Thursday, June 9, 2016
group f - portugal, iceland, austria, hungary
it's safe to say that portugal have underachieved in recent times. each appearance in a tournament whether it be world cup or european championships have ended prematurely, with their star player cristiano ronaldo not living up to his high expectations. he has been capped over 100 times for his country and has appeared in 6 major tournaments (3 world cups, and 3 european championships). euro 2004 in portugal was his greatest chance, as he had helped guide his nation to the final, only to be defeated by greece. semi finals in the world cup in germany 2006, losing to france, and then losing to germany in the 3rd place match. euro 2008 in austria/ switzerland, portugal made the quarter finals, only to be defeated by finalists germany. 2010 world cup in south africa, portugal made the round of 16 to then be dumped out by eventual winners spain. euro 2012 in poland/ ukraine they again met spain, this time in the semi final and lost on penalties. spain going on to win that tournament, as well. last but not least, the 2014 world cup in brazil, in which portugal failed to make it out of their group. they can be forgiven for not beating germany in their opening fixture, but they really should have beaten the united states in their next match, instead drawing 2-2. they have been so close to a title at times, and yet, have been beaten in the knockout stages by eventual winners or finalists more often than not. obviously not all of the blame should fall on ronaldo's shoulders, but the feeling is that he generally plays better for his club than his country. he will be looking to prove many wrong this time around, and truly take portugal to the promise land... european champions. he is 31 years of age, and the chances are starting to dwindle. he is a world player of the year 3 times, and the all time leading goal scorer for his club real madrid. if there is to be any time for him to win a title with his country, it may be this tournament. they only lost 1 match in their 8 qualifying matches (vs albania), and will be looking to cause not only their group problems, but the rest of their tournament foes. the current odds on portugal to win are 18/1 and if i were to place a bet, i'd likely take them to win the whole thing.
iceland, along with austria, were both surprise packages in qualifying. clearly, i've mentioned both in previous posts but i'll remind you how they fared. austria topped a group that included russia, sweden and montenegro. in 10 matches, they won 9 and drew 1. pretty impressive. they scored 22 goals along the way and only conceded 5. watch for stoke city's marko arnautović to be the danger man for them in the attacking third. iceland finished 2 points behind czech republic in their group and 2 points ahead of turkey in a highly competitive group. finishing second meant that they avoided the potential playoff as finishing third would have, however, with the quality in all 3 sides, third place in this group ended up meaning automatic qualification anyway. this will be the first time that iceland have made the european championships, and they certainly look a great side. they had the highest goal difference in their group by a clear 6 goals and only lost 2 matches in 10. again reaching to the premier league, gylfi sigurðsson who plies his trade for swansea city (wales) will be their guy. he has a great free kick, and possesses long range ability when striking the ball. he is also an assist machine, proving that he can create goals as well as score them.
hungary might just be the nation that suffers the most in this group, and they were fairly fortunate to qualify anyway. scoring 11 yet conceding 9, they finished third in their group behind northern ireland & romania. they were drawn against norway in the playoff and actually defeated them in both matches. i really wish that i had more to write about hungary, but every time i write hungary, my stomach grumbles. that was a poor joke, but i'm serious that i'm hungry and i'm leaving it at that. this nation will be lucky to gain a point in this group, and i fully expect them to have a negative goal difference when all is said and done. i will say this: i adore their goalkeeper. gábor király, who will become the oldest player (40) to appear at a european championship, has played in the premier league before and also the uefa champions league. the reason that i adore this man? his pants. it's fairly uncommon for a goalkeeper to wear pants, let alone wear them in every professional match. he does, and it's awesome.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
group e - belgium, italy, republic of ireland, sweden
picking who will finish in what position in this group seems impossible. belgium are ranked the highest. italy have the pedigree, but ireland and sweden have been here before and will look to cause upsets at every given opportunity. this group has been dubbed the "group of death" which seems to exist in every football tournament, however, this group is simply dangerous in all aspects. ireland will look to have the luck to go far in this tournament, and their manager martin o'neill is likely the best candidate to take them to the promise land. this group will provide a huge stumbling block for them, but to be the best, you want to beat the best. right? this tournament will likely be the last one for zlatan ibrahimovic. he's 34 years of age now, and at the next world cup he will be 36. not impossible to consider that he might yet play on, but i would imagine that he won't be there in russia and sweden will have to find a new goalscorer. having said that, sweden will rate themselves right up there with ireland as spoilers to the party. italy and belgium will see themselves as favourites, but this group will not be easy, whatsoever.
