lunedì 24 giugno 2013

KFA appointed Hong Myung-bo as the new head coach of the national team

Hong Myung-bo, who led the Korean team to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, was  the top choice in the list of coaches evalued by KFA to succeed Choi Kang-hee as the manager of the Korean national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Turkey national team boss Senol Gunes, Ulsan manager Kim Ho-Gon and Marcelo Bielsa was on the shortlist. But a kind of “no alternative to coach Hong Myung-bo” feeling was prevalent inside the Korea Football Association. There was  no time for a foreign coach to examine Korean players with the World Cup just one year ahead.

Hong’s  knoweledge of Korean soccer and players made him a better candidate than anyone else. Some of young stars on the roster, such as Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City) and Koo Ja-cheol (Augsburg), already worked under Hong.

When Choi Kang-hee replaced Cho Kwang-rae in December 2011, he held a team able to perform the tiki-taka brand of football Cho liked. His European style created entertainment and variety on offense. With Choi at the helm the strategy became more predictable with Koreans abandoning the ball control, short passes style in favour of a more direct approach that no suited South Korea’s players. So the National team produced disappointing performances and Choi Kang-hee went under fire.

Hong Myung-bo will have one year to reshape the team. He has the talent to do it. Son Heung-min is the rising star. Park Chu-Young, Ki Sung-yeung and Lee Chung-yong are skillfull and experienced players while youngster such as Ji Dong-Won and Koo Ja-Cheol are looking for transfers in Europe that could improve their strengths. Kim Young Kwon, U23 captain Hong Jeong-Ho and left back Yun Suk-Young form a strong core on defence. Surely, some questions remain unsolved. Like most of Asian teams, South Korea lacks of a true goalscorer. Play direct to Kim Shin-Wook worked against Uzbekistan, but it’s far from team’s strengths. The other big question is where to line up Son Heung-Min. Often lined up as left winger, Bayer Leverkusen player is more effective playing up top or as attacking midfielder behind a centre forward. In the middle of the pitch, Hong will have to find the right partner for Ki Sung-Yueng. Park Jong-Woo, Han Kook-Young, Kim Nam-Il, and Lee Myeong-Joo didn’t enough to convince that they deserve the regular starter  spot alongside Ki. Hong has to decide if he wants to line up a passer, a box-to-box midfielder or a defensive one.

domenica 23 giugno 2013

Galaxy vs Chivas USA: Preview

Since their playoff clash in 2009, Los Angeles Derby favored Galaxy, although last meeting between hometown rivals, the first one of this season, ended 1-1.

While Jorge Vergara is ready to return the club to its Mexcian roots, on the field Chivas USA are ready for the upcoming SuperClasico against Galaxy. After Jose Luis "Chelis" Sanchez Sola is gone, Chivas USA started a new regime under new manager José Luis Real. "We changed our playing style drastically. Tactically, we’re a little better positioned and we’re not so hectic. So now it’s a little more calm and hopefully the transition is smooth,” told goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. In effect, the Rojiblancos switched from Chelis’ three-man back line to a more MLS usual flat four defence. But other adjustements are to be made as Chivas USA allowed 20 goals in a seven games stretch, after allowing just six goals in the previous six matches. Real’s squad also needs to improve on the other side of the game, as offense failed to produce since Juan Agudelo left. Tristan Bowen, Jose Correa, and Miller Bolanos are the only attackers actually available. Against Chivas, Real could line up the same 4-1-4-1 he utilized against Seattle Sounders FC at The Home Depot Center with Correa as centre forward and Bowen at the right wing spot. Walter Vilchez should stay at centre back with Oswaldo Minda lining up as holding midfielder in front of the back four and Jorge Villafana still on the flank.

On the other side, Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane are back with the team so the talent gap is still there. With Gonzalez returning, coach Bruce Arena could line up his classic starting back line featuring Sean Franklin, Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, and Todd Dunivant. On the midfield, although Rafael Garcia performed well against Portland, the returning Brazilian Sarvas is likely to claim his spot in the middle of the pitch with Juninho expected to come back to his anchor man role in Galaxy midfield. It'll be interesting to see if Arena will start newcomer Pablo Mastroeni or if he will insert him within the game. Up front, Arena will have to choice if pair Landon Donovan to Robbie Keane or to line up Donovan as attacking midfielder in a 4-3-1-2 formation, pushing Gyasi Zardes up alongside Keane.

