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Brazil 2:2 Japan Bitcoin Dice

Japan were knocked out of the Confederations Cup on goal difference tonight after a 2:2 draw with Brazil sent the world champions through to face Germany in Saturday’s semi-final.

The heroic last stand of the Japanese will go down as one of their finer performances of recent years however and but for a controversial offside call in the first half they might yet still be in the competition.

Going in to this game Zico’s men could have adapted the title of a James Bond film as their motto: ” A Draw is Not Enough”, knowing Brazil’s superior goal difference would take them through in the event of a tie. Thankfully for the 44,922 on hand in the Rhein-Energie Stadion, both sides gave good value for money with skilful play and top-notch goals in a game difficult to take one’s eyes off.

The opening exchanges saw Kaka, Ronaldinho and Adriano rev their turbo-charged engines with hints of things to come but Japan shocked probably even themselves by netting in the fourth minute. Mitsuo Ogasawara released Akira Kaji on the right and the flying wing-back hit the ball firmly into the corner for what looked a valid goal only for the referee’s assistant to hoist a late flag. TV replays would later show this was a far from conclusive call.

A minute later Adriano fired off his first salvo of the evening, hitting the side-netting from a Leo assist and soon the game assumed a frenetic end-to-end character. Any side that allows Kaka and Ronaldinho the space and time Japan did in the first half invites trouble and the inevitable goal arrived after ten minutes’ play. Ronaldinho set off on what would be several counter-assaults during the evening with only Robinho in support but soon found three teammates had swelled the attack to make it five against three.

Selling a delightful Bitcoin Dice dummy to the Japanese defence, the Barcelona man played the ball not to any of the free attackers but to Robinho, who had ‘run a slant’ as they say in gridiron, to lose marker Makoto Tanaka. The Santos star then made no mistake with his finish.

When good sides take the lead a gloomy inevitability often afflcits their opponents who respond by taking risks but to Japan’s credit they stayed calm and continued to pass the ball patiently and along the ground, a virtue perhaps distilled in them by their Brazilian coach and the wider Brazilian influence on Japanese soccer.

Their diligence paid off when Atsushi Yanagisawa headed against the crossbar after twenty-four minutes and Shunsuke Nakamura drew them level on twenty-seven. The Man of the Match against Greece (and again tonight) in fact produced a stunning strike worthy of Adriano’s wonder-goal against the same opponents. Having been picked out by Takashi Fukunishi thirty-five yards from goal, the Reggina midfielder looked up before launching an unstoppable rocket of a shot past a flailing Marcos. No one present could have failed to be astounded by a moment of sublime footballing spectacle.

Sadly for Japan their euphoria would last for only six minutes and once again it was down to the wizard Ronaldinho weaving his magic, which makes you think he is a good bet to be the star of the World Cup here again next summer. Starting in the centre-circle by hitting the referee with a pass and collecting it again as if that had been his intention, the twenty-five year old advanced menacingly before feeding Robinho on the left and then stretching to collect his return ball and tap it past Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

The yellow jerseys were now in full flow, surging upfield again and again like an overflowing river, an unstoppable force of nature no amount of planning and endeavour can contain. As a samba beat resonated from the stands down to the pitch Japan looked second best and were lucky not to go in at the break 3:1 down after a lovely move in the fourtieth minute ended with Kaka curling his shot just over the postage stamp.

Perhaps drunk on their superiority and with the Japanese camped out in their own half, Brazil began to play keep-ball to the giddy ‘ole’s of their own fans but the angry whistles of everyone else, who had bought tickets for an express train and not a sleeper service, even though they reach the same destination.

At the interval Zico showed his determination to defeat his own country by bringing on Koji Nakata and Masashi Oguro and thus pushing talisman Hidetoshi Nakata into a more advanced role to orchestrate the attacks. The blue shirts took to their heels a minute after the restart with Fukunishi putting Atsushi Yanagisawa through on goal but Marcos was quick off his line and blocked the effort. On fifty-five minutes Hidetoshi Nakata had a shot cleared off the line by Cicinho and the chants of ‘NI-PPON!, NI-PPON!’ grew the loudest they had all tournament.

Brazil’s best form of Bitcoin Dice defence though is attack and they hit back two minutes later when Cicinh0 went close and from the resulting corner Ze Roberto was denied twice, his first a volley that struck Kawaguchi in the face and winded him for a while and his follow-up a shot blocked on the line by Japan skipper Tsuneyasu Miyamoto.

Zico played his final card bringing on Takayuki Suzuki for Yanagisawa and his opposite number Carlos Alberto Parreira took off Adriano, Ze Roberto and Kaka for fresh legs. These switches made both teams lose some of their momentum but Brazil remained the more likely to score again, Ronaldinho dancing past all but the last man on eighty minutes and Robinho turning the badly positioned Tanaka but shooting wide six minutes afterwards, a piece of defending that had Kawaguchi screaming at his right back.

With three minutes left on the clock and Japan needing to score two a chance appeared. Arsenal’s Gilberto Silva tripped Hidetoshi Nakata just outside the D and the kick was delayed for around a minute as players from both sides jostled to gain the best positions for what could have been Japan’s last throw of the dice.

When the kick was eventually taken, Nakamura curled the ball over the wall and against the post. With the Brazilian wall stuck in quicksand, Fukunishi and Oguro were on to the rebound like hares and Oguro smacked the ball into the net although Marcos got a hand to it.

A thrilling finale duly ensued and Japan’s final chance came in injury time as Fukunishi’s crossfield lob found Oguro but the goalscorer’s near-post header was parried away by a relieved Marcos. When the referee blew for full time there were jeers from the crowd, not because the show had been a poor one but because they felt he had blown thirty seconds early and deprived them of a precious few more moments of entertainment in a match no one except the Brazilians wanted to end.

