Can Spain & Portugal save Europe?

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Can Spain & Portugal save Europe?

Post by Scottish » Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:31 pm

This World Cup is threatening to turn into Europe's worst ever. If we exclude the 1930 and 1950 tournaments which had no quarter-finals as such then the lowest number of European quarter-finalists has been four - in 1970 & 2002. As of tonight there will be four guaranteed non-European teams in the last eight and two guaranteed ones. The only way the previous worst can even be equalled is if Brazil and Chile are removed before the quarter-finals. In fact it is perfectly possible that by the end of the group stage there will be five definite non-European places and three guaranteed ones.

In fact to even guarantee a solitary semi-finalist Portugal need to beat Brazil tomorrow and face either Spain or Switzerland in the next round with the winner of that taking on the Dutch or Slovaks.

How this has happened in a competition which on the face of it looked like Europe's best chance to produce a winner on a different continent is something which can and will be debated for a long time to come. As it stands though the facts are depressing for European football.

Against South American sides so far the European record is P5 W0 D2 L3 F1 A6. against North & Central American P4 W1 D2 L1 F5 A5, against Asian (including Australia) P6 W3 D0 L3 F14 A7. The only continent against which Europe comes out in front is, surprisingly considering the other results, Africa where the record is P9 W5 D2 L2 F9 A6

Throw in a couple of draws v New Zealand and the Euro record v all others is P26 W9 D8 L9 F31 A26 - positive goal difference thanks to Portugal.

And some of those nine victories have been of questionable value. Two have come against North Korea and Honduras, possibly the two worst sides in the tournament and three have all come from teams – Denmark, Slovenia & Greece – that have been knocked out.

The only inter-continental wins of real value - so far - have been the Dutch v Japan & Cameroon and the Germans v Australia & Ghana.

By comparison the South Americans have played 13 matches against teams from other federations and have won ten and drawn three, scoring 21 times and conceding just four.

With the Italian goal v Paraguay the only European strike in five games v CONMEBOL teams the omens are not good for Spain and Portugal tomorrow although the Portuguese are virtually certain to qualify anyway and if Spain don't make it then Switzerland most likely will. However a Spanish failure would leave just England and Germany of the 'big five' European countries left and one of them must go in the next round.

Oddly enough the biggest European failures - with the exception of France - have come at the hands of other European countries. Italy are out because of Slovakia. If Spain fall it'll be down to Switzerland. The Germans are through despite losing to Serbia and of course the Slovenes could have knocked out England.

Speaking of the latter they are once again strong favourites to win the coveted prize of least inspiring qualifier, having got through with two goals. In 2002 they 'won' this prize outright but this time they have to share it with Ghana and possibly one or both of the Group H qualifiers. Switzerland might even deprive them of it by going through with one goal. A 0-0 draw and any Spanish defeat or a 0-1 loss and a three-goal Chilean victory would be enough.

As for England v Germany on Sunday, remember no World Cup finals match between this pair has EVER been won in 90 minutes and they've met four times in the past with the 90 minutes scores being 2-2 (1966), 2-2 (1970), 0-0 (1982) & 1-1 (1990). The other historical oddity is that the team that scores first LOSES the tie.

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Can Portugal and Spain save Europe

Post by Snuff » Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:17 am

Thanks David - my double is therefore: England to score first and Germany to win on penalties.

Liked the crack in today's Herald Diary: It's like the war again, France and Italy have surrendeered, America came through at the last minute and England has been left to take on the Germans.
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Re: Can Portugal and Spain save Europe

Post by Scottish » Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:47 am

Snuff wrote:Liked the crack in today's Herald Diary: It's like the war again, France and Italy have surrendeered, America came through at the last minute and England has been left to take on the Germans.
Does that mean that in twenty years time they'll be finding Japanese fans in South Africa convinced the competition hasn't finished yet?

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Post by HibeeJibee » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:30 am

As I've been arguing on the P&B against a wall of "bar a couple of nations - the non-Europeans/South Americans are diddy", this is the World Cup where the Asians and North Americans have reached maturity. No-one is surprised, I think, that the USA / Mexico / South Korea / Japan are decent, and qualify for the KO rounds... people being disappointed with Australia tells you that in their case too - expectations have risen. North Korea and Honduras qualified in front of more established sides (Iran, Saudis, Costa Rica): but even North Korea did well against world No 1s Brazil. NZ were constantly barracked - in much of the press - as diddies, and that they had a far too easy route into a Finals berth. But 3pts, unbeaten, and finishing above the holders dispels this.

