Thursday, June 30, 2005

Germans clinch third place after extra time

Germans clinch third place after extra time.
Germans clinch third place after extra time
FIFA Confederations Cup
GERMANY 4 - Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Huth, Ballack
MEXICO 3 - Fonseca, Borgetti (2)

Germany's Hanke was dismissed.

Leipzig
17:45, Wednesday 29th June 2005

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Brazil's Confed Cup

Brazil's Confed Cup

FIFA Confederations Cup Final
BRAZIL 4 - Adriano (2), Kaka, Ronaldinho
ARGENTINA 1 - Aimar

Frankfurt
2045, Wednesday 29th June 2005

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Another Aussie bombshell

No, Ricky Ponting has not followed Farina into retirement... FIFA today announced that, as of January 1, 2006, Australia will become a member of the Asian Federation instead of Oceania.
The decision of the FIFA Executive Committee is expected to be ratified by Congress but no opposition is anticipated... just the way the boss likes it!
Herr Blatter himself hailed the agreement as leaving all parties "satisfied" and was confident the remaining Oceania members would assert themselves now that they will be out of Australia's formidable shadow.
Stan Lazaridis, like most of his Australian team-mates, was on holiday and unavailable for comment, especially to an Englishman during an Ashes summer. Players and officials alike have long bemoaned the status quo which sees Australia come up short again and again in WC qualification.
Home-and-away play-offs have seen the Australians eliminated except for one solitary appearance back in Germany, 1974. They managed a point that time, as opposed to ZERO at this tournament.
Blatter also revealed that FIFA will deal with the TV rights marketing for the World Cups following 2006 themselves; that he fully expects Liverpool to participate in the forthcoming World Club Championship and that a new FIFA World u-17 tournament is to be established for women.
Now it`s back to the football... check out the final and third-place results here and read more soccerphile reaction tomorrow.
Das Purist

Farina Quits as Aussie Coach

Frank Farina has quit as coach of Australia after six years in charge. The Confederations Cup has claimed its first victim with the forty-year-old former Bari player leaving "by mutual consent" after three defeats in the tournament, 3-4 to Germany, 2-4 to Argentina and 0-2 to Tunisia.

“Ever increasing speculation on my position is not something I want to see affect the performance of the team,” Farina announced in his leaving statement.“The potential for that happening has led to this announcement.”

The Football Federation of Australia now has the task of finding a manager quickly who can guide the team past a two-legged playoff with the Solomon Islands on the 3rd and 7th of September before facing the fifth-placed South American nation in November for a place in the World Cup Finals in 2006.

Pekerman and Parreira joust

Pekerman and Parreira joust.
Well, it may not have been head-to-head, presidential election style, but the coaches of the Confed finalists both entered the media fray after training on Tuesday and no one was talking about Velez Sarsfield or Santos.

Yesterday's big news was Adriano's recovery from an ankle problem picked up in training on Monday, as Brazil boss Carlos Alberto Parreira revealed that his starting line-up would remain unchanged.

Jose Pekerman revealed a clean bill of health too... although the accumulated strains of a long season have taken their inevitable toll: "There are some players who have had too many minutes on the field but they could all still play. There's no big injury.

"I know both sides will be tired but a final provides plenty of motivation."
Parreira concurred: "The players of both teams are very exhausted. They need to forget about their tiredness. The mental aspect will be key in this final."

Parreira dismissed suggestions that the World Cup defeat in Buenos Aires three weeks ago will have a bearing in Frankfurt.

"This is not about revenge for us... they did their homework and we did ours as we both won our home matches in qualifying.
"It is the first time two teams from South America will play in a final in Europe in an official competition. We want to take this trophy home - after all, we have won everything else!"

Parreira also laughed off one Argentinian assertion that he is lucky the opposition will lack Hernan Crespo, who scored twice in the June encounter.
"Let´s say we are even, as Argentina are lucky not to be facing Ronaldo, who has a pretty good record against you too!"

Out of three previous matches in Europe - during the 1974, 1982 and 1990 World Cup finals - Brazil have won one more, although Argentina won the last one, in Turin.

"Argentina and Brazil are two high-class footballing countries and we always want to play in matches such as this one," Pekerman said, taking care not to provoke any more pre-match frenzy than necessary. "A game like this is always going to be decided by ability and the motivation that comes with playing against another team of the highest quality. I think it will be another high-quality game."
Thanks, Jose - that may just persuade a couple more million to tune in... and for das purist´s round-up (hey, it´s just a name), see you at the same place on Thursday!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Last-minute mind games

Quotes to follow tomorrow but, as expected, the Brazilians proved effusive customers as they prepared for the final with a session in Frankfurt two hours before their opponents... apart, that is, from Gilberto Silva, who was plain elusive.
Brazil's confidence is understandably high and the players were conspicuously relaxed as they went through a 10 v 10 practice match using only half the pitch. Ronaldinho may look good wearing most things, but a rapper's bandana is not one of them.
Players and journalists alike got the jaw-jaw out of the way with half an eye on catching the u-20 curtain-raiser live from the Netherlands, which Brazil promptly lost.
Then came Argentina, who got plenty of work out of the way before permitting access to the media and out here some press calls have been known to be announced hours after starting... but who can blame them!
This time a fluid number always less than 20 players contested a game over 3/4 as opposed to half of the pitch - Coloccini having a go in goal - while a couple of specialist groups remained separated, rotating in triangles or quartets once the cones had been put away.
Then it was a warm-down of gentle sit-ups and the like, before the players headed for the showers and Jose Pekerman for the press conference.
With the Argentinians having refused en masse to answer questions in English after defeating Mexico it was disappointing there was to be no opportunity to try a bit of purist French on any of them instead of pigeon Spanish.
Walter Samuel appears content in the knowledge that the universal gesture of the smile speaks volumes, while the multilingual Esteban Cambiasso says no so politely it's almost charming... but for that, you CAN blame them!

Fingers crossed for a quick word

Fingers crossed for a quick word.
Das Purist has pitched up back in Frankfurt and a bumper double session awaits. We are talking about training here, the lighter the better given the heat and the fact that these players are still playing out last season!

Brazil are billed first; their work-out as ever likely to involve a lot of high jinks before a locust-style invasion of the media.

In contrast, Argentina will only be opening up the last 15 minutes of their exertions to scrutiny after kicking off training at 1900 local time. What is more, Jose Pekerman is expected to be the only head talking.

When Scotland's Martin Buchan was asked by some bothersome scribe for a quick word back in the seventies his reply was "velocity".

In the interests of, if nothing else, justifying what is becoming an unusually healthy thirst, das purist will attempt to procure a couple more than that.

So watch this space...

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The classic and the not-so classic

The classic and the not-so classic.
Most eyes will be on Frankfurt come Wednesday, given the choice, and the derby or ´classico´ between those old neighbours and adversaries: Brazil's trademark gold and green against Argentina's Albiceleste.
If that is rightly regarded as what our American cousins would call the 'marquee match-up' of world football, then the alternative on offer in Leipzig, where Germany take on Mexico in the anachronistic pursuit of third place, wmust be the epitome of the word 'sideshow'.
Whereas there are countless previous thrilling encounters to relate - Brazil having pipped Argentina to the 2004 Copa America only to lose face and local bragging rights as a 3-1 June defeat saw Jose Pekerman's side qualify first for Deutschland 2006 - how can anyone talk up that dire France 98 meeting between the other two with a straight face?
The Germans that day won a game between two sides desperate not to lose... still failing to remember? Ok, besides confessing a poor purist's excuse to evoke memories of scorer and proto-Forlan Luis Hernandez, goals from who else but Messrs Oliver Bierhoff and Jurgen Klinsmann won the game 2-1 on a scorching Montpellier afternoon.
Bierhoff is now team manager, yes, team manager of Germany, while Klinsmann -undeniably the figurehead as well as the boss - goes by the title of coach.
Their current nominal counterpart, Ricardo Antonio Lavolpe, was not exactly busy at the time. Indeed he scraped back ino coaching with club side Atlas just after France 1998 to get his career back on track.
He wouldn't have been playing anyway, being an Argentinian, and a World Cup winner himself in 1978 at that. But he has certainly announced himself during this tournament and has delivered a pacy young side unlucky not to advance at his native country's expense on Sunday night.
Apart from having sent home two players now under FIFA investigation, Lavolpe has made news with the spaghetti western tone of his utterances before the media, for many of whom he can barely disguise his contempt.
His post-match grumbles about "money talking" here in Hannover were, then, par for the course as he took defeat about as badly as was to be expected.
"If you think the players decided who took our penalties out there you are wrong," he glared, and with that he was off, disinclined to explain any further, you've just got to love him, and the media needs more like him and less of the faceless yes-men.
In part thanks to Lavolpe the news agenda out here has, unpredictably, focused not so much on the so-called silly season of multi-million euro transfer swoops, but instead on disciplinary loopholes, pitchside security and our hosts' attempts to put the ignominy of their domestic refereeing scandal behind them.
The best way to do that? Of course, a home win would have helped... stadia packed to their state-of-the-art rafters and even less bitching room for those who still wish that casting venue vote had actually been cast and that June 2006 was to herald Africa's bow on the world football hosting stage.
That horse has long since bolted, however, and we are left with FIFA's gravy train of a dry run for the real thing. Cynic or not, the football has been uniformly excellent, and that is still - albeit to a diminishing degree - what it is all about.


