Tag Archives: Honduras

Patience is a virtue, except when it’s not

By and large, playing any game patiently is a good thing. You have a chance to take in everything that’s affecting the pitch – or the board or the court or the ice – and plan your response accordingly. Tactically, it makes sense because the times to throw caution to the wind are few and far between. Which brings me to Spain.

The Spanish style, under Vicente del Bosque, is to patiently build up the play. It’s to pass around, to control the pace (and the tempo – yes, they’re two different things), and to strike when the opportunity presents itself. Or when the opposition has fallen asleep. I kid. Spain actually plays a version of Barcelona’s system, in which a premium is placed on possession. To control the game, and to impose your will, surely leads to victory. Except when it doesn’t.

In Spain’s first World Cup game, a 1-0 loss to Switzerland (!), the patience worked against it. In the end, Switzerland’s Gelson Fernandes scored the only goal that mattered and when Spain actually played with some urgency, it was too late. Spain controlled the match in every way, except the scoreboard. And when that’s happening, you have to loosen the reigns. Spain’s squad is full of thoroughbreds, players who can start on any team in the world. To keep them shackled was criminal. Of course, the loss was a bad one, in the sense that it shouldn’t have happened. The second game was more typical of Spain’s game: it totally dominated Honduras and, but for some bad luck, would have won a lot more than 2-0. Indeed, it should have been 4-0 or 5-0, but it wasn’t. In the second game, despite the dominance, Spain looked lethargic, as if it was unsure of itself. As if they were intimidated by the world’s biggest stage. Who knows? Maybe the players were, to a degree.

David Villa scores for Spain against Chile (Márcio José Sánchez/AP)

Which brings me to today’s game, a 2-1 victory over Chile which put both teams through to the knockout stage and gave Spain the top spot (thus avoiding Brazil). For the first 20 minutes, Spain looked slow and, once again, lethargic. After David Villa’s amazing goal at 24 minutes, the team relaxed and played with the breezy confidence we’ve come to know and love. But for the first 15 minutes of the second half, Spain tightened up again, as if they were surprised that Chile would attack them (as if that’s surprising: Chile’s been attacking the entire tournament). It was only after the 60th minute that the team relaxed and played well again (at least until the 85th minute, when both teams stopped playing for the win, their places in the next round assured).

So patience was one of the keys to Spain’s epic undefeated streak (broken in last year’s Confederations Cup by the United States). And patience also led to that defeat, the defeat by Switzerland, and the panic (there is no better word) for about 35 minutes today. When is patience good? It’s good when the team is composed and relaxed. Passing the ball around and retaining possession is excellent, but if the players are tense the chances of colossal mistake rise exponentially (no, I can’t prove that scientifically, but anecdotal evidence supports me). And that was the problem. Spain was tense, perhaps because of the burden of past failures. And it’s only going to get more tense now that the knockout phase is officially starting.

Spain play Portugal and the former have to be careful not to get too frustrated with the latter’s stultifying defensive tactics. Spain needs to be in control and relaxed. Good things will come from both and will help Spain avoid another shock result.

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World Cup 2010: Group H jerseys

Switzerland is the outlier here, but not for any soccer-related reason. Once again, we have a colonial smackdown as Spain takes on Honduras and Chile, two former colonies. That should be fun (though probably not as fun as Portugal v. Brazil, simply because Spain is pretty awesome and neither Honduras nor Chile are awesome).

Chile home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

I’m going to assume that Chile chose red because chiles can be red. That seems to make sense to me. Otherwise, the jersey is boring bordering on catatonic. Even the Chilean FA’s crest is boring (that’s a stylized Chilean flag). I’ve already written too many words on this shirt. Moving on…

Honduras home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

The most interesting part of this shirt is the inside collar, which appears to have a stripe pattern reminiscent of old Honduras jerseys.  That said, it looks like Joma took all the worst things from Adidas’s templates from 2 or 3 years ago and put them on this shirt. I feel bad for the Honduran team because they have to wear this abomination. Which is sad, because Honduras is not terrible.

Spain home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

Ah, Spain. Classic shirt, classic color, and look at the FA’s crest. There must be something about the Iberian peninsula that causes sweet crests. Or maybe it’s the 1000-year long history of monarchy. Something like that. I’m not gonna lie: I love Spain’s shirt, not just because I love Spain but also because Spain has enough clout to force Adidas to not do anything stupid to it. And that’s always a good thing, because Adidas needs to learn to avoid stupid stripes and piping.

Switzerland home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

I suppose it’s only natural that the Swiss shirt inspires feelings of neutrality. Though I do like the FA crest (on the left shoulder; the little running dude).

So there you have. All 32 shirts in just a few short days. Some are good, some are bad, some are beyond awful. I think, just from back of the envelope calculations, that Nike acquitted itself well this time, which solid designs. On the other hand, Adidas is consistently bad while Puma is hit-and-miss (though the shoulder graphic thing works more often than it doesn’t). That doesn’t really say much about how the shirts will look on the pitch, but I’m looking forward to some more than others.

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Off to a rousing start

My adventure/Quixotic quest to get Canada into the 2010 World Cup is off to a far better start that I’d planned. As mentioned before, I decided to take a defensive/counter-attacking approach in the hope of minimizing the damage. The whole plan hinged on two things: 1) not giving up a lot of goals and 2) being able to make my chances count. Since I went into my first game with 1 point from the previous 6 matches (under the previous manager, who was canned after a horrible Gold Cup showing), I realized that I needed about 9 points from my next 6 matches to be in contention for the 4th spot (which is a playoff with the South American 5th place team).

I figured my first match would be an experimental match, in which I’d try the tactics and see how they worked. I didn’t know this would happen:

Canada 2-1 Mexico

Canada 2-1 Mexico

Yeah, you read that correctly. Two goals from Olivier Occean sealed the deal for me. I still don’t know how I did it, even after looking at the stats. I took my victory and moved on, though, to the next two World Cup Qualifiers, against Honduras and the US.

The first match was, once again, at BMO Field. The pundits, in their pre-match analysis, decided this would be a close game. Most predicted a draw. I decided to go for the win. And win I did, except it was a sloppy game. Errors abounded and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

Canada 2-1 Honduras

Canada 2-1 Honduras

The third match was the toughest. It was agaisnt the USA, which have already qualified for the World Cup with 17 points from CONCACAF play. I took a decidedly different tone in the press conference, trying to encourage my squad, to give them confidence. Of course, the press miscontrued my remarks. Curse you, MSM!

Pre-match press conference v. USA

Pre-match press conference v. USA

Nevertheless, we didn’t change any tactics though I had to put some different players in, owing to injuries. One of the things about running the national team is that I can’t get players match fit, like I can when I’m running a club. Thus, some of the players I called up were still not in game shape so there were two injuries to deal with. So, I plugged those players in and hoped for the best. And the best happened:

USA 0-1 Canada

USA 0-1 Canada

It was a Josh Simpson goal on 43 minutes that put me up. To be fair, the US played a few players that hadn’t played a lot since they have their World Cup spot locked up. But still, with a squad featuring Altidore, Donovan, and Bradley, it was hardly a U-17 team I was playing. This was, by far, the biggest win during my tenure, even bigger than the Mexico win.

As of right now, Canada is in 4th place, with 10 points. I think I can catch Jamaica for 3rd place, especially since we play Jamaica in our final qualifying game. The next match is against Costa Rica in Costa Rica. It will likely be a very tough game but the Canada squad will have renewed confidence going into the final 2 matches.

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