It would be highly unfair if Argentina doesn’t qualify for the World Cup. They were the best side in the last world cup and unfortunately they came up against Germany and a tactical flaw in the substitution meant they were out. Currently they might finish fifth with a play off against one of the North/Central/Caribbean team. They are one point behind fourth placed (last automatically qualifying position) Ecuador with two matches against Peru at home and Uruguay away.
Already qualified: Brazil and Paraguay
Already Qualified:Spain, England and Netherlands
With unbeaten records in their respective groups Euro Champions, Spain, Capello inspired England and attractive Dutch have qualified for next years World Cup. It has been impressive showing by all the three teams in the qualifying, needs to be seen if they can carry forward this to the finals.
Already qualified: Japan, Australia, South Korea and North Korea
The first three looked like sure shot contenders for the Asia spots for the World Cup but it was the fourth, North Korea which is making an entry after 44 years. They had a good outing in 1966 when they were beaten in the quarters. So lets see how they will fare this time.
Already qualified: Ghana and hosts South Africa
Ghana which is one of the power houses of Africa became the first team from Africa to book its place other than the hosts South Africa. Since 1990 the African teams have been giving the European and South American teams a tough time. So lets wait and watch who else qualifies from there
In a match which Barca would quickly like to forget, they beat Chelsea by the away goal rule and qualified for the finals in Rome against Manchester United. Chelsea dominated the match after taking lead in the 9th minute through a wonderful goal from Essien. And till the last minute of the match Chelsea despite all their defensive capabilities looked like the only side which created chances and had shote on goal. It would be fair to say that the key refereeing decisions went against them throughout the match. There were couple of good shouts for handball and also a few tackles inside the box.
Barca was not given any space, which they are given in plenty in La Liga and found themselves suffocated in the midfield and in the final quarter of the field. Messi whose only weakness seem to be playing against an English opposition, was kept quiet for most of the match. He was the provider for the clinching goal which came in the 3rd minute of added time through Iniesta. He was floating around with the ball stuck to his feet, avoiding tackles from the Chelsea players. I hope he proves his deteractors wrong in the final against United.
The media will surely hype up the Ronaldo vs Messi story come the finals. But in the semifinals Ronaldo has had the upper hand. Lets see if Ferguson has the guts to attack Barcelona in the finals.
There is no doubt in my mind that the better team amongst Arsenal and Manchester United won over two legs and qualified for the finals. Manchester United beat Arsenal 1-3 at the Emirates and with an aggregate of 4-1 will play in the finals in Rome. The other finalist will be decided tonight from the Barcelona and Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge.
Going into the match Arsenal needed to score 2 goals and concede none to reach the finals. The crowd was the loudest I have heard in the Emirates and the flags which were distributed in all the seats were a sight to watch. Maybe that inspired the team for the first 5-6 minutes where they fought tooth for tooth for every ball and was dominating the play. United had no clue. Then came the first killer blow. A advancing Ronaldo on the left side crossed in front of the goal and the youngest player on the field, Kieran Gibbs, who had a mammoth game in the first leg, keeping Ronaldo under control, slipped and could not recover enough to beat Park’s shot at goal. Taanng!!! So now Arsenal need to score 3 goals for a outright entry into the finals.
Within another 3 minutes, Fabregas lost the ball and in trying to recover the ball Van Persie fouled Ronaldo (though Ronaldo went down too easily)and in the resultant free-kick, Ronaldo unleashed a fierce shot which dipped and curled in and caught Almunia by surprise (he should have saved it, but I guess it was one of those things). Well this goal virtually killed the tie. Expecting this Arsenal team to score 4 goals against this United side will be asking for too much. Felt bad for the crowd who had been behind the team and was positive about a fightback from the team though we had conceded a goal. The game was buried in the 11th minute.
The rest of the match was something that just passed by. Arsenal was trying to break through the midfield-defensive wall of United and were unsuccessful.United on the other hand substituted their players who were on yellow card and also scored one more in a counter attack.
So Arsenal’s title hunt comes to an end and probably the only thing left to do for the season is to win all the remaining matches in the premier league, which include a match each against Chelsea(next weekend) and Manchester United. Finishing third looks difficult as it is not in our hands(Chelsea has to lose two matches and we have to win all our remaining matches). The differene between finishing third and fourth is an automatic qualification to the Champions League and playing a qualifier which could also be depending on the luck of the draw a 4th placed team from Italy or Spain or some Eastern European team.