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Klinsmann's Germany: One Year and Counting

"Chin Up Lads! We'll get them next time," said the defiantly optimistic headline. "We'll meet again Brazil, on the 9th of July 2006 in Berlin," said another.

The host nation's exit on Saturday against an unarguably superior Brazil has needless to say provoked a round of never-say-die patriotism in the German press, but also a thinly-veiled admission that Germany badly needs to up its game in order to win next year's World Cup in front of their home fans with time running out.

"Yes Germany can win the World Cup next summer," said coach Jurgen Klinsmann to reporters after the game, but what else could he have said? Former coach Rudi Voller and current captain Michael Ballack echoed the 'We can do it, Deutschland!' cries and even wise old Franz Beckenbauer was made to stand up and be counted on TV this week. When asked who might win the Confederations Cup he answered cautiously that Brazil and Argentina would be tough nuts to crack. When the show's host continued to press him for a soundbite he obligingly replied "OK, Germany," to the delight of the studio audience but no doubt to his own regret. Media outlets are more loyal to their sales than to the facts and many feel they will lose readers if they appear even remotely unpatriotic at a time like this.

They can point to facts to justify their optimism: Losing 2-3 was one goal closer to the Brazilians than the Germans got in 2002 and the team did come back twice to equalise. Germany will surely not be lacking in such commitment and motivation next summer and the lesson of most World Cups is that the host nation, buoyed by the country's fervour, can ride on a sea of support and overachieve. South Korea's unexpected surge to the 2002 Semi-Final was only the latest example of this.

They will certainly need all the external factors they can muster to help them defeat Brazil next year. The World Champions can play lazily, can concede two to the Japanese and the Germans and even lose a game to Mexico but there they are in the Confederations Cup Final, favourites to win. In Kaka, Robinho, Adriano and skipper Ronaldinho they have four world-class performers, four fantasistas capable of coming up with moments of amazing skill to win games.

With the best will in the world, Germany's NationalMannschaft does not have such players, Ballack apart. Indeed the Bayern Munich star seems so key to the hosts' survival in next year's tournament they should watch him 24/7 in case he trips over anything in the house and gets injured.

Saturday's team that lost to Brazil will be improved with the return of the bold, though still fresh-faced attacking flair of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dortmund's centre-back Christoph Metzelder should provide more sturdy coverage in defense than Chelsea's Robert Huth, who was taken to the cleaners by Adriano, "one moment a giant in defence, the next a weakling" according to Germany's Express. In addition the return of Stuttgart's Philipp Lahm, one of the best full-backs in Europe who had an impressive Euro 2004, will reassure the less than comfortable looking back line.

Beyond them though, the menu looks meagre with no obvious young stars looking ready to make the grade. The attack looks particularly mediocre although the Germans will heed the lesson of France, who won in 1998 without a recognizable marksman of any quality. Lukas Podolski netted twice this tournament and should start up front with Kevin Kuranyi or Gerald Asamoah next summer but still looks far from exceptional. The only other recognizable striker Mike Hanke does not seem up to this level yet. Aston Villa's Stuttgart-bound Thomas Hitzlsperger is surely worth a look, with his long-range potshots a useful weapon, but disappointingly for him, he was used sparingly in this warm-up tournament.
Where have the German Strikers gone?

So, Klinsmann will be relying on old hands Torsten Frings and Bernt Schneider as defensive midfielders to get stuck in and regain possession whilst Sebastian Deisler will run his socks off at both ends of the field, whip dangerous crosses in to the strikers or feed Ballack and Schweinsteiger in the hope they can create a chance.

At the other end, for Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann read Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton before the 1982 World Cup. Bayern's veteran is still officially number one according to Klinsmann but he will continue to rotate the two, implying he is still to make up his mind whether to stay loyal to Kahn or employ the Arsenal keeper, who was more impressive this tournament.

Overall though, Germany is still living through a lean spell by their high standards. Since Klinsmann himself lifted the Euro '96 trophy, the country with the greatest record of reaching finals has been on the slide and another mediocre showing at Euro 2004 provided little hope for next year's World Cup. After a first-round exit in Portugal, the impressive achievement of reaching 2002's World Cup Final then looked less so, and rather due to an undeserved seeding that kept them away from the big boys and gave them the not so big Paraguay, the USA and South Korea to hurdle to reach the final.

The fact is that Germany have not defeated a major footballing nation for some time, their 1-0 win at Wembley in 2000. The last time they won the World Cup, at Italia '90, they possessed the superb left-back Andreas Brehme and his Inter colleagues Lothar Matthaus, one of the greatest ever midfield generals and Klinsmann himself to call upon. Their midfield, Matthaus apart, had the creative class of Thomas Hassler and the dribbling skills of Pierre Littbarski to call upon. The towering defence of Jurgen Kohler, Thomas Berthold, Guido Buchwald and Klaus Augenthaler looked a lot firmer than today's and in Rudi Voller and Karl-Heinz Riedle Germany had two more deadly, world-class strikers. In short, they were a world class team who looked likely winners from the start.

As they prepare for the 3rd place play off with Mexico by indulging in some beach volleyball and basketball, today's German squad should feel somewhat relaxed at not having disgraced themselves and knowing a year is still a long time in football. At the same time, though, they are a pale shadow of the last German World Cup-winning team that featured Klinsmann and with an envious eye on the wizardry of Kaka & co., will be pondering what they can do to combat the late FIFA President Stanley Rous' maxim that, "There is no substitute for skill."

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Anita Spot On

Anita.
Anita Nigam's prediction for the Mexico vs Argentina game was literally spot on. If you wish to subscribe to her predictions for the Confederations Cup final and other matches please visit:
Anita Nigam Astrological Predictions

Mexico vs Argentina
It will be a really a cut throat match. It's a warning to Argentina and their supporters not to take Mexico lightly. They will be a headache for Argentina. But Argentina will survive in the ground with the support of divine grace and support. Match can reach up to extra time and even to penalties. But at last after a hard struggle the match will be in favor of Argentina.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

The luck of the Albiceleste

FIFA Confederations Cup Semi-Final
ARGENTINA 1 - Figeroa 110
MEXICO 1 - Salcido 105

Argentina (Riquelme, Maxi, Aimar, Galletti, Sorin, Cambiasso)
won 6-5 on penalties. Osorio missed Mexico´s 6th while Perez, Pardo, Borgetti, Salcido and Pineda scored theirs

Saviola (90) and Mexico´s Marquez (90) were dismissed

Hanover Stadion, Hanover
1800h, Sunday 26th June 2005. Attendance: 40,718

Argentina refused to die as extra-time between two sides reduced to ten men failed to come up with a winner.
A scrambled poke from Figeroa - who had hitherto conspicuously mislaid his scoring touch - equalised Salcido`s dogged run and deflected shot that took Mexico to the brink of a surprise final appearance against Brazil in Frankfurt on Wednesday.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Mexican Pair Sent home

Mexican Pair Sent home.
Breaking news from Frankfurt, where the expulsion of Mexican players Aaron Galindo, 23, and Salvador Carmona, 29, has prompted FIFA to reveal they have no immediate intention of acting on "speculation" linking the pair to a doping offence.

Both players were sent home unilaterally by coach Ricardo Lavolpe and thus no sample (ie evidence) is in the possession of FIFA. Both players played from the start in Mexico's opening two Confederations Cup fixtures here in Germany.

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Brazil 2:2 Japan

Japan v Brazil.
Japan were knocked out of the Confederations Cup on goal difference tonight after a 2:2 draw with Brazil sent the world champions through to face Germany in Saturday's semi-final.

