A Statesman To The Europa Final?

Some Thursday bullets: (Root canalitis is making us less than heady on a lengthy, researched column–witness yesterday’s grammar-less Liverpool post)

Standing in Dempsey's way...

• We’re almost there for Clint Dempsey and Fulham to Europa Finals. A big one today at the Craven Cottage for the McBrides. A 0-0 tie last week at Hamburg essentially means winner take all on Thursday. Wouldn’t it be nice for the Deuce to go Juventus on us?

Want to learn more about how Fulham excelled this year? An excellent column here by the Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson on how former Inter Milan manager Roy Hodgson has got Fulham firing on all cylinders.

Oh…you wanted to see that Deuce strike again before today’s game:

• TSG reader Antonio made a great comment comparing yesterday Inter v. Barca thriller to the U.S. v. Spain Confederation’s Cup match. For my part, I loved the match. I’m a fan of defensive soccer–probably through my own upbringing of playing wide in the back.

Antonio, I couldn’t agree with you more on the comparison in that both Bob Bradley and Jose Mourinho took a full chapter from the same defensive manual:

Stay narrow, close down anything on the interior going to the playmakers. Give up the ball movement out of the back in exchange for the long ball down the pitch that one of your strikers can chase down. Repeat.

More from this one:

› Barcelona came out as wide as possible to start the match. Usually, just like a wide receiver running a pattern down the sideline, it’s best to take a  few steps in from the sideline if you’re a winger so an errant pass beyond you can be recovered. Pedro and Ibra out wide we’re virtually standing on the line. Inter still didn’t break through the middle.

› Shaun made the following spot-on comment at the 76th minute:

76:00 – Barca like the Spanish national team only know one way to play. They keep trying that extra splitting pass when they need to run at the defenders and shoot. They cannot break Inters line this way.

While Barca eventually scored their first goal on a slip pass, in my mind they are guilty from…yes…a lack of creativity. They tried the same tactics again and again and again. They started finding at least a little bit of room against ten-man Inter when they mixed in some crosses.

What is they had mixed in some long balls, some lobs, some running-at the defenders earlier. I’m sorry, but Mourinho’s team was frankly better coached in this one.

› I am not a proponent of anti-American sentiment, but while the global soccer world trumpets Mourinho for his spot-on strategy, would the US have been given as much credit if they played such an “ugly” game.

Taking a licking...will he keep ticking?

›Is Barca’s loss Spain’s gain? Nearly every World Cup “preview” mag or pub I’ve read cites the Spainards being “worn out” by Champion’s League football, especially with the final following a little more than 3 weeks before the beginning of the World Cup.

Well now Xavi, Pique, Iniesta and company will have time to replenish. It’s the Brazilians (Lucio, Cesar, Maicon–who was knocked around) who may need to be concerned about exhaustion. And a note, here. It’s more exhaustion of the mind, not the body. It’s hard to “get up” for one “championship” after another. Maybe an interesting read here.

› Iniesta certainly could have helped in this series with his combination of attacking and lay-off or attack and snipe. But how does Thierry Henry not get any run out with his directness towards goal? Weird.



• Just read about this Jermaine Jones’ Nutella curse–never heard of it before, so a link here to the article. One position that is trending positively for the United States in advance of May Camp? Central midfield, where Maurice Edu has been integral to the Rangers SPL cup acquisition and Michael Bradley has had a series of very solid games for the Bo’Munchies.

• Conversely, and TSG reader Kevin asked about Houston man Mike Chabala in the comments a few days ago, the USMNT center back position is looking a little more squeamish these days. It should be a no-brainer that Gooch, if fit, will get some runouts for Milan.

That’s a good thing, because Jay DeMerit’s been battling a few maladies and Carlos Bocanegra has been a near full-time starter outside on the wing for Rennes.  Our worry–and a very real one–with the likes of Crouch, Terry, Gerrard, Bostjan Cesar  and Bougherra coming up on set pieces, who wins the headers for the United States.

• Going to throw up an “equal time” guest post on Edson Buddle’s golasography later today.

26 responses to this post.

  1. Your point about Bob Bradley and the US being shamed for playing the way Jose did against Barca has some element of truth to it. However, I think just about any coach other than Mourinho would be lamabasted for the anti-football tactics, not just Bob and the US. It seems that the “Special One” can do however he wishes and people laud him for it, but if anyone else parks the bus the opposition, their fans, and all neutrals cry foul.


  2. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/29 at 6:14 AM

    I guess you have to view tournament football slightly different to a league game – remember, the US and Inter progressed to the final. That’s all you need to say.

    You also have to take into account that the gap between Spain & USA is greater than Inter & Barca – it’s not like Inter played this way during the first leg at the San Siro. And remember, the USA has nothing to be ashamed of for playing that way – there is probably only one or two countries who could not play that way and get a result.


