Archive for July, 2010

Sagarcia: WC Blog – Endgame : The Spanish Dream is real !

After participating in 12 World Cups, living through bitter moments (see article “The Spanish Dream”), the long-awaited victory has arrived! “La Selección” showed an excellent performance : congratulations, Spain!

The 2008 European Champion player generation broke the Spanish curse of the quarter-finals, and brought us a glorious football.

We could analyze the big final, talking about the referee’s good and the bad decisions, the coaches’ tactical approach, or even open an endless debate, but this seems unnecessary since everyone saw the final and drew their own conclusions. Let´s consider the impact it made; Spanish victory in a hard final match, in which the Dutchmen didn’t play their own football and were only concerned with stopping the Spanish players in every possible way. The world has surrendered to Spanish football, as seen in the foreign headlines:

Olé (Argentina) : “Joder, que campeón” – Wow, what a Champion!
France Football (France) : “Le Monde leur appartient” – The World is theirs
L´Equipe (France) : “2010, L´Odysée de l´Espagne” – 2010, Odyssey of Spain
Record (México): “España, Campeón del Mundo Iniesta el héroe ibérico” – Spain, World Champion- Iniesta, the iberian hero
Daily Mail (UK) : “Viva España”
The Sun (UK): “Winiesta”
Bild (Germany): “Spanien Weltmeister. Tor Iniesta, jetzt Fiesta… und Krake Paul hat es wieder gewusst”- “Spain, World Champion. Iniesta goal, now Fiesta. Octopus Paul guessed right again”
A Bola (Portugal): “Espanha. Campēa da Europa para o Mundo” – Spain. European Champion for the World
La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy): “Vamos España: Canpione”- Come on Spain, Champions
O Globo (Brazil): “A festa da técnica e da ousadia” -
De Telegraaf (Netherlands): “Tranen Oranje” – Orange tears
Marca (España) : “Que si, que somos campeones” – Yes, we are World Champion

The international press highlighted the great football Spain showed, the great Iniesta goal 4 minutes before the end of the extra time, and excessive rough play by the Dutch players. Many journalists say that Spain is a fair winner of the game, and it is a good for football in general if a team like Spain wins tournaments. Even FIFA president Joseph Blatter praised the strength and commitment of the Spanish team, although he admitted that the final hadn’t been “exactly” what we had expected due to the lack of “Fair Play”.

“La Roja”, with the achievement of the tournament has set several new records:

- the first European country winning a World Cup taking place outside of Europe.
- being the champion with least goals scored (eight goals scored, two received).
- being the only champion not getting goals after the group stage.
- being the first team losing the first game while winning the cup.

Let´s remember the new World Champions:

Goalkeepers

Iker CASILLAS (Real Madrid)
Pepe REINA (Liverpool)
Víctor VALDÉS (Barcelona)

Defenders

Sergio RAMOS (Real Madrid)
Carles PUYOL (Barcelona)
Gerard PIQUÉ (Barcelona)
Raúl ALBIOL (Real Madrid)
Carlos MARCHENA (Valencia )
Álvaro ARBELOA (Real Madrid)
Joan CAPDEVILA (Villarreal )

Midfielders

Xavi HERNÁNDEZ (Barcelona)
Xabi ALONSO (Real Madrid)
Andrés INIESTA (Barcelona)
Cesc FÁBREGAS (Arsenal)
Sergi BUSQUETS (Barcelona)
David SILVA (Valencia – Manchester City)
Juan MATA (Valencia)
Jesús NAVAS (Sevilla)
Javi MARTÍNEZ (Athletic)

Forwards

David VILLA (Valencia – Barcelona)
Fernando TORRES (Liverpool)
Pedro Rodríguez (Barcelona)
Fernando LLORENTE (Athletic)

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque

Before signing off I would like to highlight the great organization of South Africa in the 2010 World Cup. There were many who doubted their organisational capacities. Thanks for this unforgettable South Africa World Cup 2010. Spain will always remember you fondly!

Now, we can say loud and clear : It´s not a dream, it´s real:

SPAIN, FOOTBALL WORLD CHAMPION!

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_-Ares-_ : Uruguay, the less expected fourth team

Uruguay won his world cup. He was fourth, but indeed he was a champion . It’s true that he lost against Holland, It’s true that he lost against Germany in Port Elizabeth. But Uruguay put the south american football high at the top. Because he gave everything, because he played as none other did.. Because he put down there in the pitch even what he had’nt. He fought, pressed and played against such a monster as Germany was from equal to equal. The rain, the wet stadium and tired legs attempted to the players and ended suffering an undeserved 3-2 loss. Uruguay was fourth but in His way, He was a champion…

In Port Elizabeth, the Master Tabárez set up his team in the same way that in the six games before. Ofensive, with Diego Forlán, Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani striking to the opposite goalkeeper. Germany, without motivation, left Miroslav Klose in the bench, who could not become the most succesful striker in the world cup series, also Philipp Lham, his captain, his goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and his star, Lukas Podolski.

The match, was with danger in both areas.It was more ambitious from Uruguay than Germany, but in the end the hierarchy of the europeans tilted the balance. Because he was before in the score-sheet, after only 19 minutes, almost without having created goal situations. Schweinsteiger shot from outside of the area, Muslera with his first mistake couldn’t handle it and Müller scored his fifth goal in the tournament.

