Holland v Uruguay preview

July 6, 2010

More thoughts, in numbered form.

1. This isn’t really Uruguay on the field. It’s Uruguay minus injuries and suspensions. Suarez (he of the handball, who by the way plays in Holland for Ajax where he has scored 3 goals in every 4 games) is missing. Center defender and captain Lugano won’t be there, while the other center defender, Godin, missed the last game for injury, so you have to wonder how solid the middle of the defense will be. Defender Fucile won’t be there, nor will playmaker Lodeiro.

2. Holland is missing a van der Zwiel and De Jong. De Jong is pretty key, but de Zeeuw is a suitable replacement. I’m a bit more worried about Khalid Boulahrouz and his capacity for gaining penalties and red cards through his defending. If I recall correctly, van der Zwiel’s suspension is for the yellow he received for touching the ball when it was Kaka’s throw-in. Pretty ticky-tacky card that while I technically agree with, it is unique in this World Cup. A shame.

3. I’d expect Uruguay to come out fairly defensively, much like they did against France. Try and keep the game scoreless in the first half and hope Forlan can poach one in the second half. Suarez’s replacement Cavani isn’t a zero either, playing for Palermo in Italy.

4. Not many teams can be missing this many starters and win. Uruguay has only 3.5 million people. They also played 120 minutes in their last match. They’re a good team — if I recall correctly after their first game I said they are one of the most underrated teams at this World Cup, but I’m not going to search for the post right now — but those are alot of obstacles to overcome. Anything can happen in football, but Uruguay has alot of factors working against them.

5. Please Boulahrouz, please. Don’t do anything dumb. If you don’t, Holland cruises into the finals 3-1.


Do you believe in (Dutch) miracles?

July 2, 2010

The miracle isn’t that the Netherlands beat Brazil. Not at all, as the two nations now have the same record against each other. The miracle is that the Dutch are winning ugly. That’s never happened before in my lifetime.

So, at halftime the score was 1-0. Brazil barely had the ball in the first half, but they had all the scoring chances. In the 5th minute Dani Alves (I think) was marginally but noticably offside, though for some reason Brazil continued playing and put the ball in the net.

Robinho’s goal was the sort of goal the Dutch haven’t been giving up. Brazilian attackers just ran away from the middle of the field, all the defenders followed them, and Felipe Melo played the ball into space and Robinho slotted in home with all kinds of time. Good vision from Melo, but really that’s just a large defensive error.

My other notes at halftime were: 1) Holland hasn’t really shown up yet, 2) referee is having a great game, 3) if we’d had the same Russian ref from the Holland Portugal game 4 years ago, there would already have been 8 red cards, 4) Brazil looks strangely nervous and whiny.

Holland came out to play in the second half. I had that written down in my notebook before they scored an ugly goal, apparently written down as an own goal from Felipe Melo, although considering that the ball was headed into the net, I’d call it more of a miscommunication. A lucky goal. The Dutch second was also lucky*, as Kuyt made a near post run, skipped it on with his head, and the ball fell to Sneijder in perfect position to deflect it home.

In my opinion, the referee had a brilliant match. Japan’s Yuichi Nishimura did his best to avoid giving out cards. Truthfully, he could’ve given out a ton and been correct in doing so. The Argentine announcers thought that he should be giving out cards; I disagree. He let the players decide the game. While Felipe Melo received a red card with 20 minutes to go, it was a pretty clear red card: he tripped Robben and then purposely stepped on his leg. That’s going to get a red card like 98% of the time. I thought he also showed incredible restraint in not giving yellow cards out to Brazil for dissent in the first half. He would have been correct, but it’s better that the players can decide the outcome of the match without referee interference.

Holland will have to play its semifinals without Van Bommel and without Van der Wiel. That’s tough. And I can’t understand how Holland failed to score a 3rd goal.

Good riddance to Dunga. With the game tied, Brazil didn’t create much. Down a goal, Brazil didn’t create much. That’s the danger to playing like you did. That’s the danger of bringing Brazil’s B team.

Highlight video:

* Though also probably planned and well-executed.


Brazil v Netherlands: the 10th meeting

July 1, 2010

Tomorrow’s matchup between Brazil and the Netherlands is a strange matchup: the un-Brazil vs the un-Holland. With all due respect to Argentina, these are the two nations with the strongest commitment to playing attractive, stylish football.

It’s been a common refrain on this blog: under Dunga, Brazil plays a boring, joyless football. Despite having one of the most talented player pools in the world, Dunga chose a boring defensive-oriented team. He doesn’t seem terribly interested in who is in form, which explains how two players maintain their starting positions for la Selecao despite the fact that they couldn’t crack the starting lineup for 5th place Manchester City (Robinho, Elano). He chose Maicon over Dani Alves, only to replace an injured Elano with Dani Alves at right mid/wing, a position at which Alves looked a little lost for Barcelona the few times he played there.

Holland, likewise, is doing something they’ve never done before: win ugly. While they’re getting criticized back home, instead of attacking and leaving defending to chance, they actually defend. They don’t take silly chances. They still try to possess the ball with flowing football, but without overdoing it. Can you tell I’m a fan? Eljero Elia was right: the best from the Dutch is still to come. They haven’t even come close to their capacity.

Brazil is 3-2-4 through the first 9 meetings of these two teams. I think Holland is going to even the score tomorrow. Of course, I would say that since I have a Dutch last name…and because I’m really not a fan of Dunga. Like I indicated in my writeup of Holland, there’s a happy middle ground. If you’re up 1-0 with 2 minutes left in the game and the other team is collapsing into their end: you don’t have to attack.

I think this could be another Brazil v Holland World Cup classic. I hope the Dutch get a little luck — unusual for a World Cup — score first and come away with the win.


Holland v Denmark

June 14, 2010

2-0 win for Holland.  It’s a result, it gets the job done, makes them likely to move on, yadda yadda yadda.

Holland was/is my pick to win the World Cup.  My method was basically: start with the favorites and eliminate them if I didn’t feel they could win.  Somehow I ended up with the Netherlands, and a strange feeling that they could win and that Robin Van Persie could be the leading goalscorer of the tourney.

The Dutch looked rather listless to me?  Their energy at winning 50/50 balls wasn’t great, nor was their movement off the ball.  Total Football it was not, and I didn’t see alot of overlapping runs, or really any good linkup play.  Offensively, it seemed like people stayed in their assigned positions on the field and waited for the ball to come into their area.

*  The yellow cards to De Jong and Van Persie worry me a bit.  Van Persie, De Jong, and Van Bommel are all the types who could accumulate yellow cards and miss matches.   Decent games from the latter two, as well as Wesley Sneijder, whose touch set up the second goal.

* Kinda a typical Kuyt goal: all hustle.

* Stéphane Lannoy had an excellent game in the center.  Kudos to the Frenchman for a solid game as the referee.  Sure, a few mistakes here and there, but he called fouls when necessary, avoided giving out needless cards, and didn’t make himself the star of the game.

*  Still picking the Dutch to win.  This ain’t Euro ’08, where the Dutch came out firing on all cylinders.  Even so, for a Dutch team they seem relatively united.  They have the quality of players, they have the kind of group that essentially assures them of advancing, and aside from Bendtner getting free for an unmarked header, their defense was well organized.


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