Friday, 30 July 2010
He goes to a league where he will get more time on the ball, to produce more of those special moments of his. It plays more to his skill-set - he should excel there and I am sure he will. I'm also pleased he's gone to Lazio. I know you're not meant to be but I've always been quite sympathetic to them. I suppose that's because
They might do even better than that if they sign Craig Bellamy. That is the rumour in today's papers. I can just about see this one happening. I'm sure he's on his way out of City, but I do think we might be unenthusiastic about selling to rivals as direct as Spurs. A move to Fulham wouldn't have the Champions League football available at White Hart Lane, but you can never underestimate the personal bond between Bellamy and Hughes. It's the reason Bellamy was so good for us in 2009, and so problematic in 2010. Re-united with Hughes and Bowen he would be a serious asset for Fulham.
I'm very sympathetic to Fulham and always have been, and so having Hughes and some former MCFC players there will only make me even more so. I wish them the best of luck.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
- City finally proved we have the winning mentality required to end the 34 year wait by taking the prestigious International Soccer Challenge on penalties. After drawing 1-1 with Club América we won the shoot-out 4-1, thanks to two Shay Given saves. It was generally a decent performance: excellent possession in the first half, although the final ball was lacking. The second half was ropier generally but we did create a few chances of our own. And then Given recreated his Aalborg heroics to win us the historic trophy.
- The first half was probably our best performance yet, and consistent with steady improvement on the tour. This was largely thanks to the appearance of Yaya Touré and Gareth Barry, playing at the heart of a 4-1-4-1 which allowed us to dominate possession. Both were impressive, muscling opponents off the ball and moving it forward and wide quickly and intelligently. As it happened, whenever the ball went to Shaun Wright-Phillips, Wayne Bridge or Adam Johnson in wide areas they put in a bad cross, and chances were limited. But as a team performance it was impressively coherent.
- Fortunately there are things Adam Johnson does well beyond simply crossing. Buying penalties is one of them. Think Bolton Wanderers or Aston Villa at home last year, or the attempt at the Boleyn Ground. Ten minutes before half time he collapsed under some fairly routine contact, the penalty was awarded and Emmanuel Adebayor - who was commendably diligent running the left channel throughout - sent the 'keeper the wrong way.
- Half time changes disrupted our rhythm, though. Joleon Lescott ought to have conceded a penalty one minute into the second half for hauling down City legend Vicente Matías Vuoso. Justice was done in the very next minute, as Enrique Esqueda wriggled past the hapless Lescott and slotted the ball under Shay Given to equalise. With the side re-adjusting to a lopsided 4-4-1-1 system (Vladi Weiss wide right, Stephen Ireland tucked in from the left, Jô off Adebayor) we struggled to regain the tempo of the first half. When we did get it out to Weiss he invariably tried a stepover and was pushed straight off the ball.
- As the game went on it started to open up. Club América's counter-attacks became increasingly threatening, and it took a few key interventions from Pablo Zabaleta - our stand-out second half performer from holding midfielder - to keep us in the game. But the best late chances were ours: with ten minutes left Guillermo Ochoa spilt Weiss' shot into the path of Jô, whose attempt was well saved by the turf-bound keeper. Two minutes from time Ochoa tipped Adebayor's shot onto the bar. And then Jô failed to make contact with an easy chance from Greg Cunningham's cut-back.
- And so the shoot-out. First Emmanuel Adebayor repeated his earlier success from the spot, clipping it into the bottom corner. Pavel Pardo equalised. Then Jô scored his, and Aquivaldo Mosquera hit his straight at Shay Given. Vladimir Weiss confounded my expectations to score, and Given saved again from Daniel Montenegro. Aalborg all over again. Who better to take the deciding penalty than Patrick Vieira - and he finished well, leading to wild scenes of jubilation on the pitch and in the stands. International Soccer Challenge today, the Premier League next.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Monday, 26 July 2010
"I decided in the summer that I was going to get my head down and do what I can to show the manager that I am worth a place on his team. It didn't go that well for me last season, when there were a lot of changes at the club, but it is only a season ago that I was Player of the Year at the club and my view is that I haven't become a bad player overnight. The manager hopefully doesn't think that either...
