Tag Archives: Netherlands

2014 World Cup Draw Set

6 Dec

Yeah, I know, it’s been forever and a day since I actually posted anything, but the World Cup makes a person want to blog again, if only to complain about how rough the US has it.  Anyway, the ridiculously drawn out official draw was today and while yeah, the US has it rough, spare a thought for the Aussies, who have an even tougher go.  And while almost everyone can complain about the groups right now, in the end it’s all about what happens on the field.  Anything can happen on any given day and that’s one of the things that makes the World Cup (and sports in general) so awesome.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

I’ll admit that my initial thoughts were that the USA was on the receiving end of a brutal draw (In fact I think my exact words were ‘holy shit’).  But after thinking about it a little bit, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it could’ve been.  I think it’s great that the US will open against Ghana.  It’s going to be huge for the Yanks to start the tournament well and if they can do so against a team that’s knocked them out of the last two World Cups, so much the better.  There’s no doubt they’ll have the motivation to take down Ghana.  Portugal is tough, even if they only qualified through the strength of one Mr. Ronaldo, but I do think they are beatable if the US can play an entire 90 minutes.  I believe that Germany is the top team in the group and probably one of the favorites for the tournament.  That will be interesting if only for the storyline of Klinsmann taking on his home country.  I’ll chalk that one up for a German victory.

As I’ve said in the past, the key to US success on the big stage is putting together a solid 90 minutes. They can’t afford to have lapses and give up early goals like they did against England, Slovenia, Ghana x2 last time around.  Coming from behind to win/draw is not a sustainable model for success. The US has been playing well in the past year and I think Klinsmann’s system is finally starting to click.  It’s just a matter of whether they can show up when it really counts and play consistent football.

Now for the extremely premature predictions.  Of course a team’s chances could go to hell in a handbasket pretty quick with a couple key injuries and we all know that there is a lot of football to be played before we get to Brazil.  But based on how things stand currently, this is what my gut says:

Advance to second round (1st, 2nd)

Group A: Brazil, Croatia

Group B: Spain, Chile

Group C: Colombia, Japan

Group D: Italy, England

Group E: France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, USA

Group H: Belgium, South Korea

Knockout

A1 vs. B2: Brazil vs. Chile – Brazil

A2 vs. B1: Spain vs. Croatia – Spain

C1 vs. D2: Colombia vs. England – Colombia

C2 vs. D1: Japan vs. Italy – Italy

E1 vs. F2: France vs. Nigeria – France

E2 vs. F1: Honduras vs. Argentina – Argentina

G1 vs. H2: Germany vs. South Korea – Germany

G2 vs. H1: USA vs. Belgium – Belgium

Round of 8

Brazil vs. Colombia – Brazil

France vs. Germany – Germany

Spain vs. Italy – Spain

Argentina vs. Belgium – Argentina

Semifinals

Brazil vs. Germany – Brazil

Spain vs. Argentina – Spain

Final

Brazil vs. Spain – Brazil

Going with the home country in this one.  France was the last team to lift the World Cup in their home country, but I think Brazil has the talent to get it done.  Spain’s got the experience though and Brazil will be under mountains of pressure, so I anticipate this final going down to the last minutes.

My World Cup best XI

12 Jul

I’m sure everyone in Spain is drunk with glee, the Dutch are drunk with sorrow, but I’m sober and it’s time for my World Cup best XI.  Let me know what you think.

BEST XI

G – Iker Casillas, Spain – He didn’t win the Golden Glove for nothing.  The Real Madrid keeper posted four straight shutouts in the knockout round and came up huge when it counted, notably on two breakaways from Arjen Robben in the final.  He also saved a key penalty in the quarterfinal win over Paraguay.

D – Carles Puyol, Spain – He was a rock in the back and a leader for Spain throughout the tournament.  His flying header to send the team through to the final.   Puyol was part of a defense that only gave up two goals in seven games.

D – Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Netherlands – The Dutch captain was crucial to their final run.  Playing in his final World Cup, Van Bronckhorst scored one of the goals of the tournament in the semifinal win over Uruguay, unleashing an absolute cracker from about 30 yards out.  The defender was aggressive, yet controlled throughout the tournament and helped keep David Villa off the score sheet in the final.

D – Sergio Ramos, Spain – Sorry for the multitude of Spanish players, but Ramos deserves to be here.  This guy probably ran more than anyone else in the tournament, thanks to his long runs into the attacking third.  He put on a solid defensive display, particularly in the final, and was also a threat to put the ball in the back of the net.

M – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany – He had a stellar World Cup.  Playing in the middle of the field, he was the lynchpin for Germany’s offense.  His field vision and calmness on the ball was excellent and he wasn’t afraid to mix it up in there either.  He’s clearly matured a lot since his first go-round in 2006.

M – Xavi, Spain – Spain’s passing game would not be nearly as fluent without Xavi.  He was a catalyst for the champions and plays his non-glamourous role with aplomb.  He also played a major role in shutting down key players like Wesley Sneijder and Schweinsteiger.

M – Thomas Mueller, Germany – The 20-year-old won the Golden Boot and was also named Young Player of the Tournament.  Not too shabby.  He finished with five goals (same as three others), but won the tiebreaker with three assists.  He made his presence known as part of the killer German counterattack and his dynamic play was sorely missed in the semifinal.

M – Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands – What a season for Sneijder.  He won the Champions League with Inter Milan and came oh-so-close to winning the World Cup.  Although his impact was minimal in the final, his five goals in the tournament helped propel the Dutch into the final.

M – Asamoah Gyan, Ghana – Although maybe best known for missing the penalty at the end of extra time against Uruguay, Gyan was a force for Ghana in its quarterfinal run.  He scored three goals, including the extra time winner against the U.S.  He also gained major respect (at least from me) for nailing Ghana’s first penalty in the shootout with Uruguay mere minutes after missing in extra time.

F – Diego Forlan, Uruguay – Forlan won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and rightly so.  Another five-goal man, Forlan was key to Uruguay’s surprise fourth place finish. (If you called Uruguay as the last remaining South American team, more power to you.)  He came up big when it mattered and was thisclose to sending the third place match into extra time after clanging a last second free kick off the crossbar.

F – David Villa, Spain – He continued to excel on the international stage, scoring five goals, including three game-winners.  He has shown that he can be a threat from anywhere on the field, including 50 yards out (goal against Chile).

BENCH

M – Landon Donovan, USA – Finally shed the big game choker label and scored the goal that sent the U.S. through to the knockout round.  Showed the ability to carry the team on his back.

D – Gerard Pique, Spain – Had a great tournament anchoring Spain’s defense, probably bled more than any other player.

D – Maicon, Brazil – So dangerous down the right flank.  Strong defender with an excellent touch on the ball (See: goal vs. North Korea)

F – Luis Suarez, Uruguay – Made up a fearsome  partnership with Forlan, not afraid to shoot from anywhere.

Spain wins World Cup

11 Jul

It wasn’t pretty, but Spain finally became world champions, thanks to a late goal in extra time from Andres Iniesta.

Iniesta’s 116th minute goal snapped the 0-0 draw and gave Spain its first ever World Cup title.  Spain also becomes the third nation to hold the European and World Cup titles at the same time.

Five thoughts on Spain’s win:

1. That game was ugly.  Granted, it wasn’t nearly as boring as I thought it would be, but it was way too chippy and dirty.  The teams amassed 14 yellow cards, setting a new World Cup final record.  It wasn’t until extra time, but John Heitinga of Holland earned his second yellow and the Dutch were forced to finish the game with 10 men.  Referee Howard Webb lost control of the game early on and got really card happy.  (It’s not always a yellow card when a player hits the ground, Howard.)  The Dutch committed some atrocious fouls that they were lucky to get away with (karate kick to the chest, anyone?) and Spain did some atrocious diving.  Ugh, not a pretty game to end the World Cup. (The third place match was better.)

