What a difference the knockout stages make. Here are more thoughts on the World Cup. Earlier part here
- France and Italy – France imploded like everyone predicted they would; no surprise there. Still, the sheer madness of a player mutiny at the World Cup made this a compelling story. I’ve not been a fan of Italy for a long time, so I didn’t shed any tears when they went out. Yet, they were a dodgy refereeing decision — make that two if you count the clear offside goal by New Zealand — from qualifying. Talk about wafer-thin margins.
- Brazil – This was one world cup that I didn’t want Brazil to win because I felt that they abandoned their beautiful game for a more pragmatic approach. I hope that they’ll go back to their roots in 4 years when they play in their home country. People say winning is all that matters but I remember the Brazilian team of 1986 with such great fondness even though they didn’t win. If Dunga had chosen better and more attacking players, they might’ve put the game beyond the Dutch in the first half.
- The Suarez handball – Sure it was within the rules but it was a nailed on goal and to make Asamoah Gyan take a pressure cooker penalty was an injustice. Ghana, not Uruguay should’ve gone through.
- The Germans are fun to watch– With due respect to Spain, who probably pass the ball better, and the Dutch, who haven’t yet clicked, the Germans have been the most entertaining team to watch. Their counter attacks are speedy and devastating and it’s great to watch so many different players score goals. Also, they’ve used a terrific mix of youth and experienced players to get to the semi-finals. Spain will be worried because this German team has goals in them even if they look like they can concede. Germany, despite what their coach says, will miss Thomas Mueller in the Spain game. His penetrative runs from midfield have been brilliant and I don’t know if they have a replacement who can do the same without a drop off in quality.
- England was overrated – It’s easy to point to that Lampard non-goal as a turning point but I think that the better team won. England were boring to watch through the tournament and I’m glad that the Germans went through. Where the Germans looked fast and fresh, the English looked jaded and slow. One TV commentator spoke about how Germany had invested much more in their youth academies than the English and that they’re reaping the benefits. Hard to argue with that. Also, the fact that young English players are hyped before they do anything works against them.
- Spain can pass the ball but…– For all their wonderful passing and movement, the Spanish have been over-reliant on David Villa to bail them out of games. They’ve not been the goalscoring machines that people predicted. If the Germans come up with a good game plan, they could make life very difficult for Spain. Also, Paraguay should’ve been a goal up at half-time of their game — that would’ve made the quarterfinals a completely different game. Still, I’d be an idiot to rule out Spain given the number of talented players that they have.
- The Argentina Germany game– I was baffled when I saw the experts predict that the Germans wouldn’t keep up with the Argentinians. I wrote in my earlier post – Argentina looks impressive but their defense seems suspect and yet everyone seemed to focus on their brilliant attack. Anyone who’d watched the Germans dismantle England would’ve realized that they would’ve caused Argentina problems.
- I can’t figure out the Dutch– They have never seemed to fire but somehow have won all their games. Maybe this is just their year. They should be able to beat Uruguay, who’ll be without Suarez, and if they find their form in the final, they will be champions. Given that some brilliant teams in the past have not won the World Cup, maybe this is delayed karma or something. I think the Dutch must know that this is probably their best chance to win the world cup. I’ve always supported the Dutch for the longest time because of the way they play their football and probably because I have vivid memories of that 1988 European Championship team (what a goal by Van Basten huh!).
- The final I’d like– Holland vs. Germany would be a great final I think. They’re rivals and there’s great history and it’d be wonderful for this German team to make it to the finals. This German team doesn’t seem to know how to play within themselves or defensively – they play expansive football and that’s always a good thing if you like goals. I’m hoping that the Dutch will also be forced to play like Germany. Also, being an Arsenal fan, I can’t bring myself to support Spain because their Barca players have been proper shit-heads about trying to get Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas to move to Barca. But that’s a topic for a book, so we’ll let that go.