Its time for Arsene to think of what is lacking in this team, a central defender (very urgent) probably. I think with Song and Denilson maturing,Rosicky hopefully back for the next season, I feel we have a good midfield back up. Not to forget Ramsey. If we do not lose Van Persie and lose Adebayor, the forward line will still look healthy with Eduardo, Bendtner, Vela acting as back up to Van Persie and Arshavin. I feel we have a good team for the next season if we can keep the flock together.
Its been a while since I blogged but I should put in a word for the entry into the semi finals of the Champions league where we take on a lacklustre Manchester United. Villareal were without their influential midfielder Senna and Arsenal has three of their back four injured and Fabianski at goal.
Walcott had one of his best European matches and his goal was a cool finish from a deft pass of Fabregas of a Eboue pass. Adebayor scored his 8th consecutive Champions League goal in 8 matches in which he has started. Van Persie rounded off a penalty in the 69th minute to kill the tie. Song, Eboue and Fabregas were brilliant and it seems the young Arsenal team is now gelling together and producing results.
The best thing is Arshavin is fresh and raring to go in the Premier league and FA cup so we have one creative guy waiting to perform. With Eduardo also expected this team is looking really good. Gibbs deputising for CLichy is also in his elements and looked confident in the CL tie. Walcott was causing all sorts of trouble for the current European Champions left back, Capdevila.
The weekend also sees us taking on Chelsea in the semis of the FA cup. Chelsea played one of the best European matches in drawing with Liverpool 4-4 and hence qualifying for the semis with an aggregate of 7-5. It was one of the best European ties I have seen and I was quite happy that Liverpool lost. Sweet revenge for what they did to us 2 years back. With Arshavin etc available for the weekend I am looking forward to that match.
Last weekend’s league match in which we beat Wigan 4-1 took some time coming, making many a fan nervous. Arshavin has been a catalyst who has come and improved the team and Fabregas has been looking very effective with Arshavin as you see that these two are involved in almost all the Arsenal build ups. Anyways lets see if we can win at Wembley on Saturday.
It will take 3 more nights like this or better for us to get there to play the finals. Well what matters at the end of the (European) night is that along with Manchester United, Chelsea ( both with not all that great display), Liverpool (very inspiring form), Barcelona (Quite decent play), Bayern Munich (Absolutely stunning performance at this level of the competition), FC Porto and Villareal (again not all that much to write about), we are also in the final 8. So now we wait till March 2oth to know who our opponents will be and I hope it is not any of the English teams or Barcelona or Bayern.
We played pathetically and I think Roma realised from their previous match that they should not give so much room to us and kept us tight throughout the match. How I wished we had scored atleast a goal more in the previous leg. Almunia was good under the bar and our experienced defenders Gallas and Toure let in a goal which could have been avoided. Bendtner had so much trouble controlling the ball after his first and second touches I can’t express here. He will dribble past one…two defenders and in the process take the ball so much away from his body that he kept on losing possession. Same was the case with Diaby. I am still saying that we should now start every match with Persie and Eduardo upfront. We need some creativity and clinical finishing to take us where we want to be.
But lets all forget that and relish our Champions League Quarterfinals entry and build up on our league form starting this weekend.
Arsenal return back to England after yet another dismal performance in Ukraine. Dynamo Kiev scored from a very disputable penalty and seemed to take all three points at home when Gallas the new Euro top scorer restored parity with two minutes left. All in all it would be satisfying to come back with a point given the circumstances but I think Arsenal will sink this Ukrainian ship in London in the return leg. Walcott was once again the hero providing the cross from the right which was poked in by Gallas.
Wenger has come out strongly against the Kiev players, especially on their tackle on Walcott…He says
The referee should have sent the left-back off three times because he tried to destroy Walcott.
On the Sagna Penalty
Sagna is convinced he [Ognjen Vukojevic] pulled him with his two hands on his shirt and then went down. We have to deal with that; if you get a penalty you get a penalty.
On the referee not giving enough injury time
I wanted to know how we only played three minutes injury time and then during these three minutes we only played one minute of injury time. Every referee looks to have a different computer to calculate injury time and I still don’t know how it works. He couldn’t explain to me; he just told me he felt it was enough.
The game was a mixture of frustration and relief, frustration because the game should have been over at half-time, and relief because we scored with minutes to go. When we got back to 1-1, Dynamo looked very, very tired but the game was finished with the interruptions. You could feel the game was there for the taking but we had no opportunity to play. We feel we have lost two points but the referee should have sent the left-back off three times because he tried to destroy Walcott.
Next up is Porto at home on September 30th