2. Spain shut down Wesley Sneijder and that made a huge difference.  The Dutch playmaker was quiet throughout today’s game and never really had a chance to exert his influence on the game.  Give credit to the Spanish midfield for that one.

3. Iker Casillas came up huge.  He got lucky on a couple saves, but they were the difference makers.  Arjen Robben had two breakaway chances, but Casillas was able to make the save on both of them.  If Robben had been able to finish either of those excellent chances, it would have broken the game wide open.  Casillas was great when he needed to be in this tournament and rightly earned the Golden Glove as the tournament’s best keeper.

4. It appeared that the Dutch decided that instead of trying to play their game to try and stop Spain, they would just get physical.  Well, they got way too physical.  I don’t understand why you wouldn’t at least TRY to play your own game.  The Dutch players lost their cool way too easily and looked stressed throughout the game, including screaming in the ref’s face.  For the most part, the Spanish players kept their heads and again, that made a huge difference in the game.

5. The Spanish super-subs were influential in the outcome.  The game opened up as soon as Cesc Fabregas came on the field.  Fernando Torres came on for David Villa in extra time and he was the one that started the move that led to Iniesta’s game winner (Fabregas had the assist).  Jesus Navas had a few dangerous plays as well.  It must be nice to have players like that to bring off the bench.

And a sixth thought…Paul the Octopus is a genius!  He got all eight games he predicted correct. 

Thus ends the 2010 World Cup.  It’s rather bittersweet and I don’t want to wait four more years for the next one.

What were your thoughts on the game?

Spain-Netherlands prediction

10 Jul

The 65th and last game (sigh) of the 2010 World Cup will be played tomorrow between two first time finalists, Spain and Holland.

I have a sinking feeling that this game tomorrow could be an absolute snoozefest and I really, really hope that I am wrong on that count.  Don’t get me wrong, both teams are incredibly talented, but they don’t exactly play scintillating football.  However, it’s the last World Cup game for four years, so I plan on enjoying it to the fullest extent.

I’m pegging Spain to win their first ever title for five reasons.

1. If they continue to control the ball like they have throughout the tournament, it’s going to be difficult for the Dutch to get their offense going.

2. The Spanish midfield will be able to neutralize Wesley Sneijder’s influence on the game. (Again, ball control being key.)

3. Iker Casillas > Maarten Stekelenburg

4. Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevilla push forward a lot.  Their contributions to the attack could prove decisive.

5. Players like Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas can come OFF THE BENCH. Talk about stacked.

Final prediction: Spain 2, Netherlands 1

P.S. Sorry for the short post, but I’ve been up since 4:30 a.m. and am absolutely exhausted.

Three reasons Netherlands will win

9 Jul

I posted about Spain earlier and now it’s the Netherlands turn.  The Dutch are the only team to win all their games in the World Cup thus far.  Here’s three reasons the Netherlands will hoist the trophy Sunday.  I’ll be making my prediction Saturday.

1. Resilience. The Dutch have shown that they have the ability to play any type of football necessary.  They’ve shown that they can maintain a lead, they’ve shown that they can come back from a goal down (notably against Brazil).  That “upset” win over Brazil gave the team loads of confidence and truly showed that they could compete with any team out there.  In the semifinal against Uruguay, they gave up a goal right before halftime and that could have been disheartening, but they came out in the second half and scored two quick goals.  They won’t be intimidated if Spain does snatch a nearly lead because they have the faith in themselves to get back in the game.

2. Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder is to the Netherlands what Xavi is to Spain.  Sneijder’s play is one of the main reasons the Netherlands are in this position and why he’s been nominated for the Golden Ball.  Not only has he scored five goals (tied for tournament lead), but he’s been instrumental in getting other players involved in the attack as well.  The team has scored 12 goals, one behind World Cup leader Germany.  He won the Champions League with Inter Milan earlier this year and once again he will be going up against many of the same Barcelona players he helped defeat in the semifinal.  His familiarity with how they play will only be a benefit.