The heroic last stand of the Japanese will go down as one of their finer performances of recent years however and but for a controversial offside call in the first half they might yet still be in the competition.

Going in to this game Zico's men could have adapted the title of a James Bond film as their motto: " A Draw is Not Enough", knowing Brazil's superior goal difference would take them through in the event of a tie. Thankfully for the 44,922 on hand in the Rhein-Energie Stadion, both sides gave good value for money with skilful play and top-notch goals in a game difficult to take one's eyes off.

The opening exchanges saw Kaka, Ronaldinho and Adriano rev their turbo-charged engines with hints of things to come but Japan shocked probably even themselves by netting in the fourth minute. Mitsuo Ogasawara released Akira Kaji on the right and the flying wing-back hit the ball firmly into the corner for what looked a valid goal only for the referee's assistant to hoist a late flag. TV replays would later show this was a far from conclusive call.

A minute later Adriano fired off his first salvo of the evening, hitting the side-netting from a Leo assist and soon the game assumed a frenetic end-to-end character. Any side that allows Kaka and Ronaldinho the space and time Japan did in the first half invites trouble and the inevitable goal arrived after ten minutes' play. Ronaldinho set off on what would be several counter-assaults during the evening with only Robinho in support but soon found three teammates had swelled the attack to make it five against three.

Selling a delightful dummy to the Japanese defence, the Barcelona man played the ball not to any of the free attackers but to Robinho, who had 'run a slant' as they say in gridiron, to lose marker Makoto Tanaka. The Santos star then made no mistake with his finish.

When good sides take the lead a gloomy inevitability often afflcits their opponents who respond by taking risks but to Japan's credit they stayed calm and continued to pass the ball patiently and along the ground, a virtue perhaps distilled in them by their Brazilian coach and the wider Brazilian influence on Japanese soccer.

Their diligence paid off when Atsushi Yanagisawa headed against the crossbar after twenty-four minutes and Shunsuke Nakamura drew them level on twenty-seven. The Man of the Match against Greece (and again tonight) in fact produced a stunning strike worthy of Adriano's wonder-goal against the same opponents. Having been picked out by Takashi Fukunishi thirty-five yards from goal, the Reggina midfielder looked up before launching an unstoppable rocket of a shot past a flailing Marcos. No one present could have failed to be astounded by a moment of sublime footballing spectacle.

Sadly for Japan their euphoria would last for only six minutes and once again it was down to the wizard Ronaldinho weaving his magic, which makes you think he is a good bet to be the star of the World Cup here again next summer. Starting in the centre-circle by hitting the referee with a pass and collecting it again as if that had been his intention, the twenty-five year old advanced menacingly before feeding Robinho on the left and then stretching to collect his return ball and tap it past Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

The yellow jerseys were now in full flow, surging upfield again and again like an overflowing river, an unstoppable force of nature no amount of planning and endeavour can contain. As a samba beat resonated from the stands down to the pitch Japan looked second best and were lucky not to go in at the break 3:1 down after a lovely move in the fourtieth minute ended with Kaka curling his shot just over the postage stamp.

Perhaps drunk on their superiority and with the Japanese camped out in their own half, Brazil began to play keep-ball to the giddy 'ole's of their own fans but the angry whistles of everyone else, who had bought tickets for an express train and not a sleeper service, even though they reach the same destination.

At the interval Zico showed his determination to defeat his own country by bringing on Koji Nakata and Masashi Oguro and thus pushing talisman Hidetoshi Nakata into a more advanced role to orchestrate the attacks. The blue shirts took to their heels a minute after the restart with Fukunishi putting Atsushi Yanagisawa through on goal but Marcos was quick off his line and blocked the effort. On fifty-five minutes Hidetoshi Nakata had a shot cleared off the line by Cicinho and the chants of 'NI-PPON!, NI-PPON!' grew the loudest they had all tournament.

Brazil's best form of defence though is attack and they hit back two minutes later when Cicinh0 went close and from the resulting corner Ze Roberto was denied twice, his first a volley that struck Kawaguchi in the face and winded him for a while and his follow-up a shot blocked on the line by Japan skipper Tsuneyasu Miyamoto.

Zico played his final card bringing on Takayuki Suzuki for Yanagisawa and his opposite number Carlos Alberto Parreira took off Adriano, Ze Roberto and Kaka for fresh legs. These switches made both teams lose some of their momentum but Brazil remained the more likely to score again, Ronaldinho dancing past all but the last man on eighty minutes and Robinho turning the badly positioned Tanaka but shooting wide six minutes afterwards, a piece of defending that had Kawaguchi screaming at his right back.

With three minutes left on the clock and Japan needing to score two a chance appeared. Arsenal's Gilberto Silva tripped Hidetoshi Nakata just outside the D and the kick was delayed for around a minute as players from both sides jostled to gain the best positions for what could have been Japan's last throw of the dice.

When the kick was eventually taken, Nakamura curled the ball over the wall and against the post. With the Brazilian wall stuck in quicksand, Fukunishi and Oguro were on to the rebound like hares and Oguro smacked the ball into the net although Marcos got a hand to it.

A thrilling finale duly ensued and Japan's final chance came in injury time as Fukunishi's crossfield lob found Oguro but the goalscorer's near-post header was parried away by a relieved Marcos. When the referee blew for full time there were jeers from the crowd, not because the show had been a poor one but because they felt he had blown thirty seconds early and deprived them of a precious few more moments of entertainment in a match no one except the Brazilians wanted to end.

Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi

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2nd Semi-Final: A Latin Affair

2nd Semi-Final: A Latin Affair.
Argentina and Mexico square off today in Hannover with the lure of having a pop at Brazil in the Frankfurt final on Wednesday the prize and the 3rd place play-off against Germany in Leipzig the consolation.

For Mexico, the surprise winners of group B, it is a chance to prove that their 1-0 win over Brazil, courtesy of Jared Borgetti's header, was no flash in the pan. Argentina, for their part, have not lost a semi-final since 1987's Copa America.

The match in the rebuilt Niedersachsenstadion kicks off at 1800h local time and Soccerphile will be on hand to report all the goings-on at the second Confederations Cup Semi-Final.

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Klinsmann & Parreira after the Semi-Final

For Brazil and Carlos Albero Parreira it was another job well done and another happy ending but for Jurgen Klinsmann it was the end of a dream, albeit not as fantastic a one as that which culminates in Berlin next year.

At the media post-mortem, Parreira admitted, "We are delighted to be through to the final. It is not easy beating Germany in front of their home crowd. I am proud of my team." He went on to bring bad news to the pretenders to their crown claiming this whole Confederations Cup experience will have helped Brazil retain the World Cup in Germany next summer."It is a fantastic tournament and an outstanding warm-up for next year," he told reporters, mentioning the experience of playing in the stadia, the style of refereeing and travelling between the host cities as all things they will recall come the World Cup, as well as his chance to get a look at one or two fringe players.

Speaking of the clash of playing styles he noted, "It was two different schools, Germany of course more physical with much spirit and Brazil with the ball on the ground and with our skills and Ronaldinho, Adriano, Gilberto and everybody. We showed our technique and our skill but more than this, our courage to face them here. It was almost a World Cup for them so I think we deserved it."

Klinsmann on the other hand was less effusive, having steered his side to defeat, but could still raise a smile or two during the conference. "Obviously we are disappointed," he confessed, "but overall we are satisfied with the team, the performances and the account that we have given of ourselves." Praising his opponents' quality with respect to Germany's, he continued, "Brazil are a genuinely top team and always a dangerous team. They recognise when it is time to hit the gas and shift up two gears. I believe we have been on the right path for the past ten months but we still have a lot to do and we want to be closer to the top in football."

Finally, he paid tribute to the support which has really got behind Germany and made this the biggest Confederations Cup stages so far: "I would like to praise the wonderful crowd here in Nuremberg," he said. "It is just sad we could not make it to the final. But we are looking forward to the fantastic crowd in Leipzig. We have a duty to give everything one last time in that match before we go on a well-earned holiday. We have a little time to ourselves now to make sure we do even better next year, hopefully."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

SEMI FINAL: Germany 2:3 Brazil

Confed Cup.
FIFA Confederations Cup Semi-Final
BRAZIL 3 - Adriano 21, 76, Ronaldinho (pen) 43
GERMANY 2 - Podolski 23, Ballack (pen) 48

Franken Stadion, Nuremberg 1800h, Saturday 25th June 2005. Attendance: 42,187

Two goals from super-striker Adriano and a penalty from Ronaldinho ended Germany's challenge and sent the World Champions into Wednesday's Confederations Cup Final after a hard-fought clash in Nuremberg.

