France capitalizes on mistakes, beats Germany to reach Euro Final

MARSEILLE – French striker Antoine Griezmann took advantage of mistakes by the defending World Champions Germany and scored twice to book a place in the Final.

With the 2-0 scoreline the host will now face Portugal in Saint Denis on July 10.

Germans Take Control Early

The first good chance of the game to no surprise came from Griezmann who found space to take a shot to the far post but Manuel Neuer denied him. From that point on the Germans took control of the possession of the ball, created a few chances and put the French back-line under duress.

In the 13th minute Emre Can who had not played a minute in the competition quickly became one of the most dangerous player for Germany was able to serve a ball into the far post where Thomas Muller was only able to chip the cross which went wide off the mark. In the following play Can had a shot of his own saved by Lloris.

The next chance came in the 27th minute when once again Lloris was called upon this time to save a shot from distance from Bastian Schweinsteiger.

It looked as if it was only a matter of time before Germany would get ahead in the game. However in the final minutes of the first half the defending world champions allowed France to get back in the game which proved to be a costly mistake.

German gift

Th first warning came in the 42nd minute when center back Jerome Boateng failed to field the ball and allowed Olivier Giroud to have nothing but space between him and the goal. It took a great effort and miraculous sliding tackle from Benedikt Howedes to block Giroud’s shot.

In a corner kick in the 45th minute a header from Patrice Evra hit Schweinsteiger extended right arm and was called for a penalty.

Griezmann who came into the semifinal match as the leading scorer in the tournament with 4 goals, took the penalty and added the fifth to his tally sending Neuer the wrong way just before the end of the first half.

Frustration

After having been better for most of the first half, Germany found themselves trailing at the half. The team was visibly frustrated and that translated into the way they were playing.

Giround and Griezmann created a couple of chance in the first minutes of the second half. Finding themselves down a goal, Germany began to play long balls hoping to force a mistake.

Although Germany eventually regained the possession, the team was falling short of creating chances.

In the 72nd minute a cross into the box force Neuer to come up to cut it but the ball fell right in the path of Griezmann who was able to tap in his second goal of the night.

Late Efforts

It wasn’t until Germany was down 2-0 when the team finally seemed to be able to create chances. Although it had to do more with France dropping back to defend than Germany mounting a decisive attack.

France suffered the most a few minutes after Griezmann’s second goal. In the  79th minute a set piece delivered to the heart of the box was almost sent into the back of the net by the French defense, in the ensuing corner kick Shkodran Mustafi saw his shot go over the bar. Three minutes later Howedes header went just high of the goal of Lloris

The last opportunity for Germany came in the 93rd minute when Joshua Kimmich’s header was saved by Hugo Lloris.

Is worth noting that the most active player defensively from France was Samuel Umtiti who played just for the second time with the national team after making his debut in the quarterfinals against Iceland.

The FC Barcelona bound center back will likely get the nod to start in the backline once again in the final.

Due to injuries France had to find replacements at center back for Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane, Jeremy Mathieu, Aymeric Laporte and Kurt Zouma. Umtiti played against Iceland due to the suspension of Adil Rami.

For all the glory

France who had a shaky start and had many questions around it’s starting lineup is now 90 minutes away from their third European Championship.

Their rival Portugal who had an abysmal group stage has slowly gotten better and were able to come on top on the weaker side of the bracket after sending Croatia, Poland and Wales home.

Cristiano Ronaldo has also found a bit more momentum on his play and now has what it could be an opportunity to win a major trophy with the national team that is unlikely to repeat itself in the near future.

France come in as the best offense in the tournament having scored 13 goals so far. France has also been strong defensively and has allowed a total of four goals in six games. Two of the allowed goals have come from penalties and the other two they conceded were against Iceland when they had a four-goal lead.

Portugal is seeking its first European Championship and to cause France the same heartache they went through 12 years ago when they lost the 2004 Euro final to Greece at home. While France could win its fourth major tournament as a host. France previously won the 1984 European Championship and the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup as host. The only two titles France has conquered outside their boundaries are the 2000 UEFA Euro in  Belgium-Netherlands and the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup in Korea-Japan.

