mercoledì 31 luglio 2013

Japan EAFF Cup review

The East Asian Cup came to an end and Japan won it by beating South Korea 2-1 in the tournament finale. They made it with a roster that not included players who play in Europe so coach Alberto Zaccheroni gave his players a chance to prove their worth. The following analysis will consider how those guys played and who showed to worth a chance with the big boys. Sanfrecce Hiroshima's goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa took his place enjoying solid performances as the final showed and maybe Zaccheroni could take a look to him as a true replacement for Eiji Kawashima. Although if they defended well in the final against South Korea, the overall Japanese defensive performances wasn’t solid. One of the tasks for Zaccheroni was to find defenders able to perform at the international level. This competition didn’t help. Both Yuzo Kurihara and Masato Morishige wasn’t impressive such as Daisuke Suzuki and Kazuhiko Chiba did against Australia. They didn’t show the needed positional sense and poise although they offered good things offensively due to their ball skills. But the weak point of Samuria Blue’s defence was on the flanks where neither Yuichi Komano and Tomoaki Makino played well. Take a note to the fact that Makino ‘s size and athleticism are usually utilized in the midfield with his club. Things went better in the middle of the pitch and up front. Hotaru Yamaguchi was named as the tournament’s MVP and he built a good pair of ball passers playing alongside Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Toshiro Aoyama. FC Tokyo midfielder Hideto Takahashi too played well such as Cerezo Osaka’s Takahiro Ogihara did.  The problem is that Japanese midfielders displayed a lot of useful qualities, specially passing skills, but lack to provide the defensive support a back four needs in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The same happened latest Confederations Cup with Makoto Hasebe and Yasuhito Endo, two good passers with defensive weakness. Speaking about the offensive quartet, the better things was showed against Australia, when Zaccheroni lined up Hiroki Yamada, Manabu Saito, and Yuya Osako behind Yohei Toyoda. Japan National Team provided a lot of top-quality attacking players since the Golden Generation Era and there are still many prospects ready to step up and follow players like Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda in the way to become successful stars in Europe. A former member of the London Olympic squad, Saito made a good impression starting as wide forward with his inside drifting runs. Genki Haraguchi proved himself and he seems ready to break into the Samurai Blue starting lineup. He showed his usual good passing skills and added defensive help to Makino on the left flank. Against China, when he was take off to make place for Saito, Japan was exposed on Makino’s side. The 26-year-old Sanfrecce Yojiro Takahagi left a mixed feeling about his performances: he played well enough against China while he had trouble showing his passing and dribbling skills against South Korea. Then, there was Yoichiro Kakitani. He  helped the Japanese to emerge winners after registering two scores in the final.  There are been a lot of concerns regarding the center forward position since Zaccheroni took the job. Kakitani showed to have potential to be the centre forward Zaccheroni is looking for. Good impression also was made by Sagan Tosu’ striker Toyoda when employed. Not the most technically gifted forward available, Toyoda has the size to challenge Mike Haveenar as target man for a roster spot. At the end, Zaccheroni get his chance to look at new options and unused J.League’s players as he wanted at the start of the tournament.

lunedì 29 luglio 2013

USMNT good depth issues

Brek Shea's goal in the 69th minute gave the United States a 1-0 victory over Panama and the CONCACAF Gold Cup title, the fifth Gold Cup title for the Americans, their first since 2007 and the first international title as a coach for Jurgen Klinsmann. The 2013 Gold Cup is the competition in which Landon Donovan re-shaped his USMNT career. But Donovan's individual performance aside, there were plenty of players who helped their cause trying to find a spot into the USMNT A roster. Mix Diskerud was one of these. Caming on for the injured Stuart Holden, Diskerud added another notable performance showing accurate passes and an aggressive attitude as he did during the whole competition. Kyle Beckerman was excellent from the start of the Gold Cup and showed well all the tournament, such as Joe Corona did. Clarence Goodson has played so well that Klinsmann opterd to start him alongside Matt Besler in the final, keeping the regular starter Omar Gonzalez on the bench. Alejandro Bedoya too went well. Michael Parkhurst looked solid defensively and well performed when he get forward down the flanks. Chris Wondolowski mixed ups and downs but at the end he finished the tournament with five goals scored. Maybe they are not suited to be regular starters sonn but Klinsmann found some guys that he can rely on.

martedì 23 luglio 2013

Barcelona brought on Martino

Barcelona have announced that Gerardo Martino is set to sign a two-year contract to replace Tito Vilanova.

Gerardo 'Tata' Martino was a key player in that Newell's team that won the Torneo Apertura title in 1991 under Marcelo Bielsa, a disciple of the high-pressing, possession-based football Pep Guardiola replied during his spell at Nou Camp.

Martino is more pragmatic than Bielsa as he showed when enjoyed success since he moved to Paraguay in 2002, where he won four league titles in five season with Libertad and Cerro Porteño before to lead the Paraguay national team at one international level that they rarely reached before. Taking Paraguay to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a huge achievement and team's performance there reflected how Martino made his job done. They reached the quarter-finals for the first time in their history and came close to dump Spain out hadn’t Oscar Cardozo missed a penalty. He built his team around a 4-4-2 / 4-3-3 hybrid formation usually lining up Roque Santa Cruz up front alongside Lucas Barrios and keeping a winger staying wide while the other flanker were playing much more centrally, forming a three-man central midfield in the middle of the pitch when in possession. Playing a conservative football, looking to get behind the ball as many players as possible, Paraguay resulted to be a no exciting but a functional side.

