From Iceland — Semifinal Words

Semifinal Words

Published July 7, 2010

Semifinal Words
Holland 3 – 2 Uruguay
It was nice to see the Dutch get up to their old tricks, though some simple positional changes is hardly the return of total football. Nevertheless, the Dutch played with much more vim and verve than they have all tournament. 539-year old vampire count Giovanni van Bronckhorst* showed his inhuman strength by unleashing what could be the strike of the tournament, and is certainly one of the most beautiful World Cup goals. Sneijder, who otherwise hasn’t been very good, scored yet another absurd goal, bringing him level with David Villa in the race for the Golden Boot (for perspective, Sneijder has scored one goal more in this World Cup than he has all year at his club, Inter Milan). Dirk Kuyt was magnificent, as he has been in all of The Netherlands’ games. On the other hand, this is still a team containing well over the legally acceptable limit of Mark van Bommel, whose dirty fouls are further compounded by the weird reluctance of referees in carding him. But they were the marginally better team.
Uruguay were clearly hurting from not being able to call up so many players due to injury, and having to play Forlán not match fit (though he hardly showed it until the very last). If Lodeiro could’ve started, or their captain, Lugano, things might have been different. Uruguay felt they had to tie a lot of resources into keeping Robben quiet, which was largely a success, third goal notwithstanding. Being so defensively oriented meant that they had to rely on Forlán to create chances out of nothing, which he is perfectly capable of doing, but it’s not a strategy that works well if you concede more than one goal. The Sneijder goal was unlucky, and that was enough to turn the match against the Uruguayans.
Germany – Spain
I’ve been thinking about that Argentina – Germany match quite a bit, and I still don’t know what to think about it. My impulse is to say that it has no bearing on tomorrow’s game. The final of the 2008 European Championships, between Spain and Germany, also has little bearing, because Germany have changed so radically since then, and Spain haven’t been as unassailable as they were in that tournament. Actually, the only game that may be any kind of model for what may happen was Spain’s 3-0 thrashing of Russia two years ago. Russia were, like today’s Germans, a team that came seemingly out of nowhere to light up the tournament, playing fast attacking football that was full of creativity and vigor, but Spain breezed through them like they were a flimsy gause. The key to this is that it’s hard to create, or attack, when the other team doesn’t let you have the ball. Spain’s defensive strategy is to get the ball off the other team and have them chase it around the pitch. This works only so well if the other’s team defensive strategy is to turtle up in their own 18-yard box, but Spain has good enough attackers to counter that. The difference this time is that this German team is better, and certainly a lot more experienced, than the Russians of two years ago. They will be harder to keep from getting opportunities.
My point is, I don’t have a clue how the game will turn out. I know that the Spanish will seek to slow the game down and try to play their way through a German defense that has often seemed rather shaky. The Germans will probably run at the Spanish defense, which has often looked less than secure also, hoping to get a clear chance at goal. Both teams have individuals that could win the game on their own, for example Özil, Schweinsteiger, Villa and Iniesta, which furthers makes predicting anything hard. For what it’s worth, Paul the Psychic Octopus, predicted a Spain win. He did, however, predict a German win in the final of Euro 2008, so what does he know.
Final thought for the day: Since Brazil defended its title in 1962 the World Cup has alternated between Europe and South America, but this time it will pass from one European team to another. This will also be the first time since West Germany won in 1954 that Europe will have more World Cup titles than South America.
* Didn’t the names of the entire Dutch starting eleven sound like those of villains from gothic novels?
Vampires: Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Robin van Persie, Demy de Zeeuw
Werewolves: Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel, Arjen Robben
Mad scientists: Maarten Stekelenburg, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen
And to top it all off, Khalid Boulahrouz is already nicknamed The Cannibal.

Photo by Jimmy

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