Welcome Rudi Garcia

A Spaniard, a Czech and a French. AS Rome is out from European Cups once again but has a track record of hiring foreigner head coaches. Until now, it didn’t work as Roma enjoyed no success during last two campaigns.

The young and smart Luis Enrique were the first one. A brilliant mind with the goal to change Italian football culture introducing a tiki-taka, Barcelona style brend of football in the land of Catenaccio. Luis Enrique left after just one season in charge following a lot of criticism about his possession-based football that never worked in Italy. Then, there was Zdenek Zeman, already a former coach with Roma, an attacking obsessed manager faithful to his 4-3-3 despite players’ skills and a prophet of football entertainment. But Zeman project too failed. 

Now, Roma brought on  former Lilla’s boss RudiGarcia and made him its third consecutive foreign manager in a two seasons span. Since Garcia arrived in 2008, Lille has been in the top five of Ligue 1. France loved his attacking philosophy and the the achievement he reached when he lead Lilla to their first league title after 57 years. His  4-3-3 turned Lille into a scoring machine built around an attacking trio featuring young stars such as Gervinho, Eden Hazard and Moussa Sow. That trio lead comparison between Lilla and Barcelona  as Lille’s men up front loved interchange positions with each other.

After his league and French Cup double, caming by beating Paris Saint-Germain at Stade de France, Hazard, Adil Rami, Yohan Cabaye, Gervinho and Sow all left but Garcia still was able to reach high standard with the roster at disposal. Can his success at Lille work in Rome? Can his 4-3-3 made the team turnaround that didn’t happen under the previous regime?

Differently to Zeman, Garcia’s 4-3-3 usually line up a defensive midfielder in front of defence instead of a regista. That could make an end to Daniele De Rossi dilemma. Captain Future went from playing like a deep-lying midfielder to being an interior holding midfielder in Zeman’s three-man midfield. This switch broke the relationship between him and the Czech’s manager as the player wanted to play in front of the defence as a true Regista a la Andrea Pirlo. But honestly he wasn’t suited to act out a role that he never played and he wasn’t able to orchestrate Roma’s play during Luis Enrique’s era. So Zeman simply tried to bring him back to his ancient role but this effort didn’t pay as his performances remained poor.

Up front, as we said, players as Ronny Rodelin, Salomon Kalou and Dimitri Payet were interchanging their positions such as Gervinho, Hazard and Sow did. Rome has Erik Lamela that has the skills to play an Hazard-role. He has played on the right wing position the most and he likes drift into the middle side every time he can. He had his best season last campaign scoring 15 goals in 33 games played. Lamela could play the right wing position in Garcia’s 4-3-3 assuming he will stay as Manchester City is monitoring him since Roberto Mancini’s days.

As centre-forward, with Pablo Osvaldo probably out of this project, Garcia could still employ Francesco Totti that is caming from his best season in recent years. Totti has shown to be able  to adapt to his manager requests, being lined up as attacking midfielder, centre forward or left wide. As centre forward Totti was highly effective moving up and down to get the defence out of shape.

Lille’s forwards get support from inside-midfielders while overlapping fullbacks provide width. Michael Bradley and Miralem Pjanic could play the interior midfielder roles. Both impressed when they had the opportunity to play in the middle of the pitch alongside De Rossi. Vasilis Torosidis could start as right back while Garcia has to find a leftback able to reply the level of success Lucas Digne had with Lille.

venerdì 21 giugno 2013

Japan out after games against Brazil and Italy

Two Confederations Cup’s matches are in the box and Japan is already out after the opening  loss against Brazil and the following heartbreaking defeat to Italy in the second game. Japan played against two different kinds of opponent and the performances too was different. Against Brazil, Alberto Zaccheroni left out Ryoichi Maeda, lining up Hiroshi Kiyotake on the right while using Shinji Okazaki as the lone striker. Japan was outplayed as they failed to control the midfield zone and didn’t press high up the pitch. They let Brazilians ran a slow tempo game. Japanese back four sat too deep while both Okazaki and Keisuke Honda wasn’t able to chase Brazil’s deep-lying playmaker Luiz Gustavo. Also, both Japan central midfielders, Makoto Hasebe and Yasuhito Endo, didn’t help defence to control Brazil’s attacking midfielder, a role where Oscar and Neymar were interchaning, with Chelsea midfielder drifting out wide allowing Neymar to move inside.