Uruguay kept running, making efforts, fighting, pressing but also playing. The three man in the attack, with Maxi Pereira in the right, Diego Pérez in the middle and Egidio Arévalo in the left. Suffocating the rival without letting them think, without laying down their arms… And he obtained what he had sowed, deserved, well earned. Pérez stole a ball in the middle from Schweinsteiger, passed it to suarez. There were 3 attackers against 2 defenders. Forlán went to the right and atracted the defense marks in order for finding Cavani’s appearance all alone, who scored without hesitation. Every Uruguaian celebrating, the effort worthed it, and he found himself at top notch after almost 40 years

In the second half Uruguay had his ambition over-boosted. Dominating in first part, playing better and exploiting the lack of motivation from his rival. Oezil, was almost disappeared. Cacau wasn’t able to look as dangerous as he wanted and the deffenders didn’t want to go higher and attack. The only players that were feeling the weight of the shirt were Schweinsteiger, Müller and Marcell Jansen… too litle for the Uruguaian’s hunger
Arévalo fought and won in the right, the center arrived and Forlán’s voley was a dream come true in the net. The 2-1 instaled at five minutes of the second half. There was too much to run still and Uruguay players were starting to show the sign of fatigue for all that they had run
Almost in the next approach at 10 minutes, another mistake from Muslera allowed Germany to tie the match withouth desserving it. Boateng crossed the ball and Jansen headed to the net.

Uruguay fell… and the match did the same. The rain made everything more difficult from the south american team who had played an extra time against Ghana and other struggling match against Holland. Then Germany started to push encouraged for the public and got higher in the pitch, attempting to counter attack in some moments and free kicking in others. He never generated real danger bur kept on running and controled the ball posession. When there seemed that another extra time would come, a cross from the right found the head of Khedira and the 3-2 was sealed.

Altough in the last action of the match Forlán hit the bar with a free kick that paralized thousands of people all around the world, the result didn’t chang. Uruguay wasn’t third, He wasn’t fourth… He was also a champion

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FCB-Ier: Third time the Charm?

The Netherlands play their third World Cup final. Will they be able to overcome Spain? Or will the Spanish team take home their first World Cup in their first final?

First though the third place play-off between Germany and Uruguay tonight.

Uruguay vs Germany could be a great match. Germany, with Muller again in the team could show their pace one last time this World Cup. On the other hand, manager Low has announced to give some benchwarmers the opportunity to shine though. Nevertheless Paul the Squid has predicted a german win. Suarez and Forlan are going to do everything they can to prove him wrong, though Paul hasn’t made a mistake yet in this World Cup.
Quite frankly, I don’t really care about this game, but it has to be played and as a neutral supporter I am definitely going to watch and hope for a good game. Sidenote here: Forlan, Muller and Klose are still in the running for topscorer with 4 goals each. Only 2 players have 5 goals at the moment…

The game I have been waiting for for almost a month though is coming tomorrow: The Netherlands vs Spain. Spain finally exploded in the semi-final and reveiled their true potential, even though I think they still can do better. They finally played up to their level and saw the germans home. If Spain plays like theu played Germany, I see very little teams capable of withstanding them. But the same can be said about the Netherlands. If they play to their full potential I can’t imagine much teams capable of stopping them.
The key will be (imho) just like in Hattrick: the midfield. If the Dutch can hold off the Spanish midfield, prevent the loss of possession as much as possible, they do stand a chance. Especially with their fast wingers they can break out and be very dangerous on the counter in no time. Man of the Match is going to be a battle between Xavi-Sneijder-Villa-Robben-Casillas-Stekelenburg (and the other 16, plus some supersubs)
There is a match in the match as well, with both Sneijder and Villa on 5 goals and going for the topscorer title. Furthermore I hope both Van Persie and Torres finally get their game going.
Allthough both teams normally have a very attacking attitude, I do expect both teams to play a bit more carefull. The Final could go to extra time and even penalties, but won’t be scoreless, there is to much attacking potential on the field not to have some goals. Both teams weak points are in the defense, and both teams have the attacking strength to exploit them. I hope for a 3-3 or 4-4 after 90′ with a spark of genious from either team deciding it in extra time. With both teams so close, it is really hard to put my money on any team, but since Paul the Squid has predicted a Spanish win, my money stays with them…

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OrangeStar: It’s here! The Final!

Thirty teams have fallen by the wayside in their quest to make it to this, the grandest arena in international football. The mighty, with their pedigree and their championships, have fallen, hard. France and Italy failed to progress from the Group Stage. England failed to live up to the demanding expectations of their media and fans. Again. Brazil crashed out in the Quarter Finals, as did Argentina, oh so spectacularly. The winners of the Semi Finals, Spain and the Netherlands, have progressed to the FIFA World Cup Final to fight for the title of World Champions. The losers, Uruguay and Germany, will fight for honour, and third place, in the playoff match, which should be equally exciting.

THIRD PLACE PLAYOFF: URUGUAY vs GERMANY
Port Elizabeth – July 10
Port Elizabeth will come to life in just a few hours time, when the young German side take on Uruguay in the fight for third place. Joachim Loew’s side will be out to set the record straight, after their heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Spain in the Semi Final. After sweeping aside the likes of Australia, England and Argentina, scoring four goals in each match, the Germans were undone by a 73rd minute header from Carlos Puyol, which sent them crashing to the third place playoff. With Thomas Muller returning from a one-match ban, and Miroslav Klose sure to be potent in attack, the Germans have every chance of claiming third place. If Mesut Ozil gets space in the midfield, it could spell bad news for the Uruguayan defence. Of course, Uruguay has Luis Suarez returning from suspension as well, after his game saving handball on the goal line in the last minute of extra time against Ghana in the Quarter Final. With Suarez and Diego Forlan up front, the Uruguayans are a potent attacking force, especially from set pieces. However, if the Uruguayan midfielders can deny Germany the ball like the Spanish did in the Semi Final, the Germans could end up crashing out of the competition. Goalkeepers Fernando Muslera (Uruguay) and Manuel Neuer (Germany) will both be put under a lot of pressure defensively, with both sides showing they have no trouble scoring. The three-time Champions have found the net 13 times in their six matches, and the Uruguayans (two-time Champions themselves) have scored nine goals over their campaign.