  3. Posted by Colin on 2010/04/29 at 6:19 AM

    I was thinking the same exact thing about the inter v barca game having a very similar feel to the USA v spain game. I watched that USA v spain game at least 4 times from start to finish in the process of making my “dont tread competition” as recently as february and yea…it was very similar.

    SOOO many times watching the game I was expecting xavi to take a swing at goal, and I think he finally tried after 75+ minutes and forced a save…but then never took another shot after that. Yaya was the only one taking long shots…too bad for barca, they were terrible.

    I was thinking the same thing about Henry as well….how does he not make it on the pitch when they need goals? I am sorry, but Henry would have slotted away the header that Bojan put wide from 4 yards out. The better team definitely won this game.

    Anyone else see Motta go after Busquets neck after he got red carded? what was that all about? Also, did anyone else notice Busquets give a sneaky little peak whilst rolling on the ground?


    • Posted by uncledude on 2010/04/29 at 7:13 AM

      “Also, did anyone else notice Busquets give a sneaky little peak whilst rolling on the ground?”


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/29 at 7:19 AM

        I totally did and thanks for finding that shot!


      • Posted by Colin on 2010/04/29 at 7:29 AM

        yup, thats it. Before the red card, I wanted to see Barca win…but after that, I felt like they cheated a bit and wanted to see Inter gut it out and I am glad they did.


        • Posted by uncledude on 2010/04/29 at 7:34 AM

          I felt the same. I was a neutral but after this and Mourinho’s mocking applause I found myself really pulling for Inter.


        • Posted by Colin on 2010/04/29 at 7:42 AM

          haha yea…totally forgot about the applause…Mourihno is absolutely hilarious to me.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/29 at 7:38 AM

      The thing that perplexed me, was that Inter played very narrow – like you would do against a team like Barcelona who play through the middle. So, while Inter conceded space on the wings, even when Barcelona did whip crosses in, Lucio and Samuel were pretty much equal to it. So why on earth did Pep bring on Bojan and not Henry? I know Henry is not known for his heading ability, but surely his height would have been as asset, because like everybody is saying, they weren’t getting much change playing their slick short passes?


    • Posted by Timmy on 2010/04/29 at 7:58 AM

      There was one MAJOR difference. The US won 2-0 while Inter lost 0-1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Inter had one shot the entire game.


      • Posted by Colin on 2010/04/29 at 8:04 AM

        Sort of…in the grand scheme of things….Inter won 3-2. If they hadnt gone up 3-1 in the first leg, they wouldnt have played the way they did in the second leg. Compounded by the fact that they went a man down…they really had no reason to be attacking. Basically, Inter played 90 minutes the way the US did for the last 10 minutes of the US v Spain match.


  4. Posted by Tom M on 2010/04/29 at 7:27 AM

    I was all pumped to watch the Fulham match having the day off but alas GOLTV is showing the Liverpool v Atletico match instead. The Fullham v Hamburg match is being replayed at 8. Damn!


  5. Posted by robbie on 2010/04/29 at 7:54 AM

    What a beautiful game. Inter would have played almost the same way had Motta not been ridiculously sent off but had a little more confidence to counter. In my mind I wouldn’t doubt that Inter would have won 1-0 or tied 1-1 with 11 men.

    Much love here for Eto’o as well. He played a great game…..at LEFT BACK. That was all out heart. I liked him before but he gained so much more respect from that performance.

    Mourinho is the flipping man.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/04/29 at 7:59 AM

      Two points

      – Two things in the first half showed me just how disciplined Inter was.
      a) Milito had the ball at the 20 min mark….AND TOOK IT TO THE CORNER…he flipped a harmless cross in.
      *b) In the 1st half, Busquets slightly misplayed a ball that ran in front of him aways. There was an Inter defender on the flank. It was probably a 51/49 ball…a ball that by all means the defender should challenge for.

      You saw the defender take a step forward and then mentally…an then physically stop in his tracks and keep his shape. That…was…amazing.

      Good point on E’to moving to the left flank. From his game winner last year in the Final, to this performance against his old team. Two things:
      1) Can we say that Inter made the right move and Ibra was misued yesterday (oh…one more point on that)
      2) Recently given the captain’s armband…what a great example for E’to to poinnt to just a few weeks before the World Cup.

      On Guardiola…same thing for 70 mins. Take out your tall guy at 60 mins (I think)…start launching crosses into the box at 80 mins…


  6. I think Bradley actually got a lot of praise for getting the tactics spot on vs. Spain. Let’s face it, the US is not going to beat Spain by trying to play their game. It was mostly just sour grapes from the soccer “purists” who are appalled at the thought of the US defeating the top team in the world. However, if this had been the first leg and Inter played like this with 11 players, we’d hear a lot more about how Inter parked the bus. As it was, Inter defended a 2 goal lead for 60 minutes with 10 men against Barcelona. They didn’t even try to get out of their half, instead they just challenged Barcelona to break them down.

