Wednesday, September 11, 2013

England move step closer to Brazil with draw in Kiev

4:50 AM Posted by Miyamoto Musashi , , , No comments

World Cup qualifying Group H, Olympic Stadium, Kiev - Ukraine 0 England 0


England remain top of Group H with two games remaining after earning a 0-0 draw with Ukraine from a turgid World Cup qualifier in Kiev.
Chances were at a premium for both sides, but that suited Roy Hodgson's side in their final away match of this section after thwarting the home side's advances with a solid defensive effort.
England are one point clear of Montenegro on 16 and two ahead of Poland, but remain without a win against their three closest rivals in the section from eight matches.
England know home wins over Montenegro on October 11 and Poland four days later at Wembley will be enough to see them through to next summer's finals in Brazil as group winners.
They might well have stolen three points at the end when Frank Lampard - winning a 100th cap for his country - nodded wide in injury time from a long Kyle Walker throw-in.
But Artem Fedetskyy also blew a golden chance when he failed to connect with a free header five yards out from a corner with 20 minutes remaining as Joe Hart gratefully scooped up the loose ball.
Hart also seemed to fell Roman Zozulya in the opening seconds. The referee strangely awarded a corner rather than a penalty, but England were good value for their draw.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gary Cahill (Chelsea): An outstanding performance from the defender in what was a night for big hearts in a stout defensive effort.
MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND PLAYER RATINGS
KEY MOMENTS
PRE-MATCH: MILNER STARTS - England with one change from the side that thumped Moldova 4-0 on Friday as James Milner starts in place of the injured Danny Welbeck. Rickie Lambert earns his third cap up front bidding for a third straight goal after netting against Scotland and Moldova. He leads the line on his own with Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere selected to offer him as much support as possible from slightly deep.
2' UKRAINE PENALTY CLAIM - Ukraine are denied a clear-cut penalty. Joe Hart late on Roman Zozulya, but the referee gives a corner. Hart punches the corner away. England so fortunate.
5' WALCOTT THREAT - Brilliant run by Theo Walcott. He bounds into the Ukraine box, but goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov is off his line to make a brave stop.
58' GERRARD TO THE RESCUE - Loose ball bouncing around that England box, but Gerrard is quickly back to clear the danger. Andriy Yarmolenko doing well with an intelligent flick.
73' BEST CHANCE OF NIGHT - Artem Fedetskyy with a golden chance, but can't connect with the free header in the England box. Easy for Hart in the end. A major scare.
90+1' LAMPARD CHANCE - Frank Lampard nods inches wide of goal from the Kyle Walker long throw-in. What a chance that was to finish off matters in some style.
TALKING POINT
Will England reach the finals? This was not the greatest of performances, but England got what they came for. With two matches against Montenegro and Poland to conclude the campaign, you must fancy Roy Hodgson's side to qualify as Group H winners. If Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge are available, all the better for their hopes.
KEY STATS
England have only beaten two teams in World Cup 2014 qualifying so far; Moldova and San Marino.
England completed 77.7% of their passes in the first half; their lowest accuracy of the qualifying campaign.
Ukraine failed to manage a shot on target against England during the first half.
England have found the net in 15 of their last 17 competitive away games, with the blank coming against Ukraine (0-1) and this match.
Centurion Frank Lampard became the eighth player to win 100 caps for England.
Opta
PLAYER RATINGS
Ukraine: Pyatov 6, Fedetskiy 6, Khacheridi 7, Kucher 6, Shevchuk 6, Stepanenko 7, Edmar 6, Gusev 5, Yarmolenko 6, Konoplianka 7, Zozulya 6...subs: Seleznyov 7, Khomchenovskiy 6, Bezus 6
England: Hart 7, Walker 6, Cahill 8, Jagielka 8, Cole 7, Lampard 7, Gerrard 7, Wilshere 6, Walcott 6, Lambert 6, Milner 6...subs: Cleverley 7, Young 6.