It was another sweaty day and another hot contest with Jurgen Klinsmann's Germany out to avenge the 2002 World Cup Final defeat in Yokohama and Brazil on a mission to ensure the world knows who really remains the team to beat with their title defence less than a year away.

Billed as "The True Final" by the press beforehand, in the end it was Brazil who fulfilled their pre-match objective, proving they can win matches when not playing particularly well, the hallmark of good sides, and in challenging environments such as against the hosts and a hostile crowd. Today, as against Japan earlier this week, they faced determined opposition but accelerated away from them with moments of sublime skill.

The contest did take a while to catch fire with the Germans expertly smothering the talented Brazil attack with Ronaldino instantly surrounded by up to four red shirts as soon as he showed signs of advancing and Kaka in particular almost played out of the game. Brazil for their part were as rugged defending as they always are, and have in Gilberto and his pendular runs to snuff out attacks, an unsung hero.

Adriano however was far from anonymous and Germany looking back will rue their inability to keep the Inter hitman under lock and key. After twenty-one minutes he gave Brazil the lead courtesy of a deflection off a free-kick thirty yards from goal. Ronaldinho, the expected taker, ran over the ball and it was hit left-footed by Adriano, skimming off the unfortunate Sebastian Deisler to leave Jens Lehmann stranded on the other side of the goal.

But within a minute the Germans were back in the game as Fabian Ernst's cross-cum-shot almost beat Dida before Podolski made no mistake with a thumping header from the resulting corner from Deisler, who must have felt a sigh of relief after his 'own-goal' at the other end.

Adriano still lurked with intent however and Germany's young and fresh-faced centre-back pairing of Robert Huth and Per Mertesacker, with only forty years between the pair of them, looked vulnerable and in need of the support of the retreating Fabian Ernst and Torsten Frings, amongst others.

With four minutes to go before the break the Brazilian goal-machine struck again, steaming past Huth on the right with an explosion of pace and strength that the Chelsea man could only stem by a two-handed push over the end line, granting Brazil a penalty in the process. Ronaldinho stepped up and duly dispatched it, only for Germany to show their hunger by clawing back a second equalizer deep into stoppage time.

Deisler whipped over another dangerous cross and in the penalty-box melee that ensued, Kevin Kuranyi, Roque Junior, Huth and Ballack all went tumbling, the referee correctly spotting a push by Emerson on the Germany captain. Ballack stepped up and tucked the spot-kick away to make it 2-2 and conlcude a most entertaining half.

The second half failed to match the first in terms of incident although Germany should have made more of a sixty-second minute break. Kuranyi and Ballack raced up the field against only one Brazilian defender but the Stuttgart striker delayed fatally until Brazil had got enough numbers back to defend.

Gerald Asamoah replaced Kuranyi moments later and set-up Ballack for a shot saved by Dida on the sixty-four minutes. Ballack overall was again majestic and the German most likely to create something special, moving all the way from left-back to left-wing and the centre as required and exciting the crowd with anticipation whenever he touched the ball. 'Where would Germany be without him?', as a newspaper headline asked this week.

On the seventy-two minute mark Adriano was booked for kicking the ball away after the whistle had blown following an offside call and a long period of Brazilian inactivity. With Klinsmann off the bench fully animated the crowd seemed to sense it could be Germany's moment to seize the initiative, as they intoned over and over, "Deutschland, Deutschland!"

How cruel then that the sleeping tiger Brazil should spring into life again four minutes later with a sucker punch to kill the game. Once again it was that man Adriano, firmly established as the one to mark next summer, who let rip with a powerful shot low past Lehmann to make it 3-2. Roque Junior had beaten Asamoah to a clearance and with the next touch Robinho laid it on for Adriano's third in four games, a rapier-swift two-pass scoring movement.

Renato replaced the strangely anonymous Kaka on seventy-six minutes before Brazil began to tighten the screw. Robinho was denied point-blank by Lehmann with eight minutes to go after Arne Friedrich and Mertesacker collided in the box and a minute later Adriano fed Cicinho who steamed up the right flank before pulling the trigger and forcing Lehmann to tip over.

Klinsmann threw the dice for the last time in bringing on Mike Hanke as an extra striker but the hosts were clearly fading in the face of their formidable opponents, who were too wily and experienced to let them come back and equalise a third time.

In the final minute of normal time substitute Julio Baptista could have made it three when clean through but Lehmann, who performed heroics despite the three goals conceded, was quick off the mark to steal it from him. The three minutes of time added on then passed quickly and without incident as the Brazilian artists shut up shop and put the finishing touches to another impressive piece.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Semi-Final Line-Up Confederations Cup

Semi-Final Line-Up Confederations Cup.
There will be a repeat of the World Cup Final when Germany take on Brazil in Nuremberg on Saturday the 25th of June at 18:00 local time. This will be only the second time the two superpowers of world football have met competitively.

The second semi-final kicks off at the same time on Sunday the 26th of June and is an all-latin affair with Brazil-slayers Mexico taking on perennial might Argentina.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Greetings from Germany

German legend Paul Breitner is in the newspapers claiming Jurgen Klinsmann’s system of two defensive midfielders is stifling Germany’s creativity, the opposite of what most other pundits are claiming whilst comparing Michael Ballack to Franz Beckenbauer in 1974.
Last night in Cologne I actually came within a foot of Der Kaiser as he rushed up the stairs for another TV commitment. Does the man ever sleep? You really cannot avoid him on TV, in the papers, in magazines…I’ve been within touching distance of Pele & Bobby Charlton, now I just need to track down Maradona, installed today as a director of his beloved Boca Juniors.
The Argentinian team, or “Peker-Boys” as they are now called after coach Jose Pekerman (they were the “Gaucho Giants” the other day) apparently had a topless party (all men) on their bus after their 2:2 draw with Germany on Tuesday. Apparently Juan Riquelme and captain Juan Pablo Sorin were recognizable through the tinted windows but as ever, it was a team effort, including an Argentine version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”…
“Klinsi teaches us to laugh” blared the headline in today’s Express newspaper here in Cologne. Well better late than never for the Germans. But Jurgen is undoubtedly a positive thing all round. He is broad-minded from playing in four different countries and he makes friends wherever he goes, actually scrap that, he fell out with Lothar Matthaus at Bayern and Christian Gross at Spurs. But he did a lot of good for Anglo-German relations ever since he began his first press conference for Spurs by asking if there was a good diving school in London. Germans do have a sense of humour, it is just that is different from others.
German stereotypes
Klinsmann has taken on the biggest task of all - winning the World Cup on home soil and with a far from world-beating team to boot. He has attracted criticism for living in California with his American wife and children and flying back and forth for the big games but the American connection has also paid dividends for a football culture every bit as insular in its own way as England’s.
His time spent in the USA has seen Klinsmann exposed to the professionalism of big-money American sports and he has introduced sports psychology, fitness coaches and ‘special teams’ to the German set-up. This sounds very much like what Clive Woodward did to his England national rugby team having done his reconnaissance of American Football and then what happened? They won the World Cup…

I spent a most pleasant evening walking beside the Rhine here in
Cologne
.
This Western city may well be the arrival point in Germany for many an English fan next summer and they will love it here at once. It is compact and along the river are beer gardens by the dozen. People were strolling along the river here and drinking beer, as they were along the Main in Frankfurt , and the whole summer evening atmosphere was wonderful and bodes well for next summer. The Germans have a very outdoor culture in summer with eating and drinking establishments joyfully not so strictly separated as they are in the UK. Beer in Germany is drunk in large quantities and by everybody it seems but in a civilized manner I fear England fans will not adapt to. As in France in 1998, they will down the local brews, which are on average stronger than in England, swiftly and by the litre before starting to throw their glasses. And if anyone disagrees with me, I will gladly recount my day of terror spent in Marseille following England during France ’98.