A year later, Martino led Paraguay to the Copa America’s final against Uruguay. Despite the final score – Uruguay were the better team all over the pitch and easily won 3-0 – Martino’s narrow 4-4-2 /4-3-3 side still made a good impressions, playing with a flankers making diagonal runs from his side and with a team looking for a slow game, absorbing pressure.

With Paraguay his approach worked but, although is hard to predict what he will bring on with Barcelona, is probable he will play more conservative than they have done under Guardiola or Villanova. Martino knows Barcelona's play fundamentals but his thinking is far from that Louis Van Gaal, Johann Cruyff or Bielsa had. It will be interesting to see how or if he will re-shape his view.

domenica 7 luglio 2013

Canada looking ahead

Canada announced their new manager in former Barcelona Guayaquil head coach Benito Floro and he will be obviously watch the tournament. Canada’s interim coach Colin Miller assembled a squad for the future, looking to the next World Cup qualifying campaign. The old guard is no more here as Patrice Bernier, Atiba Hutchinson and Dwayne De Rosario have been not called. Andre Hainault and Dejan Jakovic too aren’t available. Julian de Guzman will add  the needed veteran leadership to a bunch of players that hope in Simeon Jackson to resolve the concern about from who the goals will come. Interesting talents are also Vancouver Whitecaps' 20-year-old midfielder  Russell Teibert and La Liga's Real Valladolid 19-year-old midfielder  Keven Aleman. Mexico and Panama will represent strong test for the next generation's players.  All have the opportunity to impress the next head coach.

mercoledì 3 luglio 2013

Speed remains the key factor

Confederations Cup final between Spain and Brazil was a waited clash of opposing brand of football. In fact, while Spain is well known for playing a possession football, Luis Felipe Scolari reshaped Brazil relying on counterattacking football. Brazil offense was built to transfer the ball toward the offensive quartet of Hulk, Neymar, Oscar and Fred as soon as possible and all of them are able of carrying the ball at high speed. It was the key: speed. Playing the match at a very high tempo denied Spain to establish ball control.
“In the first half hour, they were all over us, they were physical, they were intense, we couldn't bring the ball out of the back the way we wanted," said Sergio Ramos. "They chased us all over the pitch, they weren't afraid to be physical and get stuck in and it broke our rhythm," added Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque. In recent years, a short-passing, tiki-taka football seemed to be the only way to win and play entertainment football. Newly appointed South Korea head coach Hong Myung-bo correctly pointed it: “as possession football has gained popularity of late, there has been a tendency to overlook the importance of speed.” Few high level teams approached a different way.  A football power that won four World Cups playing a speed game based on fast-break, as Italy did, embraced, under Cesare Prandelli, a Spaniard, ball retantion style. Just Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho stayed away from tiki-taka, favouring a more direct approach. Brazil’s approach took advantage from Spain’s lack of shape. But while Italy enjoyed success against Spain winning the ball in midfield, Scolari’s side were less cautious as they faced Del Bosque’s team inside their own half. Pressing high up leave you vulnerable to fast-break. But if your team is pressing organized and at high speed, it’s hard for the opponents to get the ball past your high defensive line. Having players tired and with this kind of humidity, some coaches, like Prandelli did, asked to their team to remain compact in their own half to force counterattacking football. Many sides, full of European-based players, will probably came in Brazil next summer exhausted after a long season. That could made them unable to deal the speed of the game that more fresh sides could put on the field. More technical teams could struggle against weaked but more shaped XI. Tiki-taka teams could find troubles against other sides starting pressing them high up and then playing counter-attacking football. So Asian teams, for example, could enjoy success increasing speed and stamina. Strong defense and quick counterattacks can yet lead underdog nation to victories. But then, Spain too was effective when they was able to maximize their speed near to the opponents' penalty boxes. Quick one-two punches between Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi near to the penalty area made Barcelona great. What it means? Is tiki-taka dead? Not at all. But speed and intensity still remain key factors of the game.

lunedì 1 luglio 2013

Major overhaul yet for Chivas USA

We are about to see a huge overhaul of the Goats, for the umpteenth time. The club has declined contract options for midfielders Miller Bolaños and Laurent Courtois, and waived defender Joaquín Velázquez while forward Giovani Casillas has been recalled by CD Guadalajara. Bolaños has been on loan to Chivas USA from LDU Quito of Ecuador. Meanwhile, Casillas came to Chivas USA on loan from Guadalajara with Velázquez caming from Puebla FC. Bolaños loss is another setback for an offense that failed to produce since Juan Agudelo left. In the meantime, according to, forward Erick Torres is linked to a move to Chivas USA. Overhauling roster isn’t a good news for Jose Luis Real's work. Against New England, Chivas USA showed some improvement as they played much better in this game than they did the previous under new regime. Real implemented a new tactics, allowing opponents to retain ball control with Chivas sitting deep in the way to play on fast-break. This new tactical thought needs time to be installed. The main change Real made was to switch from a three-man back line to a flat four defence. Team is now lined up in a more conservative 4-1-4-1 formation. Inserting new player in a new scheme requires some time while at this point of the season newcomers will have to adapt quickly. But with Chivas at the bottom of the West with 12 just points it seems like the ownership is trying to rebuild for the next season. While Velázquez was out from Real’s plans, Courtois did a good against Revs and he was on the way to become a fan favourite so his release make no sense. About Torres, Chivas USA are looking for some help up front. Known as the 'new Chicharito', Erick Torres has been under Man Utd radar in the past. His scoring skills could help a depleted department as Chivas USA offense is.