in qualifying, belgium topped the group that had wales, bosnia and herzegovina & israel. their record almost identical to wales, except that wales drew one more game that belgium won. so, 2 points difference between belgium in first and wales in second. pretty tough group for belgium, and they had to work hard to qualify, but they have the quality to succeed in almost any group. their only loss was in wales, and they suffered two draws (one hosting wales, the other travelling to bosnia). they had a goal difference of +19, scoring 24 goals and only conceding 5. attacking talent throughout the side, they will need eden hazard to erase his miserable season for chelsea and turn over a new leaf with his nation. powerful forwards benteke and lukaku will be valuable assets for this squad, knowing exactly where the goal is at all times. kevin de bruyne is the one to watch here even though he has been on the radar for awhile now. his form for manchester city toward the end of the season should prove enough that he is their star player and will require constant attention.
italy will be looking to capture their first title since 1968, and have not only the squad to do so, but the manager, as well. antonio conte, who will join chelsea fc immediately following the tournament, is a world class coach. he has proven in the past with italy & juventus, that he knows what he's doing and can inspire those around him to compete and succeed. he is a former player who can relate with his squad and will be looking to not only advance through to the knockouts but to get to the semi final, at the very least. they had a flawless qualifying campaign winning 7 matches and drawing 3. they probably conceded more goals than they would have expected (7), which might be a sign that their defence is not their strongest point. however, when you have gianluigi buffon in goal, you're always in safe hands.
the republic of ireland can be one of the dark horses of the tournament. they will need to bring all of the luck with them, because looking at their qualifying campaign, they weren't the top side in their group. in fact, they finished 3rd in a group containing germany, poland & scotland. they lost the same number of games as germany did (2), but failing to win in 5 matches (2 losses, 3 draws) was what prevented them from finishing ahead of poland in second. they struggled with scotland, losing in scotland and only managing a draw in ireland. not really the results that you would expect against that nation. so, they would enter the 3rd place playoff round and be drawn against the top ranked bosnia and herzegovina. i reckon they were thrilled to avoid sweden & ukraine but bosnia wouldn't be a stroll in the park, and they knew they needed to be at their best over the two legs. the first leg in zenica was in danger of being abandoned, after a thick cloud of fog covered the pitch, but was an uninspiring 0-0 until the 80th minute. robbie brady put the visitors ahead with a neat finish, before edin dzeko levelled for the host. 1-1 at full-time and ireland were in the drivers seat headed to dublin for the second leg. ireland knew what they needed to do, and were the better side the entire match. they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty when a bosnia defender was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box, jon walters scoring the spot kick. the tie was settled in the second half when walters scored his second of the match and ireland won 1-3 on aggregate. the squad on paper doesn't seem too threatening, but this side plays with plenty of heart and will be a force. expect to see them in the knockouts, i just don't know who will miss out in this group.
sweden also had to qualify through a playoff after finishing 3rd in their group. surprise package austria won 9 matches and only drew 1 in this group. russia finished 2nd place, and sweden missed out because russia won 1 more game that sweden had drawn. 2 points difference, but that would be enough to send sweden to a playoff. losing 1-4 at home to austria can be deemed their largest disappointment in the group. denmark were to be their opponent in the playoff and sweden were up to the task. two goals either side of half, looked to have sweden in a comfortable position. denmark pulled a precious goal back right before the final whistle insuring that the second leg would be extremely interesting. scoring early in the second leg kept sweden in control, and when zlatan ibrahimovic stroked home a 25-yard free kick late in the second half, the aggregate was all but settled. despite denmark scoring two late goals, they needed two more to overcome the deficit. the final aggregate score was 3-4 for sweden. ibrahimovic carried his nation throughout the qualifying and will look to do so in the tournament, as well.
do not ask me how this group will finish, my answer will be something along the lines of "they will all advance to the knockouts" ...that can happen, right?!
