Friday, November 28, 2008

And Federer's favourite footballer is...

Thierry Henry...and Luis Figo.

"I am a huge fan of Barcelona and Basel," said Federer.

I admire these three gentlemen...Trezeguet for his clinical finishing, a real classy marksman, Henry for his overall ability, combining his gazelle-like grace and physical presence to great effect and Tony Yee for his humility, creativity and writing skills.

It was unfortunate that Tony was largely unnoticed and under-appreciated by the Malay Mail management. By contrast Henry and Trezeguet were given due recognition by not only their superiors but football fans around the globe. This picture was taken when Gerard Houllier's men made a transit stop for the 1997 FIFA World Youth Cup at Shah Alam, when the two players were little known outside France.

They eventually lost to Uruguay through a penalty shoot-out but not before I had the good fortune of witnessing one of Trezeguet's trademark goals and Henry's frightening pace (on one occasion, upon receiving a long pass deep from defence, Henry cushioned header the ball over Martin Rivas and simply outpaced the defender before sending his shot wide).

I wrote a preview of the quarterfinal


Playing style: Uruguay play 4-4-2 with one defensive midfielder, one roving playmaker and two solid attacking midfielders making rapid runs to support the two frontrunners. When in possession, the Uruguayans cover so much space with just a few passes. Their build-ups are straightforward, unlike their cousins Argentina or Brazil who prefer to dwell on the ball or lull the opponents into complacency before unleashing their powers. Splendid off the ball running means the South Americans are capable of confusing the opponents with midfield maestro and skipper Christian Callejas the free man with good support from Walter Coelho and Cesar Pellegrin on the left and Inti Podesta and Daniel Lembo or Carlos Diaz on the right. The target upfront is usually towering Marcelo Zalayeta while his partner, Nicolas Olivera, is a fleet-footed southpaw who can throw his marker off balance with his turning.

Strength: Technically adroit, tactically mature and very physical, Uruguay look the perfect machine. Long-haired anchorman Pablo Garcia has yet to really unleash his dead-ball speciality. Had a good match practice in beating United States 3-0 in the second round. Defence have conceded only one goal, to Malaysia's Nik Ahmad Fadly Nik Leh.

Weakness: There is no apparent weakness in the South American side. Every department was in working order in the group matches.

Motivation: Prominence has been given to their more glamorous cousins, Brazil and Argentina, while Uruguay quietly topped Group A with some panache before marching into the quarterfinals.

Probable line-up: Gustavo Munua, Carlos Diaz, Daniel Lembo, MartinRivas, Cesar Eduardo Pellegrin, Pablo Garcia, Christian Callejas, Walter Coelho, Inti Podesta, Marcelo Zalayeta, Nicolas Olivera.


Playing style: Identical to the French senior team, the France Under-20 side play a square back-four with three midfielders forming another defensive block. The midfield runners are entrusted to form the first defensive barrier as well as working hard to launch attacks for skipperThierry `Titi' Henry and Argentine-descent David Trezeguet to capitalise upon with one attacking or sometimes two midfielders in a supporting role. That means coach Gerard Houllier interchanges between 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-2 formation with ease but the former Paris St Germain (PSG) tactician is expected to crowd his engine room to neutralise the danger posed byUruguay midfielders Coelho and Podesta. Henry and Trezeguet must also attack at the byline to force Uruguay wingbacks Pellegrin and Diaz from utilising the gaps on the flanks.

Strength: Monaco duo Henry and Trezeguet are lethal finishers while Bordeaux's Peter Luccin and Rennes' diminutive Yoann Bigne combine well as midfield workhorses. Confidence sky-high after defeating Mexico through a last-minute goal from Luccin.

Weakness: They lack a genuine playmaker in the mould of Zinedine Zidane. Despite the presence of Henry and Trezeguet, France face difficulties in connecting the midfield and the forwardline. The heat may take its toll on Houllier's players. Several of them have succumbed to the heat-stroke in Kuching. Mentally fragile.

Motivation: As European champions, France want to hold the flag high as well as bettering their predecessors' seventh finish in 1977.

Probable line-up: Mickael Landreau, Mickael Silvestre, Willy Sagnol, Jean-Sebastien Jaures, William Gallas, Peter Luccin, Yoann Bigne, Kadjo Afanou, Cedric Mouret, Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet.

The match report

URUGUAY were tactically astute to march into the semifinals of the Youth World Cup for the first time since 1979 at Shah Alam Stadium last night.

Deemed as the home team after winning three matches and drawing one at the main venue, Uruguay - or nicknamed Charuas - were set to match European champions France blow by blow.

In the end, the South Americans could have wrapped up the match without venturing into the heart-stopping penalty shootout if not for some superb goalkeeping by Mickael Landreau who kept the Uruguayans at bay except for Nicolas Olivera's equaliser in the 68th minute.

Uruguay, who finished fourth in the South American under-20 championships early this year, will now take on African's lone representative, Ghana, on Wednesday for a place in the final on Saturday. With the dramatic win, Uruguayan coach Victor Pua handed his more illustrious counterpart, Gerard Houllier, a defeat which was difficult to swallow.

As far as Pua was concerned, his team were more solid overall and fully deserved their place in the last four.

