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The Netherlands vs Uruguay: MysticalDescent’s view

UruguayUruguayan Flag

NetherlandsDutch Flag

1) Muslera

1) Stekelenberg
3) Godin

3) Heitinga

16) Pereira

5) van Bronckhorst

22) Caceres

12) Boulahrouz

5) Gargano

6) van Bommel

11) Pereira (Abreu, 78)

10) Sneijder

15) Perez

14) De Zeeuw (van der Vaart, 46)

17) Arevalo Rios

7) Kuyt

7) Cavani

9) van Persie

10) Forlan (Fernandez, 84)

11) Robben (Elia, 90)

So much for Dutch magic and total football. Not only was chance creation at a premium, but the Dutch players doled out cynical tackles at almost the same rate as they were throwing themselves at the floor. Admittedly the third goal was a beauty, but it took a speculative shot from long range and a goal that should have been flagged for offside to overcome a Uruguay side missing two critical players in Suarez and Lugano. To say that the Netherlands never really turned up does a disservice to a hard working Uruguay side with a very effective defensive gameplan. Regardless, whilst the game fairly entertaining, the Germans and Spanish were probably licking their lips at the prospect of playing either team.

The evening started with the unexpected bonus that Jim Beglin would not be taking up the role of co-commentator for the match. David Pleat asides, I’m struggling to think of a pundit who is as irritating and perpetually incorrect as Beglin. His idiocy is only exacerbated when there’s a ‘big’ team who he can pick out as his favourite and shamelessly cheerlead for, so thank goodness we were spared him making countless excuses for the Netherlands tonight. As for the game itself, the first half was mostly disappointing, with only three real highlights. Obviously, two of these were the goals, while the other was the incident on the edge of the Dutch box that saw Caceres catch de Zeeuw in the face with a boot. Other than that, there was very little to comment on. The linesman in the Dutch half was hopelessly incompetent (more on that later) and the Uruguayans did an effective job of keeping Robben out of the game, while struggling to link up their defence and attack. The idea seemed to be to play 4-5-1 when defending, before switching to a 4-3-3 system with two wingers when attacking. Unfortunately, this usually meant that Forlan was left isolated up front, although he wasn’t helped be the hapless number 11, Pereira, and an inability to pass the ball forwards accurately. Ultimately, there was no get out ball for Uruguay and hence no chance creation.

One thing that this World Cup has done is made a mockery of goalkeepers. Muslera had very little chance with the goal, as it dipped beautifully into the top corner of the goal, but he has looked incredibly shaky and has inspired little confidence in his defence. Stekelenberg is another goalkeeper who I don’t really rate and he made a real howler tonight with the goal. You can claim that the ball swerved an awful lot, but he got a solid hand to it and it was as though all the particles in the ball had suddenly decided to act as waves and pass straight through. It’s not just the lowly rated goalkeepers who are being humiliated though – respected, capable goalkeepers such as Julio Cesar and Thomas Sorensen have also made costly errors, though admittedly Sorensen’s big errors came from free-kicks, his most glaring weakness. Has there been a drop of standards since the days of Yashin, Banks or even Schmeichel? Is it bad luck, a coincidence, or could it really be down to the World Cup ball? If it’s the latter then it’s a shame, because the once noble profession of the goalkeeper seems to be being sacrificed by FIFA in the name of the spectacular on the world stage.

As for the incident on the edge of the Dutch box, Caceres may have caused some damage to de Zeeuw, but it was van Bommel who was lucky to escape the incident without seeing red. Thanks to FIFA’s TV operators deciding that it was only important enough for one replay having already missed it taking place due to showing a replay of something else, I’m not exactly certain what happened, but van Bommel appeared to either strike Caceres in the face with his hand, or headbutt him. The consensus seems to be that it was the former, in which case Van Bommel should have been shown a straight red. Just like Fabregas and Campbell for Arsenal, though, it seems that Van Bommel is magically immune from the wrath of referees. In all seriousness, Van Bommel got away with an awful lot of stuff on the night (perhaps he should consider moving to a cynical team like Arsenal), including him taking out a Uruguayan in the build up to one of the Dutch goals and a little kick out at a Uruguayan as the game appeared to be petering out.

The second half again saw Uruguay struggle to get the ball from back to front, leaving the Dutch to control possession but only create half-chances. The turning point was when Sneijder took a pot shot from the edge of the box that was going wide but got a couple of lucky deflections off Uruguay players, sending it into the bottom corner. The goalkeeper should have done better, but he reacted very late as the ball went straight past van Persie, the Muslera seemed to be expecting to control the ball. Van Persie was clearly standing in an offside position and the linesman should have flagged for offside, disallowing the goal. The decision was actually tighter than I’ve just suggested, but the linesman had spent most of the first half flagging Uruguayan players as offside when they were quite clearly nowhere near being in an offside position. I’m not sure where they got him from, but he was completely out of his depth and Uruguay will feel very aggrieved that he cost them numerous attacking opportunities in the first half and then allowed an illegal goal to stand.

The Dutch third goal was a visible hammer blow for Uruguay, with most of their players jogging around the pitch looking as though they wanted to end as soon as possible. To be fair to the Netherlands, it was a very well constructed goal, with a good passing move leading to a pinpoint cross headed in by Arjen Robben, of all people. After that, the Uruguayan players seemed to give up hope. It was only after Pereira (the good one, the useless left winger had been substituted by now) scored from the edge of the box at the end of the game that the Uruguayans pressed on and really tried to get the game back. It would have been a fantastic contest if they had equalised, as the Dutch had started to take off their best players so that they could rest them for the final. Despite a long throw bombardment and some frantic defending, the Uruguayans couldn’t find an equaliser and the Netherlands made it through to the final. Still, you can’t spend 15 minutes moping around and then complain about losing because you attacked for 2 minutes at the end.

In the other semi-final tonight, Germany takes on Spain. At the start of the tournament, I said that Uruguay would win the World Cup (ok, so I was a little wrong, but everyone was predicting that they would go out in the group stages and even with two of their best players missing it took a dodgy goal to beat them) and that you can never bet against the Germans, who will make the final. I’m going to stand by the latter part of my prediction and I expect Germany, the stand out team in the tournament so far, to beat Spain pretty comfortably. I just hope that the game isn’t ruined by the eagerness of players on both teams to throw themselves at the floor and pretend to be injured.

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