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
group d - spain, czech republic, turkey, croatia
spain will be fully expected to advance out of this fairly weak group. they were the team to beat 4 years ago in poland/ ukraine, winning euro 2012 comfortably 4-0 over italy. it's been 6 years now since that title, and times have certainly changed for this nation. in brazil, defending the world cup, they were dumped out after losing their first two group games 1-5 to netherlands and 0-2 to chile. it was completely disappointing by their standards but maybe that says something about being the defending champion. when you come into a tournament as defending champions, the pressure is on you to succeed once more. clearly, in the case of spain in brazil the pressure was too much to handle. nothing against the netherlands and/ or chile because both nations were fully equipped to handle spain (obviously), but coming into this tournament, spain have a much easier task ahead. also, once i tell you about how they qualified, i'm sure you will agree that they are one of the favourites to win the entire thing. 10 matches played, 9 wins and 1 loss. the loss came early in the campaign on the road at slovakia, losing 2-1. they only conceded those 2 goals in open play, and unfortunately 1 more at home against macedonia whom scored from the spot. 23 goals scored and only 3 conceded, that to me speaks of a sparkling campaign. i could speak about friendlies, but these results are the ones that matter and spain took care of business. no torres or diego costa leading the line anymore, instead the ferocious alvaro morata from juventus will hope to showcase himself as one of the world's best. fabregas and david silva will be there as well as iniesta, busquets and koke. this squad should make it out of the group this time, and will be a force in the knockouts, as well.
czech republic have to be considered as the biggest threat to spain winning this group. they have long had an amazing setup bringing youth teams through and competing at the highest level in all competitions. they finished top of group a in qualifying with only 2 losses. turkey were also in this group and finished third losing 2 matches as well, but having a few draws extra. looking into the two fixtures that these nations had, they both won one and each were at the oppositions stadium. the match in czech republic, turkey ran away as 0-2 winners, both goals being scored in the second half. the match in turkey, the hosts led 1-0 only to be pegged back almost immediately and the winner coming in the second half for a 1-2 victory for czech republic. safe to say that their match in this group should be an intriguing one. it should be noted that both czech republic and turkey came through this group having finished ahead of the netherlands and sandwiched between iceland. turkey, having finished 3rd in the group were made to wait as qualification was down to how they finished among all of the other 3rd place teams. having led all of the 3rd place teams in points, turkey did not have to go through with a playoff.
undefeated at home through qualification, croatia also seem to be a squad capable of causing upsets in the tournament. they only had 1 loss along the way, losing 0-2 in norway. two massive draws against italy (both 1-1) showcasing that they can battle hard with some of the best in the world. this croatia squad is very experienced and have proven in past tournaments that they are not to be underrated. luka modric, mateo kovacic, ivan rakitic and ivan perisic make up a quite scary midfield. while, mario mandzukic can score from just about anywhere in the penalty area. this squad should be capable of advancing to the knockouts, i would put my money on them finishing either 2nd or 3rd.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
group c - germany, poland, ukraine, northern ireland
the thing about the euros is that usually there aren't any upsets. one nation may get a shock and be beaten by another unfancied side, but usually that does not cause their campaign to crumble. i fully expect the same script this time around, especially given the fact that some 3rd place finishers can still find a way into the knockout phase. having said that, this group should be a given. germany and poland will be expected to advance occupying the top two spots in this group. should germany lose out on top spot to poland, it won't really matter too much to them as the real business will begin in the knockout phase. bringing up an idea that germany could lose out on top spot seems ridiculous, but this poland side have grown in the last few years and remain a dark horse to win the entire tournament. more on them, later. northern ireland will be out there playing for pride. unlike wales, who also will be in the tournament for the first time, they won't be expected to win any games. sometimes that is the best way to enter a tournament, no pressure whatsoever. they will be looking at their fixture against ukraine with heavy focus, hoping to find their way to the knockout via 3rd place, barring any crazy shock results.