It has been a very poor WC for Africa. Only 1 team through the groups from a tournament on home soil... unless Ivory Coast pull of some miracle today.

As you say - Europe have underperformed. So much for all the pundits, with predictions of a wintertime tournament meaning European sides dominating.

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Post by Scottish » Fri Jun 25, 2010 3:21 pm

As far back as 1990 Costa Rica beat two European countries in the group stages - Sweden and the other one's identity escapes me for now. But I would say the breakthrough competition for CONCACAF was 2002. Mexico beat Croatia and drew with Italy and the USA beat Portugal. Even Costa Rica held Turkey and gave Brazil a game. It was unfortunate the Mexicans and Americans clashed in the last sixteen and but for Hugh Dallas the USA could have eliminated Germany in the last eight.

I'd disagree with you about Asia. No doubt hosting the 2002 finals did a great deal for South Korea and Japan but I think what has happened is that these two countries have become the Brazil/Argentina or the Italy/Germany of Asia. The rest - excepting those guest Asians from Australia - are a long way behind. China and Saudi Arabia were easily the worst teams in 2002 and in twelve matches in 2006 the Asian teams managed one victory - South Korea v Togo (though South Korea and Japan had creditable draws v France & Croatia). It seems to me we now have two 'super-powers' in Asia who can expect to qualify with ease for future tournaments and perform creditably when they get there. And the Aussies didn't make the switch because they thought it would be harder to get through against Asian teams than in a play-off against European or South American sides.

The performances of the 'other' South American countries is interesting. It's not just down to not playing in Europe. Most of their players are with European clubs and in 1994 seven of the last eight in the USA were European - though the odd man out went on to win.

I think some of the disregard for South American countries stems from the fact that it has been a long time since any of them bar the big two did well in a European World Cup. You have to go back to 1966 to find Uruguay in the quarter-finals. The same country's semi-final in 1954 marks the only occasions any 'other' South American country has done well in Europe.

The surprise for me is African failure to progress. I've never subscribed to the Pele school of thinking which predicts African victory at 'the next World Cup' but I did think that after Cameroon in 1990 & Senegal in 2002 that there would have been better performances this time.

I was one of those who thought the 'winter' schedule would help Europe. Maybe there's more to the theory that teams do better when playing on their side of the Equator?

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Post by Scottish » Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:30 pm

Okay, so at the end of the group stage UEFA v CONMEBOL now reads P7 W1 D3 L3 F3 A7 with the only win coming against a team that played with ten men for the bulk of the match. V CONCACAF it is now P5 W1 D3 L1 F5 A5 and against all others P29 W10 D9 L9 F33 A27.

There will be an all-time record low European participation of three in the quarter-finals as the six European qualifiers will all play each other and the way things have gone so far coupled with the way the draw pans out it looks like the winner of the Spain-Portugal match will be the best European hope for even a semi-final place let alone a World Cup triumph - though I harbour a sneaky suspicion the Dutch could yet prove formidable.

Just to confirm that once again England take the prize for lowest scorers of the sixteen qualifiers, along with Ghana, thereby reclaiming a share of the title they won outright in 2002.

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Post by Scottish » Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:27 pm

A few little factoids on the group stage.

Argentina & Holland are the only teams with 100% records.

Uruguay & Portugal have yet to concede a goal.

Argentina & Portugal have scored the most - seven goals

Group winners amassed between five and nine points (theoretically a group can be won with between three and nine)

Runners-up had between four and six (theoretically second place could be attained with between two and seven)

While four countries qualified with four points there were five with that number that missed out.

Cameroon and North Korea were the only countries to lose every match.

Both Algeria and Honduras failed to score a goal.

Nine countries are unbeaten but only eight are in the next round as New Zealand failed to qualify.

Seven countries (including New Zealand) failed to win a game. All have been eliminated.

There were no draws in Group E

Lowest goalscorers to qualify are England and Ghana with two

Worst defence left in the competition is South Korea's with six conceded.

Highest scorers not to qualify are Italy and Ivory Coast with four.

Only five of the 48 matches produced victories by more than two goals.

