wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Rivals' friendlies

Enough about how the US warmups are going. How did our Group E opponents fare in today's international friendlies, and what can we read into those results?

First, Italy smoked Germany 4-1 in Florence in a match that doesn't seem to have been as close as the final score indicates. La Squadra were up 2 goals in the first seven minutes and 3-0 by halftime. They coasted after Del Piero added a fourth after halftime, and Germany's late goal (Huth) was just consolation. Implications for the US: hard to say. It's just one game, and even world powers have off-days (recall that Germany looked awful in qualifiers for the 2002 Cup but then made the finals). Still, it's harder to look more commanding than Italy did today. I really don't think the US will beat them if Italy plays like they did today. Fortunately, such performances are rarely repeated.

In Turkey, the Czech Republic were cruising past the hosts until sub Umit Karan scored a very late brace to knot the affair, 2-2. These tea leaves are tough to read. Turkey's a nation on the decline after their great performances in Euro 2000 and World Cup 2002, but winning in Istanbul is no mean feat, and late goals in games where you get six subs likely don't mean much. This is a good result for the Czechs, and suggests that their rep as tough foes is well-earned.

Finally, in a game that finished not too long ago, Ghana fell to Mexico at Pizza Hut Park, 1-0 on a late goal by Franco. I watched the early part of this game on Telemundo, and Mexico pretty clearly had the upper hand, but Ghana hung tough, didn't seem disorganized or edgy like the team that went out of the African Nations Cup in the first round, and gave a creditable account of themselves. The match suggests at least that the few people who are assuming Ghana will be a pushover are dead wrong.

So on the day, it was a commanding win for Italy, a gritty win for the US, a deceptively positive draw for the Czechs, and a respectable defeat for Ghana. There's a lot of chat about which group is the hardest, and I still think it's Group C (Argentina, Serbia, Netherlands, and Cote d'Ivoire), but it's worth noting that those teams didn't make much of an impression today in their friendlies (Croatia 3:2 Argentina; Tunisia 0:1 Serbia; Spain 3:2 Cote d'Ivoire; Netherlands 1:0 Ecuador).


Post a Comment

<< Home