Ideally, I would like to stay and build a future here. I am not going to rush in to anything, anyway. I think it's best if I see what happens during the first half of the season and perhaps give the situation until Christmas. If things aren't right at this stage then we can look at it again."
Sunday, 25 July 2010
- Another friendly, another loss. What a typical disappointment for typical City. It actually wasn't that bad, and some of the young players looked good. Against a team half way through their MLS season it was fine.
- The first half was an improvement on the opening of the Sporting Lisbon game. We gave up on that diamond, playing 4-4-2 from the start. Stephen Ireland was pushed out onto the right - which was a shame - while Jô partnered Emmanuel Adebayor up front. We had more of the ball, and while we didn't always get the strikers involved when we did they tended to create chances. This owed a fair bit to poor defending but Jô and Adebayor had identical opportunities in the inside-left channel and hit both at Red Bulls 'keeper Bouna Coundoul.
- But on the break the Red Bulls were very effective. Dane Richards, Macoumba Kandji and Thierry Henry were all very athletic - they looked like a side half-way through their season - and they carved us open a few times. Richards was doing to Bridge what Aaron Lennon did to Sylvinho last summer, burning past his outside at will. Ben Mee and Dedryck Boyata were unable to deal with Kandji and Henry's movement, and so when Kandji bundled in Richards' cross it was no surprise.
- Our equaliser early in the second half was deserved. Tutte played in the substitute Greg Cunningham down the left who whipped in a low cross. Jô, at the near post, turned it in for his second goal of the summer. The move started with Alex Nimely - sparky and strong throughout - drifting in off the right to start the move. Nimely then moved up front as Jô was replaced by Adam Johnson, who was our best player of the second half.
- We looked the likely winners until Dane Richards, unworried by Bridge in a field of space, hit a twenty five yard shot into the top corner. NYRB passed the ball round well when ahead and while Johnson had some very good moments - reminding us what he can do to bad left-backs - we didn't get the second goal we probably deserved. The game finished 2-1.
- So we didn't win the Barclay's New York Football Challenge, and our 34 year wait continues. But there were more positives here than two defeats might suggest. Today we had some promising stuff for Alex Nimely and Andrew Tutte, and a reminder of what Adam Johnson is capable of. Now it's Club América on Wednesday night.
A fee of £17m was agreed one week ago and just when I was starting to get anxious over the lack of finality it has come through. I'm excited about this one.
It has been clear for some time that Wayne Bridge was not a wise deployment of £10million, and that go get where we want to go we need someone better. It's not that Bridge is a limited player who is incapable of dazzle, but rather the opposite: he does have occasional moments of intelligence and imagination but for the most part he has a shockingly weak command of the basics. Heading, tackling and crossing with simple competence ought to come easier to a one-time England and Chelsea player.
And so he has been replaced with Kolarov, my knowledge of whom is fairly limited. The only times I've knowingly seen him play were Serbia's first two games of the World Cup, and I'd be lying if I said he made a deep impression upon me. He is very highly rated, though, and by most accounts he has been one of Lazio's best players in recent years. He's big, strong and and difficult to stop when he gets going. He also does a mean Michael Tarnat impression.
He fits perfectly with the 'Boateng plan' that has defined our transfers this summer. Relatively young (24), coming from a respectable but not elite foreign club, ambitious and eager to win things at City and become part of our new history. In this sense he is from the same category as Jérôme Boteng and David Silva. Readers will know how much I prefer this approach, for all sorts of reasons: novelty, exoticism, increased quality etc. In fact, the difference between Kolarov and Wayne Bridge demonstrates the differing transfer market approaches of Mark Hughes and the Marwood/Mancini combination now in charge. Hughes made a fetish of Premier League experience, which meant we bought in players no longer wanted by our EPL rivals, who were often over-rated and certainly overpaid. Bridge might not be the worst such player but he is a good example of the flaws of the strategy.