3. History.  The Dutch have made the World Cup final twice (1974 and 1978), but lost both times.  They will be aching to avoid another letdown on the world’s biggest stage.  They’ll be wanting to shred the moniker of best team  to never win the trophy. As long as the team doesn’t let the pressure of the event get to them (too much anyways), they will be in a prime position to raise the trophy.

And lo and behold, another psychic animal picked the Dutch to win Sunday. Mani the Parakeet chose the Oranje over la Furia Roja.  So, who is the most psychic animal of them all?  Guess that question will be answered Sunday too.

Three reasons Spain will win

9 Jul

Spain and the Netherlands play Sunday in the World Cup final.  One of the two will be lucky enough to become the eighth country ever to hoist the trophy.  Here’s three reasons Spain will win.  (Netherlands post coming later.)

1. Possession.  No team in the tournament can play the possession game like Spain.  They’ve won the possession battle in all six games they’ve played so far, averaging 58.5%, which is rather awesome.  Because of the fact that they pass so well (81% pass completion rate in the tournament), they force teams to play Spain’s way.  That’s what happened with Germany; Spain played such a controlled passing game that Germany never had a chance to launch counterattacks.  If they can do the same thing to the Dutch and make them play Spain’s brand of football, it bodes well for the European champions.

2. Xavi. This man has been spectacular for Spain and a huge reason why they are in the final at all.  He is one of Spain’s three nominees for the Golden Ball.  Xavi is the lynchpin of the Spanish midfield and much of the organized, calm play runs through him.  He has completed the most passes of any player in South Africa and how he plays on Sunday will be a huge factor in the outcome.  The team’s midfield as a whole has been excellent and Xavi, along with Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets lead the passing charts (Spain holds six of the top ten spots. Check it out for yourself.).  Coincidence?  I think not.

3. Defense. Spain has only given up two goals in the tournament thus far.  One in the opening loss to Switzerland and one in a 2-1 win over Chile in the final group game.  Goalie Iker Casillas and the defense have posted four shutouts, including three straight.  Casillas has come up big several times, including a penalty save against Paraguay and a breakaway save against Germany.  As a whole, the defense plays smart and doesn’t commit a lot of stupid fouls.  Of course, it also helps that Spain’s defenders are also talented at going forward too.  After all, it was a defender that got them into the final.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Paul the Psychic Octopus picked them to win the final.  Paul was six for six on picking Germany’s results, so clearly he’s right.

Netherlands through to final

7 Jul

For the first time since 1978, the Netherlands are back in the World Cup final after a 3-2 semifinal win over Uruguay.

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst drew first blood with a long range strike in the 18th minute.  It looked like it could get ugly, but Uruguay regained possession and some control and who else but Diego Forlan equalized just before half.  In the second half, it only took the Dutch a three minute span to wrest control of the game.  Wesley Sneijder struck first and Arjen Robben moments later to give the Netherlands a 3-1 lead.  Uruguay didn’t quit though and Maxi Pereira gave the South American side hope with a goal a minute into stoppage time.  They continued to push for an equalizer, but had several decent opportunities blocked.  Man, talk about a comeback, how amazing would it have been if Uruguay had been able to tie up the game that late?

Overall, the Netherlands controlled the game.  They handled the pressure well and took advantage of their opportunities (with a little help from the post – seriously, every single goal hit the post).  They deserved the win yesterday and will go into the final full of confidence, having won every game they’ve played in South Africa.  Now they play the waiting game to see whether their opponent will be Germany or Spain.

Meanwhile, Uruguay will head to the third place game and awaits the loser of today’s semifinals.  The South American side played a solid game yesterday, but the Netherlands were just a little bit better.  You could tell that Diego Forlan missed Luis Suarez up front.