germany have qualified for their 12th straight european championships. that number seems unbelievable but it's completely true. they are a force in world football and will never be phased out of any of these competitions. their structure within the national team is one to be praised. youth are always given a chance, and the club setup in germany just seems to keep producing young talent year after year. their qualifying campaign was a determined one, as always, you expect germany to finish top of their group and they did just that. they topped the group by a mere 1 point over fellow group c opponents poland. it was a pretty tough group you could say, containing not only poland but the republic of ireland as well as scotland. the only blemish on their record was two away defeats in poland and ireland. only obtaining a draw at home against ireland would be considered a failure as well, but other than that, they still topped the group and were able to bring new faces into the team such as jonas hector, emre can & kevin volland. they will be fully expected to advance to the knockout phase, and some german media would expect them to have a flawless record.
poland can be considered a dark horse to win the entire tournament, but they won't let that kind of pressure/ expectation phase them. their only defeat in qualifying was in germany, which is almost expected. they drew scotland twice (both 2-2) home and away, and drew in ireland, as well. highlights can include home wins over germany, and ireland. they are a nation who seem to play fearless football, each tournament they seem to get better and better. robert lewandowski was the leading goalscorer in qualifying, scoring more than any other with a tally of 13 goals. they have 3 great goalkeepers to choose from in: artur boruc, lukasz fabiański & wojciech szczęsny. experience throughout the side, starting at the back with dortmund defender lukasz piszczek. leading the way with 77 caps, midfielder jakub błaszczykowski, now plying his trade in italy with fiorentina, will help to keep things under control. two young talents to watch out for in this side, and whom both might orchestrate summer transfers to bigger clubs in europe are: empoli's piotr zieliński & ajax's arkadiusz milik. expect both of these players to not only play for their national team in june, but to cause some commotion across the competition.
ukraine had to qualify the hard way after finishing 3rd in their qualifying group behind spain & slovakia. they lost at home to both spain & slovakia which would ultimately hinder their chances. in the playoff they were drawn against slovenia (who finished 3rd in the england/ switzerland group), and would enjoy a comfortable 2-0 advantage in the 1st leg. the 2nd leg would be a 1-1 draw in slovenia which meant that over two legs, ukraine had a 3-1 advantage and would qualify. only conceding 4 goals in group play, they have always been considered a gritty side and will no doubt play hard football against germany & poland. in attacking winger/ midfielders andriy yarmolenko and yevhen konoplyanka, they will always be a threat on the counter attack. perhaps lightning will strike twice for ukraine and they will qualify again finishing 3rd place. i wouldn't put it past them to cause a sneaky result over germany or poland, though. this is a nation to worry about defensively, but they are certainly a side that can be breached.