The World Cup mascot is a lion, Goleo 06. Well the lion thing has been done before, World Cup Willy in 1966 beginning the whole mascot thing of course but there is a finite number of animals to choose from so that’s fine. It’s just that Goleo does not look that healthy, more like he has got a bad case of mange. Goliath the lion at Euro ‘96 looked full of beans whereas Goleo looks like he is off his food.
I must say I do look forward to seeing the official mascot unveiled and was extremely nonplussed at Ato, Nik and Kaz last time - remember them well? No? Exactly. Naranjito the obese orange in Spain ‘82 was world class and Footix the cockerel in France ‘98 was not far behind but what can you say about Mexico’s Cactus Man in 1986, the USA’s sub-Disney Striker the dog in 1994 or the surreal humanoid called ’Ciao’ selected by Italy in 1990. I never tire of retelling friends how the Italians had a national referendum to decide his name and rejected ’Amico’, ’Bimbo’ and ’Dribbly’.

Defiant Stylianos

Stylianos Giannakopoulos told das Purist he disagrees that the Greek side let themselves down in Germany.
Going home with the worst record of any European Confed entrant since records began (1997... let´s face it, it´s not all that long) comes at the end of a season that began with such glory in Lisbon.
That night one year ago saw Greece earn the right to contest the tournament now in progress and, with no goals and one solitary point gained, many felt this puts Otto Rehhagel´s men back at square one.
However, the Bolton maestro insisted: "It was a very long season and we had our injury problems but nothing has changed fundamentally.
"We could easily have won against Mexico... but it was a good match to watch despite the lack of goals.
"From my point of view the only disappointment in our whole German experience was the game against Japan (0-1) because in Brazil we played the best team in the world.
"We go home on a good performance, when the result was not so bad. We should have taken our chances, that's all, especially in the first half. The most important thing was that every one of us gave 100 per cent before our well-deserved holiday!"
His face increasingly told a different story during the game, so was his angry expression because he knew the Man of the Match award was destined for Mexican keeper Oswaldo Sanchez... or even due to the performance of referee Carlos Amarilla instead?
"No, that's the passion of the game," laughed Giannakopoulos in reply. "You get exasperated with the ref sometimes but when you see things differently it is normal. I thought the ball crossed the line in one incident but his performance was not a factor."
The former Olympiakos playmaker had been in the thick of the action throughout until drifting wide left in an attempt to stretch the defence of group B's table-toppers. Still, neither side deserved to win a game that only sparked into sustained action in the closing ten minutes.
The one thing Giannakopoulos refused to be drawn on was the controversy over Mexico's missing defenders. He took his leave of the interview area at the magnificent Frankfurt Waldstadion as rumours flew over the semantics of a doping and a disciplinary defence. "See you, I'm only thinking of the beach now," was his admirably diplomatic closing remark.

Klinsmann & Pekerman

Klinsmann & Pekerman.
Jose Pekerman and Jurgen Klinsmann cut very distinct figures as they fulfilled their obligations to the waiting media following the 2-2 draw that ensured Germany topped group A on goal difference.
Having come up with the brainwave of seeing the hosts in unfamiliar red, a confident Klinsmann only rarely betrayed any impatience with a questionner with the tightest of smiles. Yet his serene authority was as evident as that of Pekerman, despite the age gap.
Bastian Deisler, whose Klaus Allofs tribute - taking the form of hairstyle and facial hair - has coincided with his regaining, besides adding to, all the attributes that saw him hailed as a prodigy before a battle with depression almost derailed his career, stood out.
Klinsmann though reluctant to single out individuals, could hardly help it in this case, and after praising Deisler's formidable rhythm, continued: "When he plays like this I give the other players instructions simply to feed him!" In the absence of fellow midfielder Ballack, Deissler had two surges from deep that required smart saves from Argentina's Lux.
The coach, whose record so far bears comparison with the best of his managerial predecessors, characterised Germany's progress thus: "In five years they say we have not beaten a 'big' team, but I would remind you that in five year a 'big' team has not beaten us!
"We have a very young set of players, but they are witnessing their own development. had they won they would not have been conceited, but realistic.
"Unfortunately Argentina have a team that you can never be sure will not score, and we were not awake for their second goal. Inexperience requires time, but my boys still showed everyone we can perform without Ballack, who is their leader."
Pekerman's demeanour, on this occasion at least, could only be described as lugubrious. Still, his will to win shone through as he described the state of Argentina's preparations for FIFA World Cup 2006, for which they qualified first from CONMEBOL.
Nowhere near the player Klinsmann was in his day, this elegant tactician who has proved an inspired choice to lead a side of globetrotters, rather than give his own introductory precis of the game, launched straight into answering each enquiry politely.
He insisted that people should not be surprised by the progress of Mexico, of group B, as they are no flash in the pan.Of Germany he was equally respectful: "They have enough strong players for them not to miss Ballack, but we responded tonight. You saw my players show they are learning all the time.
"We have an important team, one that is a match for anyone," he added. "Our momentum pleases me. We are only going to get stronger and stronger and we are on the right track for next summer here."
Had questions in English been more welcome (those of us not gifted with more than one tongue were not to know whether our train of thought had already been articulated in Spanish or German, as official translations were left until afterwards), then the identity of opposing sem-finalists would have come higher up this list of priorities than comparisons with the draw between these teams back in February. But "danke schon" to the linguists anyway!

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Wednesday Scores

Cologne: Brazil 2:2 Japan 44,922
Goals: Brazil: Robinho 10, Ronaldinho 32 ; Japan: Nakamura 27, Oguro 88
Brazil qualify for semi-finals on goal difference

Frankfurt: Greece 0:0 Mexico 31,285
Mexico win group B

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tunisia 2:0 Australia

Tunisia 2:0 Australia.
The African champions salvaged some pride in Leipzig's Zentralstadion tonight with a 2:0 win over a disappointing Australia, who now exit the tournament with three defeats.

Strikes from Santos in the 26th and 70th minute gave coach Roger Lemerre, who won the last Confederations Cup with France, something to smile about after back to back losses against Argentina and Germany whilst his opposite number Frank Farina lamented his side's "schoolboy errors" that once more condemned Australia to fail once more to step up to the plate on the world soccer stage.

The magnificent Leipzig arena was only filled with 29 of its 45,000 capacity and as an almighty electrical storm illuminated the second half of a match that was always going to play second fiddle to the Germany v Argentina game being played at the same time and between two teams that had already been eliminated.

Neither side wanted to leave the tournament with a blank slate and this time as last with New Zealand in 2003, it fell to Oceania's representatives to bring home the wooden spoon. But Tunisia also exit the competition with wounded pride having failed to emulate Cameroon, who as African champions reached the Confederations Cup final last time around.

A scrappy match was decided by two goals from Toulouse marksman Santos, although he will have appreciated the two fortuitous 'assists' from the Australian defence that allowed him to strike. His first goal came courtesy of an aerial collision between Blackburn's Lucas Neill and the unsteady Australian reserve keeper Michael Petkovic, in response to a cross from Mehdi Nafti. The ball fell perfectly for Santos gratefully tapped in to an open goal.

His second goal arrived thanks to Craig Moore's unfortunate interception of a Tunisian pass which kindly released him in the box to fire home and kill the game.

Australia certainly had their chances but Farina's decision to rest some key players and give others a run-out clearly contributed to the defeat and sat at odds with the team's desire to salvage some pride. As the heavens above began to erupt in a cataclysmic electrical storm that followed days of searing heat, Australia found themselves two goals down so Farina brought on striker Archie Thompson and his ace in the pack Tim Cahill.

Yet as soon as the Everton man took the field in the sixty-second minute he flew in with a two-footed lunge on Santos that was lucky to earn only a yellow card.

Tunisia had 'scored' back in the twentieth minute when Adel Chadli looped a free-kick into the goal, the only problem being it was indirect. The Africans' short-passing game was beginning to dominate with Haykel Guemamdia coming close after thirty-three minutes and the Australians, and particularly Petkovic looking rattled whenever they got the ball into their box. They did give the North Africans a fright shortly before half time however when Jason Culina finished off a flowing move by shooting narrowly wide.

In the second half Tunisia should have doubled their tally in the fifty-fourth minute when Guemamdia was dithered on the ball and lost possession in the box whilst Chaouki Ben Saada stood unmarked yards away.

Australia replied by Jason Culina hitting a pin-point diagonal pass for Cahill to volley a yard wide. Simon Colosimo would go on to hit the woodwork minutes later and Archie Thompson drew a save from Hamdi Kasraoui but the Antipodeans just could not find the net.

Guemamdia streaked through but blasted wide in the seventy-fourth minute before Santos missed his opportunity for a hat-trick in the seventy-seventh.

When the final whistle blew, Roger Lemerre's bold selection of four strikers had paid dividends and he and the Carthage Eagles could leave the stadium and the competition with some comfort.

