* Sergio Ramos is really the Achilles heel of the Spanish team. If the Dutch fail to exploit the space he creates on their attack, it’s hard to see how they win.
* Puyol and Pique aren’t super quick. I’d like to see some attempts to play a through ball to Robin Van Persie or Arjen Robben.
* If you’d told me that Robin Van Persie had only one goal, I’d have assumed the Dutch didn’t make it very far. Sneijder isn’t really a finisher, despite his 5 goals this World Cup (if neither Sneijder or Villa score, the two will share top scorer honors with Uruguayan Diego Forlan and German Thomas Mueller). Van Persie has to make life difficult for Pique and Puyol. Interestingly, Van Persie and the Dutch coach had some serious feuds in the early part of this decade.
* Interesting matchup to me will be Dutch holding midfielders Nigel De Jong and Mark Van Bommel against Xavi and Iniesta. De Jong and Van Bommel need to be careful not to pick up any yellows early that could lead to reds later. Referee Howard Webb is not a guy afraid to give marginal red cards or penalties in big games, if my memory serves.
* Spain really should try to counter the counter-attack once in awhile. One of the few great things about playing Spain is that they seem to think it is unsporting to counterattack when an opponent turns the ball over. The Dutch can bring people forward with a little more confidence than against Uruguay.
* Dirk Kuyt is the un-Dutch Dutch footballer. He’s all hustle. Yet he’s pretty vital because his work rate sets the tone. He’s a bit less valuable if the Dutch try to out ticky-tack the Spaniards.
* Do you switch Robben to matchup against Sergio Ramos? Or would matching up against Robben make Sergio Ramos more likely to stay at home and not get out of position? And while Sergio Ramos is overrated offensively, he does bring something to the table, meaning that Kuyt gets back against him better. I bet we’ll see the status quo — Kuyt on the left. I’d consider Ryan Babel, but why bother thinking about these things when van Marwijk obviously isn’t going to do it: he hasn’t put Ryan Babel on the pitch for a single minute this tournament.
* Iker Casillas has occasionally looked shaky, I’d like to see the Dutch try from distance. The Uruguay goalkeeper had had a pretty good tournament until today, hadn’t he? I wouldn’t mind seeing a Schweinsteiger-esque 45 yard strike that Casillas fails to parry and leaves it on doorstep for someone crashing for the rebound. Nope, wouldn’t mind that at all.
* There is some truth to the idea that Spain plays a more classically Dutch game than this Netherlands team does. That’d be cruel if it works for them.
It is always true that the first goal is just massively crucial. Against some opponents, the game completely changes. Not really against Spain, who play the same game up 1-0 or down 1-0.