    Inter’s defensive effort was a thing of absolute beauty. The spacing, the concentration, the total effort with no respite was really something to see. Barcelona just could not pull them out of shape because they were just too slow with the ball. I think Busquets actually did his team no favor by getting Motta sent off with his play acting. If anything they were too dominant, leaving Inter with no choice but to collapse the space between defense and midfield they normally try to exploit.

    There’s an argument that it’s not even a foul – Motta is just trying to shield the ball with absolutely no intention to touch the players face, let alone cause injury. The same thing – a player reaching back to feel for the other player while shielding the ball – happened another dozen times in the game. It wasn’t a foul when Messi did it.

    I like watching Barcelona play, but I enjoy watching them lose even more because they are really quite disgraceful when it comes to this kind of stuff. Every team does it but they really take it to an entirely new level. All this talk of their beautiful game etc, when they are actually quite a dirty team.

    The only way this stops is when UEFA grow a pair and declare that a player deemed to have simulated an offense to get a player punished will serve the suspension instead. As we’ve seen, referees get things wrong over and over again – the authorities must acknowledge this and take action. Is there any doubt that Motta should be able to play in the final though he’ll probably get a 3 match ban while Busquets gets away with cheating.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/29 at 10:14 AM

      It’s easier to keep your defensive shape when you don’t commit players to attack!

      I also find it mildly amusing that Mourinho used to accuse Benitez and Liverpool for ‘parking the bus’ when Chelsea got knocked out in the SF a few years ago. Horses for courses!

      And his celebration at the end was brilliant – not bad for a “translator!!”

      George’s verdict: an ‘ugly’ win is better than a pretty loss.


      • Exactly – I honestly think Barca couldn’t managed two last night if they’d gotten Inter to come out more into attack, but that just wasn’t going to happen after they went down a man. Ultimately, Busquets hurt his own teams chances with his Hollywood turn.

        Mourinho’s complaints about Benitez were always a bit funny. However, those Liverpool teams were really negative, even by Mourinho’s standards. Inter were very positive in the first leg while Liverpool’s tactics were aimed at scoring once in 180 minutes and conceding none. Chelsea just never really had the ability to break them down without the fullbacks getting into the attack far more than Mourinho would allow in those matches.


        • Remember, for Chelsea it was always Robben on his own, for Bayern it’s Robben plus Lahm. A great winger plus a great attacking fullback is a very potent combination.


  7. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/29 at 9:58 AM

    Nobody can argue about Inter’s defensive display. BUT, would we all be saying that if Bojan’s goal stood? After all, it was a very harsh decision to call hand ball…. We all would have been saying “close but no cigar”. Not saying Inter didn’t deserve a slice of luck (like Barcelona did in last year’s SF)…


    • I think the handball call was harsh. It seem like the whistle came late so I doubt it would’ve been called if it hadn’t resulted directly in a goal. Still, it only evened out Pique’s goal which should have been called back for offside. Instant Karma.

      If Bojan’s goal had stood I would be saying “those despicable Barca cheaters have gone and won again”. Peek-a-Boo! http://i.cr3ation.co.uk/dl/s1/gif/a095b62ba601cdf2e9b5ff3d0e9c8069_biscuitsshakey.gif

      Again, the whole “if the referee doesn’t see it, it doesn’t exist” ethos must come to an end where simulation is concerned. After all, the officials look at video evidence to decided additional bans for foul play that has been spotted by the referee. Yet they won’t look at video evidence of efforts to deceive the referee through simulation? The laws say: “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final.” All they need to do is say “with the exception of attempts to deceive the referee through simulation where infringements may be punished with reference to conclusive video evidence.”


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/29 at 11:46 AM

        You think Pique’s goal was off? I thought Eto was playing him on in the left back zone. Moot point now.


  8. ugh, inter’s celebration after the whistle really irritated me. a lot. just seemed classless to do at barca, acting like you already won the cup.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/04/29 at 11:09 AM

      It’s only classless if you’re a Barcelona fan… Remember Barcelona at Stamford Bridge last year?

      I know people say you should be humble in victory and gacious in defeat, but I like a little emotion. I think it shows character and is brilliant.


  9. Posted by Jon C on 2010/04/29 at 11:33 AM

    Deuce starts on the bench for Fulham…bummer.


  10. Posted by Brad on 2010/04/29 at 12:28 PM

    Argh, the Hamburglers just scored. Fulham needs two now.


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