10 June 2006

Group B Action: England - Paraguay

I've been watching the match as I've been working on the previous post. It's now halftime, with a 1-0 lead to England. It hasn't lived up to the Germany - Costa Rica game, but it's had some good moments too.

The early England goal will probably go down as an o.g. to Carlos Gamarra but it was due to a beautifully dangerous Beckham free kick. This crazy Adidas ball may prove to be a godsend for Mr. Posh. England didn't have anything else as threatening, but they brought a good amount of pressure all half, while Paraguay built little threat. Instead, they decided to hack at the England players, while hamming up any imagined contact going the other direction. Based on their first half performance, I would be happy to see Paraguay make a quick exit; let's hope they put together something more constructive in the second half. They did have a late shot from Nelson Valdez that came very close, and that will give them hope.

England have looked pretty good, producing several good ideas but not yet finding that final touch after the early goal. Michael Owen and Joe Cole could stand to get more involved, but Beckham, Crouch, Lampard and Gerrard have all had their moments. I would like to see Gerrard and Lampard to shoot from distance; Gerrard put a couple well high, but he will get on target soon enough. Defensively they've not been too bad, though I'm always suspicious of Rio Ferdinand who produced one difficult back-pass.

The second half is getting underway; I'll update as events warrant. But one last comment. The stadium, Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt, just looks horrid on TV. There are shadows all over the pitch and ABC seems to have all kinds of trouble with the contrast. I don't know what the giant suspended structure is for -- video screens I assume -- but it ruins the stadium for TV.

UPDATE: Michael Owen is subbed off at 55' for Stewart Downing. This is a bit defensive; it may be due to the Owen injury history but I suspect Sven Goran-Eriksson is concerned about Paraguay's improved posession in the early minutes of the second half.

UPDATE: Now Paul Robinson punts into the video screen. It wasn't a great punt, but still -- it's unforgiveable that that thing is in the field of play.

I'm incredibly frustrated with the broadcast direction. I'm not sure whether ABC controls this directly, or if they're consuming a general feed. But whoever's responsible, it's a common mistake from those who don't understand soccer -- showing too many closeups and cutting awy from the wide view too much. The action moves around so fast, that more often than not the ball is gone by the time the camera finds the player. It makes following the match quite painful.

Dave O'Brien is probably about as bad as I would expect. At least he's trying to focus on the match -- he's not making a spectacle of himself, like Tommy Smyth does -- but it's obvious that he doesn't know soccer well, and he's taking Marcello Balboa down with him. The endless references to "Bend It Like Beckham" are just embarassing. I know ABC is trying to pull in soccer neophytes. But talking down to them is the wrong idea, and menawhile O'Brien is alienating the true fans.

UPDATE: 73', and Lampard has a great shot, forcing substitute keeper Aldo Bobadilla into a good save. That 20-yard shot is exactly what England needs.

UPDATE: FT, England 1-0 Paraguay. One last difficult bounce that nearly beat Paul Robinson, but ultimately Paraguay had far too little threat. England would like to see a better effort from themselves, but the early win is the most important thing.

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