Can the Spaniards score five again today? Only time will tell. Not much of a preview forthcoming, although everyone's been a little up in arms about the Xabi-on-Cesc violence in training yesterday (less people care about Albert Riera injuring Santi Cazorla, although considering the little fella made the starting XI today, I'm guessing he's fine).
Lineups and liveblog after the jump. Let's do this!
Casillas (c) - Capdevila, Pique, Marchena, Sergio Ramos - Xabi Alonso - Mata, Xavi, Santi Cazorla - Villa, Torres.
Subs: Albiol, Puyol, Pablo, Fabregas, Sergio, Diego Lopez, Llorente, Guiza, Riera, Arbeloa, Silva, Reina.
Mohammed K. - Basem, Ali Hussein, Fareed M., Mohammed Ali, Salam - Muayad - Hawar, Nashat (c), Samer - Alaa A.
Subs: Noor, Salih, Imad, Luay, Abdul Wahhab, Younus, Karrar, Dara, Mahdi, Isam, Oday, Halkor M.
0 mins: Everyone's out on the pitch, the fucking vuvuzelas are blaring, and the awesomely named Matthew Breeze from Australia is the ref.
Apparently Fernando Torres is atop the Castrol Index currently (according to the Confederations Cup official website), whatever that means. Meanwhile, John Harkes and JP Dellacamera are in the booth, and that's not as bad as it could be.
2 mins: A subdued, gentle start as Spain do their training ground passing without much difficulty early on. Torres gets the ball in midfield with his back to goal and spins off his marker with ease, though he's closed down at the edge of the box.
Iraq clear a cross from Capdevila and enjoy some possession of their own.
3 mins: Xavi tries to beat the offside trap with a long ball forward for Villa, but it bounces softly all the way to Mohammed K. in the area.
4 mins: A battle for the midfield is emerging, hopefully with no bloodshed. Torres tries to beat the trap but the through-ball is too long and runs out for a goal kick. Fernando is really slacking thus far; nearly 5 minutes gone and no goals to speak of. He'll have a hard time matching his 3-in-17-mins from the other day.
David Villa enjoys one stepover too many after getting himself a yard of space in the area. Instead of trying to square it, he dilly-dallies and three Iraqis relieve him of possession.
6 mins: The Spanish approach is obvious: use the high Iraqi defensive line to spring that offside trap wherever possible. Alonso tries to pick out Mata, but the winger timed his run a fraction early and gets flagged. Marginal call, and a sign that Iraq will not be able to stop them for 90 mins in that respect.
8 mins: Inexplicably, the first actual shot of the game is from Santi Cazorla, and it's not particularly good; he cuts in from the right with his marker missing in action, and shoots rather weakly on his left foot. Mohammed K. is grateful for the simple save.
10 mins: Iraq have a shot (didn't see who it was; Casillas fell on it easily anyway), and then Spain get a free-kick in a dangerous spot on the right edge of the box as Santi Cazorla is felled like a redwood. After some trickery by Xavi and Villa, it falls to Capdevila to actually shoot, but the Iraqi wall holds up.
13 mins: A bit sleepy at the moment, as Iraq's midfield appears to compress into the backline every time Spain enter the attacking third. Torres then gets a little greedy; after snipping the ball off Cazorla's foot, he drags a shot well wide from the edge of the box with Cazorla clamoring for the return pass to set him free. Iraq's shaky backline lives to fight another day.
@Tuffy -- yeah, I think those jokes should die. I'm looking for more veiled war references at this point.
15 mins: Spain win a corner! Mata steals the ball from Nashat in the middle and scurries goalward. He finds Torres who holds it before spreading it wide for Capdevila, and his cross is blocked out by Mohammed Ali. Nevermind, as the corner swings in and Torres' header is wide of the back post.
17 mins: Great chance for Spain! Xavi and Torres play a lovely one-two, and Torres is clean on goal. Mercifully for Iraq, Mohammed K. comes off his line and does enough with his dive to put the Spaniard off his rhythm, and the ball goes out for a goalkick. Still, Spain are turning the screws slowly but surely. Goal forthcoming within the next 10, I'd say. This Iraqi technique of playing 10 behind the ball as if they were Sunderland at Old Trafford will not last!
