Montenegro 1-1 England: Montenegro start timidly but introduce attackers effectively

March 28, 2013

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“Branko Brnovic surprisingly started with a lone forward, but ended up with four outright attackers as Montenegro deservedly claimed a point. Brnovic’s selection was hampered by injuries and suspensions – Miodrag Dzudovic, Mitar Novakovic and Simon Vukcevic all came into the side. Roy Hodgson made significant changes from the side that comfortably defeated San Marino on Friday evening, with Danny Welbeck, Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick, James Milner, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson returning. A game of two halves – England dominated against an oddly passive Montenegro, but were unable to deal with the increased attacking threat after half-time.” Zonal Marking

England manager Roy Hodgson needs to wake up to some harsh realities as spectre of World Cup play-offs looms
” England are in a dark place, a potentially damaging and hugely expensive place. They trail to bullish Montenegro in the race for automatic qualification, face the possibility of a play-off against France and risk losing out on the 2014 Brazilian bonanza of £26m to the FA and £100m to the nation’s economy. Hodgson is confident of overtaking Montenegro, who lead Group H by two points, but the spectre of the play-offs should really focus his thoughts sharply. November’s two-legged examination of psychological, tactical and technical strengths must be avoided. Hodgson needs to stop clutching at draws and start winning, instilling a more assertive culture in his players and his own response to difficulties.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


Valdés steps up in Casillas’ absence, backstops Spain past France

March 28, 2013

” The camera kept focusing on Iker Casillas, but his replacement took center stage. High in the stands at Saint-Denis, Spain’s captain sat watching his countrymen play France, a broken finger having denied him the chance to make his 144th appearance; down on the pitch, Víctor Valdés was the man chosen in goal instead. Like Casillas, he was about to prove decisive. For some he was about to prove a discovery — at the age of 31. Spain traveled to Paris knowing that if it did not win it risked not making it to Brazil in 2014; the world champions, unable to defend their crown.” SI


Four Thoughts: U.S. earns hard-fought point at Estadio Azteca

March 28, 2013

“Four thoughts after the U.S.’s 0-0 tie against Mexico in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier: • The U.S. got a Golden Point in the vaunted Estadio Azteca. Sixteen years after the U.S. got its only competitive point against Mexico in the history of this stadium, another group of committed Yanks pulled off the same feat, earning a deserved tie in the Thunderdome that used to be the U.S.’s house of horrors. Mexico was a remarkable 68-1-6 in World Cup qualifiers in the history of the Azteca, but El Tri hasn’t played well here lately, and the U.S. weathered a storm of Mexican attacks down the right side (targeting left back DaMarcus Beasley) and kept its mettle in the most difficult of road environments. It’s amazing how much can change in a week.” SI


Venezuela 1-0 Colombia: Venezuela keep two upfront & offer a consistent threat on the break

March 28, 2013

“Venezuela recorded an important victory to strengthen their chances of qualifying for their first-ever World Cup. Cesar Farias made two changes from the side which lost 3-0 to Argentina. Cesar Gonzalez replaced Luis Seijas on the right, while Fernando Aristeguieta played upfront rather than Frank Feltscher. Mario Yepes was out, so Luis Perea came in at the back. Jose Pekerman pushed Juan Cuadrado forward to the right wing, with Juan Zuniga at right-back. Venezuela deserved this victory – they were forced to withstand pressure as Colombia dominated possession throughout, but the home side produced more goalscoring opportunities.” Zonal Marking