Result:
Uruguay have never beaten Germany in their past eight internationals, managing only two draws, and five goals. Germany have won six, scoring a massive 23 goals, at an average of just under three per game! With Thomas Muller returning for the Germans, and Luis Suarez back for Uruguay after his one match ban, the talent will certainly be on show. However, with history stacked against them, the Uruguayans look set to struggle against the young legs of Germany. If they can keep their composure, the Germans could likely repeat the result of the 1970 third place match (where Germany defeated Uruguay 1-0).
Prediction: Uruguay 1, Germany 2.

The stage is set, the teams have been decided, the Jo’bulani is ready, and Paul the octopus has made his prediction (for the record, it was Spain). All that remains is the match itself. Spain have never played in a Final before, and the Dutch have never won one. We are venturing into new and exciting territory, and after all is said and done, we will have a new World Champion (just the eighth in the history of the Cup), and memorable moments to last us a lifetime.

THE FINAL: NETHERLANDS vs SPAIN
Johannesburg, Soccer City – July 11

With just over a day remaining before the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final kicks-off in South Africa, the world awaits the huge occasion with tense anticipation. In the magnificent Soccer City stadium, the Netherlands and Spain will contest the 19th World Cup Final. Spain have never contested a Final before, while the Dutch were defeated in their last two attempts, so there is no doubt both sides will be pushing hard for the victory. The Dutch resilience, and their attacking prowess, has been brought to the fore multiple times in the tournament, but especially in the hard fought Quarter Finals win against Brazil, but also in their 3-2 defeat of Uruguay in the Semi Finals. Spain, although they may not have played their best football yet, have shown they can handle the war of attrition, keeping a clean sheet for three consecutive matches including games against the Portuguese and German powerhouses. David Villa, equal top scorer for the tournament, will be looking to secure the Golden Boot with a goal in the final. Iniesta and Xavi will also need to step up again for the Spanish, as will their defenders, Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique and Joan Capdevila. Iker Casillas will also need to be well and truly on form in goals, to keep out the Dutch attack. The Netherlands will look to their top scorer, and equal leading goal scorer for the tournament, Wesley Sneijder to provide some brilliance from midfield. The Dutch will also look to their experienced winger, Arjen Robben, for some good pace on the flanks. Holland has a reputation for hard line defending, and now, on the most critical stage of them all, the likes of Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong will need to stay out of trouble if the Dutch are to go the distance. Martin Stekelenburg will also be thoroughly tested in goals; with the Spanish producing some real moments of brilliance across the tournament, it will be vital that he is not only well defended, but ready for anything.

Road to the Final
Netherlands
GROUP STAGE:
Netherlands 2, Denmark 0.
Netherlands 1, Japan 0.
Cameroon 1, Netherlands 2.

KNOCKOUT ROUNDS:
R16- Netherlands 2, Slovakia 1.
QF- Netherlands 2, Brazil 1.
SF- Uruguay 2, Netherlands 3.

Spain
GROUP STAGE:
Spain 0, Switzerland 1.
Spain 2, Honduras 0.
Chile 1, Spain 2.

KNOCKOUT ROUNDS:
R16- Spain 1, Portugal 0.
QF- Paraguay 0, Spain 1.
SF- Germany 0, Spain 1.

Keys to the game:
- The Spanish defence being able to hold out the Dutch assault.
- The Spanish strikers stepping up to score goals.
- The Dutch prevent Spain from getting too much time on the ball.

Cup Stats:
Goals Scored: Netherlands- 12, Spain- 7.
Top Scorer: Netherlands- Wesley Sneijder (5), Spain- David Villa (5).
Goals Conceded: Netherlands- 5, Spain- 2.
2006 World Cup Result: Netherlands- Round of 16, Spain- Round of 16.
Best World Cup Result: Netherlands- 2nd (1974, 1978), Spain- 4th (1950).

Result:
Although these two teams have never met before in a World Cup Finals match, this match is sure to be a fierce contest. With everything on the line here, for both nations, it is hard to see who the eventual winner may be. Spain have been the kings of defensive football throughout the tournament, conceding just two goals in six matches, and winning their last three games 1-0. If the Dutch can open the scoring, it wouldn’t be unlikely to see them take control of the match. However, if the Spaniards can keep possession of the ball (as they did against the Germans), it will be very difficult for Holland to generate any attacking flow. Predictions have been made (by the brave), but this one really is too close to call.
Prediction: Netherlands 1, Spain 1 (Penalty Shootout).

A grand finale, thirty days in the making, will play out before the eyes of the world on June 11. We will have a brand new World Champion, a nation that has never won a World Cup before. Spain or the Netherlands; who will it be?

Next time: 2010 In Review! Stay tuned!

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GM-CorPuS: Different aspects of World Cup

Written by GM-CorPuS.

You get up early in the morning. Look around. Slight relief goes through your body – thank God you are at home. Few bottles of beer and some snacks lay on the table, same stuff all around the place. Your head aches, but you quickly remember what was going here yesterday… World Cup final! And your favorite team won!..

Now I can only imagine that some of the fans will feel this way Monday morning. The ones that do not have to go to work, of course. I did not want to give out the winner too – octopus Paul does that, or you can fill it in yourself. What I want to do is to look at the World Cup from a few perspectives.

South Africa. Mixed feelings and different expectations were in everyone’s mind before the tournament. It is not over yet, but I have to say, and I think most of you would agree, that African country did its best to organize the event and succeeded! Stadiums look really impressive, the organization of whole tournament is of high level.

New winner. Everyone has got their favorite when such an event comes. In the end, there are only two of the starting 32 teams that fight for the title. That has not changed for years. What is changing, is the way teams play. Older fans can remember how Netherlands have been playing that dominant football for past 24 years (or more), but never managed to win anything. In this World Cup, they are not demonstrating the very best football, but they are in the final. Spain was never there before, though they always had strong teams and were favorites. No matter which team wins, we will have a new World Champion. That alone is exciting.

