Posts Tagged ‘spain’


As the Round of 16 begins, so do the importance of games. Every game now is a do-or-die for every team, and the best is expected to be brought out from every team.

The first day of the knockout stage was as exciting and tempting as it could get, with Sebia and Croatia tipping it off in a classic rival match. It is the first time both teams play each other in a basketball competition, as the Balkan neighbours fought a war in the early 1990s, and it was one of the best played games so far in the World Cup. Croatia came out strong, leading by 8 points at the end of the first quarter despite the Serbians making 8 of their first 11 shots. Serbia managed to cut the lead to 2 by halftime, and traded the lead 11 times with their neighbours, and eventually came on top by 4 by the end of three quarters. The last quarter started all Serbia, and the Serbians had an 8 point lead, 65-57, with 3 minutes to go, then Croatian guard Marko Popovic attempted to pull a Michael Jordan, impressively bringing the Croatians back into the game, scoring 21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, and managed to tie the score at 72. Aleksander Rasic was fouled and made 1 free throw and missed the second, making it difficult for Popovic and Croatia to win. Nenad Krstic led Serbia with 16 points, and Rasic had 5 points in the last 21 seconds as well.

In another rematch of the last World Cup final, Spain and Greece played the main event for the night, in an attempt to make it as great as its predecessor earlier in the day. Spain have beaten Greece in several occasions, including recently  last year in the EuroBasket semis. Spain and Greece kept on exchanging leads at certain points of the game, until the Spanish, with the help of Juan Carlos Navarro, 22 points, and Rudy Fernandez, 14 points (12 in the second half), broke away in the 4th quarter, winning 80-72 to set up a clash with Serbia in the quarters. Dmitrios Dimantidis, who retired internationally after the game, had 16 points and crucial blocks and steals, and Nikolaos Zisis had 16 points as well.

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4 days on the competition have past, and teams are starting to brighten up while other teams performances are being 180 degrees different from other games. After having a terrfic opener vs Canada, the Cedar Trees suddenly aren’t the same team, as New Zealand was another team to having a shooting perfection night against the Lebanese, handing them their biggest loss so far, diminishing Lebanese hopes of making the second round.

The game took a rough start for the Lebanese, as they were unable to get a shot off while the Tall Blacks came out firing three pointers from everywhere, not looking like the team that lost its first two games earlier in the competition. The Lebanese could never find their groove back in the game, especially with Jackson Vroman catching foul trouble (3 fouls in the first half) and eventually fouling out. Trailing 32 to 16 after the first quarter, the Cedar Trees play never improved, with players such as Matt Freije, who had two great games earlier against Canada and France, had finished with a miserable 4 points on 1 for 7 shooting.  At a point in the game, Elie Rustom commited a double dribble, a fault unacceptable in basketball and only commited by beginners. The game turned out so horrible for the Lebanese, losing 108-76, as it was just the complete opposite for New Zealand, who shot 57% from the floor, mainly due to their star Kirk Penney, who scored 26 points, including 6 3 pointers and Thomas Abercombie had 23 points as well, leading 4 other players in double figures for the Tall Blacks. Fadi El Khatib tried his best for Lebanon, scoring 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, but didn’t have the help expected from both Freije and Vroman. Rony Fahed and Jean Abdel Nour had 12 points apiece. Lebanon’s hopes of qualifying depend on them winning one more game, while Canada must beat New Zealand to give the Lebanese one more win than the  former two countries mentioned.

Another disappointing performance came from the defending world champs Spain, who were leading by as much as 18 points through the third quarter. That 18 point lead wouldn’t last for long against the Lithuanians, who stormed back into the game behind Linas Kleiza’s 17 points and was helped by his teammates Martynas Pocius and Jonas Maciulis, who had 13 points apiece to win 76-73. After a great start for Marc Gasol (18 points and 8 rebounds), Lithuania double teamed him, yet his Spanish teammates were unable to take advantage of that, making things easer for Lithuanians to get back into the game. Spain might face Greece in the Round of 16.

Another important clash took place, this time in Group C between the undefeated teams hosts Turkey and Greece for the top spot (most probably). The hosts came up on top from the beginning, riding Ersan Ilyasova’s hot hand to take a lead that would never be relinquished. The Greeks tried bringing the deficit down, but they weren’t able to grasp a lead, giving them their first loss in the tournament 76-65. Ilyasova had a game-high 26  points for Turkey while Bourousis was the only Greek in double figures (15 points).

