Tag Archives: Japan

2014 World Cup Draw Set

6 Dec

Yeah, I know, it’s been forever and a day since I actually posted anything, but the World Cup makes a person want to blog again, if only to complain about how rough the US has it.  Anyway, the ridiculously drawn out official draw was today and while yeah, the US has it rough, spare a thought for the Aussies, who have an even tougher go.  And while almost everyone can complain about the groups right now, in the end it’s all about what happens on the field.  Anything can happen on any given day and that’s one of the things that makes the World Cup (and sports in general) so awesome.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

I’ll admit that my initial thoughts were that the USA was on the receiving end of a brutal draw (In fact I think my exact words were ‘holy shit’).  But after thinking about it a little bit, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it could’ve been.  I think it’s great that the US will open against Ghana.  It’s going to be huge for the Yanks to start the tournament well and if they can do so against a team that’s knocked them out of the last two World Cups, so much the better.  There’s no doubt they’ll have the motivation to take down Ghana.  Portugal is tough, even if they only qualified through the strength of one Mr. Ronaldo, but I do think they are beatable if the US can play an entire 90 minutes.  I believe that Germany is the top team in the group and probably one of the favorites for the tournament.  That will be interesting if only for the storyline of Klinsmann taking on his home country.  I’ll chalk that one up for a German victory.

As I’ve said in the past, the key to US success on the big stage is putting together a solid 90 minutes. They can’t afford to have lapses and give up early goals like they did against England, Slovenia, Ghana x2 last time around.  Coming from behind to win/draw is not a sustainable model for success. The US has been playing well in the past year and I think Klinsmann’s system is finally starting to click.  It’s just a matter of whether they can show up when it really counts and play consistent football.

Now for the extremely premature predictions.  Of course a team’s chances could go to hell in a handbasket pretty quick with a couple key injuries and we all know that there is a lot of football to be played before we get to Brazil.  But based on how things stand currently, this is what my gut says:

Advance to second round (1st, 2nd)

Group A: Brazil, Croatia

Group B: Spain, Chile

Group C: Colombia, Japan

Group D: Italy, England

Group E: France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, USA

Group H: Belgium, South Korea

Knockout

A1 vs. B2: Brazil vs. Chile – Brazil

A2 vs. B1: Spain vs. Croatia – Spain

C1 vs. D2: Colombia vs. England – Colombia

C2 vs. D1: Japan vs. Italy – Italy

E1 vs. F2: France vs. Nigeria – France

E2 vs. F1: Honduras vs. Argentina – Argentina

G1 vs. H2: Germany vs. South Korea – Germany

G2 vs. H1: USA vs. Belgium – Belgium

Round of 8

Brazil vs. Colombia – Brazil

France vs. Germany – Germany

Spain vs. Italy – Spain

Argentina vs. Belgium – Argentina

Semifinals

Brazil vs. Germany – Brazil

Spain vs. Argentina – Spain

Final

Brazil vs. Spain – Brazil

Going with the home country in this one.  France was the last team to lift the World Cup in their home country, but I think Brazil has the talent to get it done.  Spain’s got the experience though and Brazil will be under mountains of pressure, so I anticipate this final going down to the last minutes.

Top Moments of 2011

31 Dec

Happy New Year one and all!  2011 has been quite the year and here are my favorite moments:

1. Abby Wambach’s game-winner against Brazil – This goal was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.  Playing a man down and a goal down in stoppage time of extra time, Megan Rapinoe picked out Wambach with a pinpoint cross and Wambach’s header sent the game to penalties, which the U.S. dominated.  Not going to lie, definitely made me cry – on par with Landon’s Donovan’s late winner against Algeria in 2010.  Amazing moment.

2. Hodgson out, Dalglish in at Liverpool – After reigning over one of the worst starts for the Reds in a long time, Roy Hodgson was finally shown the door in January 2011.  His replacement?  None other than the legendary Kenny Dalglish.  The team was revitalized under Dalglish, showing the passion and desire that was missing the rest of the season and moving up the table to finish seventh.  Dalglish was given a three year contract in May.  New ownership, combined with the return of Dalglish changed the outlook for fans all over.