Italy win seals World Cup qualification

4:48 AM Posted by Miyamoto Musashi , , No comments

World Cup qualifying Group B, Juventus Stadium, Turin – Italy 2 (Chiellini 51, Balotelli 54 pen) Czech Republic 1 (Kozak 19).



Italy were left celebrating another World Cup appearance after coming from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Turin.
An early goal from Libor Kozak threatened to spoil the party butItaly were good value for the victory, second half goals from Giorgio Chiellini and the ever influential Mario Balotelli sealing qualification.
It was a night of double celebration for Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon who equalled Fabio Cannavaro’s record of 136 appearances for Italy.
Italy dominated the early exchanges but the Czech Republic caught their hosts with a sucker punch on the counter attack 18 minutes in.
Tomas Rosicky released Petr Jiracek down the left flank and his perfectly weighted cross was slammed home by a grateful Kozak.
Italy were then guilty of squandering a hatful of chances, Balotelli the major culprit, first hitting the bar from four yards out before skying the ball over after Petr Cech fumbled an Andrea Pirlo shot straight into his path.
Cech then had to be at his best to beat out a close range Balotelli header 10 minutes before the break although the Milan man will again feel he should have done better.
Italy continued to press in the second half and it was an error from Cech that got them back into the game, the keeper getting nowhere near to the corner and Chiellini heading into an unguarded net.
Three minutes later they were ahead. Theodor Gebre Selassie brought down Balotelli and the Milan striker sent Cech the wrong way from the spot to give Italy the lead they required.
From then on they were never seriously troubled and booked qualification with two rounds to spare. But defeat for the Czechs leaves them with a mountain to climb as they dropped to fourth place below Denmark and four points off second placed Bulgaria. To compound their misery, substitute Daniel Kolar received his marching orders for a second bookable offence with just two minutes left on the clock.
KEY MOMENTS
PRE-MATCH: Gianluigi Buffon receives a silver salver celebrating his record-equalling 136th appearance for Italy.
18’ - GOAL: The Czech Republic go ahead after great work from Rosicky, Jiracek and Kozak with a neat finish.
23’ - CROSSBAR: Balotelli who somehow contrives to hit the bar from about four yards out.
24’ - MISS: Balotelli misses another sitter after Cech spills Giaccherini’s shot.
36’ - SAVE: Another great chance spurned as Balotelli plants his header straight at Cech
51’ - GOAL: Chiellini heads Italy in front
54’ - GOAL: Balotelli sends Cech the wrong way after being brought down in the box
89’ - RED CARD: Kolar is sent off for another bookable offence
MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS
MAN OF THE MATCH
Mario Balotelli (Italy): May have missed a couple of great early chances and got himself booked but was always a handful for the Czech defence and scored the goal that sent Italy to Brazil
PLAYER RATINGS
Italy: Buffon 6; Bonucci 6, De Rossi 7, Chiellini 7; Maggio 6, Montolivo 7, Pirlo 7, Pasqual 6; Candreva 7, Giaccherini 6; Balotelli 8. SUBS: Osvaldo 6, Motta 6, Ogbonna 6.
Czech Republic: Cech 6; Gebre Selassie 5, Suchy 6, Prochazka 6, Sivok 7, M Limbersky 6; Plasil 6, Darida 6, Rosicky 5; Jiracek 6, Kozak 7. SUBS: Kolar 4, Vanek 6.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Kagawa became a Manchester United misfit

4:21 AM Posted by Miyamoto Musashi , , , No comments

Shinji Kagawa was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson 12 months ago from Borussia Dortmund. The Japanese star came with a reputation as an exciting attacking midfielder with an eye for a pass and an eye for goal.
Despite that he barely featured last season and David Moyes couldn't even find room for him on the bench in United's last game against Liverpool.
So we ask the question: should Moyes find a role for Kagawa at United?

Where Does Kagawa Operate Most Effectively?