Japan reshaped towards the second match and they improved against Italy. For this game, Zaccheroni made some changes, bringing in Ryoichi Maeda as centre forward and moving Shinji Okazaki wide open to the right, dropping Hiroshi Kiyotake. Hasebe and Endo controlled much more the game. This increased amount of ball retention gave both full-backs Atsuto Uchida and Yuto Nagatomo time to break forward giving them the needed width. But a key feature for Japan were their changed approach as they was pressing high up in the way they didn’t against Brazil. Zaccheroni’s side were much more bilanced and their pressing keept the tempo high with Italy struggling as usual as they are uncomfortable with a faster pace.

Also, they tracked Andrea Pirlo, forcing him to play just short passes and Daniele De Rossi to play deep in the way to support Cesare Prandelli’s deep-lying midfielder. Shinji Kagawa and Nagatomo worked well the left of the pitch where Italy’s right back Christian Maggio, a natural  wing-back at his club, was uncomfortable playing full-back. He also received not help from De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani and Prandelli was forced to remove Fiorentina’s midfielder introducing Sebastian Giovinco, in the way to improve the right flank situation and to give more support up front to an isolate Mario Balotelli.

Japan’s performance against Italy wasn’t bad as it was against Brazil but they still lost. They have a lot of gifted players but they showed some holes. Japanese players failed to stay focused the whole match once again as the start of the second half pointed out. Zaccheroni is a very good tactician and he well prepared this game. Japan nullified Pirlo and dominated the flanks, where Italy’s full backs were lacking of support. But Zaccheroni failed to made the right adjustments whithin the match: his introduction of Mike Havenaar up front made sense but it was made too late. The lack of a finisher didn’t help as neither Maeda and Okazaki are proven scoring threats. The tempo of the game dropped after Japan went 2-0 and it helped Italy to get back on track. The overall run of play was good in the second game but Japan failed to close the match when ahead.

lunedì 17 giugno 2013

Australia vs Iraq preview

Holger Osieck and the Australia team will face crucial World Cup qualifier game Tuesday against Iraq. Australia needs a win to gain a place in Brazil next summer. Anything could still happen but with just one win in seven games, the almost eliminated Iraq would not represent a great challenge for Socceroos. Vladimir Petrovic’s side will be without former captain Younis Mahmoud and star player Nashat Akram too. But Australia will play under high pressure. Failing to qualify does mean a huge step back for an improving movement as Australian soccer is. On the field, Osieck seems to have found a right mix between youth and experience. He still relied on a veteran back line anchored to Sasa Ognenovski, and Lucas Neill as centre backs in front of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Luke Wilkshire is the established right back while Matt McKay gained the starting role into a troubled left back spot. Mark Bresciano and Mark Milligan’s performances as central midfielders were a reason for the Socceroos' success in the past matches while Tommy Oar and Robbie Kruse has been showing flasehs of good football on the flanks. Australia’s fans and media has long waited the next generation to rise up and lead the way. Now, both Oar and Kruse seem to get answers to their questions. Osieck could like to start Tom Rogic, the next rising star, up front but he could still be a bit conservative lining up 29-year-old Brett Holman as attacking midfielder behind the centre forward Tim Cahill. Osieck still has the chance to get Australia to the World Cup, although he could made it not in the way the country have hoped. As we said, Australian fans wanted a more easy road to 2014 World Cup and they was waiting for a young, talented new bunch of players to step up and produce. But Osieck was faithful to his veterans during this qualifying campaign, prefering to infuse in the team blend of experience rather than youth. Osieck’s gameplan has always been based on a classicc 4-4-2 formation with a British-style brend of football focused on direct play as his team showed against Japan. This is why Osieck needs Kruse and Oar: they have to be able to repeat their recent performances in the way to have an impact on the game. They will have need of full backs’ support and could also take advantage from Holman’s cutbacks, as it happened against Jordan. On the other side of the game, the 4-4-2 formation Osieck employed wasn’t able to keep Keisuke Honda, lined up as attacking midfielder, out of the game as he was free to operate between the lines in the match against Japan. So Australia’s two backs of four will have to do a better job against Iraq if it will happen again. Osieck has to find a balance between attack and defence in the way to don't suffer a setback.