We almost have a winner

So, we’re ready for the last two games of the World Cup. It’s all passed by quite quickly. Here are my thoughts on the World Cup semis and the upcoming games.

  • Holland vs. Uruguay– The Dutch seem to turn up in games and not do a great deal and then suddenly their coach lights a fire under them in the 2nd half and they are a different team. Uruguay showed that they deserved to be there, in spite of the controversy, and who knows if their missing players might have propelled them to the final. Their manager’s substitution of Diego Forlan with 7 minutes to go was strange — it looked like a tactical decision — and when Uruguay scored in extra time to make the score 3-2, I was wondering if Forlan might’ve conjured up some magic on a free kick. We’ll never know.
  • Spain vs. Germany – In my previous post, I wrote that I wanted a Holland Germany final but that has not come to pass (pun intended) because of Spain. The semi-final wasn’t as much fun as I expected probably because the Spanish were intent on passing the Germans to death. It was technically brilliant but not artistic and certainly not the way Spain played in Euro 2008 which was more pleasing to the eye. Like I predicted, the Germans missed Thomas Mueller and their attacks didn’t have the same bite as they did when Mueller was in the side. Spain were deserving winners on the day.
  • The road ahead for Germany – I think Germany needs to find a proper replacement for Miroslav Klose once he retires. The current replacements do not match up and there’s a noticeable drop-off. If they do find a replacement, they will be a team to contend with for a long time. They have been the most exciting team to watch this World Cup and I hope that they keep playing their wonderful brand of football.
  • Germany vs. Uruguay – With Mueller back, the Germans will have a better balance and should look much better offensively. Uruguay, with Suarez back, will also be dangerous, so hopefully both teams will go for it and not play a cagey game. If so, expect a terrifically fun match. I think the Uruguay team has a point to prove and they may be really up for it given that they’ve not been given a great deal of respect by the media. Germany, on the other hand, expected to beat Spain, so maybe the disappointment of losing might see them lose the edge for this game.

Spain vs. Holland

  • Spain will keep a hold of the ball and if the Dutch play like they did against Brazil and Uruguay (in the first half I mean), they will get carved apart. With two players returning, there should be a bit more balance to the Dutch side but that depends on who their coach picks. Does he go with an attacking formation (playing Van der Waart) or a defensive formation (playing the incoming De Jong)? I have a feeling he’ll be cautious, given that this is a World Cup final, and go with the latter.
  • The Dutch need to play like they did in the second halves of their last two games and they’ll be okay. I wrote about how the Dutch have not had a great game all tournament and if they play ONE great game, I don’t think the Spanish defense will be able to stop Van Persie, Sneijder, and Robben. Big if.
  • Also, that Robben against Capdevilla match-up might be one to watch out; I think the Spanish left-back is a bit suspect. The Spanish will also like their chances against the Dutch left side against Geovanni van Bronkhorst.
  • One thing that the Germans didn’t do but the Dutch will is to shoot from outside the box. Spain’s goalkeeper, Casillas, has been a big critic of the Jabulani ball; he’ll have to watch for shots from outside, especially when Sneijder has the ball.
  • We know what the Spanish will do — keep the ball, pass it around, press when they don’t have the ball, and make things compact and difficult for the Dutch. They will be patient and the Dutch will have to be patient and not get frustrated when they don’t have the ball.
  • The English referee, Howard Webb, will be officiating and if he calls the game like any English Premier League game, I think it’ll favour the Dutch who are a bit more physical than the Spanish.
  • From a neutral perspective, a Dutch goal in the first half would be the best thing for the game. I think that’ll force Spain into being more direct and should open the game up. If not, I fear that we’ll see a lot of possession but not much happening, especially in the first half.
  • This is Spain’s first final and I just wonder if that will make a difference to the way they approach the game. Holland has been here before and have had their hearts broken (in 1974 and 1978), so they may just want it a bit more — that might just be the edge that they need. It’s a hard game to call and I just hope that the game is interesting to watch and doesn’t fizzle out like so many high-profile games often do.

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