I'm not sure exactly what will happen to Bridge now. Mancini says he is happy for him to stay. I'm sure Bridge is. He proved at Chelsea that playing matches is not at the very top of his job satisfaction requirements. I'd probably rather he left: of course we've long crossed the Rubicon of wage obscenity but still paying a back up left-back £95,000 per week is a bit much. Can't club servant Javi Garrido do the same job for a quarter of the money?
Anyway - this will answer itself soon. Welcome 'Alexander'.
Saturday, 24 July 2010
- Our dreams of winning the Barclay's New York Football Challenge were in tatters this morning after a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Sporting Lisbon. They tore us apart in a very one-sided first half, as Yannick Djalo twice escaped Micah Richards to score for Sporting. Our diamond midfield never looked close to functioning. That said, we changed and improved in the second half, and we're still five friendlies away from White Hart Lane.
- The first half was not exactly a triumph. We were lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond, in accordance with a rumour from the News of the World last week. Patrick Vieira was at the base, Adam Johnson at the tip, with Pablo Zabaleta and Stephen Ireland shuttling either side. It was woeful. Johnson has his strengths but is no trequartista and barely got on the ball. Ireland, who is a natural No. 10, drifted into Johnson's position and influenced play when there. But too often Patrick Vieira - looking as sluggish and ponderous as he did last season - was isolated and overmanned in midfield. In the first twenty minutes he lumbered into two tackles that would have got him yellow cards in a competitive match. Sporting's movement, however, was excellent. Carlos Saleiro and Helder Postiga dragged our defence across the pitch, while Yannick Djalo and Simon Vukčević exploited the gaps.
- With Sporting so dominant, it was no surprise when we went behind. Zabaleta gave the ball away in midfield, and Vukčević ran at Greg Cunningham. He sold him the cheapest dummy - coming back onto his left foot - and crossed to Djalo. Micah Richards was characteristically inattentive at the far post and Djalo headed home. They added a second just before half time. Our defence was sucked up towards Carlos Saleiro, who chipped the ball into the gap to Djalo running between Richards and Kompany, who rounded Hart to score his second. Again, their movement manipulated our team like dough - think England v Germany in Bloemfontein.
- There was a change at half-time, and a subsequent improvement. We moved to a rough 4-4-1-1, with Craig Bellamy behind Jô, Ireland starting on the left - but drifting further in as the match went on - and Johnson on the right. This gave us better shape and allowed us to press Sporting more effectively. We were harder to play through and even came close to creating chances of our own, all due to Ireland taking up his favoured positions behind the strikers.
- But Ireland went off and with Alex Nimely playing behind Jô, and Craig Bellamy out on the left, we looked fairly short of attacking ideas. Then John Guidetti and Andrew Tutte came on - which was good to see - and we held on and saw the game out. It wasn't a great second half as a spectacle, but we played better. Wayne Bridge introduced a degree of competence down the left, while Ireland and Johnson playing their natural games brought a touch more attacking coherence to the side. Nimely had some excellent touches. The lack of chance creation might be a concern, but remember - we did have Jô leading the line for seventy minutes.
One possible explanation for this delay has been the interest of Juventus. Lazio President Claudio Lotito has been speaking of this, presumably trying to draw another, higher bid out of MCFC:
'If the Bianconeri (Juventus) are interested then they should make an offer which is adequate. Everything is possible, everyone has his price.'
‘In football, you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. But for me, I wanted to play with my brother one time. It was very important for me.No-one's going to pretend the £200,000 weekly wage didn't influence him. But I do think there's something in his point that it is more interesting for a player to join a club on an upward journey than one sitting on a higher plateau. Of course, it involves trading down on prestige. But there must be an attraction in making yourself a central figure in a story of progress than a peripheral figure in a story of maintained achievement.