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Klinsmann’s Germany: One Year and Counting Bitcoin Dice

“Chin Up Lads! We’ll get them next time,” said the defiantly optimistic headline. “We’ll meet again Brazil, on the 9th of July 2006 in Berlin,” said another.

The host nation’s exit on Saturday against an unarguably superior Brazil has needless to say provoked a round of never-say-die patriotism in the German press, but also a thinly-veiled admission that Germany badly needs to up its game in order to win next year’s World Cup in front of their home fans with time running out.

“Yes Germany can win the World Cup next summer,” said coach Jurgen Klinsmann to reporters after the game, but what else could he have said? Former coach Rudi Voller and current captain Michael Ballack echoed the ‘We can do it, Deutschland!’ cries and even wise old Franz Beckenbauer was made to stand up and be counted on TV this week. When asked who might win the Confederations Cup he answered cautiously that Brazil and Argentina would be tough nuts to crack. When the show’s host continued to press him for a soundbite he obligingly replied “OK, Germany,” to the delight of the studio audience but no doubt to his own regret. Media outlets are more loyal to their sales than to the facts and many feel they will lose readers if they appear even remotely unpatriotic at a time like this.

They can point to facts to justify their optimism: Losing 2-3 was one goal closer to the Brazilians than the Germans got in 2002 and the team did come back twice to equalise. Germany will surely not be lacking in such commitment and motivation next summer and the lesson of most World Cups is that the host nation, buoyed by the country’s fervour, can ride on a sea of support and overachieve. South Korea’s unexpected surge to the 2002 Semi-Final was only the latest example of this.

They will certainly need all the external factors they can muster to help them defeat Brazil next year. The World Champions can play lazily, can concede two to the Japanese and the Germans and even lose a game to Mexico but there they are in the Confederations Cup Final, favourites to win. In Kaka, Robinho, Adriano and skipper Ronaldinho they have four world-class performers, four fantasistas capable of coming up with moments of amazing skill to win games.

With the best will in the world, Germany’s NationalMannschaft does not have such players, Ballack apart. Indeed the Bayern Munich star seems so key to the hosts’ survival in next year’s tournament they should watch him 24/7 in case he trips over anything in the house and gets injured.

Saturday’s team that lost to Brazil will be improved with the return of the bold, though still fresh-faced attacking flair of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dortmund’s centre-back Christoph Metzelder should provide more sturdy coverage in defense than Chelsea’s Robert Huth, who was taken to the cleaners by Adriano, “one moment a giant in defence, the next a weakling” according to Germany’s Express. In addition the return of Stuttgart’s Philipp Lahm, one of the best full-backs in Europe who had an impressive Euro 2004, will reassure the less than comfortable looking back line.

Beyond them though Bitcoin Dice, the menu looks meagre with no obvious young stars looking ready to make the grade. The attack looks particularly mediocre although the Germans will heed the lesson of France, who won in 1998 without a recognizable marksman of any quality. Lukas Podolski netted twice this tournament and should start up front with Kevin Kuranyi or Gerald Asamoah next summer but still looks far from exceptional. The only other recognizable striker Mike Hanke does not seem up to this level yet. Aston Villa’s Stuttgart-bound Thomas Hitzlsperger is surely worth a look, with his long-range potshots a useful weapon, but disappointingly for him, he was used sparingly in this warm-up tournament.

Where have the German Strikers gone?

So, Klinsmann will be relying on old hands Torsten Frings and Bernt Schneider as defensive midfielders to get stuck in and regain possession whilst Sebastian Deisler will run his socks off at both ends of the field, whip dangerous crosses in to the strikers or feed Ballack and Schweinsteiger in the hope they can create a chance.

At the other end, for Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann read Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton before the 1982 World Cup. Bayern’s veteran is still officially number one according to Klinsmann but he will continue to rotate the two, implying he is still to make up his mind whether to stay loyal to Kahn or employ the Arsenal keeper, who was more impressive this tournament.

Overall though, Germany is still living through a lean spell by their high standards. Since Klinsmann himself lifted the Euro ’96 trophy, the country with the greatest record of reaching finals has been on the slide and another mediocre showing at Euro 2004 provided little hope for next year’s World Cup. After a first-round exit in Portugal, the impressive achievement of reaching 2002’s World Cup Final then looked less so, and rather due to an undeserved seeding that kept them away from the big boys and gave them the not so big Paraguay, the USA and South Korea to hurdle to reach the final.

The fact is that Germany have not defeated a major footballing nation for some time, their 1-0 win at Wembley in 2000. The last time they won the World Cup, at Italia ’90, they possessed the superb left-back Andreas Brehme and his Inter colleagues Lothar Matthaus, one of the greatest ever midfield generals and Klinsmann himself to call upon. Their midfield, Matthaus apart, had the creative class of Thomas Hassler and the dribbling skills of Pierre Littbarski to call upon. The towering defence of Jurgen Kohler, Thomas Berthold, Guido Buchwald and Klaus Augenthaler looked a lot firmer than today’s and in Rudi Voller and Karl-Heinz Riedle Germany had two more deadly, world-class strikers. In short, they were a world class team who looked likely winners from the start.

As they prepare for the 3rd place play off with Mexico by indulging in some beach volleyball and basketball, today’s German squad should feel somewhat relaxed at not having disgraced themselves and knowing a year is still a long time in football. At the same time, though, they are a pale shadow of the last German World Cup-winning team that featured Klinsmann and with an envious eye on the wizardry of Kaka & co., will be pondering what they can do to combat the late FIFA President Stanley Rous’ maxim that, “There is no substitute for skill.”