The winner of the European Championship will become the seventh confirmed participant at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

 

 

Germany edges Italy in shootout to reach Euro Semis

BORDEAUX — In a penalty shootout full of drama, Germany was able to outlast a feisty Italy 6-5 after nine different players had to step to the spot.

Although Italy remains undefeated against Germany in official competitions, with the penalty shootout victory became the first time that Germany was able to send the Italians packing.

Here are the keys of the game

Too much respect

Germany who had been utilizing a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout  the tournament made a change to a 4-4-2 formation to try to put more pressure on the Italian back line and reduce the space in the midfield.

The intent was good in theory but in practice was completely different. Since the two full backs aren’t players known to go on the attack, the German team had trouble in opening  the game upfront and failed to create chances against the Juventus trio of Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini.

On the other hand, Italy continued to respect the same philosophy of allowing its opponent to have most of the possession of the ball but have a very direct attack once they reclaim possession.

Moving away from the script

After a not very entertaining first half, Germany began to up the pressure on Italy. The first decent opportunity came for Germany in the 54th minute when Muller shot from distance but his shot was acrobatically saved near the goal line by Alessandro Florenzi.

In the 65th minute, a clearance by Manuel Neuer ended in Mario Gomez with possession of the ball along the left sideline and trapped in between three Italian defenders. Jonas Hector for the first time in the game made a deep run, Gomez touched the ball into space and Hector was able to serve the ball into the heart of the box where Mesut Ozil emerged to place the ball into the back of the net.

Missed opportunity

After the goal, Germany took full control of the game and it seemed to be set for Germany to seal their place in the semifinals. Just three minutes after taking the lead the Germans had a golden opportunity to do so when Ozil with a lobbed ball into the box set up Gomez who had to hit the ball with his heel from short range and Buffon was able to make a heroic save to keep Italy alive.

Slowly Italy began to get back into the game and received a gift in the 76th minute when Jerome Boateng handled the ball inside the box. Bonucci stepped up to take the penalty and tied the game in the 78th minute.

Final efforts

After the game was leveled without many arguments Germany tried a bit more to try to win the game before the shootout, the only chances Germany generated came early in the second half of extra time at the 107th minute Draxler took an acrobatic shot  near the goal which sailed just high of the goal. One minute later Draxler led the counter for Germany and had Muller wide open on the right but his through ball was a bit long and the last great chance of the game was missed.

Germany will now face the winner of the France-Iceland game on July 7 in Marseille. Germany will not be able to count with centerback Mats Hummels for the game due to accumulation of yellow cards.

 

Chile beats Argentina again in penalties

EAST RUTHERFORD — Just like in last year’s final in Santiago, Chile claimed the Copa America title after a hard fought 0-0 draw and once again Chile conquered the continent in penalty kicks.

The game saw a little bit of everything, from two red cards, a questionable officiating in the first half, important saves by the goalkeepers and a Lionel Messi miss in penalties that ultimately that resulted in Chile second continental title in less than a year.

Coming out strong

From the start of the game, Argentina came out with the initiative and just 15 seconds into the game Ever Banega tried his luck from distance but his shot wen just wide off the mark.

The best from Argentina came early in the first half, Argentina was able to pressure Chile up high and not give them much space to work with, this helped Argenitna recover the ball closer to the opposite goal which allowed them to create  a few chances.

In the 19th minute Di Maria took a shot from the edge of the box with his weaker right foot which sailed over the bar, then in the 24th minute Nicolas Otamendi’s header also was off the mark.

Missed Chances

In the 20th minute, Gonzalo Higuain stole the ball from Chile’s last defender Gary Medel and had a one-on-one with Claudio Bravo but thought about what too do for too long and his chip over Bravo went wide left of the goal.

Chile who was slightly better in the second half and in the 64th minute had a four on three on the counter but were unable to capitalize after Alexis Sanchez got into an offside position.

In the 84th minute Messi set up Sergio Aguero who had space and his shot sailed over the crossbar.

In stoppage time Alexis Sanchez had the best opportunity for Chile but his shot was saved by Ramiro Funes Mori and led to a counter attack by Argentina in which Messi found space after running past three Chilean players but his shot went wide.

After the miss from Higuain in the first half, the next best opportunity for Argentina came in the 100th minute when an Aguero header which was going into the the top corner was miraculously saved by Bravo.

