• Section 1: Ronaldinho takes heat
    By Paul Kennedy Managing Editor Soccer America Ronaldinho, the reigning World and European Player of the Year, came in for heavy criticism in the aftermath of Brazil's shocking exit from the World Cup. O Globo and Estado de Sao Paulo, two of Brazil's biggest newspapers, ran identical headlines: "Ronaldinho was the big letdown of the Cup." "He played badly, he didn't dribble, he didn't have a shot at goal, he misplaced passes and did not, at any moment, take responsibility," wrote Estado. "It was a portrait of his participation ...
  • MAHONEY: Portugal wins banal battle
    By Ridge Mahoney in Gelsenkirchen   It is sometimes said of a match decided on penalties that neither team deserved to lose. In the case of Saturday's quarterfinal between Portugal and England, neither team really deserved to win, and the team less deserving to lose, did. Despite playing a man up for nearly an hour after the dismissal of English firebrand Wayne Rooney for assaulting an opponent, Portugal could only sporadically dictate the tempo and survived several English near misses before prevailing on penalties, 3-1. Goalkeeper Ricardo ...
  • Section 1: Toni answers critics
    By Paul Kennedy Managing Editor Soccer America Luca Toni came into the 2006 World Cup as one of the tournament's most hyped players. having scored 31 goals for Fiorentina in the 2005-06 season, the most goals by a player in Serie A since 1957. But Toni didn't score in Italy's first four games at the World Cup, drawing criticism from the hypercritical Italian media. Finally, in the Azzurri's quarterfinal match against Ukraine, Toni broke out, setting up Gianluca Zambrotta for Italy's first goal before scoring two himself as the Azzurri cruised into the semifinals ...
  • MAHONEY: The party rolls on
    By Ridge Mahoney in Berlin For a few more days at least, "PartyZone Deutschland" will stay on the air. A show by that title is running regularly on German television, portraying the activities and adventures of fans attending games as well as gathering at "FanFests" to party in front of big-screen TVs. After the round of 16, FIFA estimated that 11 million fans had watched matches at the 15 sites around the country. Just about every game has been ausverkauft (a sellout). But every party needs a gregarious host, preferably one that sticks around, and the host ...
  • Section 1: Return of the Galacticos
    By Paul Kennedy Managing Editor Soccer America When the World Cup began, Frenchman Zinedine Zidane looked tired, and his Real Madrid teammate, Brazilian Ronaldo, was overweight. The two Galacticos were dismissed as past their prime, but they played key roles Tuesday in leading their teams into the quarterfinals, where they meet Saturday in Frankfurt. An inspired Zidane led France to a 3-1 win over favored Spain, scoring an insurance goal in stoppage time. Ronaldo scored the first goal in Brazil's 3-0 victory over Ghana, setting the all-time World Cup record with his 15th ...
  • WOITALLA: The Kaiser's Cup
    By Mike Woitalla in Munich The German media often report on the VIPs at World Cup games like this: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German President Horst Koehler and Franz Beckenbauer attended last night's game." They see no need to introduce Beckenbauer. His campaigning is credited with landing this World Cup in Germany, the country he led to a World Cup victory in 1974 as captain and in 1990 as coach. Beckenbauer attended 19 of the first 21 games of this tournament, often appearing ...
  • Section 1: Crespo shines in spotlight
    Hernan Crespo can no longer say he's being overlooked. With goals in each of his three 2006 World Cup games -- he swears he touched the ball Jared Borgetti appeared to head into his own goal during Argentina's 2-1 overtime victory over Mexico -- and the nifty backheel to teammate Esteban Cambiasso for the goal of the tournament -- teamwork category (see video of the 24-pass sequence) -- against Serbia & Montenegro, Crespo has been indispensable to Argentina in its spectacular run to the quarterfinals, where it faces host Germany Friday in Berlin. ...
