The WC Final: Holland vs Spain

Netherlands 0 – 1 Spain. 😦

The first half was like what most of us expected – with Spain dominating much of the possession. However, thanks to the resolute (and I must say brute) defending from the Dutch side, they were able to hold out the Spanish attackers at bay. The real chance for the Spanish outfit in the first half came from Sergio Ramos, but was blocked superbly by Maarten Stekelenburg.

On the other side of the pitch, Arjen Robben put Iker Casillas to the test with a blistering left-footed strike from just outside the box. A Wesley Sneijder free kick from an earlier play went through the shooting range of Joris Mathijsen, but he failed to have contact with the ball.

But the real highlight of the first half was the flurry of yellow cards. The two holding midfielders, Nigel de Jong (for a picture-perfect karate kick on Xabi Alonso) and Mark van Bommel (for a ruthless tackle from behind on Andres Iniesta) got booked early. One of them might have even be red-carded, but who wants a FIFA Final with a clear disadvantage right at the start anyway? On a side note, this was the dirtiest game the Oranje has been, and so far, I have liked what I saw. The only way to stop a prolific passing team was to disrupt the rhythm and get to the passing lane by being aggressive, really aggressive. At the half, we have a goalless draw.

The start of the second half was more lively though – in terms of goal-scoring attempts and tackles (as well as yellows). Carles Puyol’s header from a Xavi Hernandez corner found the path of Joan Capdevila, but he failed to make a good attempt out of it. Robben (and also a header from John Heitinga) had some nice shots as well, especially on a breakaway (Wesley Sneijder with the pass) with only the keeper to beat; but Casillas showed why he is Spain’s #1. Surely, a goal will separate these two?

On the other side, David Villa had an almost goal. But Maarten Stekelenburg will not be denied. It was a fantastic save. (By the way, Jesus Navas has been substituted in for Sergio Busquets and Eljero Elia for Dirk Kuyt). Then, a corner saw the head of full-back Sergio Ramos with nobody within yards, but it flies to the stands. From this point, I’m sure every football fan got their hearts pumping! From this point, 9 yellow cards have been handed already. Cesc Fabregas enters the game as well for Xabi Alonso. And then, end of regulation.

Cesc Fabregas has been the difference, creating chances for Spain in the 1st half of the extra time, but the defenders are resolute. Finally then, my main man Rafael van der Vaart was entered into the pitch for Nigel de Jong. Game on. 🙂

And then, just when we are playing “even” football, Heitinga gets sent off for a second yellow on Iniesta. Mark van Bommel drops as one of the center-halves. Gregory van der Wiel joins the yellow card fray as well. Spain looked dangerous in the last few minutes. And just when we are about to go on penalties, Andres Iniesta has made what probably the biggest shot of his career after the match-winning shot against Chelsea in the Champions League 2 years ago. And the whistle blows. Spain wins their first ever world cup.

Uruguay vs Netherlands

First off, YEAH!!! WE ARE GOING TO THE WORLD CUP FINALS! It was the most convincing win that the Dutch have displayed in this tournament SO FAR. This is the Oranje that I have been waiting for. Not only did we produce the result, but how they did it fascinated the football world once again. 3-2 to the Dutch side and they will be waiting for the result of Spain and Germany.

At the start of the game, there were little chances created by either side but an unbelievable screamer of a shot from captain Giovanni van Branckhorst saw its way to the top corner. No chance whatsoever for the keeper.

Diego Forlan however equalised just before halftime to pull things level, but in reality, it was a poor goal to concede. The defence was nowhere near him, knowing the threat that Forlan possesses. Stekelenburg was wrong footed as well. It went straight at him, and still no save. Oh well, game on.

At halftime, Demy de Zeeuw made way for creative midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, unarguably my favorite football player in the world. 🙂 Without bias, the Dutch team came to life on the attacking side of the pitch in the opening minutes, with Dirk Kuyt dropping a little deeper to make way for van der Vaart in the attacking half. As I have said before, the combination of Robben-van der Vaart-Sneijder-Robben would create problems to the opposition – and it did. They can exchange positions in transitions freely. van der Vaart nearly made it two with a beautiful play, but it was Sneijder who put the Dutch side ahead, with claims of offside from van Persie. Replays suggest however that he let the ball pass through his feet.

Forlan nearly equalised later with a curling free kick, but this time, Stekelenburg did well to save it at the bottom left corner. Robben then put the icing on the cake with a fine, placed header with a delicious cross from Kuyt. Game over.

What boggles me afterwards is that Forlan was substituted earlier than expected (or was anyone really expecting Forlan being substituted, knowing that Suarez was ineligible to play the game?) Anyway, Robben should have made it four with a breakaway, but that’s just as far as he goes as he heads to the bench for a breather, being replaced by the future of Holland winger, Eljero Elia. Robben played well, especially after facing 2 defenders when on the offensive at most times.

Mark van Bommel had a great game, winning balls out and wide, but he had to go off with an injury of some sort. Let’s hope he’s okay.

Uruguay are not be chalked off early though, as Uruguay pulled one goal back through Pereira in injury time. But that was all they could manage. If Forlan would have been there, it would be a different story. Good thing Mathijsen and Heitinga are winning headers inside the box everytme. Also, Stekelenburg’s positioning may be questioned here. But what’s done is done.

Fine game by Oranje there. We looked more ourselves since that Euro 2008 games and I feel more confident on taking that trophy! But the biggest, biggest, biggest match is yet to come. Stekelenburg will have to console his decisions from their trainer or from van der Sar. Should Spain make it through, shots will fly into his way. If Germany wins it, he will be bombed with one-on-ones with counter-attacks. This should be very, very exciting.

