At halftime: Deadly French hit first-half triple to take command of Switzerland – FOLLOW LIVE

2 Comments

Story of the half: Many blew off the French demolition of Honduras due to the quality (or lack thereof) of their opponent, but it looks as if the French are here to stay.

They’re taking it to Group E seeded team, on top of Switzerland 3-0 in the first 45 minutes, and probably should have had more.

It’s been all France, with a 12-5 shot differential and six of the seven on target.  They were heavy on the break, and converted their set pieces.

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals:

17′ – A corner fell to the French, and from a long way out, an Olivier Giroud header threaded the needle between Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and the near post defender Ricardo Rodriguez.  It was perfect placement from a good distance out, and France opened the scoring 1-0.

18′ – France are deadly, and they took advantage of a Switzerland mistake just a minute later. Valon Behrami’s back-pass was intercepted by a streaking Karim Benzema, and he slotted through Blaise Matuidi coming down the left.  Matuidi finished just inside the post, and the French had a 2-0 lead. Benaglio really should have done better to cover his near post, but could not read where Matuidi was going to put the ball.

40′ – A Switzerland corner turned deadly for the underdogs.  Raphael Varane put through a beautiful pass across the midline to a streaking Olivier Giroud, and he sliced in a perfect low cross for Mathieu Valbuena to crash home from close range.  After having a penalty denied, the French found their third to take serious control.

Other key moments:

7′ – Swiss central defender Steve Von Bergen produced a nasty cut above his eye and could not continue, forcing an early substitution that brought Aston Villa defender Phillippe Senderos into the fray.

27′ – A Switzerland free kick from outside the edge of the box found Granit Xhaka, and he put the ball into the back of the net, but the corner flag was up. It would have been a perfect response to the French double, but it was not to be.

30′ – A Swiss break sees Admir Mehmedi take a shot from straight on, which Hugo Lloris saved. The rebound fell to Xherdan Shaqiri, who struck a bouncer that forced Lloris into an outstanding save, just managing fingertips to the ball destined for the far post, and it just trickled wide and out of the reach of Haris Seferovic making a far post run.

32′ – An idiotic foul by Johan Djorou on Benzema two yards from the end line with the ball about to go out led to a penalty, but France couldn’t capitalize. Benzema stepped up but failed to find the corner with his penalty, and Benaglio guessed correctly and saved it. Yohan Cabaye had a great chance on the rebound, but he hit the crossbar with a lunging shot. The miss is the first failed penalty of the 2014 World Cup.

43′ – Valbuena almost had a second, catching many off-guard with a first-touch shot on the outside of his boot, but Benaglio saved it well with the shot right at him.

LINEUPS:

France – Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Varane, Sakho, Cabaye, Valbuena, Giroud, Benzema, Matuidi, Sissoko

Goals – Giroud 17′, Matuidi 18′, Valbuena 40′

Switzerland – Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen (Senderos 9′), Inler, Seferovic, Xhaka, Behrami, Rodriguez, Mehmedi, Djourou, Shaqiri

Players to know:

Olivier Giroud – France’s first goalscorer is the standout frontman at Arsenal, and after finding himself on the bench against Honduras, he earned a start alongside Karim Benzema and was deadly with his head.  He also assisted France’s third to Valbuena.

Yohan Cabaye/Mamadou Sakho – The holding pair have been on point for France. Sakho has completed a game-high 27/29 passes out of the back and made three clearances, and Cabaye finished 20/24 passes as he quarterbacked the advance to all areas of the attacking half.

Key numbers:

81% – Neither side passed well in the first half, with lots of turnovers. The French completed 81% of their passes, while Switzerland only made 80% successful.

7 – The total shots on target for France, proving their dominance. They were actually out-passed by Switzerland by 20, but put seven shots on net as compared to Switzerland’s one.  The total shots are 12 for France and five for Switzerland.

Questions for the second half:

Hardly any, this game’s about done and dusted. The Swiss need a comeback for the history books if they are to make this a game.

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment
  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester United: Match-winner Rashford injured

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment
  • No shots on goal for Benfica
  • United puts four on frame
  • Man Utd out-passes Benfica 522-237.

Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the match, then limped off injured in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Benfica in UEFA Champions League action at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

United is close to wrapping up a knockout round berth with the win, leading Basel by three points, CSKA Moscow by six, and Benfica by nine.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho got his managerial start at Benfica when he replaced now-Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes in 2000.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Rashford’s free kick from the left fooled young Benfica backstop Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and was caught out of goal.

While retreating toward his end line, his two-handed catch carried him and the ball into the goal despite the efforts of his outstretched paws.

Report: Landon Donovan mulling U.S. Soccer presidential run

3 Comments

Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has been all over the turmoil at United States Soccer since the men’s national team’s embarrassing World Cup qualifying ouster last week.

The latest is that many interested observers are encouraging American legend Landon Donovan to run against Sunil Gulati in February’s presidential election.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Donovan retired from playing for a second time in 2016. He’s invested in Premier League club Swansea City and tried his hand at broadcasting as well.

According to Wahl, Donovan issued no comment when asked whether he is seriously considering a run for president. Gulati didn’t confirm that he’d run for a fourth term — the maximum tenure — during his post-World Cup failure conference call, but strongly lauded his credentials for another stint.

Wahl had previously reported that lawyer Steve Gans has the required letters of nomination to run against Gulati.

While Gans would challenge Gulati and perhaps make for interesting debate and a bellwether of the appetite for change amongst the constituency, Donovan’s name would likely be enough to swing some voters regardless.

Without making any judgments about the job Donovan would do, think of it as a big entertainment name like Dwayne Johnson amongst Democrats or Donald Trump amongst Republicans who might upturn eyebrows amongst folks thinking, “Maybe we need something different.” The name value isn’t the same but perhaps it’s less polarizing to compare the runs of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, or Jack Kemp and Steve Largent instead.

A Donovan run would likely keep U.S Soccer’s cozy relationship with Major League Soccer while perhaps emboldening those who seek big changes within the youth structure (Donovan was part of the U.S. residency program which was recently canceled in a sort of “We did it” nod to academies). His experience is varied and his network exceptional.

Donovan for President? Maybe!