Saturday, 10 July 2010

Semi Finals

So the Semi's have been and gone, with Spain beating Germany & Holland beating Uruguay, here i will take a quick look at both these games

Spain v Germany

After Germany's excellent run to the final, losing only once to Serbia, and Spain's very different run, struggling through alot of their games, this was expected to be a closely contested match but in reality it wasn't. The Spanish, as we are used to, controlled the ball with neat passing and excellent movement both on and off the ball and really seemed to him their form just when they needed to, and i have no doubt this was thanks to the Germans. The Spanish have struggled alot this World Cup because alot of teams have been happy to sit back and defend deep trying to hit Spain on the counter (Switzerland, Portugal & Paraguay) where as Germany didn't do this, they tried to come out and play the same style they played against England & Argentina and it just didn't work - Podolski said it best when he said 'The times we got the ball we were to tired to do anything with it' the main problem being that in the first half the Germans never really got an attacking opportunity except from set plays and the only reason they looked threatening their was because Iker Casillas decided it might be fair to given the Germans a chance by flapping at every ball that came near him.

The best chance fell to Spain inside the first 10 mins, Pedro rolling a clever ball inside the box for Villa, who beat a slow Neuer to the ball but toe poked it at his chest. Pedro coming in for Torres was a very good decision by Del Bosque as it gave the team more natural width and not just from the full backs, Pedro was excellent in his movement and supply to Villa. Another player that caught the eye was Sergio Busquets, who is not the most glamorous name in the Spanish midfield but he does his job excellently, breaking up attacking play and playing some lovely pass's as well. His position sense is also excellent, managing to position himself not only to break up play and stop the German attacking options (mainly Oezil) but also to be available for a first time pass to start an attack, this was shown by the fact in the first half he attempted 40 pass's and completed 39 pass's with the only one being cut out a long searching pass for Villa. A lot of people say that he only pass's to Iniesta & Xavi but thats what his job is, and he does it so well he even managed to limit his gamesmanship in this game as well with very little diving, play acting or imaginary card waiving which was good to see.

The second half was much the same, with the Spanish midfield stepping up their pressing of the Germans limiting their time on the ball with the key to this being Busquets man marking Oezil out the game so well, although this meant that Khedira might have been allowed more space but Xavi was covering him very well whenever he needed to get forward. Against England Germany had 3 central midfielders against Englands 2 and against Argentina they had the same but against Spain they frequently found themselves in a 3 v 4 situation whenever Iniesta drifted inside meaning people like Schweinsteiger & Oezil didn't have enough time on the ball to pick teams apart like they have been used to. This in turn left the attacking options very restricted with Klose & Podolski looking separated from the midfield and didn't even complete a pass to each other. Trochowski had an OK game but he certainly isn't as good as Muller who was a big miss in linking up play between the team.

As the game grew older in the second half it grew more open which suited Spain more, the Germans started trying to push higher up the pitch leaving themselves open to Spanish attacking and with the wingers having to drop in to even up the battle in center midfield it allowed Pedro, Ramos & Capdevilla more space to bomb down the wings which started to really stretch the German defence. Lahm was almost non - existent as an attacking threat which proved to weaken them Germans further going forward. The goal was from a pretty unexpected source, a corner with Carlos Puyol powering the ball home with a powering header - his run from deep was excellent and confused the Germans zonal marking system.

Germany’s midfield has been utterly superb throughout this tournament, but here they simply found themselves against players that were better both in and out of possession. Xavi was the star man – completing more passes than any other player, running a greater distance than any other player, dictating the game from the centre of midfield, and providing the assist for the goal

Holland v Uruguay

This was expected to be a tight game between two teams that are pretty defensive but have sparks in attack, obviously Uruguay would miss the attacking qualities of Luis Suarez but they were also missing Jorge Fucile at left back which could have been a problem had it not been for the fact that on the right wing the Dutch play Robben who as we all know likes to cut in on his left foot and try and have a shot - the Uruguayans had Martin Caceres at left back who is naturally a center back & right footed so was able to nullify Robbens threat relatively easily, although the same could not be said for Van Bronckhorst who scored an absolute screamer from 35 yards out in the 18 min and this probably is the first goal I've seen where the ball hasn't swerved or fooled the keeper/players from a long range shot, he just had total control over the ball and it went exactly where he wanted it to go. The main problem for Uruguay here was getting back in to the game, the Dutch weren't letting them settle and they seemed determined to go forward and try and get a 2nd goal, as well as a few flair ups between the players turning it into a feisty encounter. For the next 20 mins the game became back and forth, with the Dutch creating a few chances and the Uruguyans also having a few pot shots and some long throws. The equalizer came from almost nothing, with Forlan picking up the ball just over 30 yards out but they key, in my opinion, was Cavani's movement that just gave Forlan a second extra to decide what to do as well as giving him the space to power in a shot which did swerve and caught Stekelenburg out as the ball crashed through the middle of the goal.

At half time both coaches had a chance to change things around with Van Marwijk's decision proving decisive, he took off a defensive player in Danny de Zeeuw, probably deciding that with only Forlan & Cavani in the Dutch half really looking to attack they only need one defensive midfielder to protect the back four so this gave Rafael Van Der Vaart a rare chance to get on the pitch meaning they had more attacking options whilst the Uruguay manager, Oscar Tabarez, did not change anything. At first it made sense for Uruguay to stay as they where because VDV did play in a more advance role it meant Sneijder & Kuyt had to play a bit deeper which limited their threats and despite the fact that for the first 5 mins from half time Holland had all the possession until Boulahrouz played a tame back pass to Stekeleneberg who managed to prod the ball away before Forlan intercepted it but he only passed it to Cavani who tried a lob but it was cleared off the line by Van Bronckhorst. Just as the Uruguayans where starting to look threatening a controversial goal was scored that again bought up the controversial offside rule and how its inturpreted. Sneijder, who'd had a quiet game, took a pot shot from the outside of the box and it took a slight deflection off a defender and went through Van Persie's legs before flying in the net. In my opinion Van Persie was offside when the original shot came flying in and did obscure the keepers view but the referee allowed the goal to stand and i know a few people will be thinking that its justice for Suarez's goal line save but really, the letter of the law states that the goal shouldn't have been allowed.

The final nail in the coffin was just a well worked goal, with Kuyt well positioned on the left and cutting back onto his right foot to provide an inch perfect cross for Robben to head home via the inside of the post. The Uruguayans looked like they were drained after this goal and despite coming back with one in the last few minutes , a free kick nudged short by Gargano to Pereira who curled home a delicious shot but it was to little to late, although in the last few moments the ref blew for a free kick and the players & fans thought it was the final whistle so Van Bommel hoofed the ball away in celebration only to finally be booked as it wasn't full time!! Sadly it's about 20 fouls to late for Van Bommel who has been terrible this tournament, countless fouls, bad attitude to opposition & his imaginary card waiving at every chance has tarnished what has been a solid Holland team. In the build up to the first goal for example Van Bommel went in with his studs up in what was basically a two footed tackle on Gargano's shins but instead of rolling around like a 'diving South American' he stood straight back up and got on with it instead of say falling around like Robben has done alot this tournament

This was a game decided by very fine margins, and despite Holland winning the game following a half-time change in formation, it’s difficult to attribute too much of their success to tactics. Nevertheless, with this being a Holland side that have been criticized for a perceived lack of adventure and flair, we should credit van Marwijk for a bold attacking move. In the second half, Holland had five attacking players whilst Uruguay had only two, and the team who made more of an attempt to win the game prevailed which is what we like to see in football.

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