Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Preview of semi-final 1: Netherlands v Uruguay

Uruguay holds the hopes of South America on their shoulders. That is if their South American neighbours are not like Scotland for example, who mostly support anyone but England. But still, after South America to some degree dominated the Group Stage (I don't fully buy the argument as most of these South American sides did not have overly difficult opposition to qualifying for the knock-out stages) and for the first time ever had 4 quarter-finalists (with the possibility of achieving all South American semi-finals) after four wins in the second round (although admittedly none against European sides) - they would have to be disappointed to only have one representative in the semis.

And that one side almost did not make it either. Conceding what could have been a tournament ending penalty against Ghana they were lucky to somehow come out the other end. And in the process lost a lot of respect from a number of neutrals after Suarez decided he would momentarily become goalkeeper - saving a certain goal with his hands and leading to the aforementioned penalty. Although some neutrals loved their whatever it takes approach it was fair to say that it left a bad taste in most people's mouths.

Uruguay are a good side but they have been assisted in this tournament firstly by a terrible French team finishing last in their group and allowing Uruguay the opportunity to top it. This meant an easier draw for them coming up against South Korea in the second round and an epic quarter-final clash with Ghana in what was generally considered the weakest quadrant.

Uruguay will be missing Fucile and Suarez through suspension and potentially Lugano through injury. Lodeiro is also out through injury but he is more an option off the subs bench than a starter. These absences will affect their defence considerably as well as weaken their attack. Yet they still have the dangerous Diego Forlan in their midst and have shown throughout the tournament how hard they can be to breakdown.

The Dutch started the tournament slowly and are still to hit their straps. They have won five games out of five and are yet to face extra-time. Each win has been effective without being thrilling. It is almost like they have become the Germans of world football while the Germans have taken on their mantle. Some would say the world has gone upside down! They quietly went about their business in the groups with a 2-0 win over Denmark, 1-0 over Japan and 2-1 over Cameroon before a 2-1 win over Slovakia in the second round and a come from behind 2-1 win over Brazil in the quarters. The quarter-final was impressive for how they responded to being 1-0 down at half-time and still managed to grind out victory.

The Dutch are on a 24 game unbeaten streak and they have a solid defence ably assisted by the two defensive midfielders in front of them (De Jong and van Bommel). This gives their flair players - Robben, Sneijder and van Persie the chance to express themselves up front. Robben is a constant thorn down the wing and Sneijder has been one of the players of the tournament so far. They do have van der Wiel and De Jong suspended for the game however so changes will need to be made.

This match could be a war of attrition between two desperate sides. The Netherlands have never won the World Cup and Uruguay haven't taken the title for 60 years. I am not expecting a wonderful spectacle but the game may be won through a moment of brilliance. I thing it will be a tight game, if any side blows out to a comfortable victory it will be the Netherlands but I can't see anything more than a two goal margin, and probably one. The Dutch hate penalties and have a very poor success rate, so they will want to win it before it gets to that point.

1 comment:

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