The best, worst and otherwise of the concluding group round

The third and concluding round of group games are over and we picked as the…..

Best Game: Not a lot to choose from this time around. With qualification at stake, the games were tighter and teams were less willing to throw caution to the wind. So, there were far fewer goals and we got our first two 0-0 draws. But there was one game that if short on some of the skill this Copa has produced was nonetheless full of the emotion that at heart football is all about: Peru 2-2 Bolivia. Victory for Bolivia would have put them through. Peru just needed to draw but went behind. New Chelsea man Claudio Pizarro equalised with a header but Bolivia then went ahead again. Things got worse for Peru when they were reduced to 10 men. They kept trying to attack but it was increasingly desperate, at times shambolic. But just as time was running out Pizarro rose to head in his second of the game and put Peru through. Pure emotion.

Worst Game: Venezuela 0-0 Uruguay. For the first time so far in the competition, there were more bad games than good games. This one had some serious competition from the no score bore that was Mexico-Chile. But that at least that had the air of two decent sides playing out a gentleman’s agreement. Venezuela and Uruguay might have had the same idea but the quality on the pitch was wretched and it was not clear whether they were being canny or just incompetent. Even the home fans, not exactly used to Copa success, no mind topping groups, spent much of the game booing.

Unluckiest Team: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Ecuador do not deserve to be going home. Especially when you consider that Uruguay and Peru both made the quarters. Luis Suarez’s team showed more flair and were more positive than either of those two. But crucially, they were also more fragile and they were in a group with far better teams. Chile were stronger, Brazil were luckier, and Mexico were better.

Biggest Travesty: Without doubt, Dunga’s dire defensive formations. Sure, he’s missing Kaka and Ronaldinho, two of the best players in the world. But aside from the fact he helped bring their absence upon himself, he has packed his midfield with hard men and left out the creative players he does have at his disposal.

Team to put your money on: At the risk of getting boring, Argentina. They were not quite as convincing against Paraguay but they were playing with eight reserves against a team that set out for a draw. They have Peru in the next round which should present no problem to Alfio Basile’s first team.

Best outside bet: We said Chile after the first round of games and they went down 3-0 to Brazil. Then we plumped for Mexico, who after six points and five goals, played out a 0-0 draw with Chile. So we are beginning to think we are the kiss of death. If that’s true, we apologise to Brazil. They’ve been rubbish so far and relied on two men for both their wins, Robinho and the ref, who gave them soft penalties in two games. But they are Brazil and they are more than capable of turning it on.

Best Stadium: We’ve not been to them all but the Panchenco Romero in Maracaibo looks good, is well located and is actually finished and fit to host a football match. Diego Maradona’s contention it can compare with the best stadiums in Europe is errant tosh but we liked it, especially when it was filled with passionate fans watching great football as it was for Colombia-Argentina the other night. Would like to be in it when it rains though…

Worst Stadium: The Metropolitano in Barquisimeto, no contest. In fact, we’re not sure you can even call it a stadium. It’s half a stadium. It probably looks great on the telly. From the camera positions you see a modern arena and a stunning pitch. No matter where you are in the ground you get a perfect view of the action. But it’s not finished! Roofs are missing, corner sections were left out and the original capacity of 42,000 has been cut to 37,000. An embarrassment.

Best Goal: We had to wait till the end of the last match of the round but it was almost worth waiting for. Javier Mascherano admitted that him scoring goals “is nothing habitual” but if he scores one like this every now and then they’ll be worth waiting for. With time running out and Argentine fans starting to pack their bags for the trip to face Mexico, Mascherano brought the ball down on the edge of the box, looked up, and placed it perfectly into Aldo Bobadillo’s right hand post. Very nice indeed.

Pick of the quarters: Well, thanks to Conmebol’s blundering we’ve already seen two of the quarter-final match ups already and they were hardly classics. So that leaves Mexico-Paraguay and Peru-Argentina. Frankly, neither is particularly appealing but we’ll go for the latter purely because both teams can play open attacking football. We want goals and so we’ll cross our fingers and go for Peru-Argentina.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The best, worst and otherwise of the concluding group round

  1. pondwatching

    Firstly, keep it going.

    Secondly, a couple of comments re: your selections :
    1. Dunga’s line-up v Ecuador … felt that the reason he went with the ‘brawn’ was partly to do with the knowledge that he was playing against a team of real athletes, though unfortunately they didn’t quite have the ‘finish’ about them. You’re right too, in that he’s probably a pragmatic man, if his football was anything to go by, so that’s where the basis is coming from, but I think it was down to the opposition.

    2. Outside bet isn’t too tricky as Brazil have the easy half … the best teams so far are all in the other half, which is a shame as only two are gonna make the semis and one the final.

    3. Personally I don’t see how you can’t see the appeal of the Mex-Par & Per-Arg games, with the players on display … they’re chocca full of top notch players. Difficult to know how they’ll play but I suspect both games will be similar in that Mexico and Argentina will essentially take the games to their opponents, with Paraguay and Peru attempting to soak up pressure and hit on the break. All four teams have class counter attacking forwards, but who are equally comfortable at taking ball played into feet in tight situations.

    Gee, look at the players on display: Castillo, Arce & Morales; Santa Cruz & Cabanas; Guerro, Pizarro, Farfan(is he injured); and finally Messi, Tevez; Riquelme.

    Green grass underfloodlights … can’t wait !

  2. Hi pondwatching

    Maybe we were a little harsh there on the bottom half of the quarter-final draw. It is definitely better than the top of – if for no other reason we have not seen the match-ups already.

    What I think we might have been trying to say that there was no real classic match-up but hopefully they will come later.

    What we all have to hope for is that now we have reached the sudden death stage teams do not go all cautious. We’re particularly nervous about Paraguay here. They don’t need to. They have the quality not to, as you point out. But history suggest otherwise…..We’ll see.

    Sadly it looks like Farfan is out for at least the quarters and possible the rest of the tournament should Peru do something magic.

  3. pondwatching

    True enough … the dreaded ‘fear of losing if we try to win’ factor of the KO stages. Fingers crossed.

    Originally went for Peru to reach the final and lose to Argentina, but this was after I had seen all the teams just once, that they would eventually finish top of their group, and that they would have all their top boys … foolhardy to predict but kills some time ! They’ll obviously try to hit on the break, and if Pizarro & Guerrero pull the stops out, you never know, though their athletic looking defenders didn’t look quite so in control in the subsequent matches.

    Mexico … some big decisions for Sanchez with the selection tomorrow. To start Blanco, I believe would be foolhardy … he seems to upset the flow of the team …. its gotta be Castillo, Arce, and Morales, who’s inclusion pushes Guardado to play inside – they can play it around in possession or hit on the break from the middle onwards. Paraguay may actually see more of the ball than they think.

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