Referee

In the 18th minute Marcelo Diaz earned a yellow for a harsh foul on Messi, 12 minute later he committed another foul on Messi and earned a questionable second yellow as it appeared that a foul call was enough.

In the 42nd minute Marcos Rojo came sliding from behind on Arturo Vidal and saw a straight Red Card despite having made contact with the ball although he appeared to have kicked Charles Aranguiz in the aftermath of the game.

Reducing each team to ten men early forced players to cover more ground and didn’t had the legs to run during extra time and also made both teams worry more about not making a costly mistake rather that go after the goal.

Messi

For third straight final Argentina was unable to win a title after reaching the final and also failed to score in those three finals.

Despite not having been involved much in past finals, in today’s game Messi was the best player on the field and carried the team, the problem was that his teammates were far off their best level.

Angel Di Maria who started the game was not 100 percent healthy and had to be replaced early in the second half. Both strikers Higuain, then Aguero failed to make an impact. The second best player in the Argentine side was Ever Banega who did manage to combine in a few plays going on the attack.

Many others like Lucas Biglia in the midfield and Marcos Rojo who got sent off  had a horrible outing.

Despite his play during the 120+ minutes of the game on the shootout Messi was unable to convert his penalty after Arturo Vidal had his penalty saved by Romero.

Fair Result

Chile conquered their first Copa America on home soil a year ago and it seemed unfair for them to have to come back just one year later to mount a title defense, but at the same time there couldn’t have been a better moment to do so. Chile’s star players are in their prime and by earning their second title showed the world that they can compete with everyone, anywhere and legitimized themselves as powerhouse in the realm of soccer.

Chile will be the two time defending champions when they play the next edition for Copa America in Brazil in 2019. Next year Chile will have an opportunity to add more silverware when they take part in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

Argentina once again delivered great soccer throughout the tournament but failed to deliver in the final match and even more worrying is the fact that after 360 minutes in three combined final losses Argentina failed to score a single goal.

Argentina will have to wait at least two years to try to break the silverware dry spell at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

 

Colombia 1-0 USA – Recap in photos

Glendale — After having done very little in the opening match against the same rival. The U.S. showed more composure and looked more threatening in its third place game rematch between the U.S. and Colombia.

However a free kick that forced a great save by David Ospina in the 50th minute and a 61st Bobby Wood strike off the post was the closest that the U.S was able to get.

Colombia who looked slightly more comfortable only needed a moment of brilliance to score the games’ lone goal. In the 31st minute Juan Cuadrado received the ball on the right, he laid it off to James Rodriguez who lobbed the ball into open space to allow Santiago Arias to get in wide open and serve the ball to Carlos Bacca who only had to tap it into the open goal.

Colombia held on to secure a 1-0 win and claim the third place in the Copa America Centenario.

Here is the gallery of the game:

Messi makes history, propels Argentina to final

HOUSTON —  Thanks to an inspired Lionel Messi, Argentina defeated a depleted U.S team 4-0 to reach their third final in three years and now await the winner of the Chile-Colombia match in Chicago to learn who their opponent for the Copa America Centenario Final will be.

Here are the key points to the Argentina victory:

Changes in the line-up

Due to the suspension of midfielders, Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and forward Bobby Wood, the U.S. was forced to make four substitutions to the team that defeated Ecuador in the quarter finals and also forced manager Jurgen Klinsmann to play with a 4-4-1-1 formation instead of the 4-3-3.

The changes brought in Kyle Beckerman, Graham  Zusi and Chris Wondolowski who didn’t have an impact on the team.

Paying the Price

The biggest point of criticism for the U.S. is that from the start of the game they conceded the possession of the  ball and seemed to have come out with the sole purpose to hold Argentina for 90 minutes and the plan immediately back fired.

Less than three minutes into the game off a corner, Lionel Messi served a great lobbed pass into the left of the box where Ezequiel Lavezzi appeared unmarked to head the ball into the back of the net to after Brad Guzan was unable to get out to cut the pass.

From very early in the game Argentina was in full control of the game and was never put under any real pressure throughout the game.