Other Results:

Russia 72 – 66 Ivory Coast

Puerto Rico 84 – 76 China

France 68 – 63 Canada


Despite a horrible 7 point first quarter, team USA rebounded its way back into the game and delivered an excellent second half, including a 17-0 run, to serve Lithuania a 77-61 loss as a warmup for the FIBA World Cup that will begin on the 28th of this month.

Kevin Durant led the way with 15 points for Team USA, who shot 27 for 58, while Lithuania’s 25-for-62 shooting was led by Linas Kleiza’s 12 points.

Team USA trailed the first quarter 15-7 behind a woeful 3 for 21 shooting that included them missing all their three pointers and a missed dunk by Rudy Gay. Slowly, they started to get back into the game, including tying the game at 25 before finishing the first half trailing 29-28.

The “B team” USA only managed to improve its play in the second half behind its bench players, mainly Rudy Gay (14 points), Russell Westbrook (12 points on 4 for 5 shooting) and Eric Gordon (9 points), who had 48 of Team USA’s 77 points.

As expected, Kevin Durant (0 for 4 on threes), Chauncey Billups (7 points, 4 TOs, zero assists), Andre Igoudala (5 points), Tyson Chandler (0 points, 5 rebounds), and Rajon Rondo (4 TOs, 2 points, 1 assist) started the game for the Americans, whose horrible first quarter display clearly showed how nervous the inexperienced team was. Team USA has 13 players that include 5 21-year olds and only 2 vets that age 30+. The team is expected to be trimmed to 12 players by August 26th. It is also to note that none of the  Redeem Team players that played in the 2008 Olympics are playing  for this team.

Team USA will play Spain tomorrow at 7 PM GMT and will begin their quest for the World Championship on Day 1 vs. Croatia.


(Note: It was supposed to come out this morning, but due to reasons out of my control, it’s coming out now. Enjoy!)

Iniesta scoring the winner

It’s the moment everyone waits for. It’s the most anticipated and important game that takes place in the global sport. It’s the World Cup final, and the two teams participating in the game, Spain and Netherlands, were battling for their first World Cup.

In Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, the final didn’t live up to expectations as both teams on paper are composed of the top players that play in the top European leagues, mainly the Spanish, English and German league. The game was a very physical and dirty one, as there were 14 yellow cards, a World Cup final record, whistled in the game, 8 for the Oranje side, including a kung fu kick in the first half on Xabi Alonso by Nigel de Jong, where the latter was lucky to remain in the game.

Despite the harsh play by both sides, there were some chances for scoring in regular time, starting with Sergio Ramos missing a header in the first half after a beautiful cross by Xavi. In the second half came a crucial miss by Arjen Robben in the second half as he went one-on-one with Spanish goalie Iker Casillas  after a pass by Wesley Sneijder and shot the ball to the left as Casillas jumped opposite, only to be saved miraculously by Casillas’ feet.  As it would be seen later, this wouldn’t be the only opportunity had in this game. It seemed from there that the Dutch’s luck wasn’t on their side tonight as it normally never is when it comes down to the title match. Sergio Ramos would once again get spectacular opportunity as he had another header off a corner kick towards the end of the second half and would miss again.

After extra time began, Robben managed to sprint past defender Carles Puyol and get control of the ball, yet after a grab by Puyol from behind, Robben was unable to balance himself, hence Casillas once again stepping up and saving the ball, although Robben insisted later that Puyol should’ve been sent off. Cesc Fabregas came in as a sub for Spain and managed to create several opportunities in extra time, including missing a shot himself after it was deflected by the goalie and passing it to Xavi, who was tripped in the penalty box and should’ve been rewarded with a  penalty.

With all the yellow cards being given in the match, it was only a matter of time before a red card was shown, and Hettinga of the Netherlands was shown one in the second extra time after clearly tripping Andres Iniesta outside the box, depriving him from a clear goal and receiving his second yellow card, leaving the Dutch to 10 men.

Yet here comes in the controversy of the game. After a free kick by the Dutch had clearly changed path after hitting the Spanish defense and the Casillas,  the Dutch weren’t rewarded with a corner kick; instead, El Matadore  were given the goal kick, and Cesc  Fabregas took advantage of the extra man and past the ball to Andres Iniesta, who once again stepped up as a clutch player and shot to the opposite left of him past the Dutch goalkeeper with four minutes left, awarding the Spanish their first World Cup ever, with Iniesta and the Spanish captain Casillas the men of the match. The Dutch were left to only think of the “What-ifs” about Arjen Robben unluckily missing those shots.