‘Now I have signed for Manchester City and I am very happy. My brother and I want to make great things happen at this club. I am sure we will do it.’
Toure’s claim will only intensify a rivalry between City and United that reached white hot levels last season.
The Ivory Coast midfielder, who will earn £200,000 a week at Eastlands, added: ‘Manchester United are a big club — one of the biggest in the world. But I chose Manchester City because they had not won anything.
‘It is a very nice feeling to come in and see everything changing. For me, that is very important. It is an interesting challenge.’
This applies to all of our signings, really. And it's probably less of a factor than the money. But for players who want to be wanted and remembered, to make themselves heroes, there is some logic to it.
I agree. I'm sure some will twist this into an anti-Garry Cook story. But for me there is nothing more frustrating than Nigel de Jong coming out the week of a Manchester derby, telling us how much it means to him, (he was in the Kippax for the 5-1 you know) and then not really performing in the game itself. Vincent Kompany is nearly as bad.
"So many people are talking about the Champions League and the title, but it's not good to be talking about that before the season has begun.
"We know we are a fantastic team with great players in the squad. You look at our squad and you know we can do something important.
"But I also think we have to keep quiet about it. We know how important the first game against Spurs is going to be and Arsenal have had their team together for a long time.
"As a team they are all very solid, which is why they are the ones competing for the title every season. But we are very close to them now.
"This club is growing a lot. You can buy big names, but you need time to find the best team. So we will stay quiet for now."
If we do start well this season - and we might well - the last thing I want is City players telling the press we're going to win the quadruple. Just keep on playing, and you can say what you want when you've actually won us something.
Friday, 23 July 2010
UPDATE: Tim Jocys sent me this. It's the song, with some fairly strange imagery to accompany it.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Fortunately, you can watch it now courtesy of PortlandTimbers.com (embedded below.) I started to watch before realising that even I have marginally better things to do on a Sunday evening than this. Frankly, a game in which Jô plays is of faltering credibility and one in which he scores is wholly devoid of it. Stephen Ireland and Emmanuel Adebayor scored the other goals, apparently.
Saturday, 17 July 2010
It's perfectly understandable that Roberto Mancini would seek to bring in those he knows and trusts to work for him. Lombardo and Platt combine that relationship with Mancini with an understanding of the English game (of obviously varying degrees) and thus are perfect fits.
This does strengthen my belief that Brian Kidd is being marginalised at the club. Don't forget that the Mancini/Kidd partnership was created by Garry Cook and Brian Marwood in the chaos of last Christmas, and that Mancini had since brought in five of his own men: Fausto Salsano, Ivan Carminati and Massimo Battara last December, with David Platt and Attilio Lombardo.
I'm not predicting Kidd is soon to be sacked, but there is a finite number of tasks and a finite amount of authority in managing and coaching a football team, and every new addition must necessarily detract from Kidd's power base.
Just a thought.
Friday, 16 July 2010
City told Hart and England teammate Gareth Barry they did not have to return until the New York leg of the tour next weekend.
But Hart is desperate to prove himself to Roberto Mancini and with Shay Given set to miss the start of the season through injury, the 23-year-old is heading for Portland, where City play a practice match this weekend.
Reports emerged from Italy on Thursday afternoon that we had reached agreement with Lazio. Their coach, Edy Reja, told Rai 3 that his transfer to MCFC was 'imminent.' And then we have the confirmation in tomorrow's papers from the favoured journalists: a £17m fee has been agreed. Here's Daniel Tayor:
More if and when he signs.
Kolarov is an attacking left-back renowned for his powerful shooting and ability from set pieces – his style has seen him being labelled as the Serbian Roberto Carlos – and he has been identified to take over from Wayne Bridge in a new-look defence also featuring Jerome Boateng, the £10.5m recruit from Hamburg.