Kagawa was utilised mainly as a left midfielder last season. This is not really his best position though, especially in United's formation where they ask their midfielders to provide width and cross the ball into the box. Kagawa is best when he comes into central positions, operating as a No.10 behind the striker. As we can see below, Kagawa creates the lion's share of his chances from central positions, not from out wide:
With a high pass completion of 90% last season and the ability to take on players, he is a very technical attacking midfielder who is best playing centrally but moves wide to find space, rather than going inside to out.
Kagawa is creating chances in the area where we'd expect a No. 10 to play. However, the Japan international only played the full 90 minutes on five occasions last season - starting 17 games but being hauled off in the other 12 fixtures.
The reason for this is that there is an intense competition for places at United. Wayne Rooney is occupying the No. 10 role and despite some criticism of his form last season, he was a very influential figure playing behind Robin van Persie.
Had Rooney left the club then Kagawa would have been incredibly important. However, as things stand Kagawa is finding it tough to find a role with Rooney in front of him in the pecking order. Recently Danny Welbeck has also been used off Van Persie, further limiting opportunities for Kagawa.

David Moyes' Preferred Tactical Set-Up

Moyes has arguably altered Manchester United's tactics to more of a 4-4-2, a system that doesn't suit Kagawa. Against Swansea and Liverpool, Moyes used Danny Welbeck as more of a second striker, rather than a No. 10. For all of Kagawa's quality he is not suited to playing in a 4-4-2 system as a second striker, or as a winger. Which makes it difficult to find a role for him in Moyes's tactical set-up.
Against Liverpool, Welbeck only attempted 27 passes, which is very low for a No. 10 and confirms the view that he was playing in a more advanced area, as his action-areas graphic highlights:
Welbeck spent very little time in his own half and was predominantly in advanced areas, not dissimilar to Van Persie's graphic from the game, with both players playing relatively close to each other in this tie. This is indicative of more of a 4-4-2, than the sort of fluid formation, such as a 4-2-3-1 that would suit a player like Kagawa and get the best out of him.
If we compare this to Kagawa from the 4-0 win against Norwich we can see a slight difference:
Kagawa spends more time in the centre of the park, as well as dropping back into his own half slightly more. Also he saw much more of the ball in comparison to Welbeck (from the Swansea and Liverpool game). Kagawa averaged 42 passes per game last season, which is quite high considering he only played 90 minutes on five occasions.

Conclusion

The problem Kagawa is facing at United is that he is primarily a No. 10, while Moyes is using a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 system which is not best suited to Kagawa, especially if Rooney is in the side. Rooney is the primary playmaker and if he doesn't start then Moyes has opted to select Welbeck as the second striker. Although Kagawa can play from the left he will not hold the width or cross the ball, but rather try to drift infield, something that isn't conducive to United's style of play. As a result, Kagawa might find opportunities limited this season, despite his obvious quality.

Blatter: Awarding Qatar World Cup may have been 'a mistake'

4:17 AM Posted by Miyamoto Musashi , , No comments

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has admitted that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar may well have been "a mistake."


Staging the tournament in the Middle East has caused much controversy because if it is held over its traditional dates in the middle of the year, players will have to contend with searing 50 degrees Celsius heat.
Calls to move the World Cup to later in the year, during the European winter, have also been unpopular as it will cause major disruption to domestic league competitions in countries such as Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France.
Blatter said: "It may well be that we made a mistake at the time."
Blatter, who in May said it was "not rational" to play in Qatar in June and July, added: "On the other hand, you must also consider political and geo-political realities.
"The World Cup is FIFA's biggest, if not only, global event. Who are we, the Europeans, to demand that this event has to cater to the needs of 800 million Europeans above all?
"I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world any more, and that some former European imperial powers can no longer impress their will on to others in far away places.
"We must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport - it has become the world sport that billions of fans are excitedly following every week, everywhere in the world."
Blatter hopes FIFA's executive committee will endorse his proposal to switch the tournament to the winter.
If such a move is rubber-stamped, the Swiss added: "The next steps will include a close look at the international calendar and to establish what consequences the change would have.
"We would naturally need to speak to and consult with all interested parties and stakeholders."
Qatar defeated bids from South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States to win the right to host the tournament for the first time.