Saturday, June 16, 2012

“Elimination Saturday”, let the scenarios begin

We can finally begin to reduce the scenario analysis starting today as the “elimination games” begin with group A, which may be the simplest group can certainly get complicated if Russia loses to Greece, which would only be the biggest upset since the Greeks beat Portugal, in Portugal, to win the whole thing in 2004, so it’s still on the table. If that were to happen and the CR lost to host Poland then the Host Nation Poland would actually go in as the group winner, Russia second, and the Czech Republic and Greece out. However back on Earth, you gotta’ figure Russia takes care of business for at least a draw and wins the group with 5 points but then things can get a little crazy. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Poland beats the Czech Republic and jumps over the current 2nd place side, as the host nation has been known to pull those types of heroics in the past. So back to step 1, this is the simplest group because they are all ‘win and you’re in’ scenarios, as opposed to the others which we’ll visit next where if ties occur you’ll see tie-breakers that go 2, 3, and even 4 deep. Every side has to win to get in except for the Russians whom can also get through with a draw, so this is the ideal scenario for FIFA, everyone still competing and controlling their own destiny.
Now when we get into the “Group of Death” things get a little more complicated but still we can see the forest through the trees. If Germany wins or ties they’re in, but if they lose and Portugal and Denmark win then you go so far into tie-breakers that you’ll need an MIT grad to sort it out. Portugal needs to win vs. the Dutch and have Germany win or draw, which could/should happen as the Dutch are going to need to be very aggressive in their match making them very susceptible to the counter attack as we will soon see. Germany has looked the best of the group and will do its best to avoid the similar fate that Russia suffered where you dominate for two games then a momentary lapse of concentration cost you your tournament. The Germans need a win or a draw to move on where they would face a Greek team that may be riding some momentum but is a little depleted due to yellow card suspensions. In other words they know that a simple tie in their next match could carry them all the way to the semis. Denmark, simple on paper, beat the Germans and you’re in. However not so simple on the pitch. Lastly, the Dutch. Beat Portugal by 2 goals and have Germany win. There are so many moving parts in this scenario that if I were a betting man I would have to say for being one of the early favorites the Dutch will have a very disappointing Euro as they will go home early.
Group C may look like an open and shut case but the drama is far from over. Italy may be a distant 3rd right now but those two points should be made up rather quickly as they take on the sacrificial lamb, Ireland in the final game. You assume the Italians win this and move to five points and take either the top spot or the two if Spain and Croatia have a winner. Now if they tie then you get a logjam of three sides with five points each at the top. From there the permutations get a bit cryptic but to surmise if the score of Spain and Croatia is 2-2 or higher than both of those side will move through to the knockout stage. The most logical result is a winner in the Spain/Croatia match and Italy taking care of business but a 1-1 tie and an Italy win and another perianal power goes home.
Group D is the only group that has one Nation that has been eliminated prior to third day play as Sweden was sent home early. That leaves the remaining three and there is a roadmap for all of them. England may have pulled the rabbit out of the hat with goals from unexpected places against the Sweeds and now has the services of Wayne Rooney at their disposal needs a only a draw to advance. Conversely, the host Ukraine only need to beat England and they’re in and would certainly have taken that bet at the start of the tournament knowing that their entire nation would be there behind them. However the nation with the best scenario has to be the French who will face a Swedish side with nothing to play for except pride needed only a win or draw to advance. Lots of possibilities in this group but simple win and you’re in scenarios when all is said and done.

In any case get a deep breath because if you enjoy tournament soccer, this is your week.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Euro 2012 Will the real Group of Death please stand up?

Who is the side to beat in the Euro 2012 competition? Well it depends on who you ask. There are dangerous sides in every group, in fact every group could make a case for the “Group of Death”. Here’s our group by group breakdown and the top 3 sides in each.
Group A – (Poland )Any time you have the host nation in the group you’ve got a problem so what would normally be a tough match on its own becomes one where any result is a considered a victory. (Czech Republic) Based on their performance in the last World Cup they would be one of the sides to beat but they have limped into the tournament after a bad loss to Hungary and may be without Mila Baros for the first and maybe two matches but the return of Tomas Rosicky just in time for the big match with Russia should be enough to push them through. (Russia) A powerhouse that has the experience and comes into the cup playing extremely well coming off a 3-0 drubbing of Italy but do they have the legs to go deep in the tournament? Any of these three can win the group and also be sent home early, oddly, if Greece can pull of an upset in any match that could be the difference. Our Pick: Czech Republic
Group B – Our Pick for the true “Group Of Death” as not only are any the three top sides in this group capable of winning the group whomever comes out of it should be the fav to win the whole thing. (Netherlands) already at 6-1 to win the tournament will be led by RVP the EPL’s leading scorer, and he’ll be flanked by Robben and Sneijder presenting one of the best fronts in the world. (Germany) The consensus pick to win the whole thing, should have the services of Klose and Schweinsteiger to make their roster complete. The matches they face in the group stage may be toughest test they get if they get out of it. (Portugal) Anytime you have Ronoldo you’ve gotta a chance to score and one goal in these games could make all of the difference. Not on the radar as they once were, age promises to factor in but probably won’t catch up with them until the latter stages of the tournament. In other words for the group stage they will be fit and ready. Odd man out…Denmark. Our Pick: Germany
Back with groups C and D Thursday afternoon……………………………….