Bridge has not convinced the City manager, Roberto Mancini, that he is good enough for a team that aspires to challenge for the Premier League title in the coming season and the former England international can expect to start on the bench if the 24-year-old Kolarov agrees to become the club's fourth signing of the summer.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
That leaves Bellamy facing a decision about whether to stay and fight for his place, having effectively won a similar battle with Robinho, or leave a club where he is not expected to feature prominently. If the latter is the case, he might also have to consider taking a pay cut to help engineer a move. Bellamy, who turned 31 this week, earns £95,000 a week and when the Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, was asked about his admiration for the Wales international he suggested it would be out of his club's price range. "City bought him for £12m and the player must be on considerably high wages," he said. "I just don't see it happening."
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
Džeko said this week:
"I want to clarify that it is not a matter of money, but of ambition. I feel I have to take a leap in quality and play for a big club. It is an important moment of my career and I also explained that to the leaders of Wolfsburg.This would sound like what the tabloids call a ''Come and Get Me' Plea' to Garry Cook but for the fact he is known to be keen on a move to Italy as well. Juventus and Milan have long-standing interests in him and so Džeko has to choose between them and us he'll be off to Serie A. This means that we ought to be wary of news that Juventus have bid. Their new transfer director Beppe Marotta has confirmed their move:
'Dzeko? It's the dream that I'm working on,' said Marotta. He is one of the best strikers in the world and clearly he is an object of our desire.Of course, however far away from reaching an agreement with Wolfsburg we are, Juventus will only be further. But it's another obstacle in what is not an easy transfer to complete. And I can't see our offer to throw in Roque Santa Cruz being the dealbreaker.It's true that we are negotiating and I have spoken to them (Wolfsburg) but they are asking for a lot and we are trying to follow the cheaper option. They like some of our players but we know that what you buy is not always better than what you sell.'
Monday, 12 July 2010
Saturday, 10 July 2010
He moved to right-back, having played left-back in recent games. This was interesting, I've got a feeling he's just as likely to play right-back than centrally this coming season, certainly if we sign David Luiz. I don't think he's a natural full back, but he was very assured this evening. There were none of the defensive lapses that spoilt his semi-final (it certainly helped that Martín Cáceres didn't get forward half as much as Sergio Ramos had), and he had some good moments going forward.
When afforded some space in the second half he swung in two perfect crosses from the touchline: the first was headed in by Marcell Jansen to make the score 2-2, the second was just missed by a flying Stefan Kießling. His best moment was yet to come, as he won the ball in defence and surged up the pitch, linking with Thomas Müller in a counter-attack as direct and exciting as anything Germany produced against England and Argentina, even if it was ultimately unsuccessful.
He could well be our first choice right back. He's certainly better than Micah Richards: he's got all of his athleticism plus a whole lot more technical ability. He's different from Pablo Zabaleta, not quite as canny or as reliable and so we could choose between them depending on the context. But he looks promising and I am excited about seeing him in blue.
Nigel de Jong and David Silva will compete for the World Cup tomorrow evening.
Friday, 9 July 2010
"We are always interested in good players, if Inter decide to sell, we will be there," said the Italian.This declaration of interest accords with what Balotelli's agent Mino Raiola said this week:
"I have no problems. The most important thing is that they are good, so that they go on the pitch and play well."
"Was there a real offer from City? Yes, there was but it is not for me to say," Balotelli's agent Mino Raiola told Gr Parlamento.
"Mario Balotelli's situation is calm. He is an Inter player. There are no negotiations, hence, he will remain at Inter."
‘There is also interest from United and City in Balotelli, but it’s very early to say if there will be any business done.
‘He is an Inter player and we have to think about our future.’
Thursday, 8 July 2010
amazing coup by man city if they land david luiz. wonderful def; elegant, xlnt on the ball, pacey, versatile, commanding. he's got it all
Manchester City are set to return to Aston Villa with an offer in the region of £24m for James Milner and at the same time make it clear that they have no intention of meeting the Midlands club's asking price for the England international, which is closer to the £30m mark.
