July 4, 2010

And then there were four…

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

So, of the final four nations left in the World Cup, how many actually feel like they can win it all? Truthfully, only two displayed the offensive and defensive talents to do it in their quarterfinal matches: Germany and the Netherlands.

The Dutch took it to the Brazilians and didn’t back down even after falling behind. They stepped up the pressure and crawled their way back. They’re sure to miss Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Weil in the semifinal, but it’s not like they don’t have the depth, especially in the midfield, to get by.

The Netherlands might not even need their full side against Uruguay, who should consider themselves lucky to even be here. Luis Suarez batting the ball away on goal line while time was expiring was one of the most egregious non-violent acts I’ve ever seen on a soccer pitch. His handball deserved something worse than a red card, it should have been an automatic goal, not a penalty kick. He should also have been suspended for more than the mandatory one game, he should have been given at least two games off, forcing him to miss either the final or the third-place game, depending on Uruguay’s fate. It’s hard not to feel bad for Ghana and the entire continent of Africa right about now.

Speaking of penalty kick horror, Spain and Paraguay had quite a three-minute span in their second half yesterday. First a penalty kick for Paraguay was saved – when it should been retaken for encroachment by Spain – then Spain raced down on the counter and earned their own penalty, which they scored, but was waved off for encroachment – a call that had far less in it than the first instance. That was followed by a Spanish penalty miss and blown call that should have led to another penalty chance for Spain.

The Spanish were able to finally breakthrough on the scoreboard later on, but only after Fernando Torres was mercifully subbed out. He has looked terrible by his standards during this World Cup and is clearly still suffering from some sort of injury. Spain’s coach has quite an enviable conundrum on his hands: The curse of too much talent. Also, if Paraguay and Switzerland have proven anything, it’s that if you put pressure on the Spanish, it is possible to beat them.

Then there are the Germans, who have looked astonishing in their dismantling of first the English and then the Argentines. As great as they’ve looked on their lightning-quick attacks, they’ve been playing against sub-par defences and really exploiting teams after going up and forcing opponents to push forward. As both Ghana and Serbia showed, Ze Germans can be contained, so let’s just see how Spain will fare if they fall behind early.

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