northern ireland only lost one match in qualifying which was in romania, who did not lose a game in qualifying. they did, however, win one more match than romania (6) which helped them to finish top of the group 1 point ahead. despite kyle lafferty scoring 7 goals throughout qualifying, they are not expected to win any games here. they are a nation that is thrilled to be a part of the party. having said that, they have absolutely nothing to lose and can play a bit free, simply go out there to entertain. a quick look through their squad and you will notice a ton of lower level english squads within the club mix as well as some scottish sides. anyone who is new to watching football and enjoyed the leicester city story this season, then nothern ireland are your nation to get behind. not as handsome as the 5000-1 odds given to leicester city at the beginning of the premier league season (i reckon you may never see those odds produced, ever again), you can pick northern ireland right now at a cool 250-1. the worst odds of any nation in the competition including albania & hungary
Monday, May 30, 2016
group b - england, russia, wales, slovakia
in group b, we get the chance to see how england will respond to their previous major tournament setback two years ago in brazil. it was a tough group that they were drawn into, but england expected to get out of their group containing italy, uruguay and costa rica. unfortunately, they would lose both of their first games to italy & uruguay respectively, and be on the plane home sooner than expected. they have had a stunning qualifying campaign, winning each and every match that was put in front of them. the group was pretty weak to be honest, switzerland offering their only real threat. beating switzerland home and away (2-0 in each fixture) would prove that they were up to the task. so, 10 wins out of 10 matches, and 31 goals scored in total, conceding only 3 along the way (all to slovenia). england can hope that the new mix of young talent in the squad perhaps can produce a much better display than that of which was displayed in brazil. the likes of harry kane and jamie vardy will be ones to watch, and of course, wayne rooney. the issue with rooney is that he has been playing much deeper lately with his club manchester united. almost in a playmaker type roll, perhaps, that suits his lack of pace? regardless, he is a threat whenever he is on the pitch, and playmaker or not, he should certainly be among the goals for this young side. given the group that they are in, the knockout phase is certainly an expectation.
russia will hope that stability can take them into the knockout phase of this competition. they have parted ways with coach fabio capello, who was allowed to coach 6 qualifying games and had a record of 2-2-2. the two losses against austria being his ultimate downfall. replaced by leonid slutsky, russia went on to win their remaining 4 matches and finish second in the group to austria. slutsky, manager of cska moscow, just won his third russian title in four seasons with the club. he knows plenty of the players at his disposal, and can relax knowing that his squad are very comfortable with one another. a strong defensive team, they have plenty of players up the pitch that can cause any nation problems. his cska midfielders alan dzagoev (25) & aleksandr golovin (20), will surely be key players in their potential success. let's not forget that russia play host to the world in 2018, and would love to remind everyone that they are a nation to be feared going into that tournament. zenit st petersburg striker aleksandr kokorin (25), will be looking to make a name for himself. russia will expect a strong performance in the group stage and throughout the tournament, this is not a nation to sleep on. they will very likely be in the knockout stages, and they will be a tough opposition for anybody.
gareth bale is the player that this group fears most. he just won the champions league with real madrid, his second in three years and has also led this exciting welsh side to their first european championships. their qualifying campaign was certainly one to be impressed with as they were in a tough group containing belgium, bosnia and herzegovina & israel. belgium led the way, and finished top of the group but only nicking it by two points over this determined welsh side. not scoring boatloads of goals, only scoring 11 throughout 10 matches, they were a gritty determined side that also didn't concede many. their greatest success, beating belgium 1-0 at home and simply not losing to them on the road (0-0 draw). not losing to bosnia or israel at home also can be considered a success (both 0-0 draws). their only loss was in bosnia, who beat them 2-0, but only losing one match was what helped them to second place. both bosnia & israel can only blame themselves for not qualifying losing plenty of matches in qualifying. take nothing away from wales, however, they have qualified and now will look to cause upsets in group b. bale being their biggest star, and most important player, they can also rely on aaron ramsey in midfield to steady the ship. plenty of experience in joe allen and ashley williams, their captain, and andy king of premier league champions leicester city. make no mistake about it, their goal is to get out of the group, but the pressure on them to do so is fairly non-existant. they will be incredibly happy to be there and will enjoy the tag as "outsiders" hoping to shock whomever is watching their matches. they should be a very interesting side to watch.
