Thursday, 8 July 2010

World Cup Observations - Part 6: Semis

Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst scores what might go on to be goal of the tournament with an unsaveable rasping shot from about 8 miles out in off the post into the the top corner. Very few better strikes you will ever see. Uruguay will only be able to wonder if the outcome would have been different if their first choice keeper was playing...


Despite the high scoreline, the Dutch were once again very pragmatic and merely set out to win rather than look good doing so. The football purist may be unimpressed but six wins from six so far in the competition show that they are very much the most deserving team of a place in the final.


Much of this more conservative style of Holland's play has been down to Bert van Marwjik's decision to employ two defensive midfielders, one of whom (Usually Nigel De Jong) has the duty to protect the back four and break up potential attacks from the opposition. The other, Mark Van Bommel, is simply there to maim and cripple opposing players with some of the worst acts of violence committed by anyone associated with 'Orange' since Malcom McDowell.

In the build up to Van Bronckhosrt's screamer, Van Bommel should have probably seen red for a brutal over-the-top challenge on Uruguay's Walter Gargano but somehow the ref managed to miss it. The Dutchman also got away with about 678 other misdemeanours before actually being booked – funnily enough for dissent rather a foul.


Another controversial moment involved Holland's second goal. Was Van Persie offside? Probably. If he was, was he interfering with play? Well, if obstructing the goal keepers view and attempting to get a touch on Wesley Snijder's deflected effort isn't 'interfering with play' then we ought to all just pack up and go home.


Speaking of Wes, his questionable goal currently makes joint top scorer in the tournament with David Villa on five. As brilliant a footballer as he is and has been in the World Cup, if he does end up with the golden boot, would these be some of the worst of goals ever scored by the winner of the award? Fumbled shot from Japan's goalie, Melo's head getting the final, decisive touch against Brazil and now a deflection against Uruguay. Only Frank Lampard would be proud of that collection of 'goals'.


From the Uruguay point of view, Diego Forlan should take a bow. For me, certainly a candidate for player of the tournament. While not necessarily 'carrying' his team, he's been by far their most influential player. After his impressive two-goal cameo in the Europa League final and a fantastic string of performances in a major international competition (as well as his achievements in La Liga over the years), maybe, just maybe the unenlightened 'experts' in this country will realise that his two unsuccessful years at Manchester United don't make him a 'flop' and shouldn't be used to define his entire career.


As for the other Semi final, I'm left to wonder if I was premature to give the Germans so much praise after their performances in the previous rounds. In some ways yes but to be honest, they were up against a much improved Spain team who showed exactly why so many people had tipped them for greatness. I know it's a cliché but Xavi and Iniesta were fantastic in midfield, closing down and retaining the ball brilliantly and the leaving the Germans will little time or room to get their direct counter-attacking game going. It again makes you wonder why Barcelona are so hellbent on bringing in Cesc Fabregas who would struggle to usurp those two and find himself on the bench for at least a couple of seasons thus putting his entire career in limbo.


The exciting Pedro stepped in for the continually lacklustre Fernando Torres and apart from one moment when he suffered a case of 'The Heskey's' at the end of the game fluffing the chance to make it 2-0, he performed admirably showing that his regular appearances and successes in the Barca team last season were no fluke. However, it was that single example of Pedro's wastefulness which summed up Spain yet again. Great football, little end product. They need to start converting their superior possession into goals.

Interestingly, their winning goal came not from a fantastic passing move of incisive attacking play but rather from an old fashioned set-piece when 'Oscar the Grouch' Carlos Puyol powered in a late header for the win.


So the final is set up nicely between two teams who, in their own sometimes unexpected ways have deserved to be there more than anyone else in the competition. As others have pointed out, we will be seeing new winners of the competition and that is no bad thing. As much as I enjoyed the Germany team this year, I have to say that, in my lifetime having reached either a World Cup or Euro final in 86, 90, 92, 96, 02, and 08, it is about time they give someone else a chance at a trophy for once.

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Anonymous said...

This blogger clearly knows nothing about football. How EXACTLY must Spain improve at converting chances. Best consecutive win record, current Euro champions, and impending WC champs???!!!
Ibyss, or whoever you are (tarantino-quotation-robbing teen in a 20 pre-pubescent body no doubt), stick to your day job! if you have one...apparently nottingham trent require some janitors, and you have a degree from there probably so you'll no doubt get your own mop and bucket!! tw*t!

Ibrahim Mustapha said...

Thanks for your kind words Mr. Anonymous (If that is your real name...) but cast your mind back to the opening game of the competition. Spain have 67% possession, 22 shots and come away with a 1-0 defeat. I think that's enough evidence to back up my point.

Also, their consecutive win record ended over a year ago.