Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Semifinal. Uruguay-Netherlands:
What To Watch For

No matter who wins it will be a good story: Holland getting back to a final, where they were the darlings of both tournaments but in the end lost to the hosts in both 1974(West Germany) & 1978(Argentina), or Uruguay raising the Ghosts of Futbol Past in a return to glory not seen in 60 years (won 1924, 1928 Olympic Gold Medals, won 1930, 1950 World Cups).

First things first, expect a tight game rather than a open, high scoring affair. Uruguay's strength is its collective defending, while Holland's team is really two teams in one: the "back 7"'s main job is to defend, nullify the opponent, and try to keep a clean sheet, while the "front 4" of Van Persie, Robben, Sniejder, and Kuyt constitute the attacking threat and are relied upon to break down the defense with their immense skill. The result should be a tight game where each team creates a handful of chances, and the winner will be determined by who takes their chances better. Don't expect to see a wide open back and forth with overlapping fullbacks bombing up and down the flanks.

If Suarez was available, I would think that the two headed monster of Forlan & Suarez would have a great shot to defeat Holland. With Suarez suspended for the red card given for the 2nd most famous handball of all time (1. Maradona 1986, 3. Henry 2010), the first reaction is that Forlan alone up top, or with an inferior strike partner, means Uruguay are up against it.

On the other hand, Holland's big weakness is their defense, and now they will be without 2 first choice defenders. This instantly gives Uruguay back the chance that Suarez's absence took away. I mean after all, with their first choice defense they conceded this goal to Robinho, which was such poor defending that it resembled something from my Monday night co-ed recreational 8v8 league than the greatest stage in professional soccer.

So if we call these two suspension losses even, then for me the game still tilts in favor of Holland. Why? Three reasons. First, because in Robben, Van Persie, and Sneijder, they have 3 players who can create a goal out of nothing on their own, and who are even more dangerous when they choose to link up and work together (which sometimes they do and sometimes they don't, preferring the stubborn hard-headed Dutch way or trying to do it all themselves).

Second, because while Suarez is getting all the attention, starting left back Fucile is also suspended for Uruguay for yellow card accumulation. He would have been their best chance for trying to stop Robben from terrorizing Uruguay's left flank. Now that responsibility will fall to a bench player. Whether or not he can stop Robben is not certain; what is certain is that there is no way he will be able to stop Robben pathetic antics, acting, and exaggeration, which against Brasil was every bit as bad as a Cristiano Ronaldo greatest hits album.

Third, Holland have a greater ability to bring players off the bench in the last 20 minutes to change the game and make a difference as the starters tire. Primary among among them are talented young winger Elia whose pace on the wing could be crucial in the late stages, as well as Affelay, another young talent who could come on late and provide additional creative passing options from midfield.

Having said that, Uruguay's defense if stout, well-organized, and very difficult to break down. The key will be trying to contain Robben on one wing, while having to deal with Kuyt on the other wing, whose relentless hustle, effort and work rate both creates difficulty for the defense whether Holland or Uruguay are in possession and also helps negate any right fullback getting forward to help out in attack. And even if they shut down the wings, then there is Sniejder & Van Persie to deal with. For me the Dutch should win because of their 3 game-breakers, whereas with Suarez suspended Uruguay only have 1.

Of course, anything can happen, as we have seen throughout the tournament and especially the round of 16.

The pick: Netherlands, although not as confident or certain of the pick as say USA over Algeria, France to lose their last game, Spain against Chile, Portugal, and Paraguay, or even Holland over Brasil. Meaning that if Uruguay scores first and goes on to win, I wouldn't be all that surprised.


moinllieon said...

I have to say that this Dutch side has not impressed me at all in this World Cup.

Which of course means they'll go on to win it all.

Kanu said...

In a way they and Uruguay are the same team this year: defend 1st & foremost, the primary goal being keeping a clean sheet. Then rely on a few super talented offensive players to sneak a goal. For Uruguay it's 9 backconservative and 2 attackers(Forlan, Suarez), while for Netherlands it's 7 back/conservative and 4 attackers (Robben, RVP, Sneijder, Kuyt).