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chelsea vets bring the Blues back from the brink

Bayern were riding the crest of a ruckus crowd, taking advantage of being the host nation that has the good fortune of reaching the finals. As expected the German side came out swinging and looking for the first round knockout controlling nearly 60% of the possession in the first half and had Chelsea taking a standing eight count. However the Blues regrouped and the break and made it more of a give and take but when Thomas Muller bounced in a header with seven minutes to go it looked like and sounded like the result was inevitable. But then the Londoners got huge plays from the ol’ guard that was supposed to be long since past their prime, starting with the man in the middle Didier Drogba who scored on a header ironically Chelsea’s first of the match witch came in the 88th minute, to further point out Bayern’s dominance. Needless to say the Ivorian made the most of it and equalized then suddenly the chill of possibly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory submerged the nearly seventy thousand at Allianz Arena. Then it was Petr Cech’s turn to bail out his brother in arms after Drogba tried to give back his equalizer with a bad foul on Robin while in the box but Cech was on point on the penalty kick and the game went into extra time, then PKs. Much like the first 90 minutes it looked bleak for the Blues to start shootout as Bayern converted then stopped and they were once again on their way. But Cech was on his game, guessing the right direction each time but letting the first two get past him. Then game the big save to even things up and you could see the noose getting tight on those red jerseys. Then in the final frame the studs stepped up for each side and Cech guessed right again, for the sixth time, and Schweinsteiger was stopped cold, the man in box had done his job then he handed it back to “da man” in the bottom of the fifth frame and Drogba polished the game championship off as Neuer was not in the vicinity of kick and left hopelessly to look back and the ball hoping it to sail wide but it was square in the back of the net. For a player who was reduced to a part-time player in the eyes of the previous management, Drogba came through when the Club, city, and history needed it most as did the box man who was too old and too slow to hold his own. But instead of seeing the flaws when the lights were the brightest they vets looked like the classics they are.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Manchester Derby for more than all the marbles

It’s hard to imagine a scenario when the off the field pressure could exceed what takes place on the pitch but on Monday night that will be the case when the Manchester Derby takes place. Manchester City was officially formed in 1894 have hoisted the FA Cup five times but never been EPL champions, Manchester United formed in 1878 (LYR) has 19 EPL Championship Trophies including last season, 11 FA Cup titles, and three Champions League crowns among their other accolades. The fans of Manchester England have been at war since “The Great War” and although they’re unable to shake the stigma of being the JV side in the city of roughly 2,7 million, they have every intention of striking David in jaw with right cross on Monday evening as they have Man U. in their crib with a chance to take back the top spot in the EPL with three matches to play. It would be the ultimate coup, upset, turnabout, whatever superlatives you can conjure up but in the realm of global uprisings this would be among the biggest. However on the other sideline is a dynasty that is not ready to relinquish its status and has some of the ultimate weapons of mass destruction pointed directly at Etihad Stadium where they hope to exceed the record for 47,304 fans set in 2004 when they hosted Chelsea. To say that this will be bigger than that would be an understatement, because every match until now has been.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chelsea looks like a perfect 10 as they advance to Champions League Final

The man they once called “Captain Fantastic” John Terry has again fallen well short of the billing after getting red carded and ejected in the first half of the Champion’s League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona. Despite being down one man for most of the match the Blues put on a perfect display of defense and how to not only tread water but turn the tide for about an hour of game time to post a 2-2 draw and advance to the final on aggregate. Moreover it was a complete statistical domination for the Italian side including Possession (83%), Total Shots (23-7), Territorial Advantage (82% to 18%), and Corners (10-1) BFC failed to win the only stat that really matters, goals. Once the buzz wears off from their victory the focus will surely turn to the poor example set by their captain who will also miss the final and if the band needs to move on to someone whom better exemplifies what Chelsea football is about. When the final decision comes down on who will manage the Blues going forward the second shoe will certainly be about who will head the club on the pitch.