Competition. I admit, that we will see two teams that deserved to be in the final. The path, which they had to go to reach the final shows their strength. What is more, they played real quality football and I am sure, gained a lot of new fans. However, not every match was so interesting. Games started slowly beginning 11th of June, with very little goals to see. Some sensations at the group stage, together with some off the pitch actions livened the atmosphere. Only when the competition reached second round games started looking more and more exciting. That is sure the way it should be. One more reason to expect a great final.

Fans. Even those vuvuzelas are not that annoying when you really care about football. Too bad, not everyone can join the party where it is hottest. So you stay at home and have to make choices like where to watch the game, who invite as a company. One prefers sitting at home watching games on TV (myself included), other go to bars, mostly not alone. Either way, you commit yourself to football for whole month. Caffes and bars make twice on even more profit during this time. Even in countries (like mine), where football is not the first sport, people are crowding the bars, routing for their favorite teams. What is impressive to me that a lot of people support different teams, but when they meet each other they manage to get along just fine. That is how it should always be: friendly atmosphere on and off the pitch. Football should bring joy to hearts of those, who love it!

Have a great final!

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BramK: The Netherlands vs Spain

We did it! We have reached the finals of the World Cup. It wasn’t the hardest road we had to take with matches against Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay. But we did win them all, and now we are ready to take on Spain in the final.

I can’t describe how I felt after we had beaten Uruguay. All I can say is that I was home very very late and very drunk. It was a close match, with a defending Uruguay and attacking Holland. Uruguay didn’t create any chances and scored twice. We missed a lot of chances and the score should have been like 4-1. But all that matters is that we won, and we won with 3-2.

Spain had a much tougher opponent in the semi final; Germany. But Germany really disappointed in this match. They completely got overrun by Spain, and all they were doing was defending. Spain deserved the victory and won with 1-0 by a header of Puyol. Germany had a little bad luck when they didn’t get a penalty just before half time. To my opinion it wasn’t a penalty, but you never know how a referee sees it.

And now Spain and The Netherlands are in the final. My opinion is that Spain is obviously the favorite in this final. Spain has won the last European Championship, plays the best soccer and has the most stars in their team. But I give us (The Netherlands) also a good chance. We have proven that we know what it takes to win a match, and that we do what we have to. Against Brazil we irritated, and remained calm after Brazil players went totally berserk. This means that we are very mature, and the players aren’t impressed by their opponents.

The final will be the match of the big players. Who will make the difference? Who shines on the highest stage? There are several players who can do it;

Robben – The Netherlands
Known for his specific move; acting like he is going around the sideline, but then turns inside for the shot on goal. Most of the times this move succeeds and the shot ends up in the back of the net. Will he be able to make Capdevilla crazy with his speed, turns and shots?

Van Persie – The Netherlands
Although the tournament for Van Persie hasn’t been what everybody expected, he is still a player who can make the difference. Before his injury he was playing as striker at Arsenal, and doing a very good job. Maybe he will find his form back, and what better way to do it than with a goal in the WC final.

Sneijder – The Netherlands

Wesley Sneijder is the biggest and smallest player of the Dutch. With already three prizes in his pocket, he is looking for the fourth; the WC. He sets out the attacking lines of the Dutch team and is important with some perfect passes. Will he be able to grab the fourth? And maybe even become top scorer of the tournament?

Villa – Spain
Just like Wesley Sneijder he has already scored 4 goals in this tournament, and he will be looking to score another one or two in the final. Villa is the most dangerous striker at this tournament and it is no surprise that Barcelona has bought him for 40mil. Against Germany he wasn’t able to score, the question is whether he will against The Netherlands.

Xavi – Spain
The midfield of Spain is great, mostly thanks to Xavi and Iniesta. These two playmakers are at the start of every Spanish attack. It will be the job of the Dutch to defend these players well, because with only a little room Xavi can do great things.

Iniesta – Spain
Not only a playmaker but also a very dangerous dribbler. He can walk with the ball and penetrate in the penalty area without a problem. Without a foul Iniesta is really hard to stop. His precision passes make this player the best of the Spanish team.

As said before, everything in this blog is my opinion. It is obvious that as a Dutchman I look towards the match in a different way. I hope that Holland wins and that all the Dutch can go to Amsterdam Tuesday to celebrate our victory of the World Cup.

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iainlloyd: Worst XI

Rather than consider which players have been the best, I thought I would discuss the Worst World XI based on this World Cup

There will be lots of talk as this World Cup comes to an end about which players played well. No doubt there will be lots of clubs interested in these players as well. But which players let themselves, and their country down?

If I was being playful, I would list the entire English, Italian, Nigerian & French sides, but not all those players were bad (just most of them).

To keep it simple, I have gone 4-4-2

GOALKEEPERS
Not many of the main goalies had a bad tournament, in fact, for some of the more disappointing teams, the goalie was often the best player. So, despite an excellent save later in his only game, I choose Robert Green (England) as goalkeeper. He had a poor appearance and let in a very soft goal.

DEFENCE

North Korea struggled defensively, but not much was expected of there players so they escape. My back 4 is made up of John Terry (I’m not picking on the English on purpose), William Gallas (France), Fabio Cannavaro and Giorgio Chiellini (Italy). Terry had a very poor campaign, not helped by off field troubles. Gallas was one of the many issues within the French camp. Cannavaro & Chiellini, I’m afraid, looks like it was just too much for them. Italy, so often solid at the back (or Utopian in Hattrick terms) looked very shaky during their games.

WINGERS

Although these 2 players would cost you about £150m, I have chosen Franck Ribery (France) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal). Ribery was utter rubbish, intent more on diving and kicking people than running at defenders. Ronaldo is slightly different. He was Portugal’s best player, but he only scored once (in a 7-0 against North Korea). Much more has become expected of him, he was perhaps too busy shaving his legs.