For Farina's Australia however, there will be more head-scratching at another failure to break out on the international stage. The Socceroos may be moving to the Asian Football Conference to improve their World Cup qualification chances but they are still determined to qualify for 2006, with a probable showdown with the fifth-placed South American nation in November their World Cup D-Day. They might find it easier to make the finals in 2010 but how many of today's contingent, Farina included, will still be around then?

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Germany 2:2 Argentina

The Group A leaders shared four goals in Frankfurt tonight with Kevin Kuranyi and Gerald Asamoah scoring for the hosts and Juan Riquelme and Esteban Cambiasso replying for Argentina.

Germany now advance to the semi-final in Nuremberg on Saturday whilst Argentina play in the second knock-out game in Hannover on Sunday. They could face any of Brazil, Mexico or Japan from Group B, which is decided tomorrow.

Aussies speak to Soccerphile

Australia.
Tonight Australia and Tunisia go head to head in the wooden spoon decider of Group A, with neither side wanting to go home '0 and 3' as they say in the USA.
After the Argentina match Soccerphile asked the Australian captain and Everton ace Tim Cahill what he hoped to achieve in tonight's game:

"A win defintely", he replied. "We are not here to embarass ourselves as we have to win and take every game seriously", he told journalists. "Tunisia is a very strong side but we are not going to throw the competition away because we have great pride in our country and we have got to try to get some points on the board.

Middlesboro & Australia keeper Mark Schwarzer then spoke to Soccerphile and rued his team's two faces to reporters, one a scoring machine and the other a Gruyere cheese of a defence.
"We have shown we can mix it with the best teams in the world but we have weaknesses at the back. That is something we need to work on and improve".

Lastly Scott Chipperfield, the flying Aussie winger who plays in Switzerland for FC Basel who are into the preliminary rounds of the Champions League, told Soccerphile,
"It is important we get a win against Tunisia after two losses. We have played well and scored a lot of goals but just conceded too many soft ones. You cannot concede soft goals at this level. It is fine talking about it but we have to go out and do it on the pitch."

The general consensus is that Australia have impressed a lot and surpassed expectations in scoring three goals against Germany and two against Argentina, despite their porous rear-guard so manager Frank Farina will be very disappointed if they leave the field in Leipzig with nothing to show for his side's endeavours. For Roger Lemerre's Tunisia too it is about gaining respect after two straight defeats and confidence ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Soccerphile will be at the game in what was the former East Germany tonight, kick-off 20:45 local time

Monday, June 20, 2005

Monday 20th:The morning after

Yesterday was a great day's tournament football. Japan won their first game in the competition, giving all those wonderful fans something to smile about and the Brazilians, whose football was out this world against Greece, were shown to be human after all after being felled by mediocre Mexico. If the "Mini World Cup" as the papers here call it should remind us that the Beautiful Game is also the unpredictable game, where David frequently slays Goliath.
Memories are professionally short in football punditry and patriotically short in football fandom and in the rush to anoint Brazil as World Cup 2006 winners after their supernova against the Greeks, we seem to have forgotten that last time the pre-tournament favourites (Argentina) went out with a whimper in the first round in 2002 and that other giants like Italy, Spain, France and Portugal were dispatched by the likes of South Korea, Senegal and the USA.

Brazil are still definitely hot property and in the four musketeers Adriano, Robinho, Kaka and Ronaldinho the most exciting attacking ensemble in world soccer right now. But this dream team still lost to Mexico yesterday. As Alan Hansen says many a time, after listing abstract nouns such as pace, technique, composure and commitment, "it is goals that win games". Argentina are therefore perhaps the most solid team in this tournament and my dream final would be an all South American affair.

For Japan it was a relief to have won a match in this tournament at last and a relief for Zico, who looked very non-plussed after the defeat against Mexico. I sat drinking with fans who had travelled all the way from Japan just for yesterday's game in a cafe outside Frankfurt's main station yesterday, my first relaxation all week and I felt so happy for them. Only genuine lovers of football make the effort to travel continents for games like this and they are always a pleasure to mingle amongst with never a hint of trouble.

The Greeks were far more numerous, making a blue and white Aegean sea of the Waldstadion, though since many were speaking German I am not sure how many had travelled, but their pride in being champions of Europe is waning very fast. I cheered their win in Portugal last summer but now feel shortchanged watching their kick and rush football that would disgrace many English Championship sides. They were never pretty to watch and now look unlikely to make it to the World Cup, lying third in their group with an away trip to the team three points behind them, Denmark, to come.

It is really sweltering here with the thermometer again breaking 30C in the shade. I have always felt the World Cup puts northern european teams like England at a disadvantage because it always gets staged somewhere hot but England, apart, Germany is as northern as the staging will get and we get tropical weather.

The European press is barely covering this tournament or not at all in the case of some major news outlets but the host country certainly is with page upon page in the papers and blanket tv coverage including today, live coverage of the German team leaving their hotel to get on the team bus. Franz Beckenbauer is everywhere needless to say, from tv adverts to chat shows to magazines, the man is unavoidably Mr Germany.
The papers were wondering after Adriano's wonder goal against Greece if Ronaldo will even make the team next summer and also if Germany can progress if Michael Ballack is unfit or injured.
The German journalistic coverage has also extended to me being interviewed in Nuremberg by a journalist from a regional Bavarian daily on the subject of...sausages. Yes apparently the stadium's tasty double Nuremburger wurst was not the real McCoy (they should put 3 sausages not two in the bun you see) and they wanted to know if I was offended by that. Now if they had asked me about the official beer instead..

The focus today is on tomorrow's big game with Argentina, the pick of the group stage's ties. Klinsmann's team has so far stuttered before finding their feet in both games although the underlying feeling is definitely of a young and fairly inexperienced team in need of a lot more practice before being considered one of the favourites for the World Cup. So far, they do not look a patch on the 1974 or 1990 World Cup winning teams and tomorrow's game with the country leading the South American qualifiers may reveal some home truths or alternatively paper over some cracks. Still, home advantage counts for a lot and a win is a win is a win.

Speaking of South Americans the fifth placed nation in that region will be noting Australia's progress carefully. The Socceroos take on the African champions Tunisia in Leipzig tomorrow and have a good chance of winning. Despite shipping eight goals they still put two past Argentina and three past Germany after all and so will surely be fired up for taking on what could be Uruguay, Paraguay or Colombia in the World Cup play-off. With Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan and South Korea making it from Asia the Aussies will still fancy their chances of making it via Asia in 2010, if FIFA, as widely expected, ratifies their application to leave OCEANIA in September.

The German media has got a thing about nicknames and whilst Germany are the 'dancing boys' after their goal celebrations on Saturday, Argentina are the 'tango-troup' and Japan's goalscorer Matsashi Oguro the oddly-named "Sushi-Bomber". Not a food terrorist but just the German word for a goal machine, first applied to the legendary Gerd Muller.

Lastly I received a lengthy email from one of FIFA's top media reps about the ticketing problems I have had (they lost all record of my application so I have had to go cap in hand to each stadium to be let in) which admits there have been errors (at FIFA? Surely not!) and that this tournament is a testing ground for the World Cup. Well I would not say everything has been collapsing around me although the hefty Turkish journalist who leant too much on a desk at the Frankfurt media center yesterday bringng the work surface, computer and all crashing to the floor might beg to differ.

Overall this tournament has been entertaining on the field so is gaining respect and with the glorious weather, no one should really complain.

Mexico 1:0 Brazil

Hannover Sunday 19th June 2005 20:45
Goal: Borgetti (Mexico) 59

Against all expectations Mexico beat the highly-rated Brazil on Sunday night with a hard-fought performance.

Ah how the mighty fall. "There are no invincible teams in the world anymore", David, in the guise of Mexico coach Antonio La Volpe, said of the Brazilian Goliath post-match. Indeed not. This shock result has not only injected intrigue into a tournament that seemed all but sown up for the World Cup holders after their stellar display in their opening game but has also reminded fans worldwide of the joyously freakish nature of the Beautiful Game. We always forget it can be so unpredictable.

Jared Borgetti must have been exceptionally relieved to see his 59th minute header go in and no whistle blown after suffering the first-half agony of seeing his twice retaken penalty (encroachment) eventually saved by Dida.

Much was expected of Brazil after the 3-0 mauling they handed out to Greece in their first game and they did come close on a number of occasions but ran out of steam as the seconds ticked away.