The first time that the U.S. managed to get inside the 18-yard box of the opposition was until the 35th minute of the game when they were already down 2-0, and the first decent cross into the box was from DeAndre Yedlin looking for Wondolowski but was cleared by Nicolas Otamendi

To make matters worse for the U.S. was that once again early in the half Argentina managed to score the third goal through Gonzalo Higuain to finish all hopes of a miraculous comeback.

The final nail in the coffin came in the 86th minute when Steve Birnbaum lost possession of the ball in his own half, which Messi took into the box and set up Gonzalo Higuain to simply tap the ball into the net.

Making History

Messi once again has a great performance as he netted a goal and contributed with two assists to lead his team to the final.

With his 32th minute cracking free kick strike to the upper corner of the goal Messi reached scored his 55th goal for the national team to make him the most prolific goal scorer in Argentina’s history after surpassing the 54-goal record from Gabriel Batistuta.

To add to his impressive number of accolades, Messi also with his two assists became the player with the most assists in the 100-year history of Copa America.

Next Challenge

With the win, Argentina has reached their third straight final in the same number of years after falling to Germany in extra time in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, then fell to Chile in penalties at last year’s Copa America Final.

On June 26 we’ll find out if third time is the charm for Argentina as they await for their rival from the clash between the defending champion Chile and Colombia in Chicago.

 

Chile annihilates Mexico to set up clash with Colombia

SANTA CLARA — Chile thrashed a very poor Mexican team 7-0 in the Copa America Centenario led by a high powered attacking trio between Edson Puch, Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas.

Chile took control of the game from the beginning and gave Mexico its worst loss in any official competition in its history and the second worst all time. Mexico’s worst lost in history was a 8-0 defeat in a friendly against England in 1961.

Here are the keys to the game:

Fast Start

There is no question that Chile was better, faster and smarter than Mexico in all facets of the game, but from early on the Chileans took control of the ball and pressured the Mexico back up high to send a clear message.

Chile played similarly as when both teams had faced each other 17 days earlier in San Diego but this time they finished their chances.

Just 10 minutes in Nestor Araujo was forced to make a good sliding tackle to prevent Puch to open the score after Hector Moreno completely lost its mark.

At the 16th minute Marcelo Diaz struck a shot from distance which was saved by Guillermo Ochoa but the rebound fell to the feet of Puch who had to tap the ball into the net to take the lead.

Just before halftime Eduardo Vargas after a great ball from Alexis Sanchez extended the lead to 2-0 after 44 minutes to put Mexico against the wall.

Vargas went on to score four goals in the match, Puch scored twice and Sanchez scored one in the 7-0 rout.

Everything went wrong

As I had mentioned before, the biggest issue I had with Juan Carlos Osorio was the constant and unnecessary number of changes to the line-up from one game to the next.

The reason Chile was able to humiliated Mexico is because the same players have been playing together and under the same system for more than seven years. Arturo Vidal has the ability to find Sanchez without having him on his sights because of how well they know each other’s movements .

In the stating lineup Osorio used two of the best players and put them in roles they are completely unfamiliar with. Andres Guardado who plays in the middle close to the left flank was used as a defensive midfielder. Herrera who typically does the same but on the opposite side was used as a No. 10 to play behind Javier Hernandez. Those moves by Osorio left miles of space through the flanks that both full backs Jose Fuenzalida and Jean Bousejour took advantage of to put numbers up front and gave Mexico a very hard time getting the ball up to their attackers.

The key moment of the game was at the start of the second half when Raul Jimenez who came off the been created a half chance for Mexico and was then followed by a huge defensive mistakes just two minutes later. In the 49th minute Mexico’s defense found themselves under pressure and instead of trying to clear the ball lost possession and Alexis Sanchez made them pay scoring the third goal of the game and sealing the win for Chile.

Team falls apart

With the 3-0 scoreline the team completely fell to pieces. The most humiliating aspect of the game was that the team stopped competing and Chile’s front three had an absolute feast the play that marked what kind of game it was came in the 74th minute when Sanchez started the play on the left and placed the ball looking for a teammate in the far post, two Mexican defenders where in position to make a play but got caught ball-watching allowing Puch to slide and hit the post and Vargas who came from behind out his shot on target on a tough angle.