The midfield is not really being contested. You can bet it would be if it were elections! Heyo!
20 mins: Based on the amount of gusto displayed by vuvuzela blowers all around the stadium, you'd think South Africa would be producing some excellent jazz. These guys have the lungs and cheeks of Dizzy Gillespie!
Torres gets hauled down some 35 yards out, and Xavi decides to shoot/cross for goal. Mohammed K. gathers easily. Then Sergio Ramos does a good job of dispossessing Ali Hussein, but not without fouling him first. D'oh.
24 mins: zzzz already? Say it ain't so. Spain are doing well to hurry Iraq out of possession in the midfield, but they're not able to do much with it as soon as Iraq shoves all personnel behind the ball. Spain attack trying to dodge the white-shirted, hard-tackling landmines, but so far it's all in vain, a fool's errand.
I am impressed that Iraq are just man-marking Torres and Villa thus far.
GO-ALMOST! Sergio Ramos plays a sexy cross into the box, bamboozling Mohammed K and rooting him to his line... the ball sets up wonderfully for Villa, but he sidefoots his volley into the side-netting. For shame, David, for shame. And to think you're angling for a summer transfer. You will end up in the French Ligue 1 with profligacy like that!
31 mins: Sorry folks, stepped out as my son needed a diaper change. If I vanish at any point, that's likely where I am. Meanwhile, I've missed not a whole lot on the pitch. Spain continue to knock at the door but Iraq aren't letting 'em in.
33 mins: The most dangerous thing for Iraq to defend thus far has been Ramos' crossing of the ball. He floats in another peach of a cross that Muayad heads out for a corner. Nothing doing from the set-piece.
Spain are flooding the box but finding no room to work; that's what happens when eleven Iraqis crowd the area themselves.
36 mins: Spaniards are lining up to shoot, but they're all getting in each other's way. Torres is the latest to fluff a chance and lose possession.
38 mins: Xabi Alonso gets a yellow card for barging through the back of Salam in pursuit of a loose ball. Iraq botch the free-kick completely.
44 mins: Still no way through for Spain (as I feed the boy)... I enjoyed the play-acting by both Torres (c'mon friendo, you ran into the guy's shoulder!) and Mohammed K (Ramos didn't even touch your face, you pansy) either side of that headed chance on goal. The longer this remains scoreless, the more frustrated Spain must be getting.
Now they're comparing Iraq's boring gameplan to that of Chelsea when they went to Barcelona in the Champions League. A bit harsh, that. Iraq are clearly trying harder than the Blues did.
HALF TIME: Spain 0, Iraq 0
I've seen better.
Back in 15 for the second half. I may do a Goals Dance on the deck outside in the interim. Most likely, I'm changing another poopy diaper. To complete the analogy, Spain's attacking thus far has been as inconsistent as baby poo. Something ain't clicking (and no, Precious Roy, it's not the absence of Fabregas).
49 mins: And I'm back. Torres can't leap high enough to direct a header goalward, but the second half begins much like the first ended; Spain are trying in vain to get round the back, and they're not creating many chances.
What we have here in Iraq is Greece 2.0, a well-drilled, well-organized team that knows how to do one thing, and one thing only: choke the life out of their opponent. They'll make the semis on form like this.
David Villa gets caught marginally offside, but no matter as his shot ended up in the heavens anyway.
And John Harkes takes time to utter the first truly dumb comment of the day... I'm paraphrasing, but basically the thing that's stopping Spain from scoring is the absence of a guy like Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese) or Lionel Messi (Argentinian)... I think they managed just fine in Euro 08 and on Sunday without those two. Sometimes the creativity just doesn't show up.
52 mins: Another half-chance for Spain, as Mata gets a wayward volley blocked out for a corner. Impressed by Iraq's ability to make this game boring thus far.
WONDERFUL CHANCE FROM THE SET PIECE! It's just not David Villa's day, is it? The corner is taken short to Santi Cazorla, and his swung-in cross, with four Spaniards lurking to nod it in, is guided right into Mohammed K's hands by Villa.
Iraq stride down the other end and win a free kick as Marchena body-checks Alaa A. Would have been a nice screen in basketball.... not a bad effort by captain Nashat, but it's low and wide of Casillas' near post. Still, it counts as a shot on goal.