"I think we were the better team overall even if France had a strong patch in the 15 minutes before half time. They pushed us all the way and I have to admit it was the toughest match for us thus far. As the European champions, they are a truly great team.

"I really suffered during the penalties. It is good if your team win but it is a different scenario altogether if you end up on the losing side,"said Pua.

After assessing the opponents' strengths and weaknesses on tape, Pua knew the French looked jaded against Mexico and could have trouble keeping pace with his hard running men.

Furthermore, the French, with the classic formation of four defenders, prefered to adopt the offside strategy which was always risky against fleet-footed opponents.

And, in 18-year-old left-footer Eduardo Pellegrin, Pua had a trumpcard. The left back, who idolises Enzo Francescoli, was instructed to stay close to the byline and pounce on long passes from defence.

In one such move, Uruguay managed to cancel the French opening goal converted by Argentine-descent David Trezeguet.

Anchorman Pablo Garcia saw Pellegrin unmarked near the byline and he threaded the pass when the French defence were caught square.

Rightback Willy Sagnol tried to cover space but Pellegrin had all the time in the world to choose the receiver of his inch-perfect pass. The Danubio player then pumped in the cross for Olivera to chest it home past Landreau for that all-important equaliser.

In the 30 minutes of extra time, Uruguay came close several times and had at least three clear-cut chances to put the issue beyond doubt through Olivera and Pellegrin's replacement, Mario Regueiro.

And of course a tribute to the French team.

IT was the end of an epoch for AS Monaco young star Thierry Henry and several of his French Under-20 colleagues as Les Bleus bid "Au Revoir" to the 11th Youth World Cup last night.

Most of the players in Gerard Houllier's team were together for almost six years since their Under-14 days but it appears that they will go their separate ways after suffering a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat to Uruguay at Shah Alam Stadium last night.

Henry and centrebacks Philippe Christanval and William Gallas were part of the French Under-14 team coached by Christian Damiano six years ago but two of them did not end the match while the other came in as a substitute last night.

Looking a spent force, Henry was taken off in the 75th minute to make way for Arsenal's Nicolas Anelka while Gallas was given the marching orders after a second bookable offence in the 85th minute for a foul on nippy Nicolas Olivera.

In the 79th minute, Christanval replaced rightback Willy Sagnol who had given Uruguay's leftback Eduardo Pellegrin so much space leading to the equaliser by Olivera in the 67th minute. The defeat was perhaps a relief for Henry. A win for the French would mean another ardous task ahead for Henry who had played 60 matches the whole season.

Apart from helping Monaco to win the French league, Henry was a vital member of Jean Tigana's team that entered the UEFA Cup semi-finals, skipper of the French Under-18 side who took the European title as well as the Toulon tournament earlier this month.

Last night Henry, who turns 20 in August, looked jaded despite showing flashes of brilliance which prompted Spanish champions Real Madrid to pursue his signature. In the first half alone, Henry had the crowd at their feet by thrice outsprinting the Uruguayan defence led by Martin Rivas only to see his feeble attempts saved by keeper Gustavo Munua.

After Argentine-descent David Trezeguet scored his fifth goal of the tournament in the 26th minute, the French then thought the game was theirs for the taking when Henry was released by midfielder Kodjo Afanou in the58th minute but again Munua was up to the challenge.


Surat Melayu said...

Abang Rizal,

Memang orang MM tak appreciate talent.

You pun mereka tak nak as editor, apa nak cakap lagi.

Tony Yee,I tak kenal sangat tapi wartawan sukan semua kata dia ni specialist rewrite.

Better dari you ke?

Jim Morisson 'wanabe' said...

I agree..Tony Yee is a true gentleman indeed.

Anonymous said...

Bro rizal

pedih surat melayu cakap

Anonymous said...

Bro rizal...Malaysia 97 was just a memory....malaysia scored their first and only goal for the tournament....
Bro...apa status Ghaz Ramil, penulis sukan MM..dengar dia tak jadi staff..betul ke...

Anonymous said...

sibuk sgt pasal Ghaz apasal..pi jaga anak bini lu lar

Fowler is God but Torres is the new Almighty said...

memories are made of these .... dean martin

nstman said...

Rizal, you are a liar. Feder's favourite is Maradona. Figo and Henry cant hold a candle to Maradona, or as the Americans say, cant hold Maradona's jockstraps. Federer represents class and quality. Surely he can't be rooting for arse-holes like henry and Figo.

stop nstman's ramblings said...


sigh, were you born dumb or did you take lessons?

chances are born dumb and took lessons as well.


to quote you: "Federer represents class and quality."

maradona is a first class CHEAT.

tats something you can never accuse federer of.

go back to supporting kali lah

nstman said...

There are cheats, and there are cheats. And there is Maradona, the greatest cheat of them all. Maradona turned cheating into an art. Maradona cheated with style just as Federer wins his matches with class. So Maradona and Federer belong to the same category. So I urge Maradona critics like Fauzi Omar and Lazarus Kok to exit the denial symdrome and acknowledge Maradona as the No 1 in the universe.

DonCorleone said...

Aku pernah guna gambar ni untuk Sentiasa Manja dulu kan?