  • Section 1: Crespo shines in spotlight
    Hernan Crespo can no longer say he's being overlooked. With goals in each of his three 2006 World Cup games -- he swears he touched the ball Jared Borgetti appeared to head into his own goal during Argentina's 2-1 overtime victory over Mexico -- and the nifty backheel to teammate Esteban Cambiasso for the goal of the tournament -- teamwork category (see video of the 24-pass sequence) -- against Serbia & Montenegro, Crespo has been indispensable to Argentina in its spectacular run to the quarterfinals, where it faces host Germany Friday in Berlin. ...
  • Section 1: Ronaldo's goal -- a third title
    Now that Brazilian Ronaldo has the World Cup career scoring record, he says it's time to concentrate on his main goal: win another World Cup title. Ronaldo's first goal in Brazil's 3-0 win over Ghana gave him 15 in his career, breaking the record he shared with German Gerd Mueller. "That [the record] was never my goal, it's just something that's happened," Ronaldo said. "I'm happy to have broken this record; for seven World Cups it has not been broken. It's a great satisfaction to make this record, but let's not forget our main ...
  • WOITALLA: Expecting thrills from final eight
    By Mike Woitalla in Hanover Predictably, German tabloid Bild provided in-depth coverage of David Beckman vomiting on the field during England's 1-0 win over Ecuador. Under the headline, "David Barfman," Bild ran sequence photos of the incident accompanied by possible reasons why he lost his lunch. "Did he drink English beer instead of German beer?" "Can a metrosexual get pregnant?" "Did he see his wife's credit card bill?" "Did the quality of the game make him ill?" The last is the ...
  • Section 1: Ivanov the Terrible fingers Dutch
    By Paul Kennedy Managing Editor Soccer Ameica Russian Valentin Ivanov, the referee of Sunday's controversial Portugal-Netherlands match, said it was nastiest game he had ever called. Speaking out for the first time since the match, the 45-year-old Ivanov, dubbed Ivanov the Terrible for his calls, told Russian daily Izvestia, "Probably, from the point of view of rudeness, it was the worst match I ever had." Ivanov sent off four players (setting a World Cup record) and booked 16 players (tying a World Cup record). He said he was surprised by the actions of ...
  • MAHONEY: Last beating of the U.S. dead horse
    By Ridge Mahoney in Hamburg (This will the final installment regarding the U.S. performance in Germany, replete with references to criticisms, valid and otherwise.) FORMATION. The 4-5-1 formation used primarily by Bruce Arena took a lot of abuse, of course, since a simplistic, knee-jerk reaction is to deride it as defensive. Well, it ain't. With the outside players pushed up as wingers, the formation resembles a 4-3-3 used by many teams out to score goals. If the midfielders are deployed in two lines ...
  • WOITALLA: Why Spain may finally prevail
    By Mike Woitalla in Munich With each World Cup, the Spaniards search for a reason why things will turn out different. Spain entered the last seven World Cups as potential champion but never passed the quarterfinals. 2006 is the year, really, says the Spanish press. It has been citing 16th century French soothsayer Nostradamus' prediction that "in the sixth month of 2006 the King of Spain will cross the Pyrenees with his troops" and after a battle in Central Europe, "the Holy Grail will then come to Spain." ...
  • Section 1: France ready for high-flying Spaniards
    By Paul Kennedy Managing Editor Soccer America Averaging 2.67 goals per game, Spain enters Tuesday's match against France in Hanover with the highest-scoring team at the World Cup, but the Spaniards haven't faced a defense as experienced as the Bleus' backline. All four starters won league championships in 2005-06: right back Willy Sagnol with Bayern Munich (Germany), center backs William Gallas with Chelsea (England) and Lilian Thuram with Juventus (Italy) and left back Eric Abidal with Lyon (France). "A strong defense is a basis, something you can build on," said France coach
  • MAHONEY: Heroes on a night of high comedy
    By Ridge Mahoney in Nuremberg The first few words of the Portuguese national anthem are, "Heroes of the Sea." There isn't an ocean anywhere near the Frankenstadion where a fascinating round-of-16 match took place Sunday, yet those who wore the Portugal colors will be feted as such after they outlasted the Netherlands, 1-0, on a goal by Maniche to set up a date with England in the quarterfinals. Sadly, this game rife with riveting drama and courageous performances won't be remembered for those elements. Instead, before Russian referee