Of those five, four of the defeats were suffered by countries qualifying from Asia - North Korea 0-7, & 0-3, South Korea 1-4, Australia 0-4. The other was South Africa 0-3.

Of the five winners two were South American - Argentina 4-1, Uruguay 3-0, two were European - Germany 4-0, Portugal 7-0 and one African - Ivory Coast 3-0.

Best defence of the sixteen departures - Switzerland with one goal conceded.

Worst- North Korea with twelve conceded.

Worst discipline:
Australia & Algeria two red cards each, Chile one red and ten yellows. Eleven teams have had a man sent off. Of those only four - Germany, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile - have qualified for the next stage.

Spain have no reds, no yellows. Next best are three Asian teams. North Korea two yellow - no red, South Korea & Japan three yellow - no red.

Chile have conceded most fouls - 62 - followed by those rough lads from down under. New Zealand and Australia have conceded 60 each. As proof that fair play does no favours, North Korea conceded the fewest fouls - 26.

Japan won the most fouls - 68. Least was Denmark, in the same group, with 27.

Spain have made the most passes - 1850 - with Argentina next on 1744. Japan have made the fewest - 857.

On successful passes Spain and Argentina are ahead again with 1607 & 1529. Worst were New Zealand on 601.

Argentina have had the most shots on goal - 46 - followed by Brazil, Spain & Portugal all on 43.

Argentina have also had the most shots on target - 26 - followed by Brazil on 21 and, this is a genuine surprise, England on 19.

Top scorers are David Villa & Gonzalo Higuain with three goals each.

Most passes have been made by Xavi Hernandez (250) & Xabi Alonso (242), both Spain. The same players have made the most successful passes - 220 & 218 respectively.

Leo Messi has made the most chances -12 - followed by the Ghanaian pair of Andre Ayew and Kevin-Prince Boateng with 11 & 10.

Most shots on goal have come from Asamoah Gyan and Leo Messi with 15, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo on 14 and, surprisingly, North Korea's Jong Tae-Se with 13.

Higuain & Messi are tops for shots on target with eight each.

Mark Von Bommel has made most tackles - 16

Honda & Nakazawa of Japan have won the most fouls - 16 & 15

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Sat Jun 26, 2010 11:29 am

I haven't managed to catch the whole tournament so far. Work commitments meant all the afternoon games this past week were missed and most of them the week before, though generally I've caught highlights somewhere along the line.

Brief thoughts:
There hasn't been a lot of great football and even fewer great games. Maybe to an extent it's false memory of games in the past but this seems to me to be about the dullest World Cup in history. There have been few matches where both countries have scored it seems to me and even fewer where both have scored meaningfully (late pointless consolations for North Korea against Brazil and Denmark against Japan for instance can be ignored).

There has generally been a dearth of decent free kicks. Japan scored two the other night right enough and Nigeria got a fluke one early on (clearly meant to be a cross). I think there was maybe another I've forgotten but generally free kicks near goal have been an excuse to threaten to knock the bottle of Budweiser out of someone's hand ten rows back.

The refereeing generally seems to have been very good. There haven't been enormous howlers yet. I thought the sending off of the Chilean against Spain was ridiculous but even that was only a second yellow and if he hadn't gotten himself stupidly booked already it wouldn't have mattered so much. Kaka was unlucky too but I've not a lot of sympathy for him given the way he and his colleagues spent the previous few minutes throwing themselves to the ground and waving imaginary cards in the air. The Americans have had a couple of goals harshly chalked off and New Zealand's goal against Italy shouldn't have counted but most of the offsides have been called right too.

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Post by Scottish » Sat Jun 26, 2010 4:17 pm

Skyline Drifter wrote: Maybe to an extent it's false memory of games in the past but this seems to me to be about the dullest World Cup in history.
If you are old enough to remember it try to recall Italia '90. The only good thing about that tournament was that it prompted the change in rules to the back pass.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Sun Jun 27, 2010 2:58 pm

Skyline Drifter wrote:The refereeing generally seems to have been very good. There haven't been enormous howlers yet.
Well, there has now!

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:00 pm

scottish wrote:
Skyline Drifter wrote: Maybe to an extent it's false memory of games in the past but this seems to me to be about the dullest World Cup in history.
If you are old enough to remember it try to recall Italia '90. The only good thing about that tournament was that it prompted the change in rules to the back pass.
Aye, fair enough. I am indeed old enough to remember it. Though I was taking exams during the early part of it and didn't see all that much.