55 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and finally David Villa gets a header right. Iraq were caught static in the middle as Capdevila overlaps Mata and puts a lovely cross into the six-yard box... the Iraqi center-backs Salam and Ali Hussein let David Villa set up camp right between them, and he leaps unchallenged to glance it inside the far post. Mohammed K. had no chance. Will this force Iraq to have a go at goal themselves? Spain 1, Iraq 0
58 mins: Xavi to Xabi from the corner, and Alonso's low rocket shot is well held by Mohammed K. Think that goal broke Iraqi spirits, and the second is coming..
66 mins: Sorry to the few readers -- had to wake up LB jr's mum for feedy time.
Spain are generating tons of possession and pressure - Torres just went close as nary an Iraqi felt to chase down the long ball, and then Villa gets mauled in midfield trying to kickstart something.
Sub for Spain: Santi Cazorla off, David Silva on. Like for like.
Ramos is not tall enough to reach Mata's overhit, drifting cross from wing to wing. Sloppy from Spain. Then Ramos does well to step in and relieve Alaa A. of the ball.
69 mins: Xabi Alonso shoots from distance again, but it's always slicing over the bar. Spain are reduced to shooting from range as Iraq's defense is relatively compact.
Sub for Iraq: Hawar off, Karrar on. I presume this means something to someone. Ol' Bora working his bag of tricks again!
Mata's not been very good. Spain are camping in the Iraqi third, trying to string together some passes. Mata gets it front and center, but duffs a shot wide right from 20 yards. Disappointing. Like I said three sentences ago, he's not been very good.
COMMENT NATION: Thoughts about tomorrow morning's game? We'll be liveblogging... you'll be up for that one, right?
@Tuffy -- I noted in my Iraq preview that they would bring a well-organized squad to the competition, and they should qualify for the knockout stage. I don't see NZ beating them, but with both the Kiwis and Springboks being so awful, I'd imagine they'd make the next round with three draws.
73 mins: Great chance for Iraq to equalize! I missed who it was taking the shot, but it was narrowly wide of Casillas' goal. Spain surge forward again, but the 9 Iraqis in and around the area are able to snuff out the danger.
Bit crap this game, innit?
Sub for Spain: David Villa off, Daniel Guiza on. Another like for like move by Del Bosque.
76 mins: Still no breakthrough for Spain to really feel comfortable in this one. Iraq break down the left with Karrar, but he tumbles to the turf like a pile of wet laundry under minimal pressure from Marchena, in search of a free-kick. Matthew Breeze is not easily fooled. Need to be a strong bluster to get his attention.
All puns aside, Mr. Breeze has had little to do in this one. He is almost certainly not winded from his exertions.
79 mins: Mata, Mata, Mata.... tsk tsk tsk. He has a bit of room to run onto a throughball in the box, and he blasts a left-footed shot right at Mohammed K. with half the goal to aim at. Awful finishing from the winger.
Final Sub for Tora Bora: Younus comes on to replace Alaa A., I think.
As that's happening, Del Bosque dusts off his final replacement: Sergio Busquets is about to replace someone.
Daniel Guiza blasts a mile wide from a mile out. Not a good way to endear yourself to the masses.
81 mins: Mata fouls someone near the right touchline to cement the truth that he's been rubbish today.
Here's that sub.... Busquets on, Xavi "The Basque Bulldog" Hernandez takes an early shower.
Iraq waste their free-kick from a minute ago, but Karrar dives in front of Sergio Ramos to earn another one. Could we see a shocker here?
No. It's headed clear.
90 mins + 1: Sorry folks, my computer crashed. This has been a dire liveblog, but much like this game, they can't all be as amazing and drama-filled as the doubleheader we saw on Monday. It's been an alternation of Super Spanish Summer Camp around the Iraqi box, and the odd heart-in-mouth breakaway from Iraq.
I promise my efforts tomorrow morning will be much better.
FULL TIME: Spain 1, Iraq 0
A pretty boring, rubbish game in which Spain did the equivalent of trying to fit a square peg through a round hole for 60-odd minutes before Villa's successful header. It didn't get much better after that, either.
Thank God it's over! I'd expect a reserves XI for their final group game now that qualification is assured.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Xabi Alonso: pretty hated machine