City, who had a £20m bid for Milner rejected in May, remain determined to sign the former Leeds United trainee but are prepared to turn their attention elsewhere if Villa stick to their higher valuation.
But this has echoes of the Lescott and Adebayor signings last summer. There comes a point when I'm happy with what we've done in certain areas, and, combined with the attachments I have to players already at the club, this makes me unenthusiastic about recruiting. If James Milner came it would be bad news for Gareth Barry, who I like, and Vladimir Weiss, who excites me. Throw in the fact that we could only get him for an inflated fee and that it somehow feels worse to bully an English club than a foreign one (I accept that this is ludicrous) and I'm not exactly desperate for this to come off.
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Silva came on for the last five minutes as Spain closed out the lead brought to them by Carles Puyol's second half header. He played quite well, twice running with Fernando Torres on counter-attacks but not getting the ball. His high point was probably winning a disputed corner off Bastian Schweinsteiger but he had one or two other nice touches.
He was more assured than Jérôme Boateng. Playing at left back, Boateng was teased by Andrés Iniesta and tormented by Sergio Ramos. He could have been booked three or four times over and was substituted for Marcell Jansen early in the second half. He's clearly a natural centre-back but I suspect he'll start at right-back when the regular season starts. Just a hunch.
De Jong v Silva is on Sunday night.
Johnson said: "There's a big squad here now but there's also a lot of games, and everybody can't play in every game - there's Europe as well as the two cups.If he's made his peace with this then that's a good thing. Quite a few of his team-mates will have to make the same accommodation. If things go well next season we will be playing 60 or so matches. No outfield player, particularly one of Johnson's age and role, can expect to play all the time.
"We need a good squad with strong people on the bench. There will obviously be changes for different games and I'm ready for that. It's going to be exciting times. I can't wait."
"My focus is on City, nothing else...This isn't a big surprise given his age and the break Laurent Blanc needs to make with the last remnants of the France '98/Euro 2000 generation.
He said: "My target in the next few years is City. I want to do my best for the club, and I want to repay the trust of the manager, Brian (Marwood) and Garry Cook."
Sunday, 4 July 2010
Perhaps it is better this way. Bozhinov was a unique prospect, a £5.5million striker loved and rated by all City fans - despite scoring just one goal in three seasons at the club. This was a relationship dependant on promise, not product. Having spent so much time on the sidelines, his reputation grew, unchallenged by any exposure to experience. Like an anticipated messiah, or a government in exile, Bozhinov's absence grew his profile, people believed him capable of feats that would never be tested in reality.
He came from Fiorentina in August 2007. Sven was doing what his protégé Roberto Mancini did three years on: bringing exotic, promising players from across Europe to City, with no concern for the 'Premier League experience' Mark Hughes came to fetishise. His MCFC career began, like everyone else's, at the Boleyn Ground. He came on for Rolando Bianchi after 61 minutes, and impressed: pushy, fiesty and pigeon-chested, he swaggered about like someone playing in their schoolyard. Another substitute appearance followed before he was asked to start the Manchester derby. Just four minutes in, though, an awkward fall tore his knee ligaments and ended his season.
This led a pattern that would become repeat itself: the constant attention to updates from the club, the enthusiastic excitement for his return, the belief that he was a panacea, that everything would be fixed when he was back. But he didn't make it back that season. It was no surprise that Eriksson's successor, Mark Hughes, was a fan: Boji was a cocky, stocky striker with a short temper and an eye for the audacious - just as Sparky had been. A fit-again Bozhinov came on for Hughes' first competitive game at Eastlands, as City were beaten 1-0 by an excellent FC Midtjylland side. But he did enough to earn a start for the opening day of the 2008/09 Premier League campaign. It was Villa Park, 2.50pm, and the players were finishing their warm up in front of us. But Boji collapsed, screamed, and was carried off by a distraught Micah Richards. We lost the game 4-2 but the news that Boji had ruptured his achilles - an injury at least as bad as his ligament snap - was much more upsetting.