I was born in 1970. I can recall watching the Scotland matches in Argentina 78 and the final but not a lot else (not sure how much else was actually shown?). I have seen them all since though.

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Post by Skyline Drifter » Mon Jun 28, 2010 7:51 am

Well I certainly cursed the referees by saying there hadn't been a significant bad decision in the World Cup so far then!

Both matches yesterday significantly affected by appalling decisions that weren't just wrong but absolutely inexplicably wrong. They were easy to get right. In the end the teams that deserved to win the two games did do so but both matches might have been very different but for two shocking refereeing howlers (by assistants and not the men in the middle to be fair). Lampard's wasn't just over the line, it was miles over the line. It was so far over it never even crossed my mind in real time that it wouldn't be given a goal. The assistant wasn't badly positioned, it was just a complete howler. Mark Lawrenson can wax on about goal-line technology all he wants but that shouldn't NEED goal-line technology. This wasn't a was it / wasn't it, debatable point. It was blatantly obviously a goal and if the assistant can't see that without goal-line technology then he shouldn't be doing the job. I've slightly more sympathy in the Tevez incident but it still looked offside in real time too.

Let's hope that's the worst of the decisions we see in this tournament.

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Post by Scottish » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:28 am

I think the Tevez decision was actually down to the speed of the defence. He was offside when the ball was played but had two defenders in front of him when he headed in. Rosetti must have been a strong candidate to referee the final but I doubt if that will happen now.

On your point about World Cups seen, yes, we can only go on what we have witnessed. I've read a lot which suggests the 1954 tournament was the best and the 1962 the worst but the first of those was before I was born and I have no memory of the second. I would rate the 1974 competition as the best as that was the first I can remember in which Scotland took part and that sense of disappointment which developed later just wasn't as keen. There was also some pretty good football on display not just from the Dutch as has often been mentioned but the West Germans too, Poland, Sweden, Yugoslavia. It seemed a more open tournament than the 1966 & 1970 ones (the former was flawed by organisational bias, left-over colonial prejudice and thuggery on the pitch yet blessed by the presence of some truly great players. The latter is acknowledged by most as producing the best winning side and having some great games but the sheer emotion of watching the first Scottish side in 16 years to take part means 1974 eclipses it for me) as the South Americans disappointed, Italy flopped & France, Spain & England didn't even qualify, thus giving a lot of smaller countries the chance to shine.

I stand by 1990 as the worst, not just for tedium, poor performances and low standard but also for the occasional brutality which broke out on the pitch. Every tournament since then has been much better though the 2002 one still rankles. For appalling refereeing decisions that competition should have been the one which sparked the introduction of technology. We shouldn't be debating this eight years on.

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Can Spain and Portugal?

Post by Snuff » Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:05 am

Maybe the World Cup has simply got too big.

I refuse to accept that some of the 2010 qualifiers are better than Scotland - Honduras, North Korea, South Africa, New Zealand etc.

Maybe we should find a way of limiting the actual finals to 16 countries only - then we wouldn't have tedious group games where the idea is to not lose. Go straight to knock-out, but, take a leaf from the likes of the Hockey World Cup and some rugby age group global competitions - with (to borrow a curling term) a High Road for the winners and a Low Road for the losers, so that, at the end, you end up with a 1-16 pecking order.

This would mean "semi-finals" among the various FIFA continental groupings, to sort out the final 16, but these would be I venture no bad thing.

Certainly the football has become more-positive druing the knock-out games and the entertainment better.
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Post by LEATHERSTOCKING » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:58 pm

There wasn`t much "live" coverage of 1962 but what I remember most was the sheer brutality(eg. Italy vs. Chile) in some games and sheer dullness of others including the Final. The worst excesses of 62 started the trend towards disciplinary action for sendings off and "bookings" which has had a geat influence on player behaviour. In 1962, beating your man almost inevitably led to being chopped down. Things were improving by 1966 although Portugal`s thuggery vs. Pele was truly 1962ish & by 1970 cynical kicking was being severely punished with match bans. Cheating(sorry, "simulation") is the downside of the tightening of the line on fouling but rather that than the constant brutal fouling of 50 years ago.

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