MIDFIELDERS

So many muppets, only 2 spaces to fill. Kaka can count himself very lucky, he just misses out but I felt he deserved special mention. The midfield duo would be Yohan Gourcuff (France) and Claudio Marchisio (Italy). Both these young men were tasked with playing in a role which had previously been filled by a legend (Zidane and any one from Totti/Del Piero/Pirlo/Baggio). Sadly, both disappointed. Gourcuff looked off his game and ended up red carded in France’s last game. Marchisio managed 120 minutes of football in the first 2 games and didn’t feature in the must win final game for Italy.

STRIKERS

No brainer for me, Rooney (England) and Torres (Spain). Two of the most feared strikers on the planet, who looked all tournament like they couldn’t hit a barn door (I’m being polite about them). Torres may yet go on to score the winner in the final (as I type Germany v Spain has not yet kicked off), but up to now he has looked unfit and uninterested. As for Shrek, sorry, Rooney, he too has looked unfit but also looked more like the petulant young boy he was when he first burst onto the scene with Everton and England.

All in, I think buying this starting XI before the World Cup would have cost in the region of £400m. How much would they cost based on these performances???

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OrangeStar: This is it! The Final Four (Part 1-2)

With just five days until the World Cup Final, there are only four matches remaining in the competition. Three teams will leave South Africa disappointed, and even though two nations will compete in the Final, the glory, and the trophy, can only belong to one team. Who will it be? Thankfully, we don’t have long to wait.

First up, though, is a recap of the Quarter Finals; which were played a couple of days ago. With four South American teams, three European teams, one Asian team and one African team remaining in the competition, by all accounts, the 2010 World Cup was the ‘South American World Cup’.

NETHERLANDS vs BRAZIL
Port Elizabeth – July 2
Brazil and the Netherlands kicked-off the Quarter Finals in Port Elizabeth. The Brazilians looked menacing from the start, going forwards in numbers, with Daniel Alves and Maicon consistently getting forwards to put pressure on the Dutch defenders. A terrible defensive lapse in the tenth minute allowed way too much space at the back, and Felipe Melo played a through ball from the centre of the park that Robinho was able to run onto, and sneak past the Stekelenburg to score the opening goal for Brazil. The Brazilians continued to dominate the opening half, creating multiple chances, but being unable to convert them into anything tangible.

The Dutch came out strong after the break though, and immediately heaped pressure onto the Brazilian defence. The Dutch breakthrough came after a free kick in the 53rd minute, which Wesley Schneider played down the wing to Arjen Robben. Robben, not making any ground against the defence, hit the ball back to Schneider, who sent in a wickedly curving cross from the sideline, about thirty-five metres from goal. Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar came to punch the ball away, while Felipe Melo tried to get his head on the ball, but both mistimed their attempts, and the ball finished in the back of the net, tying the scores. The effect this goal had on the game was outstanding, and instantaneous. Holland, buoyed by their breakthrough, continued to press forward in numbers, troubling the Brazilian defence, while the attitude of Dunga’s men deteriorated. With a little over 20 minutes left in the game, the Dutch swung a low corner into the penalty box. Dirk Kuyt managed to get a glancing header to the ball at the near post, which rocketed onto Schneider’s head, and into the back of the net, giving the Netherlands the lead. The Brazilian attitude dipped further from there, with the players resorting to snide tackles across the pitch. This culminated in the dismissal of Felipe Melo in the 73rd minute, for stamping on Robben’s leg after he was felled by a challenge. The game only deteriorated from there for Brazil, becoming more scrappy by the minute. Brazil couldn’t find what they were after in front of goal, although they did have some golden chances in the closing stages. Daniel Alves’ free kick with just over a minute remaining was wasted when he sent it thundering into the wall. With just seconds remaining in the match, the Dutch had a chance to add emphasis to the scoreline, with a three-on-one inside the Brazilian box, but somehow the defence managed to clear the ball away. In a shock exit for Brazil, they have been denied their World Cup dream at the Quarter Final stage for the second consecutive tournament.

The Good: Wes Schneider was absolutely brilliant for the Dutch. The midfielder, who has now been credited with both goals in the match, played a superb game, and was vital in Holland’s second-half revival.
The Bad: There were periods in the match where the defensive performances from both teams were very average; especially on the first goal conceded by the Netherlands.
The Ugly: The Brazilian reaction to the second Dutch goal can be described as nothing short of ugly. The vicious, scrappy tackles that were made, along with the loss of their usually calm temperament not only ruined their performance, but any chance they had of getting back in the match.

Result: Netherlands 2, Brazil 1.

URUGUAY vs GHANA
Johannesburg, Soccer City – July 2
Uruguay took on the last remaining hope of Africa, Ghana, in the second Quarter Final. The Uruguayans looked dangerous from the kick-off, with Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez making a formidable attacking pairing. Suarez looked set to score the opener just ten minutes in, when he found himself with plenty of space inside the box, but his bullet shot was fired straight at the Ghanaian keeper, Richard Kingson. Kingson’s solid glove work was all that kept the Black Stars in the game for much of the opening period, with some acrobatic and reflexive save denying the Uruguayan strikers the breakthrough they were searching for. The Ghanaians seemed to regain some control after the half-hour mark, and were threatened the Uruguayan goal multiple times in the closing stages of the half. With the half drawing to a close, Sulley Muntari unleashed a venomous strike from at least thirty metres, which swerved viciously in-flight, and powered into the back of the net, igniting the African crowd and spurring the Ghanaians on as they went in for the break.

The swerving Jabulani proved to be too much for Kingson in the 55th minute though, when Diego Forlan’s wicked free kick beat him in the air, and found the back of the net, to tie the scores. Uruguay, with the balance of the game swinging back in their favour, hand some excellent chances to gain the lead after the hour, but couldn’t take the initiative. Kingson again was the hero for the Ghanaians, providing brilliant saves against Suarez and Forlan, who was exceptionally dangerous from free kicks late in the game. Despite both sides attacking efforts, neither nation could find a second goal, so the match ventured into extra time.