last but certainly not least, slovakia, who were in a fairly tough qualifying group themselves alongside former world champions and european champions: spain, ukraine & belarus. if you're paying close attention, you will know that they just beat defending world champions germany in a friendly 1-3 in augsburg. it was a friendly, of course, but when you are preparing for a major tournament, these performances can be very important. they have some very experienced players who will allow them to play the attacking football that they are known to play with. the highlight of their qualifying campaign would certainly have to be defeating spain 2-1 at home in front of their roaring supporters. only losing two games (one in spain, and one hosting belarus), the belarus result can be deemed their lowest point. marek hamšík is easily their most recognized star and should light the tournament up. he is very quick, and scores goals with ease. he is a nightmare to defend. a player to watch for slovakia would be ondrej duda (21) who plays for legia warsaw in poland. should he see minutes in france, he will most certainly be out to impress and perhaps force a transfer this summer to a club who could pay him much more than warsaw would currently be paying him. hard group to predict, so i will sit on the fence with this one. slovakia could cause problems as much as wales can. england and russia have to be the favourites, but they are completely beatable on any given day. don't be shocked to see some upsets in this group, i see it being highly competitive.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
not so friendly...
lorik cana appearing to foul alexandre lacazette during albania's shock 1-0 defeat of les blues in 2015
group a - france, switzerland, romania, albania
france qualify for euro 2016 as hosts, so there's not much to judge them on apart from friendlies. the pressure is on them to show their nation that they can lift the trophy for a third time. they are a very strong side that plays some wonderful football, and should be right up there with the favourites. some highlights include: beating germany 2-0, netherlands 2-3 and russia 4-2. they did struggle in a few friendlies, losing 0-2 to england, 3-4 to belgium and shockingly 0-1 to fellow group a rivals albania. the group that has been put in front of them isn't terrible, but france should aim to finish first and win all three matches. easy enough to say.. but with the current setup, finishing third in a group could still see a nation advance to the knockout phase. that setup, could cause some smaller nations to either a) play for draws or b) only play their strongest in the games that they feel they can win (ie gaining maximum points). it's terrible for any football purest to think this way, but the previous setup was much better and led nobody to even think these horrible thoughts. anyway, to the rest of the group...
switzerland were drawn into a qualifying group with an england side, who were extremely disappointing in the world cup prior. it was always going to be a tough task to beat them, but switzerland were well up for it. both matches ended up 2-0 to england, but the football that switzerland played deserved a much better score. the only real disappointing result in their qualifying was a 0-1 loss in slovenia. other than that, pretty clean campaign scoring 24 goals and only conceding 8. they will fancy themselves to finish first in the group, and their match against france will be one that you won't want to miss. should they finish second, they may end up seeing a tough matchup in the knockout phase, but that won't worry them. they play fearless football, and will be a match for most top nations in the competition.
no disrespect to the next two nations but, they will be lucky to make the knockout phase. both romania and albania need to produce shocking results against france and/or switzerland to stand a chance. crazier things have happened in sport, but it's very unlikely. if either could manage a draw against france and/or switzerland, and beat the other, that will be their greatest opportunity. albania has the be the wildcard in this group after an up-and-down campaign. draws against denmark (home and away) may have been the most efficient points they could have gathered, after shocking portugal in aveiro 0-1. they were also fortunate to gain a 0-3 victory in serbia, due to the crowd trouble and subsequent forfeit of the match. they weren't scoring a ton of goals, aside from beating armenia 0-3, each game that they won or lost was decided by a single goal. they can be applauded, however, after finishing second in a group with portugal and denmark. if they can produce an equal result to their friendly win over france in 2014, the knockout phase would most certainly happen for them. romania finished a close second behind nothern ireland in their qualifying group, despite finishing undefeated. i suppose you could say that their most impressive victory was at home against northern ireland, winning 2-0. perhaps, you could call their 0-1 victory in piraeus impressive, but greece were a squad in transition and under a new coach in ranieri (who later was sacked, and then led leicester to the premier league title). still though, 10 months after missing out on the world cup, losing a playoff against greece, they were able to exact a bit of revenge. they only conceded 2 goals along the way, proving to have a stingy defence. 5 draws and 5 wins seems impressive enough, but it was a bit of a weak group. the real shock being that northern ireland finished top. i would imagine that both albania and romania struggle in this group. if i were a gambling man (which i most certainly am not) my money would be on france to top this group, switzerland to finish second, and romania third. albania (appearing in their first european championship) will be absolutely thrilled to be included in the competition.