3. Japan’s Women’s World Cup victory – Even though it came at the expense of the U.S., it was impossible not to feel good for Japan.  Homare Sawa equalized for Japan late in stoppage time and the team went on to win the penalty shootout.  It was the first World Cup title for Japan, which was  (and still is) battling with the aftermath of the horrific earthquake and tsunami.  The victory was about more than just soccer.

4. Barcelona’s triumph – Barcelona showed why it truly is the best team on the planet, winning the Champions League title in convincing fashion over an outclassed Manchester United.  Barcelona also claimed the La Liga title and recently the Club World Cup title as well.  The team was (and is) mesmerizing to watch, especially player of the year Lionel Messi and midfield maestros Xavi and Iniesta.

5. City thrashes United – I don’t think it’s any secret that I am not the biggest fan of Manchester United.  Manchester City totally embarrassed the defending champs, 6-1, in mid October, much to the surprise of all but the most delusional of fans.  It was quite the win for City, a warning shot that they are to be taken seriously in the league race.  And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to see United get knocked off its high horse every once in a while?  To top it off, United (along with City) was eliminated from Champions League play in early December.

What are your top moments from this year?

Japan fully deserved World Cup title

18 Jul

It was a heart-breaking loss for the United States.  They twice gave up late goals and then were completely devoid of confidence in the penalty shootout. There was a lot of talk about the U.S. being a team of destiny, particularly after the win over Brazil, but couldn’t Japan have gotten the exact same stories along the way?  The Japanese weren’t expected to make it to the final at all.  Many people, myself included, thought that Germany would pick them apart in the quarterfinals.

Japan, like the U.S., showed the importance of the ability to stay strong and never give up on the game.  You could tell when the game went to penalties that Japan had all the momentum in the world and the U.S. had none.  After bossing PKs against Brazil, the U.S. couldn’t repeat the feat in the final.  Shannon Boxx looked like she was going to cry and Carli Lloyd looked like she wanted to be anywhere but on the field.  They had no confidence and you could tell.

Even though the U.S. lost, the final was by far their best game of the tournament.  Their passing was sharp and they played possession soccer like the best of them.  The Yanks did not allow Japan to control the tempo.  And sometimes, even when you play your best game, it just isn’t enough as the game proved.

Props to Japan for providing the surprise of the tournament and a much-needed boost to their struggling nation.

U.S. Women into World Cup final

14 Jul

I haven’t written about the Women’s World Cup at all and frankly, that’s pathetic because the tournament deserves coverage.  Anyways, the U.S. will play Japan in the final on Sunday.  The U.S. defeated France, 3-1, in the first semi and Japan picked apart Sweden by the same scoreline.  It should be quite the interesting final as Japan dominated host and two-time champ Germany in the quarterfinals and also controlled the semi against Sweden.  The Japanese have clearly shown they belong in the final and the U.S. will have a tough time defending their possession game.

Here are some keys to a U.S. win on Sunday:

1. Continue to take advantage of chances – The U.S. was outshot by France, 25-11, in the semifinal on Wednesday.  The French also tallied eight shots on goal to the USA’s five.  The main difference?  The U.S. put the ball in the back of the net on three of the five attempts at goal.  The French had one.  The U.S. also had five shots on goal against Brazil and converted two of them.  With the way Japan plays, I would think the Red, White and Blue will have limited chances in the final as well.  They just need to take advantage of them and having players like Abby Wambach up front definitely help their cause.

2. Improved ball control – The U.S. needs to do a better job of controlling the ball through the midfield.  There were too many chances for France after a poorly placed pass out of the back.  The U.S. struggled to string passes together and they will face a similar battle against Japan.  The Japanese like to play possession soccer, but the U.S. is capable of doing it too as long as they can hold onto the ball for more than three seconds and make smarter decisions.

3. Smart defense – It will be vital for the U.S. to play tough defense on Sunday.  The majority of the shots the French took on Wednesday came from outside the box and while those can be tough for a keeper, you know she’d rather face shots from outside the 18 than the six-yard box.  It will also be important for the defense to be able to clear the ball out of danger immediately.  Japan will pounce on misplayed balls (like the long lob into the goal after Sweden’s goalie came too far out OR Sawa’s header after the ball was bouncing around in the box) and the U.S. will not be able to afford costly turnovers.