Mexico for their part, though lacking matchwinners in the Adriano/Ronaldinho class, played to their strengths in keeping their shape and competing until the final whistle so fully deserved this memorable victory.

Brazil began pounding away at their CONCACAF cousins from the off, with their four young musketeers to the fore. When on form they are a joy to watch: Ronaldinho the picador, scuttling around the edge of the box and shimmying like a ferret that entrances its prey before sticking the knife in suddenly and lethally, Robinho the driver, spearheading his gang's onslaught towards the flag, Kaka the puppeteer swinging like a pendulum between midfield and attack and orchestrating the campaign from above and lastly Adriano the cannon, who explodes with devastating and often unexpectedly spectacular effect when his touchpaper is lit by a colleague.

In the first half hour three of the four (all but Robinho) took long-range pot shots at the Mexicans, for whom Ramon Morales' fifteen yard effort at Dida was their sole entry in the proceedings before a bizarre sequence of events around the half-hour mark.

Having been knocked down in the box by Roque Junior in the twenty-ninth minute, Borgetti dusted himself down, looked at the heavens and made the sign of the cross before running up to take the resulting penalty.

He netted but his celebrations were doused by Italian referee Roberto Rosetti's insistence as if FIFA had just issued another controversial diktat on the eve of a tournament as is their wont, that the kick be retaken because Morales had taken two steps inside the box. Borgetti repeated his build-up and slammed his second kick against the bar. This time Robinho was the encroaching villain of the piece and so Borgetti glanced skywards and blessed himself before shooting his third penalty. This time Dida dived sharply to his right and pushed the ball away for a corner.

The Brazilians are famed for thier technique but on thirty-five minutes it was Mexico's Ricardo Osorio who performed the nearest thing to an on-field scorpion kick which left Brazil's Ze Roberto grasping at space.

Adriano was causing havoc in the box with his power, speed and touch and twice came within inches of scoring in the last five minutes of the half. At the other end Morales released a twenty-five yard rocket caught by Dida and Mexico went in at the break proud to have not been overawed or blown away like Greece were in the opening forty-five.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup winners had their best spell in the first fifteen minutes of the second half with sustained possession in Brazil's half punctuated by two Brazilian counter-attacks and chances for Robinho and Ronaldinho. Lucio meanwhile had slid in to keep a Morales shot for the tricolores out at the other end.

The selecao found themselves next in unfamiliar territory as they went behind in the fifty-ninth minute. Borgetti stamped another of his trademark towering headers, this time past the stranded Dida at a corner kick, and the Aztecs were leading the Beach Boys.

Parreira brought on Renato and Oliveira to try to make amends and Adriano thumped a header into the net after sixty-eight minutes only for it to be flagged offside. Juninho was another arrival on the field as the World Cup holders began to constrict their opponents inexorably.

Mexico got a moment to breathe in the eighty-third minute as they broke downfield and Mario Mendez pinged his shot a yard wide of Dida's post but that aside it was sombreros against the wall but after goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez denied Lucio with a double save in the ninety-third minute you knew the deity Borgetti had entreated in the first half was wearing a green shirt.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira conceded his team were more tired than the Mexicans and fell victim to a well-organised outfit: "There were three or four Mexicans around the ball every time and they were very reolute in defence", he told reporters, "that is why we ran into trouble."

God moves in mysterious ways all right.

The win now puts Mexico on 6 points into the semi-finals with Brazil and Japan on 3 and Greece on 0. This now sets up Wednesday's final group game between Japan and Brazil in Cologne as a winner-takes-all showpiece with Mexico able to breathe a little until the weekend's semi-finals.

Anita's Predictions & Tips

Our resident Indian astrologer has a look at the likely outcomes.
21-6-2005

Australia vs Tunisia

This match will like hide and seek. Tunisia will perform well
and give a very tough compitition but on the other hand Australia
will give a sudden twist to the match and will show an amazing performance.
At last the match will be in the hands of Australia.

Players to watch: Players with jersey numbers 4, 8, 17, 13
for Australia will perform well and 3,9,12,18 for Tunisia.

Germany vs Argentina

The stars of both the teams are equally bright. Both Germany and
Argentina will perform execllently and play in their traditional style.
Noone can imagine what will happen till the last minutes. This
match will end up either in a draw or Argentina will win as they
will get a divine support.

Players to watch: Players with jersey numbers 12, 18 for
Gemany and 3, 9, 12 for Argentina.

22-6-2005

Greece vs Mexico

This will be the game of ups and downs. Mexico will dominate Greece
and create hurdles for them at evey path. On the other hand Greece's
performance will also be admirable. In the end the match will be in
the hands of Mexico.

Japan vs Brazil

Don't take this match lightly. This will be a cut throat match
and both the teams will have periods of domination. But at last
the stars are in favor of Brazil and they will win this match.

Japan 1:0 Greece

Japan v Greece.
Japan and their coach Zico rejoiced after a 76th minute strike from supersub Masashi Oguro earned them their first points in the tournament and dispatched the European Champions in the process.

The Japanese elation was an exact mirror to the gloom surrounding the now rather mediocre looking Greeks, who seem unworthy to be considered champions of Europe with abject performances like today's.

It seemed as if Otto Rehagel or 'Rehakles' as he is called, had taken Zico's admission that his side struggle with high balls all too seriously as the Greeks played 'hit and hope' all evening, pumping aerial ball after aerial ball to almost no discernible effect. That they had no back-up when their system clearly was in need of changing sits curiously at odds with the tactical nous of Rehagel that was widely admired as the brains behind Greece's remarkable poaching of the Henri Delaunay trophy in Lisbon last summer.

In contrast Japan were a good advert for football. They used the width of the field to great effect and passed fluently and elgantly along the deck with Hidetoshi Nakata's elegant approach play once more a delight to behold. Like Greece, Japan lack a group of talented individuals but the sum of their parts has produced an elegant teamplay that fuses tactical awareness and the importance of keeping one's shape with skilful close control and brisk one-touch passing.

Greece had tried to take advantage of Japan's traditional shortcoming, the lack of physical presence, in the opening exchanges but soon the Asian champions' slick counter-attacking game was bypassing the Europeans' brawn.

Japanese muscles were first flexed after eight minutes when Keiji Tamada fired wide with Shunsuke Nakamura unmarked and then five minutes later when Mitsuo Ogasawara almost lobbed Antonios Nikopolidis in the Greek goal.

After nineteen minutes a flowing counter attack ended with wing-back Akira Kaji hitting the side-netting but in between, Ajax hitman Angelos Charisteas headed over from a Giorgios Karagounis corner at the other end and Bolton's Greek playmaker forced a save from Japan goalie Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi from a set piece.

The Japanese technical and tactical superiority soon translated however into a tsunami of first-half chances as Greece looked increasingly vulnerable to the counter-attack and their own incursions had a kamikaze feel to them.

After twenty-two minutes Nakata released Tamada only for him to chip narrowly over and a minute later another break saw Japan spurn another chance when Atsushi Yanagisawa blazed over. The same offender made amends fifteen minutes later with an exciting slalom run through the Greek defence that concluded with Takashi Fukunishi rifling wide having run on to the loose ball.

On thirty-seven minutes it was the turn of Kaji to storm upfield and unleash a shot at Nikopolidis but the blue shirts' best chance was a golden one spurned by Tamada six minutes before the break. When Nakata picked him out thirty-five yards from goal and unmarked he raced forward unchallenged but snatched at his shot which he pulled clear of goal. Three minutes later Tamada would miss again with an attempted lob.

Greece at last won a little respite before the interval as Charisteas had an effort gathered by Kawaguchi and Zisis Vryzas headed wide but they went into half time clearly outplayed, out-thought and showing no obvious ideas or cohesion.

With an hour gone Rehagel had gambled by putting three men upfront but Greece still seemed toothless up front and obsessed with aiming hopeful balls into the box to ruffle the Japanese.
Vassilios Tsiartas had curled a free-kick into Kawaguchi's hands before Zico made a substition after sixty-five minutes that would turn the match in his favour.

Tamada had scurried around like a terrier and wriggled like an eel all afternoon but had failed to catch his prey so Zico gambled in replacing him with Masashi Oguro.

Takashi Fukunishi and Alex Dos Santos both saw chances go astray before the long-deserved breakthrough arrived in the seventy-sixth minute.

A move began with Yasuhito Endo on the right and he fed Nakamura whose slide-rule pass released Oguro who stuck the ball wide of Nikopolidis and into the net.