Monday, May 16, 2016
it was a miserably cold evening at bmo field saturday, but you could excuse the supporters for wanting to escape the cold early. toronto fc came out very flat on saturday, and were made to pay early for their mistakes. looking timid all over the park, the breakthrough came just 12 minutes in, when damien perquis gave the ball away to an inspired kekuta manneh. he said, "thank you very much" and took the ball right to goal, sidefooting past clint irwin in goal. will johnson, visibly frustrated, could be seen giving a rollicking to his teammates, in an effort to re-motivate his side. it would be to no avail as six minutes later, manneh would wreck havoc on the toronto fc defense again. his shot well parried by irwin, however right into the path of christian bolaños who made no mistake with his emphatic finish. 0-2 up, the whitecaps were not only in control, they were cruising. toronto fc needed to step up their game, and they did immediately. the reds had a few chances to get on the scoresheet in the first half, but none greater than jozy altidore winning a penalty in the 35th minute. altidore got the nod to take the spot kick, something that i strongly disagreed with, and saw his penalty saved by an outstretched david ousted. it was a brilliant save, but sebastian giovinco should have taken that kick. i completely understand the logic that, when you have a player that needs a boost in form or confidence let them take the kick, that doesn't make the logic right, however. it's true, you see this happen all of the time in football, but when the player misses the spot kick like jozy did, it makes matters worse. his confidence will be shattered now after that miss, and greg vanney should have known that giovinco was the better option. he has since stated that it was a "team decision" and you can respect that, but as manager (coach) you need to know that it's your decisions that could impact the game, and in this case, it did. allowing the team to make a decision that should only be made by the coach, is silly. jozy altidore seemed to injure himself after the spot kick, and i'm hoping that the injury wasn't sustained before the spot kick. as a player, you want to take the spot kick, but if you're injured you need to know that it should be someone else. regardless, he pulled up after the kick was saved, and was seen headed straight down the tunnel. it did not look great. what did look great, however, was the toronto fc goal that followed two minutes later. damien perquis atoning for an earlier error with a punt that became an exquisite through-ball, to sebastian giovinco who made the finish look easy with a beautiful turn in the box to allow separation before curling past ousted in goal. 1-2 at halftime, and the reds feeling a bit better about themselves. 20 minutes deep into the second half, and the score remained the same. toronto were knocking at the door, dominating possession and testing ousted in goal. after an interception in midfield, michael bradley sent giovinco through on goal with a perfectly weighted pass. the italian would make no mistake, and bring toronto level at 2-2. surely, toronto were now going to go and win the match. vancouver had other ideas. in a game where manneh was superb, he would again become a thorn turning steven beitashour inside and out before scoring his second of the game. two minutes later, he became provider again laying the ball on to pedro morales, who scored a beauty of a curling effort past irwin. that's 2 goals and 2 assists, if you're counting. manneh was an absolute menace against us, and he simply could not be marked. fraser aird, the canadian on loan from rangers, would see his marching orders in the 76th minute for two yellow cards. toronto had a numerical advantage with 15 minutes left to play, they needed 2 goals to draw level though. three minutes later, toronto halved the deficit when sebastian giovinco lifted a corner high and deep into the box, and drew moor rose highest to meet it with a deft header. that was to be as close as the reds got, even after throwing the kitchen sink at vancouver for the remaining 10 minutes and stoppage time. despite entering the game with the second best defensive record in mls, toronto did not look organized at the back. manneh had them stretched, and it made a world of a difference. new york city will visit toronto on wednesday evening, and the reds will have to improve significantly if they are to get anything from that match.