despite his bumbling.
50 - Robbed by a handball in the box. Pretty obvious. The play was looking good. Mmm Victoria. Why is Beckham subbed off? I guess he hasn't been outstanding but I'd keep him for corners and free kicks alone. At least its Aaron Lennon, he's been nothing but impressive.
52 - Lampard you have a hex on you. That was a glorious chance and you fucked it up again. DAMN YOU.
54 - Beckham is crying. He must be injured. The announcer is going on about this being his last World Cup stab ever. A little premature I think.
55 - C Ronaldo! Mock feigned outrage! You are the biggest baby in world sport!
56 - Here's some good pressure. Maniche goes down in pile of drama and everyone ignores him. You'd think he was bitten by a rattlesnake with all the writhing.
57 - Great opportunity by England! Lennon, Rooney, Cole! None finish it. Where is the killer instinct? I want the back of the net in their eyes.
61 - Portugal tries to connect with Pauleta deep.
62 - RED CARD Rooney. Battling he just can't stop after the whistle, steps on Carvalho's jewels and nudges club teammate C. Ronaldo. This kid needs serious anger management training. He just got the lesson of a lifetime and the air is sucked out of England. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
63 - Simao on for Pauleta - Scolari must think he stinks. Crouch subbed on for Cole. England still intends to go for it. The crowd rallies.
65 - C. Ronaldo I harbour deep contempt for you. Stop rolling around in faux agony.
69 - Crouch, Lennon and Hargreaves all with good moves - this is the new England. Hargreaves thinks he's Ryan Smyth with the wraparound attempt. If only he could centre it in the slot for the one-timer.
72 - Gerrard blows a good set-up chance. Despite being down to 10 men, England is really running the play. I wrote this before the announcer said it, so there.
73- Hugo Viana on for Tiago. Portugal is sharpening their midfield attack with some fresh legs. I followed Viana when he was at Newcastle - and was a major disappointment - but I guess he's found greener pastures back home in Portugal.
77 - Portugal has settled down and is ruling the roost. Huge save by Robinson - Portugal smell blood - Rio Ferdinand makes the slide tackle of a lifetime, nothing but ball. England will have to hang on for 40 minutes. That's a tall order.
80 - The game is getting chippy. Peter "Lurch" Crouch can't help but hammer Viana in the face because it takes about fifteen minutes for command signals in his brain to reach his elbow some several miles down the nerval cortex to persuade it to move out of the way. That is science my friend.
81 - Lampard gets a deadball chance. Redemption? Oh Lennon you duffed it. I feel too many vital opportunities slipping away.
84 - Figo off for Postiga. That's three subs for Portugal. Postiga almost connects on a C. Ronaldo cross. Portugal with a workmanlike attacking formation. They can't penetrate.
88 - God Save the Queen reverberates through the stadium. It's all Portugal right now.
89 - Ashley Cole with another bad give-away, Maniche can't get a good kick to it.
+1 - England win a corner. Ricardo over everyone, Hargreaves with a fantastic play, Oh my god Terry on it, deflection, another corner. Ricardo again fists it. Great pressure England!
Whistle blows. England has had a great half except for Rooney's dunderheaded thuggery and an irritable ref's quick hand. I think the push was the straw on the camel's back for a ref looking to make a call after the nut-stomp and all around bull in the china shop style of play. I understand the call though I don't agree with it. Portugal should be winning this game but they're not. I think Portugal will figure it out and have to be favored to take it but if there's a day in which England can surmount these odds, it seems to be today. Crouch has had more effect than Rooney, Lennon is causing more trouble than Beckham, and Hargreaves is the best player on the field right now. Portugal still had the best chance of the match, stopped only with that sprawling stretch by Paul Robinson, but they haven't had that many chances.
5 - England are pressed right now. Portugal look composed although not attacking sharp.
6 - Scolari is having a fit. He knows that Portugal should be turning their advantage into chances and its not happening.
8 - Amazing chance by Gerrard-Crouch! Crouch falls on the back who heads it out of the way. Looking good. Gerrard had a chance to hammer it but saw it close so he turned around for the outside cross. Such talent.
10 - Simao runs out of room. Ashley Cole can't pass but he can shut down wingers like anyone. Other end - Neville up - great chance to Crouch.
11 - Back again - Robinson with the save on Maniche who has been the sparkplug for Portugal. C. Ronaldo is missing.
12 - Crouch rules. I don't care what the British rags say. The guy is figuring everywhere when Rooney hauled around that huge chip.
13 - Gerrard with the big tackle. He does everything too. C. Ronaldo shows up to blast it over the bar.
End of the first half of extra time. That was scintillating ball. England still holding their own. Here's an idea - don't ever change the current set-up on the field.
15 - HOW IS THAT NOT A PENALTY. Oh Valente took the ball. Great tackle Valente. Aaron Lennon with another zig-zag dipsy-doodle play. Wow.
17 - Postiga scores from a mile offside. Whew. Scolari knew it all along and tells the bench to chill. They guy is like a round obelisk of stony football determination. Sven sits on his hands. A story in contrasts.
20 - Portugal is still impotent. Carvalho gets carded though I think Neville did a bit of embellishing there too.
21 - C. Ronaldo with a soft header, saved. Crouch goes daddy longlegs and produces nothing at the other end but it looked fancy.
24 - Petit with a long bobbler. Robinson has been solid. Portugal is taking the game hard now, the number of chances mounting. Sid Vicious has a cramp. Give him a "shot in the arm" and get him back out there for an encore.
27 - Speculation now by England. It's called hang on for dear life at this point. Jamey Carragher in the warm-up for his penalty shot skills. Lennon is off and deserves mad praise.
29 - This is where a nil-nil feels like a win. Portugal looking for something. Can't find an opening, England buys a corner. The boys stand resolute.
+1 - Who's got the jam? Maniche blows a great last-gasp opportunity. Sigh of relief. Now it's in the hands of lady luck.
The red card drama against Rooney is irrelevant now. He's been a non-factor so I'm fine with him sitting out the semis IF England go through. And I'll take Lennon for Beckham any day. But Portugal has got to be ruing their lost opportunity. They just couldn't bury it and they should have by rights.
Penalty Shoot Out
Simao - low left stutter step, Robinson good guess, still scores. 1:0.
Lampard (do something, anything) - YOU ARE A GOAT. Saved. 1:0.
Viana - off the woodwork! YEAH!!! 1:0.
Hargreaves - is it Canada Day? - YES IT IS. Ricardo looks scary good but it's not enough. 1:1.
Petit - don't barf in your mouth - SAVE BY ROBINSON! And a beauty at that - full fucking fingernail stretch. England can taste it. 1:1.
Gerrard - ghostface needs a blood tranfusion. FUCK it's a save. 1:1.
Postiga - Drama mounts - Robinson guesses wrong. 2:1.
Carragher - it's all on you mate - false start. Back into the blocks. SAVE. Bad news england. Ricardo is the difference. 2:1.
C. Ronaldo - Please eat it - It's all over. England go out again. Again. Again.
You can't expect to get anywhere if you can only muster ONE MEASLEY GOAL on a penalty shoot out. Robinson gave England a chance to win but their big guns were firing blanks.
The fireworks are going off in my neighborhood already. My Portugese neighbors are going to be into the hooch this afternoon.
Deflation contrasted with elation. If it wasn't for C. Ronaldo I would like this batch of underdogs in the next round.
It's a bitter pill. I think the football gods must speak Portuguese because they didn't hear the prayers being sent their way. They sure as hell aren't Anglican.
OH WELL. Back to loving the game for itself, no more cheering for a side.