Both teams are coming in full of confidence after gutsy performances in the quarters and semis.  It should be a fantastic game as the U.S. team tries win its first title since the famous 1999 shootout and Japan looks to win its first-ever title and inspire a nation still dealing with the effects of the tsunami earlier this year.  There will be a lot of pressure on both sides and the team that can handle it the best will walk away with the trophy.

My prediction: USA 3, Japan 2 in extra time

Get excited for World Cup host announcements

30 Nov

Forget Brazil 2014. Well, for now. Right now, it’s all about who will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. The U.S. is gunning for the 2022 bid along with Australia, Korea, Qatar and Japan. The 2018 Cup will be decided between Russia, England, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands. It’s looking like the U.S. is the favorite for 2022, but take that with a grain of salt.  The U.S. was also thought to be the favorite to land the Olympics in 2016 but ended up being eliminated in the first round of voting (granted a different voting body).

The 1994 World Cup was the most successful ever, in terms of attendance. If anything, the game has grown in this country since then so I would imagine even more interest in the beautiful game.  There’s not a lot of work to do as far as transportation or stadiums since they are already in place in all the possible host cities.  Of course, I would love for the World Cup to come back to the U.S.; I didn’t get to go in 1994, a fact I am still bitter about.

However, I would gladly attend a World Cup in Australia too.  The Aussies ran an extremely successful Olympic games in 2000, so there’s no reason to think they couldn’t pull off a World Cup despite having never hosted.  Korea and Japan combined to host the event in 2002, so it would be only 20 years between Asian World Cups, which doesn’t exactly seem fair to me.  Qatar is somewhat of an enigma. The country has spent a ton of money on celebrity endorsements as well as state of the art technology for stadiums, but is the size and politics of the country ready for the world’s biggest party?

England hasn’t hosted since 1966, but allegations of corruption and other shady dealings have dealt somewhat of a blow to the country’s bid.  Russia  has come on strong, while FIFA is said to be wanting to get away from joint bids. (That might be the worst sentence ever written.)

The annoucement of the hosts for 2018 and 2022 will be on Thursday, Dec. 2. It will be shown live at 10:00 a.m. (EST) on Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN, Univision, ESPN Deportes, CNN International and fifa.com.

World Cup results – June 29

29 Jun

We got our first penalty shootout of the tournament today as the remainder of the quarterfinal field was set.  Paraguay prevailed 5-3 on penalties after a boring 0-0 draw with Japan.  Yuichi Komano’s spot kick ricocheted off the cross bar and Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo buried the game-winner to send the South American nation through.  With Paraguay’s win, four South American teams are in the quarterfinals for the first time ever.  There’s potential for the semifinals to be all-South American, but I think that’s rather unlikely.

Spain and Portugal battled it out for Iberian peninsula superiority (lame, I know, quarterfinal spot much more important) in the day’s second game.  Eduardo came up big in goal for Portugal after getting tested by David Villa and Fernando Torres in the first half.  After a scoreless first half, Spain broke through in the 63rd minute with who else but David Villa knocking in the game-winner.  Villa has now scored four of Spain’s five goals in the World Cup, not too shabby.  It was a solid display from Spain, but Portugal looked rather out of sorts on the offensive end of things.  Cristiano Ronaldo was hardly involved and that did not help their cause.

Tuesday, June 29 results
Paraguay 0 (5 pen)
Japan 0 (3 pen)

Spain 1 (Villa 63)
Portugal 0

Complete Quarterfinal field
Netherlands vs. Brazil – July 2 at 10 a.m.
Uruguay vs. Ghana – July 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Germany vs. Argentina – July 3 at 10 a.m.
Spain vs. Paraguay – July 3 at 2:30 p.m.

World Cup round of 16 set

25 Jun

The group stage is officially over and the round of 16 match-ups are all set. I made some predictions earlier at the beginning of the tournament and it turned out that I picked 13 of the 16 teams correctly, not too shabby. Anyways, there’s some very enticing matches coming up.  Germany and England has potential, as does Spain and Portugal.  Of course, at this stage, all the games should be close and exciting.  Let the drama begin!

Saturday, June 26
Uruguay vs. South Korea
USA vs. Ghana

Sunday, June 27
Germany vs. England
Argentina vs. Mexico

Monday, June 28
Netherlands vs. Slovakia
Brazil vs. Chile

Tuesday, June 29
Paraguay vs. Japan
Spain vs. Portugal