While the first period of extra time was a fairly tentative affair, both teams came to life in the closing stages of the second half of extra time, with a penalty shoot-out looming. Asamoah Gyan flashed a header just over the bar in the 110th minute, and some desperate defending from Uruguay saved them five minutes later. With the end of extra time drawing near, the Ghanaians looked to have all but won the match when Steven Appiah’s free kick clattered into the legs of Luis Suarez, before sitting up perfectly for Dominic Adiyiah to head towards the all but unprotected goal. However, Suarez stuck out his hand, to prevent the ball crossing the line, in one of the most obvious acts of gamesmanship seen at the tournament. The referee dismissed Suarez immediately, and awarded Ghana a penalty right at the death. With time practically expired, Asamoah Gyan stepped up to the penalty spot for the last kick of the game. He sent the ball goalwards, sent Muslera the wrong way, and just when it looked like the Ghanaian fairytale would continue, the ball smacked into the crossbar, and flew out of play, leaving a penalty shootout for the two teams.

Gyan, visibly shattered after his missed penalty just moments before, steeled himself, anf courageously stepped up to take the first spot kick for Ghana, after Diego Forlan had notched up the first for Uruguay. Both teams converted their second spot kick, but Fernando Muslera denied John Mensah with a spectacular save. Maximiliano Pereira missed his chance to seal the game for Uruguay, but Muslera again proved the hero, denying Adiyiah from the spot. Sebastian Abreu stepped up, and sent Kingson the wrong way with a cheeky chip to put Uruguay through to their first Semi Final since 1970.

The Good: To see all of South Africa united behind Ghana perfectly demonstrates how football can bring people together. In addition, Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s brilliant work against penalty kicks should also be commended.
The Bad: Although he has had a brilliant tournament, Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick in the dying seconds of extra time could be sighted as the reason for Ghana’s exit. It’s unfortunate for a team, and one of the tournaments best players to bow out that way.
The Ugly: Luis Suarez. Not only did he deny Ghana the Semi Final berth they had all-but earned, he remained in the stadium to watch the following penalty, before breaking into celebration when the shot his the crossbar.

Result: Uruguay 1, Ghana 1 (Pen: 4-2).

ARGENTINA vs GERMANY
Cape Town – July 3
The match between Germany and Argentina at Cape Town had been talked up since the fixture was known. The talented, fast, young German squad facing off against the experience of Argentina, and the best player in the world, Lionel Messi; it was a match destined for the halls of World Cup greatness. In an electric start to the match, the Germans were on the score board within three minutes, when Thomas Muller managed a glancing header from an outswinging free kick taken by Bastian Schweinsteiger. Argentina looked thunderstruck as the Germans celebrated the fastest goal at the 2010 World Cup, as did Diego Maradona on the sideline, who now had to try and manufacture a comeback. To their credit, the Argentinean defence did settle relatively quickly after the early shock, and managed to hold off some promising attacks from the Germans in the opening half-hour. At the odd occasion he was challenged, Manuel Neuer, the German custodian, stepped up to the plate, and kept the Argentineans off the score sheet. The one time Maradona’s men hit the back of the net, they were appalled to find the offside flag raised by the assistant referee. However, replays showed that there were four Argentinean attackers offside when the ball was played past the German defence.

Down a goal at half time, Argentina needed to produce something special in the second half to get back on terms, and possibly get the win. However, the Germans again looked the stronger of the sides, with Argentina resorting to long range attempts that were rarely on target. Midway through the second half, Lukas Podolski broke free on the left of the park, and with a perfect chance to score, he played the ball square to a charging Miroslav Klose. Klose made no mistake from inside the six yard box, and easily double the lead for Germany. The match fell out of reach for the Argentineans in the 74th minute, when Arne Friedrich popped in another goal from close range, with a little help from Bastian Schweinsteiger. Klose closed out the match with a minute left on the clock, with his second goal from close range to make the score four-nil, courtesy of a cross from Mesut Ozil. The Germans notched up their third four-goal performance of the tournament, and sending the Argentineans home after the Quarter Finals for the second straight time.

The Good: The German offense has been brilliant. Every big game, these young, quick players have stepped up, and ripped apart competent and experienced defences easily.
The Bad: The Argentinean defence, facing their first major challenge of the tournament, crumpled in front of the Germans.
The Ugly: Again, the Argentinean defence. Every German goal was scored from practically inside the six-yard box, a disappointing performance from a team of such high calibre.

Result: Argentina 0, Germany 4.

In the space of two days, the idea of the ‘South American World Cup’ has been ripped to shreds, as three of the four South American teams were eliminated. In fact, were it not for a little bit of gamesmanship, and a lot of luck, all four South American teams (that were undefeated coming into the Quarter Finals) would have been eliminated. However, Uruguay still remain, alongside the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, and these four teams will be fighting it out today and tomorrow for the right to play in the World Cup Final; the biggest match of them all.

First up, though, a recap of the fourth Quarter Final, just because it wouldn’t fit in the last article!

PARAGUAY vs SPAIN
Johannesburg, Ellis Park – July 3
Neither Paraguay nor Spain have ever competed in a World Cup Semi Final, so both teams were competing for a first in the last Quarter Final in Johannesburg. The teams had the knowledge that the winner would face a rampant German outfit in the Semi Finals. Jonathan Santana started the match in style, forcing Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas to make a save inside the opening minute. The Paraguayans continued to take the game to their opponents, disrupting the Spaniards game, closing down persistent goal threat David Villa well throughout the opening period. Justo Villar, the Paraguayan keeper, was called into action at the half-hour mark when Xavi flung in a dipping, long range shot that only narrowly cleared the crossbar. However, Paraguay dominated much of the opening stanza, even finding the back of the net through Nelson Valdez, only for the goal to be disallowed by the linesman’s flag.