Spain celebrating their well deserved World Cup

Notes:

  • Arjen Robben received a yellow card for complaining about missing his second shot, and should’ve received another yellow card for scoring after the referee had whistled an offside.
  • This is the third time Netherlands has been defeated in the final, the first since 1978, leading to winning no World Cups in 3 tries; while Spain reached its first final and is now one for one.
  • Spain is the first nation to lose its first match and still win the World Cup.
  • Thomas Muller received Best Young Player of the tournament, as well as the Top Scorer with 5 goals, coming over David Villa (Spain), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) and Diego Forlan (Uruguay), who all had 5 goals but Muller had more assists.
  • Iker Casillas received the Best Goalkeeper award in the tournament.
  • The talk of the World Cup, Paul the Octupus, went 8 for 8 in its predictions as it predicted all 7 seven winners in Germany’s games, and the winner of the final.
  • Germany has lost to the eventual World Champion for the third consecutive World Cup.
  • European countries have 10 World Cups to 9 for the South Americans, and have broken the pattern of 1 to 1.
  • European countries have ranked the top 3 in the World Cup for the past 2.
  • FC Barcelona had the 15 players in the World Cup, the most, with 8 in the world champions Spain, including Andres Iniesta who capped the win with his goal.

España

As I type this post up, the whole world now knows that Spain have been crowned as World Champions, over the Netherlands, at the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup, held in South Africa.
The whole world now knows that for a moment there, it really didn’t feel as though this was the very-much hyped final between two possible first-time winners.

Robben, one of the many recipients of a yellow card

As a matter of fact, the game was a race to see who would collect the most yellow-cards, a feat accomplished by the Dutch in the 120-minute game.
And after the whole world had accepted the fact that yet another World Cup would determined by penalty-shootouts, Andres Iniesta, the little Barcelona midfielder, worked his magic thanks to a pass from Cesc Fabregas, and ensured that the Spaniards would lift that glorious cup that evening.
But everyone knows that, and if you don’t, I suggest you read a sum-up right here You know, just in case it comes up in a conversation sometime this week.
And it will.
As many have established by now, no one gets caught up in World Cup fever the way the Lebanese do. All the buzz surrounding Paul the Octopus’ predictions pale in comparison to what’s been going on here.
The streets of Beirut have been decked out in other nations’ flags for around three months now.

One of many flag-sellers on the Lebanese streets


Wild enthusiasts have taken over Facebook and other social networking websites to show unyielding support for their team of choice. Fireworks have been blasted in the sky whenever a team won, or even lost, and celebration parties have gone on all night long. That’s not mentioning the most incredible ability that emerged this year: instantly organizing conveys that trekked most, if not all, the Lebanese roads.
And here’s something else.
The Lebanese are so passionate about football, that they have gone out of their way to create a non-existing rivalry between Brazil and Germany, and even raise their children upon that. In fact, if one of these teams loses, which happened to both this year, fans would rather support the team the entire world considers to be complete opposites, than cheer on the other of the two.
To everyone elsewhere in the world, the final was Netherlands versus Spain, but right here, it was the classic (Really?) Germany versus Brazil, decked in different kits.
Which brings me to my point.
Football is exciting. Rooting for a team and witnessing their triumphs is gratifying. Which is why I can understand this sort of behavior, to a certain extent, of course.
But this over-hyping fad just needs to go away, now, and the English are the greatest testament to its consequences.
I’m no expert on soccer, but last time I checked, Lebanon doesn’t even have its own national team that can compete along with the Brazilians and the Germans.
If we did, would we really stand behind them as we do for the others? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, no. No, because being patriotic is an awfully hard thing to do for us and we’d rather support anyone that doesn’t evoke memories of our own country.
I only wish that we receive some form of gratitude for all the support we pour in to those countries, like facilitating visa procedures, though that is a long shot.
The World Cup is over now, and won’t be back for another four years. During that time, only a quarter of those who tuned in for the “Mondial” will watch club matches, while the greater majority will remain in oblivion. It’s a sad, sad fact, but at least in the meanwhile, we can assume that nothing of what went on this past month has ever happened.