Japanese celebrations could well have been punctured only seconds later when a suicidally underhit back pass from Makoto Tanaka let Dimitrios Papadopoulos and Charisteas in but the two collided in their eagerness to shoot and the chance went begging as Kawaguchi smothered the ball.

Fukunishi almost made it two with a powerful header in the eighty-first minute before with six minutes left on the clock Charisteas had Greece's final hurrah with run from the halfway line that ended with his shot from inside the box being saved.

Koji Nakata, on for man of the match Nakamura, saw his effort cleared off the line in the dying seconds but the better team had got their just rewards.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Germany 3:0 Tunisia

Rhein-Energie Stadium, Cologne Sat 18th June 2005 1800h

Jurgen Klinsmann can breathe again after three goals in the last quarter of an hour gave the host nation a second victory and a passage to the semi-finals.

Germany 3:0 Tunisia.


There can be few things more humiliating than an early elimination for the host nation and this fear will be preying on the Klinsmann's mind come next summer. The responsibility for guiding a large football nation like Germany to a World Cup is an awesome one, but when you are hosting it and have not been won anything for ten years the pressure is even greater. These past two games have been Klinsmann's first experiences on the other side of the white line and he has manifested a level of concern and stress he never did as a player.

The German media had underestimated Australia, printing pictures of kangaroos and Paul Hogan to mock the team that would breach the German defence three times, and Klinsmann took stick for being run so close by such a 'minnow'. Tunisia seemed worse tonight than Australia were but were resolute in frustrating the hosts' ambitions for an hour and a quarter.

On a hot afternoon in Cologne, Germany toiled away but never looked likely to score until skipper Michael Ballack got the goals rolling after 73 minutes.

Arsenal's Jens Lehmann had been preferred to his old rival Oliver Kahn, another to bear the brunt of the post-Kangaroo court in the papers, but looked calamitous in tumbling into the net after mistiming his parry of an inswinging corner in the twenty-sixth minute.

Germany overall looked rather prosaic but for the useful Bastian Schweinsteiger, who came to international attention at Euro 2004, the right-sided labours of Sebastian Deisler and of course the creativity and drive of Michael Ballack. It was Ballack who had a header cleared off the line after thirty-two minutes and Schweinsteiger who put the ball in the net nine minutes later but had strayed a yard offside.

From the start of the second half until the breakthrough on seventy-three minutes Germany looked almost like the away team aiming to soak up attacks and then strike on the counter-attack. But the penalty dispatched by Ballack, who had been tripped by Abdi moments earlier turned over a new leaf for the Germans.

On eighty minutes Schweinsteiger rounded the keeper and fired in from an acute angle having been put through by Lucas Podolski and with two minutes remaining substitute Mike Hanke made it three at the second attempt to conclude a wonderfully flowing move that began in defence.

Klinsmann will recall from his vast playing experience that luck or serendipity always have parts to play in success and the nation with home advantage can expect a large portion before the start. Today the Germans looked far World Cup winners and seemed unlikely to score. That they won 3-0 and top their group without having played well is so typically German that Jurgen should sleep more soundly than most.

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Argentina 4:2 Australia

Argentina 4:2 Australia.
Nuremberg 20:45 Saturday 18th June 2005

A hat-trick from Villareal's Luciano Figueroa killed off the Australian challenge in Nuremberg tonight as Argentina won 4-2 with Figueroa's three and a Riquelme penalty beating a brace from John Aloisi. The South American champions are now through to the semi-finals with Germany, who lead them on goal difference whilst Australia rue elimination despite having scored five goals in two games.

Figueroa remains behind Hernan Crespo and Javier Saviola in the pecking order for the Argentina striker positions but tonight's hat-trick will force Jose Pekerman to give him more chances in the run-up to Germany 2006. Argentina lead the ten-nation South American qualifying group and it will be interesting if they draw Brazil in this tournament.

Argentina never looked like losing this contest but like Germany succumbed more than once to the underrated Australian attack. Having raced into a 3-0 lead by the fifty-third minute after two opportunist strikes from Figueroa and a Riquelme penalty, Argentina were hit teice in reply.

Aloisi, who plays his football for Osasuna in Spain, reduced arrears with a penalty kick just after the hour mark and then pulled the Socceroos to within one goal of Argentina with a poacher's goal in the seventieth minute. Gabriel Heinze was the villain this time around, chesting a Josip Skoku cross back to German Lux only for Aloisi to nip in and finish gleefully.

In the last minute however, Argentina killed the game as Riquelme curled a free-kick from the edge of the box over the scrum of bodies and Figueroa ghosted in at the far post to score.

Australia conclude their Confederations Cup campaign against Tunisia in Leipzig on Tuesday whilst Argentina tussle for first spot in the group with Germany in Nuremberg the same night.
Player comments to follow.


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Day Two of the Confederations Cup

Day Two of the Confederations Cup.
'There is still so much to do' says the cover of Germany's top selling daily at the previous night's shipping of three goals to Australia, despite the four scored in reply. Germany have belatedly discovered what the rest of us have known for some time: There has been a big levelling-up of world football standards and the dummies are fewer and further between.

Sat on the train from Hannover to Frankfurt and Franz Beckenbauer's mug stares back at me from the on board magazine. Why don't they just make him king of Germany?

Hannover's stadium is large and imposing but a bugger to get to, a good 15 minute walk from the nearest S-Bahn (tram stop) and poorly signposted. The walk was pretty though, through an atmospherically deserted fairground and fluffs of flying cottonwood romantically drifting through the summer evening air.

Another warm evening bodes well for next year but it won't be as sweltering as some recent World Cups such as Mexico 86, USA 94 or Korea/Japan 2002. The Europeans should have an advantage therefore and remember no South American team has ever won in this continent.

For some reason the Germans had all adopted Mexico as their team for the evening, painting their cheeks in the tricolore and chanting 'Me-HEE-Ko!' I did spy two locals bravely cheering for Japan but what the Nippon fans must have made of these gaijins' Chinese coolie hats...

Sitting a few rows in front of me was Arsene Wenger, who coached in Japan before he came to Arsenal and who knows one day may return there, possibly as national team manager.

Given the friendly occasion and the country involved it was no surprise when a Mexican wave started, except that it took 42 minutes to get going.

More Mexicans than Japanese had made the trip although the latter outnumbered the former 10 to 1 in the press box. Nippon fans have yet to generate the noise their European or South American counterparts do but that is no bad thing. I have to say they are the most friendly and pleasant fans I have yet encountered (the worst would be Yugoslavia or Turkey) and have a healthy proportion of women amongst their ranks.

It is a real mistake to assume fans from a 'baby' footballing country like Japan, Australia or the USA are less knowledgeable than us Old Worlders. Quite the opposite in my experience - the need to hunt down information from beyond the major media sources hones their taste and scent for football knowledge.

As a journalist I love the ordeal of international tournament press conferences. I say ordeal because there are so many languages to translate. Last night we had Spanish, Portuguese, English, Japanese and German, rather like the street language spoken by Harrison Ford in Blade Runner.

I must say if there is one regret I have in this job it is that so many football journalists lack a sense of humour or proportion. You could not but raise at least a smile as one of the FIFA interpreters had a sneezing fit into the microphone during Zico's spiel and a Mexican hack asked a question in Spanish with the velocity of Roadrunner and the voice of Speedy Gonzales in one. One of the Japanese questions seemed to take half an hour to ask and ten seconds to translate, rather like the pretentious commercial director in 'Lost in Translation'.

As a consequence of FIFA's desire to simultaneously interpret, the time for questions is limited but both games I have attended have suspiciously included questions from what I think are FIFA plants, who ask the managers what they think of the host city, its people and the welcome they have been given. Nobody is going to offend all and sundry by saying, 'Well actually everyone is so rude around here and the food sucks!' so why prolong this eternal bliss view of football promulgated by the FIFA website and magazine? It is at odds with the reality as experienced by fans, players and owners alike so why bang on with this Disney-esque myth?

Germany however is a decent World Cup host although not everything is perfect. I have experienced bureaucratic and logistical problems and tonight had to ask five FIFA people where the media centre was before I found someone who did know.

My day ended with arriving at the hotel the Hannover tourist office had booked for me only to find the concierge closes at 6 and so I could not check in! I have never come across such a place. A German lady called Dagmar took pity on me and offered me her floor to sleep on but I saved her and my blushes by finding the first place I came to. "You have an expensive hobby going to football tournaments", a German tourist told me in Sweden in 1992 during the European Championships. He is still right.

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