LET’S GO ORANJE!

WC2010 QF: Oranje vs A Selecao

The Story

It is true that both these teams have accumulated the maximum points in their World Cup matches so far. It is also true that these teams play beautiful attacking football since I don’t know when.

When Brazil scores, it’s like “Wow, that was just fantastic!” But that doesn’t surprise me because it is what is expected of them. The results may be the final say for every individual contest, but how you play it determines the result. The draw with Portugal sees their beautiful attacking football come to a halt, so is the story with Switzerland – Spain and Slovakia – Italy. Even if you have 7 players comitting to press forward the pitch and attack the net, you are still at a man disadvantage when the opposing team decides to play with 10 defenders and just play a direct, long pass to the lone center-forward. But what they will be facing next isn’t the type to field 10 defenders.

Holland has also won every match, but as a fan’s point of view, it was all unconvincing. We haven’t seen the flair, the magic, the technical supremacy of these Dutch side, like the one who crushed Italy and France in the Group of Death (Euro 2008) 2 years ago. But, they are not a perfect team after all, having exposed their defensive lapses by an efficient Russian team (Dutch lost 3-1 in extra time). We have seen the Dutch win every game, but something is still missing. The road to World Cup for the Oranje has been magnificent. The loss to the Russians was their last loss as a team for the past two years – and counting! They’ve added depth to their squad now, but the core is still the same. Against Brazil however, they should be more disciplined and probably more committed to their marking/tackling.

The Players

Brazil has a lot of the best individual football performers in the world in their lineup. Even their substitute players are well known for attacking football. We have even seen Daniel Alves and Maicon play at the same time! Gilberto Silva/Josue is just the man they need as a holding midfielder who will keep the possession for the A Selecao. They will have to use him even more this time around, as they might not enjoy as much possession as they had from the other games.

Offensively, it will be Luis Fabiano and Robinho who will give Joris Mathijsen and John Heitinga lots of problems. The two forwards’ abilities to create their shots might prove to be the way to break down a not-so-impressive Dutch back four. The two defensive midfielders of the Dutch squad, Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, should be enough to see off Kaka’s brilliance in the attacking half.

On the other hand, I don’t know if Michel Bastos will still feature as Brazil’s left-back, but if he does, then he will need support from Juan or Lucio in covering Robben on the right. Dirk Kuyt will feature on the left while Wesley Sneijder to play role as that of Kaka’s. I am aware however that the defensive partnership of Juan and Lucio are definitely better than that of Mathijsen and Heitinga, so it will be a real test for the Dutch attack. Robin van Persie had shown little magnificence in his last game, so we really need him to perform at the top of his game and probably shoot when he has the chance – because there will only be few.

If, however, Rafael van der Vaart and Eljero Elia are substituted into the pitch with Sneijder/Robben/van Persie, then it will probably give the resilient Brazilian back four much more problems if they all decide to roam around the pitch freely and creatively. In my opinion, Robben, Sneijder, van der Vaart, and van Persie can play any position on the attacking half of the pitch. If they do, then hopefully, this may just confuse the defence of Brazil resulting in a goal.

It may just happen. Once. At max. But the never ending supply of pace and creativity by Robinho, Luis Fabiano, Kaka, Nilmar, and Dani Alves will be a major headache for Bert van Marwijk.

Key Matchup – Maarten Stekelenburg v Brazilian Attackers

Sad to say, Brazilian forwards will have their way to the Dutch back four, resulting in a lot of shots (most of which will be on target). So Stekelenburg will have to be at his very, very best to parry (even the unthinkable) ALL of them, to be able to stand a chance against Brazil, because I doubt the Dutch will be able to score against Julio Cesar. Well, maybe one.

The Prediction

My heart is with the Netherlands team, but on paper – Brazil has more pace and experience in their arsenal, and that should be enough to see them through in this tightly contested quarter-final match. I’d say 2-0 Brazil. Unless of course we see the good’ol Dutch side a la Johann Cryuff players, then it will be an entirely different story. At their best, they can beat any team at any given time. But so far, we just haven’t seen that same team at all. Everything has been long shots and lucky plays. But as I have repeatedly said, if that Dutch masterclass will be there at that pitch tonight, it might even be a 3-2 scoreline for the Oranje.

Man of the match: (1st case) Robinho; (2nd case) Arjen Robben. Yep, this game is about speed and seeing off defenders on one-on-one situations.

Turks and the Czechs

OMG. OMG. OMG. Petr Cech what have you done? You’ve let a 2 goal lead slip past your team with just 16 minutes to go? Not only to give a draw but to end up as losers!?!?! OMG. Nihat is at the right place at the right time for Turkey who scored at the 87′ and 89′ to give Turkey a 3-2 win over Czech in their Group in Euro 2008. Absolutely great work for the Villareal forward. With his goals, I think he might be seen and courted by the Europian club giants next season. Amah!zing… ^^

P.S. You just have to watch the highlights HERE. You might want to get ready your tickle areas as the commentators are REALLY REALLY REALLY, and I mean REALLY FUNNY from 5:17 onwards!!! Prepare to get a real laugh! Hahahahahahaha. ^^,

To end a day with a smile. ^^,

Oh my gosh! I am so speechless and so unbelievably happy and in bliss! YEAH! YEAH! The Dutch have won again. So speechless! I’m pretty sure now they’ll win the Cup. ^^,.. This is total domination. ^^ 7 goals in last 2 games vs Italy and France? Gotta believe it!! ^^,

View goal highlights HERE.

P.S. YOU JUST GOTTA WATCH SNEIJDER’S GOAL! IT’S JUST IMPOSSIBLE. ^^,