Paraguay looked to continue their positive momentum after the break, however they were unable to provide any real threat to Casillas’ goal. The game came to life right at the hour mark, when Paraguay were awarded a penalty after Gerard Pique wrestled Oscar Cardozo to the ground inside the box. Cardozo let rip with a powerful strike from the penalty spot, but Casillas proved too good, getting down low to the ball, and holding on, preventing a rebound. Barely a minute later, Spain were awarded a penalty after David Villa went down in the penalty area. Xabi Alonso sent Villar the wrong way, and buried the spot kick in the back of the net, only for his celebrations to be cut short by the referee, who spotted an infringement. Forced to retake his penalty, Alonso decided to change up his tactics. Villar didn’t, and got his fingers to the ball, before the Paraguayan defenders managed to hurriedly clear the ball. Andres Iniesta was the decisive man in the match, providing a scything run through the centre of the Paraguayan defence with just seven minutes left in the match. His run freed up Pedro, who took the shot, only to have it smash against the post. The ball rebounded out to David Villa, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and he hit the ball at the unguarded net. The ball crashed against the opposite post, before bouncing along the goal line, hitting the inside of the other post, and rolling into the net, handing Spain the lead, and devastating the Paraguayan defence. Paraguay had another chance in the final minute, but the brilliant Casillas denied Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios to keep his clean sheet, and his countries World Cup dream alive.

The Good: Iker Casillas, saving Spain time and again from the Paraguayan attacks, including a brilliant penalty save at a crucial point in the match.
The Bad: Gerard Pique, who gifted the Paraguayans a penalty just before the hour mark, with a blatant foul inside the box.
The Ugly: Despite being known as the ‘Beautiful Game’, the Spanish goal in the 83rd minute was anything but.

Result: Paraguay 0, Spain 1.

In the space of two days, the idea of the ‘South American World Cup’ has been ripped to shreds, as three of the four South American teams were eliminated. In fact, were it not for a little bit of gamesmanship, and a lot of luck, all four South American teams (that were undefeated coming into the Quarter Finals) would have been eliminated. However, Uruguay still remain, alongside the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, and these four teams will be fighting it out today and tomorrow for the right to play in the World Cup Final; the biggest match of them all.

URUGUAY vs NETHERLANDS
Cape Town – July 6
The two-time champions will take on the two-time runners-up in the first Semi Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup tonight. Uruguay will have to make do without Luis Suarez, after the striker’s goal-line save in the dying seconds of the Quarter Final. Uruguay, now the sole South American team remaining in the competition, will have their work cut out for them if they are to defeat the Oranje. No doubt Fernando Muslera will be called into action; with Arjen Robben, Wesley Schneider and Robin van Persie bearing down on him, the Uruguayan goalkeeper will need a spectacular performance to keep a clean sheet. Diego Forlan will need to return to his scoring ways as well, especially in the absence of Suarez, if Uruguay are to have any chance of troubling Stekelenburg’s goal. Bert van Marwijk has led the Dutch to nine consecutive wins, while Oscar Tabarez’s Uruguayans are unbeaten in nine and will hope to end the Dutchmans perfect run.

Result:
If karma has any say in the football world (and some people believe is does – look at France!), the Dutch should come out and dominate the Uruguayans from start to finish. However, it will more than likely be a little closer than that. At international level, the teams have only met twice, with each nation having one win each. However, the Netherlands have won the only match played between the two sides at a World Cup, back in 1974. It all comes down to this. With kick-off less than twelve hours away, this match is certain to set the world alight!
Prediction: Uruguay 1, Netherlands 2.

GERMANY vs SPAIN
Durban – July 7
The European showdown is sure to be one of the most hotly contested match of the tournament so far. With the young, quick German side proving all critics wrong, and dominating offensively throughout the tournament, the Spanish defence (which has been shaky at best) looks likely to struggle. Iker Casillas will have his work cut out for him between the posts, with international goal machine Miroslav Klose, and up-and-coming superstar Mesut Ozil bearing down on him. Although Thomas Muller will miss the game through suspension, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski will no doubt step up to cause havoc for the Spanish defence. Fernando Torres has struggled up front for Spain so far, yet David Villa has managed to find a crucial goal in just about every game. However, if the German defensive line stands up like it has for the majority of the tournament, things may be very difficult for the Spanish strikers. Iniesta and Xavi will also need to step up again for Spain, the midfield battle is going to play a massive role in the outcome of the match.

Result:
This match has the potential to be one of the biggest games of the tournament. Germany have scored four goals in every major game they have played (against Australia, England and Argentina, no less), and have only conceded two goals in the entire tournament. Spain, although they have had their goal-scoring woes, have been saved countless times at the back by Iker Casillas; who has only conceded twice in the tournament. However, if the Spanish defence struggles as it has in previous matches, the young German attackers won’t waste their chances. There is also national pride at stake for both these teams, who have met 20 times in their history. The record favours the Germans, who have won eight of the encounters, with six ending in draws, and six going the way of the Spaniards. However, Spain has never defeated Germany at a World Cup, despite their good record against the Germans in the European Championships. With glory awaiting the winner, and mediocrity in store for the loser, neither side will leave anything on the park. This is going to be big.
Prediction: Germany 3, Spain 0.

Of course, the winners of both these matches will progress to the World Cup Final, to fight it out for the title of World Champions, and the glory that goes with it for the next four years. The losers, however, will play on; the play-off for third place is held the day before the Final, and is sure to be just as great a match.

Next time: The Final! Stay tuned!

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ilmini: Germany success

So why is it every 4 years we hear the same story of an average German side (supposedly), who then over-achieve and reach the semis or the final?

So why is it that in every 4 years we hear the same story of an average German side (supposedly), who then over-achieve (again supposedly) and reach the semis or the final?

First of all, you have to consider the press. In England there is a national press, whilst in Germany it tends to be very regional. For this reason, they don’t tend to fly into a national fervor until the side reach the quarters or actually more realistically the semis. Although from this year, it was definitely the quarters.

This has to affect the players!

