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Match report: Qatar 2, China 0

by Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Scorers: Qatar — Ahmed (26, 45+)

Qatar line-up and ratings: Burhan – 5.5, Mohammed — 6, Abdulmaged — 7, Al Ghanim – 6.5, Kasoula — 7 (Al-Hamad — 6), Ismail — 6, Lawrence — 6.5, Abdulmajid – 6, Ahmed — 8.5 (Jaralla — 6), Sebastian – 7.5, El Sayed — 6

China line-up and ratings: Cheng — 6, Du — 5,5, Peng — 5.5, Rong — 7, Zhang — 7, Yu Tao — 6 (Zhou — NR), Yu Hai — 6.5 (Hao — 6), Yang Hao  — 5.5, Deng — 5, Gao — 6 (Yang Xu — 5.5), Qu — 5.5

Qatar rallied impressively after a disappointing opening-match defeat to Kazakhstan, beating a below-par China side thanks to two first-half goals from striker Yusuf Ahmed.

Qatar were immediately the hungrier looking of the two, going close with several early efforts and dominating possession. They should have taken the lead when tall Uruguayan Qatari (Don’t ask) Sebastian capitalized on a slip from China defender Du Wei, only to fire wide when it should’ve been easier to score. China was content to counter-attack in the early going, and had a good chance when Deng Zhuoxiang had a free header after nice work from Yu Hai, but he headed directly to the keeper. Gao Li then had a chance in a similar situation, when slack marking let him run free on goal, but his attempted lob/cross was caught by keeper Qasem Burhan. Qatar finally took the lead in the 26th minute when Sebastian headed the ball on to Ahmed, who took the ball on his knee then volleyed in spectacularly for a 1-0 lead. Neither team looked much like scoring after that goal, both doing a poor job of hanging onto the ball, China in particular.

Ahmed made them pay for their poor play, when he scored the second goal out of nothing, spinning past the Chinese defender and rolling the ball past keeper Cheng Zeng in injury time. For China’s part, the 2-0 scoreline was disappointing, especially given that they weren’t spectacularly outplayed, but you got the feeling they might have felt the match would be easier, given how Qatar had opened the tournament.

The second half was a bit anti-climactic. China tried to attack and had most of the possession, but was, again, poor with their passing and wasteful with the ball in good positions. Their fate was essentiall sealed when Peng Zhao left with an injury midway through the second half. Qatar was solid defensively except in goal, where Burhan continually made the perplexing decision to shepherd the ball out of bounds for corners when catching or letting it go might be easier.

For Qatar, it was a performance they had to have, especially with their opening match lending credence to doubts people have about their ability to host the World Cup. They were clearly the better team for much of the match and deserved probably to win by more than two. As for China, it was a desperately disappointing team who looked after the first match like they might make a run through the tournament. They look dangerous in attack, but the midfield was poor, and the defense couldn’t deal with Ahmed and Sebastian, despite their size. China now needs to beat Kuwait and hope Qatar struggle against leaders Kazakhstan to advance.

No match stats, since the English-speaking world does such a terrible job of covering this tournament.

Soccer shorts: Buddle, Adu & Ingolstadt; Asian Cup continues…

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

So the biggest USA men’s national team related news in soccer today, if you discount the MLS combine, which I do, whether Wayne Rooney’s brother is playing or not, is Edson Buddle of the LA Galaxy signing with German Bundesliga 2 team FC Ingolstadt 04. Buddle has scored twice for the US national team and notched 19 goals for the Galaxy last season to tie Chris Wondolowski for most in the league. This move is surprising for a couple reasons: First off, it was expected that Buddle would form a partnership with newly signed Juan Pablo Angel on the Galaxy, which would certainly make the team the most feared offensive juggernaut in the MLS, if they weren’t already. Secondly, Ingolstadt is TERRIBLE. They’re six points adrift of safety in the Bundesliga 2 at the halfway point of the season, which means that if they don’t go on a Buddle-fueled run in the second half of the season, they could end up playing the likes of Carl Zeiss Jena, Bayern Munich II and Dynamo Dresden, who won the East German football title five times in the ’70s. No, I didn’t make this up. Actually, for Ingolstadt, returning to Bundesliga 3 wouldn’t be that big of a deal, as they were just promoted. So the question is, why would Buddle join? Well, the lure of Europe is always a big deal to players, particularly when they hit their late-twenties. You have to think that Buddle is hoping a successful run the second half of the season is enough to get him a Bundesliga gig, but you have to think he could’ve done better than the second worst team in second-tier German football…