So the 2008/09 season resembled the one before. Waiting, hoping, and putting unrealistic expectations upon his return. This time he did manage to come back before the end of the season, on familiar territory in March 2009. He came on at the Boleyn Ground: the third launch of his MCFC career coming on the site of his first. We roared him on, even louder than we did two years before. Once fit, he managed a run in the side of sorts. He was nnot quite the player we hoped for, but he was never going to be. But when he volleyed home Benjani's flick-on at White Hart Lane, in our biannual frustrating loss to Spurs, it felt like the fulfilment of at least two years of hope and expectation.
It felt important that he score then, because the summer 2009 spending was inevitably profligate. The arrivals of Carlos Tévez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz meant that his chances were limited. His loan move to Parma that summer was predictable, as I suppose is its being made permanent. Whether he could have become a first-teamer without the ADUG money is unknowable but improbable. As much as we might want to mourn him as a victim of Sheikh Mansour that pity is better saved for others. What we can describe him as is a victim of misfortune, a talented player that we took to heart and for whom things might have turned out differently. Just 24, he still has years of football ahead of him.
We loved him and he never let us down.
Valeri Bozhinov MCFC 2007-09 3 starts, 1 goal.
Diego Maradona was tactically out-classed by Jogi Löw, whose German side limited Argentina to half-chances while breaking at will into the gaping savannahs in Argentine territory. But one of the fundamentals of this plan was solid defence, something Boateng provided well from left back.
In fact, this was probably the best game I've ever seen him play. He won every tackle (including one or two on Lionel Messi), distributed the ball intelligently and swung in one excellent cross. He's not a natural left-back, but with his skill set he's quite possibly now the best right-back at the club.
Carlitos was starved of service and could only carve himself a half-chance here and there. A very frustrating evening. But Boateng marches on!
Saturday, 3 July 2010
Robinho started well, playing with the imagination and audacity we saw at City and the energy and bite that we didn't. His tracking, tackling and efforts to win the ball back made him look like a different player altogether from our £32m man.
Only five minutes in he thought he put Brazil ahead, ghosting behind Andre Ooijer, receiving Dani Alves' pass and scoring. Just as he wheeled away to celebrate the flag shot up - Alves had been offside. Tight call. But five minutes later Robinho put Brazil ahead. Holland lost the ball, and their transition from an attacking to a defensive set-up was haphazard at the least. Robinho drifted into the chasm between Ooijer and Johnny Heitinga, and was half-heartedly tracked by Arjen Robben. But he received a straight ball from Felipe Melo and replicated that open body right foot finish we saw against Chile (and against Portsmouth in the 6-0.)
Once ahead Brazil dominated. Robinho's movement was too much for Gregory van der Wiel to comprehend, and Robi was even involved in spats for - get this - over-zealous tackling. Nigel de Jong had to restrain him once. But Brazil couldn't double their advantage and went into half-time one ahead.
The game looked sewn up. The one thing I was sure of was that Brazil would never implode, never capitulate. So the second half was shocking. The Dutch were brighter but could have expected to be gifted a goal. Wesley Sneijder swung a cross in, Felipe Melo and Júlio César jumped into one another and the ball was deflected into the net. Soon after a Dirk Kuyt near post run was ignored, he flicked a corner on and Sneijder buried the second ball.
But there was disappointment in between the goals for de Jong. His harrying and tackling was so relentless, so heroic that he picked up a yellow card. This was his second booking of the tournament and means he misses the semi-final. A personal blow but how else was he meant to keep Kaká quiet? It was a noble act of self-sacrifice to rival
When Felipe Melo was sent off for stamping on Arjen Robben the game was up. Ten man Brazil were stunned and could not create anything. Holland's extra man told and they had their own chances on the break. Robinho and Elano are flying home, and while Nigel de Jong won't play in the semi final he might just be strutting around Soccer City next Sunday night.