I know that I'm a bit late on this, but I just wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts surrounding the U-23's 1-0 victory over Japan in their first Olympic outing. Please note that my viewing of the match was in Hampered FF Mode (more on that later), so this really isn't a meticulous (nor probably accurate, for that matter) analysis. Instead, I'm just throwing some random splatters of paint at the canvas. To wit . . .
* I know that lack of preparation time and not playing together regularly limit tactical nuance to a degree in the international game, but boy that bog-standard 4-4-2 with a target man was a bit stifling. If this is what Piotr's been rolling out in the warm-up games for this tourney, it's no wonder we're not scoring goals. And what's the deal with how narrow we were playing? And why play Freddy so high, when he's most effective bursting from the midfield with the ball, scanning for runners? Of course, with only McBride ahead of him, it may have been difficult to pick out said notional runners. Bah--I've never been a fan of Nowak as a tactician, so there were no surprises here.
* I keep waiting for Marvell Wynne to be found out at the international level, but he somehow manages to keep delivering despite his deficits. Case in point: the run and cross that set up Holden's goal. I watch his lack of defensive understanding and positioning, his often-clumsy tackling, his repertoire of long-range passes to Nowheresville, his limited skill on the ball, and I shake my head in wonder that his physical gifts just keep surmounting the barriers. When do pure speed and physical power run out? When does a lack of tactical and technical ability rear its ugly head and bite him in the ass? Would shipping him out for a Continental Crash Course see him mystically transformed [as the blogosphere seems to think Nate Jaqua has been (I have my doubts)] into a genuine Soccer Player?
* We got lucky. The boys in blue should have put at least one past us, if not more. Of the three teams we'll be facing, this was the one I was pretty confident we could get a result against. The other two are enigmas wrapped up in mysteries based upon which version of their respective teams decides to show up. The Dutch may come in overconfident, let us get a lead, and then not be able to use their counterattacking prowess as we follow Fearless Leader Piotr in a round of endlessly annoying bunker-ball. The Nigerians may play too much as individuals and have defensive lapses that let us snatch a goal or two. Alternatively, either of those sides has the potential to be a dominant force on their day.
* I watched the game in replay on the NBC Olympics site, and the experience was pretty darn good. Watching without commentators was refreshing, though the crowd noise wasn't particularly invigorating (understandable, given the setting--though the Japanese fans were making a bit of noise). I like the widescreen format, and Silverlight was a pretty painless experience (though I still don't know why Microsoft feels the need to stick its tendrils into all things technological). That said, the lack of granularity in the player controls sucked. I just wanted a simple fast-forwarding mechanism to skip ahead during pre-game, halftime, injuries, free kicks. Instead, any limited finagling resulted in at least a 2-minute jump through the wormhole. Perhaps the experience is better on Windows?
Despite some complaints, the boys got the job done and opened their account to go to the top of the group in the early running. It wasn't a hugely impressive performance, but this was the one we really needed. With the Dutch and Nigerians drawing, we just need to win one of the two remaining games to book our passage to the knockout stages.
Easier said than done.