Individual Performances

It’s hard to asses a team after suffering such a massive blowout the only decent players fro the Mexican side where the two substitutes that came from the bench Raul Jimenez and Carlos Peña who showed just a bit more character and desire to do something, others like Corona and Javier Hernandez are hard to judge because they barely had any contact with the ball although Corona’s play off the ball wasn’t great and gave plenty of space to Fuenzalida. The rest, especially the defense had an abysmal evening.

Historical Context

Chile’s 7-0 victory is the largest margin of victory in a Copa America since the 1999 tournament when Brazil defeated Venezuela by the same scoreline. The win also ties Chile’s best result ever along with two other 7-0 victories against Venezuela in 1979 and Armenia in 1999. Both Sanchez and Vargas reached 35 goals with the national team tying Ivan Zamorano for second place as the most prolific scorers in Chilean history and are now just two goals shy of the record holder Marcelo Salas.

For Mexico this became the second worst loss in its history. The last time Mexico was blown out in Copa America was a 3-0 to Argentina in the 2007 tournament semifinals and a 4-0 loss to Brazil in the 2004 Copa America quarterfinals.

Lessons

Although Osorio is a very knowledgeable and innovative coach he needs to understand that first he needs to impose a style of play that the players are really familiar with which he’s done to some extent. The next step to make is to settle a starting eleven in order to gain familiarity not just with his system but with each other and needs to ensure the players stick to roles that they are comfortable in.

Too many times in this Copa America strikers from the opposition found themselves behind the defense. In the game in Pasadena Jamaica generated almost as may chances as Chile the problem was that they weren’t able to finish them.

Despite the win Chile suffered an important blow, Arturo Vidal earned his second yellow of the tournament and will not be available for the semifinals, Chile will now face Colombia in what should be a great match to watch in Chicago on June 22. The other semifinal will be disputed between U.S. and Argentina in Houston on June 21.

 

Messi, Higuain lead Argentina past Venezuela

 

FOXBOROUGH — A pair of goals by Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain along with second half goals by Lionel Messi and Erik Lamela, helped Argentina secure a 4-1 win over Venezuela in the Copa America Centenario semifinals.

Salomon Rondon scored the lone goal from a feisty Venezuelan team that was able to make the Argentine back-line sweat, however it was too little too late.

Here are the main takeaways of the game:

Argentina strikes early

The biggest news before kickoff was that Messi was going to start his first game of the tournament after missing out the first game against Chile and coming off the bench against Panama and Bolivia.

In the 8th minute of the game Messi got right into business and delivered an impeccable 40-yard cross into the heart of the box for Higuain to put in the back of the net early in the game.

Argentina with the lead kept possession of the ball to manage their lead, however the second goal came after a big mistake from Arquimedes Figuera in the 28th minute, when he tried to play the ball back to his goalkeeper but the pass fell short and right into the path of Higuian who swiftly went around the goalie Danny Hernandez to score with an empty net and appeared to secure Argentina’s ticket to the semifinals.

Not so fast

Despite finding themselves down 2-0 before the half hour mark Venezuela didn’t give up, in the 35th minute Salomon Rondon stole the ball from Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano but Sergio Romero saved his shot to preserve the two goal lead.

Just four minutes later, Rondon had another chance from a corner but his header hit the post. Two minutes later Rof Feltscher took a shot from the edge of the box which was deflected and forced a miraculous save by Romero.

On the ensuing corner kick Romero committed a foul over Yosef Martinez giving Venezuela a great opportunity to cut the lead in half but Luis Seijas tried to lob his penalty down the middle which was easily saved by Romero.

Cruising into the win

After a rough patch at the end of the second half Argentina was able to keep Venezuela at bay. In the 60th minute Argentina extended the lead to 3-0 and in the process tied Gabriel Batistuta’s goal-scoring record with 54 goals with the Argentina national team.

Venezuela was able to get a goal back in the 70th minute when Alejandro Guerra’s cross found Rondon who placed his header into the far post, but the celebration was short lived as just one minute later Erik Lamela found the back of the net to seal the 4-1 victory.

Argentina will now play the host the U.S. on June 21 in Houston in the first semifinal. Nicolas Gaitan will not be available as he accumulated a second yellow. Angel Di Maria will be questionable due to injury.