Final pre-game Spain v Holland thoughts

July 11, 2010

* 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.


Spain v Germany thoughts

July 8, 2010

1. You would think it is trite to mention that Spain v Germany = Barcelona v Bayern Munich. Both sides are pretty heavily centered around those domestic club teams. Spain started the game with 7 starters from Barcelona (including David Villa, who hasn’t played a game for them yet), while Germany started Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Klose…although they finished the game with 5 Bayern Munich players on the field. This of course doesn’t count Lukas Podolski, who played at Bayern Munich for the last 4 years.

2. I obviously thought Spain was more likely to win, so the result wasn’t too surprising to me. Even so, after creating numerous decent scoring chances (and not scoring any of them), Germany very clearly deserved a penalty in the 43rd minute. Ozil was one on one with the Spain goalie Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos clipped his back heel to send him tumbling. If Germany goes up 1-0, that is a very different game. I’d guess that 80% of refs give at least a penalty (and maybe a red card) in that situation.

3. While Pedro clearly should have passed the ball in the 83rd minute or so, when Fernando Torres was standing wide open in front of the goal, I call a penalty there 100% of the time.

4. Spain created chances, Germany maybe created two: both of them involved Sergio Ramos. I can’t understand why Spain manager Vincent Del Bosque continues to start Sergio Ramos. He’s a black hole defensively, and is always caught upfield when the other team is counter-attacking. Given that Spain plays with the not super-fast team of Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol at centerbacks, this baffles me.

Spain is playing a tactical system that leads to low scoring games. In a way, it is almost more of a defensive strategy than an offensive one. But they are definitely vulnerable because of the strange insistence to play Sergio Ramos…will Arjen Robben play on the left against Spain to take advantage of Sergio Ramos’ wanderlust?

5. Spain might be the worst team at scoring off of opponent mistakes. A few times Germany turned the ball over and Spain could have attacked with a numbers advantage, but instead decided to play for possession.

6. Leo Messi’s implication that Barcelona is better than Argentina looks a little bit stronger after Spain advances to the finals and Argentina is out in the quarters. Barcelona is essentially Spain, plus Messi, the best player in the world. There’s almost no better indictment of Diego Maradona in the world as that.


Argentina out, its managers continue

July 3, 2010

Although Argentina lost to Germany today (post forthcoming, I have alot of thoughts that I am having trouble getting down), Paraguay continues against Spain right now. Paraguay is coached by Argentine Gerardo Martino, and Argentine Lucas Barrios is a forward on the team.

Paraguay just scored a goal but it was wrongly called offsides so the game looks like it will go 0-0 at half. Unlucky, Spain has failed to create anything so far.

If Brazil spoke Spanish instead of Portuguese, I wonder if other countries would use their players and managers like teams use Argentines. This World Cup, off the top of my head, Chile and Paraguay had Argentine managers. Paraguay, Mexico, and Italy featured Argentines this World Cup as well. Trezequet played for France in 06 as well, though he quit because he disliked Raymond Domenech.

He looks pretty smart now, does he not?


Héctor Baldassi: Best referee of the World Cup so far

June 29, 2010

I criticize the referees alot. When I played, I yelled alot, despite having some pretty negative experiences being a ref. So I try to praise as well as criticize.

Hector Baldassi had a great game today reffing Spain v Portugal. My notes after the first half said, “flawless performance from ref.” I suppose Portugal fans might disagree with me, since he didn’t fall for any of Cristiano Ronaldo’s dives and he gave out a late red card to Portuguese defender Ricardo Costa for his elbow to Joan Capdevila’s face. There’s no camera angle I can find that shows whether Costa made contact, but I’m inclined to think that he did, since Capdevila would have been taking a huge risk of giving up the win in order to get a redcard that wouldn’t matter. Also, Costa didn’t really protest as you assume he would if Capdevila had taken a total dive.

I didn’t know until afterwards that Baldassi is an Argentine. Well done, sir. From watching the Argentine league, I know the refs don’t mess around with elbows to the face.

To watch the inconclusive camera angles:


Recapping today’s games

June 17, 2010

1. I didn’t see Chile v Honduras. For whatever reason, I want Honduras to advance, so I was disappointed to see them fall to Chile. Chile, under Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, has looked awfully good.

2. Spain v. Switzerland. Looked alot like US v Spain in last year’s Confederations Cup semi-finals, didn’t it? Spain created lots of good chances, but not really many great chances. I know that some will attack me for saying it, but… when you play super-slow possession football, don’t be surprised when your opponent has about 9.5 field players in the box. It’s awfully hard to score like that when you don’t have Leo Messi. I’m not saying you have to play like Italians, but it’s possible to both pass the ball and play with a sense of urgency so that you don’t let the defense organize and the goalminder position himself.

Assuming that the decision wasn’t injury-related, I strongly disagree with keeping Cesc Fabregas off the pitch. [since reading this, I’ve read that it was due to injury.]

Any team with Sergio Ramos is vulnerable to a counter-attack.

Spain manager Vincent Del Bosque was pretty critical of Switzerland’s style of play. Whatever. I would note that Switzerland’s goal wasn’t even a counter-attack. The goal came from a goal kick, meaning that it was just sloppy defending by Spain. Don’t believe me? See below:

Switzerland also had a nice combination to hit the post when it was 1-0.

3. All that said, even though it was a bad loss, Spain should still be able to advance by beating Chile and Honduras. Interestingly, if Chile beats Switzerland, Spain would look fairly likely to finish second in their group and possibly face Brazil, assuming Brazil wins their group. That would be an intense round-of-16 game. Spain vs Brazil, the two countries favored to win the World Cup playing in the first knockout round.

4. I’ve said for a long time that Uruguay is underrated. I think this game showed why. Diego Forlan scores a deflection goal, then nails a penalty, followed by a nail-in-the-coffin third goal from Pareira in extra time. That 3rd goal is way more important than almost anyone realizes.

5. Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira, coaching South Africa, was furious at the referee following the game. To be honest, when I started this post, I thought he was dead wrong. But, in retrospect, having checked, he was right. The red card and penalty which gave Forlan his second goal should have been offsides. Watch for yourself at the 37 second mark:

Uruguay is the better team, but that seriously sucks to lose on a deflection and bad penalty call.

I understand that under current rules of the game the red card is standard (assuming the refs miss the offsides call, as they did), but I still think it is a travesty to give a redcard in that circumstance. A penalty kick is punishment enough for that foul. This highlights a current problem with football’s rules: yellow cards are meaningless; a red card is almost dispositive. Giving a penalty kick and a red card is like giving a 1.8 goal penalty.


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