My apologies for the tardiness of this post, folks. Sometimes regular life intrudes on the Arsenal life. Would that every day could be dedicated to The Arsenal, I’d be one happy camper (and my posts would show up in a more timely manner!). One hopefully positive event coming on Monday will be the official announcement of Laurent Koscielny as an Arsenal player. That’s the word going round, anyway. So lets hope there’s something on the dot.com and we can celebrate/commiserate his arrival depending on your view of the signing. 😉
Right. So, the Quarter Finals have come and gone. And what a cracking pair of matches we had yesterday! Germany. Geez, what can you say? An absolute annihilation of Argentina. The Netherlands is my team, but Germany look insanely strong and cohesive. Tough to find many weaknesses with them at the moment, and you probably wouldn’t go wrong laying a pound or two on them (although the odds have probably dwindled to the point of making a bet not terribly profitable).
Our main interest on the day, of course, was Spain v Paraguay. This match had it all. Good goal keeping. GREAT goal keeping. Some superlative attacking. Admirable defending. Oh, and as usual, some questionable refereeing. Less than a minute in Paraguay had a decent chance on goal, with the buildup coming after a throw in. Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets saw tough going against a determined Paraguayan midfield and there was little productive wide play for Spain in the first 20 minutes or so. Paraguay had an excellent chance to open their account on 21 minutes as, from a free kick, Antolin Alcaraz broke behind the Spanish defenders and nearly got his head on the inward swinging ball. Alcaraz was unmarked and would surely have tested Iker Casillas had the connection been made. The closest threat from Spain in the first 25 minutes came when David Villa controlled low in the box and tried to feed a pass across the goal mouth only to see it easily kicked away for a corner. Paraguay again nearly struck on 35 minutes as the run of play drifted wide left and Claudio Morel let loose with a beautiful cross from about 25 yards out, just missing the streaking Jonathan Santana for a header at the right side of the box. Paraguay suffered a questionable off sides that would have seen them go 1 up on 40 minutes as Nelson Valdez collected a cross in front of goal and beat Casillas. Spain were living on borrowed time at the close of the half.
Immediately following the 56th minute arrival of Cesc Fabregas we had the first big turning point of the match with Gerard Pique hauling down Oscar Cardozo in the box for a penalty. Cardozo took the penalty but was shown a world class stop by Iker Casillas, who not only blocked the shot but kept possession of the ball to rule out any follow-on play. Less than a minute later and David Villa was brought down at the other end on what should have been a straight red for denying a goal opportunity. Xabi Alonso successfully took the resultant PK, but the goal was disallowed as a few Spain players had entered the box prior to Alonso making the kick and he had to take it again. Given a reprieve, Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar was equal to Alonso’s second attempt but should have drawn his own penalty for bringing down Fabregas while trying to control the rebound. Just an insane 60 odd seconds of football. The 83rd minute finally saw Spain break through. Andres Iniesta made a quality run centrally, taking the ball to the top of the box before passing off to Pedro. Pedro controlled just wide of the penalty spot and lashed one off the far left post which rebounded to a waiting David Villa who put home his own off the post ball for the go ahead goal. Ricochet football, but it finally went in for the 1-0 lead. Paraguay were forced into the chase for the last 15 minutes of the match, and there are few sides better at keep-ball than Spain. Roque Santa Cruz tested Casillas on a rebound and Villa again asked a question of the Paraguayan keeper, but it was mostly 1 touch passing around the pitch to close out the match for Cesc and his mates.
Cesc Plays Super-sub, Adds Spark For Spain Victory
Finally! Yes, Cesc was again a second half sub. But this time he got on the pitch with the match still in question and Spain having something to play for. The 56th minute saw the Arsenal Captain replace a ghost-like Fernando Torres (no shots, no shots on goal). I know Torres was recovering from injury going into the World Cup, but he’s been nothing but a passenger while on the pitch thus far. Surely with Cesc coming on as his sub it might make sense to start Cesc in one of these matches and see what he can do. He can’t do any less than Torres has done thus far. Anyway, Spain’s attack had gone somewhat stale prior to Fabregas’ arrival, and it was a joy to see him bring some life to things. Following the penalty kick waffle on 60 minutes, Cesc did what Cesc does best…drive the attack, bringing the ball right up Route 1 then delivering an in-stride pass wide left to Iniesta who worked into the box and smashed a curler that forced the Paraguayan keeper to defensively parry. Spain’s ball movement was significantly better with Cesc on the pitch and they seemed to gain confidence in the attack as the match wore on. The Arsenal Captain was an effective spark for a languishing Spanish attack in this match, and one has to hope this positive display will see him get a start in the Semis on Wednesday.