And while we’re speaking of Ingolstadt – yes, that’s the first time anyone has ever typed that – rumors are circulating that Freddy Adu, who is either victim of the worst luck of any American soccer player, or is completely impossible to work with, has been offered a contract from Ingolstadt, but only after training with the reserves to get match-fit. Not sure if this is true. If it is, not sure if Adu will sign. What a dramatic fall for such a talented player. When he first started playing for Benfica, I thought we’d see him playing in the Champions League regularly, but for whatever reason, it just hasn’t panned out. I believe Adu is still contracted to Benfica, but he obviously isn’t in the team’s plans, and he has failed to win contracts with Swiss club Sion or Danish club Randers. If Ingolstadt doesn’t work out, it’s hard to tell where he’ll end up, though you’d have to think some MLS team would take a punt on him. He still is only 21 …

I don’t know if many people are watching, but the Asian Cup is currently going on in Qatar. It might not seem worth the effort, but the Asian federation is really on a rise in world football. Japan, South Korea and Australia have already made noise at the World Cup level, and China and India certainly have the population and burgeoning economic might to turn into football glory at some point. At any rate, watch it. There are some good players out there. Followers of the blog have already heard me sing the praises of Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, a 21-year-old who has scored 8 goals in the Bundesliga this season and has three goals for the Japanese team in limited appearances. In the competition so far, Qatar laid an egg against China in their first try at showing the world they deserved World Cup 2022. Australia hammered India, Japan drew against Jordan and South Korea beat Bahrain. Oh wait, one more: Uzbekistan beat Kuwait 2-0. Early pick: China makes noise in this tournament. Tomorrow, Iran plays Iraq, which should be a good game.

More tomorrow …

Three things we learned over the holidays

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

1. Manchester United is going to win the Premier League. You could argue that this is the most unimpressive Manchester United side since the 2005-06 season – no Cristiano Ronaldo, no Van Nistelrooy, Giggs and Scholes are too old, Rooney doesn’t score – but nevertheless, the team just isn’t being beaten. In all competitions this season, the Red Devils have only suffered defeat in the Carling Cup, to West Ham. Though the team probably isn’t strong enough to compete on all fronts, particularly with the way Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing, but as the competition fades away – Arsenal drawing at Wigan, then with Manchester City, who are now four points off the pace, and Chelsea might not even qualify for Europe – the Premier League is Manchester United’s to lose. And with Alex Ferguson in charge, you wouldn’t think it’s going to happen.

2. Barcelona are showing chinks in their armor…sort of? This is really a stretch, but after a string of 4-, 5-, and 8-0 victories, Barcelona have hit their first rough patch in a long while, narrowly beating Levante in La Liga and drawing twice with Athletic Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey, albeit two draws being enough to send them on to the next round. Obviously the team isn’t going to keep blowing everyone out, but can they sustain the pace of the first half of the season, particularly with Real Madrid playing so well against everyone else?

3. There are other countries who play soccer besides England, Spain, Germany and Italy. TP Mazembe were clearly outclassed in the final of the Club World Cup, but reaching the final is a big moment in a great year for the continent of Africa, who saw Ghana reach the quarterfinals in the World Cup and host South Africa, well, throw a pretty decent party. The Asian Cup is about to start, which will give Japan and South Korea, who both went surprisingly far in the World Cup, a chance to show off their young guns. In addition, Qatar will have a chance to show they deserve to host the World Cup in 2022, and as hosts of this tournament, they need to put on a strong showing. Perennial underachievers China could be dangerous, and don’t forget about Australia, Iran or North Korea, either.

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