In England we only have to win one game convincingly, even if it is in the qualifying tournament and the press are raging about England being the next world champions. This has to over inflate the players’ egos and belief. In Germany (pre-world cup and even in the group stage) the talk in the press and amongst the fans is constantly one of – “it is a young side, lets just see how far they get”: “we probably will not get far but look at the players the other teams have, so why should we”. If an English player or manager said this to the press, he would be crucified for not being confident but everything I hear now, from both sides of the fence is that Germany get where they do because they are confident!

As a football fan I believe Germany have a massive advantage over almost every team, when they play at the World Cup and that is because their in-built style of football (that they learn from schoolchildren onwards) is tailor made for World Cup football.

It is also true that Germany invested massive amounts in youth coaches, which is now reaping benefits. Apparently there are somewhere well over 15,000 qualified youth coaches in the country, compared to the 900 in England!!

But to me, one of the greatest reasons for their success is their willingness to follow the leader. Before anyone refutes this, this is not my own idea but what my German family and friends have said. German culture, especially working culture is based around doing exactly what the boss says. And in Germany, doing what a boss like Loew says is very successful – just people like Podolski and Mueller playing out of position for Germany to Rooney and more particularly Gerrad and Lampard for England. This to me is where the English excuses of playing players out of position goes right out of the window.

However, to some extent none of this really explains how Schweinstiger can tun from a good midfielder into a guy who completely bosses a world cup quarter final against Argentina. Nor does it explain how a pretty average Bundesliga player like Podolski becomes a trojan nor how Klose becomes a goal machine every 4 years nor … well, you could go on and on.

Each World Cup comes and each one goes and you get Germany somehow reaching the heights, with what everyone (before the tournament) thinks good but not great players. There maybe a multitude of reasons why and if anyone knew and they could put it in a bottle to sell, they would make a fortune. Unfortunately, only the Germans seem to know and they are very tight-lipped about the secrets of their success.

As an afterthought to this. I wish that Engalnd could forget being so insular and try and follow such a successful formula. Even if we do not know all the ingredients, there are enough clues to make a start.

And from one last angle – how must Cologne and Bayern fans feel when they see players like Podolski and Klose performing for thier countries like that, when they couldn’t even get anywhere near the same kind of performances for their clubs. Oh? Or is that it? Is that my English attitude showing through or do this same fans not care because what they consider ‘higher’ in Germany?

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DonVanberg: A European Dominance, again

Before the quartefinals, it looked like the South-American teams were dominating. 4 of the 8 teams that were in the quarterfinals were from South America…

Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. All of them were looking really good and all of them were groupwinners. But, as always, the semifinals are dominated by European teams. How did the South American teams just fall down to nearly nothing? Keep reading…

Since the semifinals was introduced again 1982, the European teams has been dominating. Since 82′, 22 European teams have been in the semifinals.

A South American team has been in the Semifinals 5 times (6 now with Uruguay) and one time an Asian team have been there. Over 75% of the semifinal teams have been European teams. So, when will this massive, European dominance end? This time, it looked like that. All the South American teams was still left after the group stage and before the quarterfinals, 4 of them were left. The fifth team, Chile, were eliminated by another South American team, Brazil.

“Only” 3 European teams were qualified to the quarters and all of them was set against a South American team. It started bad, when Brazil lost against The Netherlands with 2-1. The world number one, who was the big favourite to win World Cup and take revenge for the failed 2006 World Cup, were out of the tournament.

But, South America still got 3 chances left in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. Uruguay were easier resistance than Brazil. They were facing Ghana, the hope of Africa.

And, the world cups strongest defence did it again. After penalties, they finally were in a semi-final again. 56 years waiting is over, Uruguay is one of the 4 best teams in a WC again. Last time, 1954, they lost against Austria in the bronzematch. But in the semifinal, two of the defenitly keyplayers are gone. Lugano is hurt, and will probably not be ready to play in the semi. Suarez is, as the most of you already know, suspended in the next game after “the new hand of god” in the 120′ against Ghana.
Now, ti was time for another favourite for the WC win to play; Argentina.
Argentina was facing Germany, and with the top scorer Gonzalo Higuain they were lookig very dangerous. Lionel Messi, who was awarded with the Ballon D’or this year, was scoreless so far in the tournament. If Argentina were going to win the WC, Messi had to start scoring goals. But the goals never came.

Germany shockstarted with 1-0 already in the 3′. That score stood into the half-time.

Then the Germans exploded! Miroslav Klose scored his 14th and 15th World Cup goal and now he just needs one goal to be the World Cup top scorer of all times. Now the european semifinalteams were two, and now it was South Americas last chance to get another semifinal team. Paraguay, who suprised the world when they won their group before Slovakia, New Zeeland and Italy.

In the round of 16, they eliminated Japan after penalties. Now they were facing the European master, Spain.

Spain, with a offense which didn’t work as good as it did 2 years ago. David Villa were the tournaments top scorer with his 4 goals, but still spain only had scored 5 goals in the tournament. They got maybe the best grouplot they could get, with Honduras, Chile and Switzerland as the opponents, but the spanish team “only” took 6 points and “only” scored 4 goals in the groupstage. Sure, 6 points and 4-2 in goal difference would be really good for many other teams, but as one of the best teams in the world in this group, they should take some more points and score more goals.

Anyway, the match was boring for quite a long time. Then it just exploded! Nélson Valdez is rewarded with an penalty for Paraguay after a jersey pull.
Oscar Cardozo steps forward to take it. But he makes a bad penalty, which Casillas even can hold! Some minutes goes on, and here’s next penalty! David Villa is being pushed from behind and is rewarded with a penalty.

Xabi Álonso takes it. And scores. At least he thinks that he scores, but the referee is blowing in his whistle. The penalty has to be shooted again.
Álonso steps forward to it again, and this time he switches side to shoot on. But Villar is diving to the right side, and stops it. Unbelivable, 3 penalties in like 3 minutes. But, after some minutes, Spain finally scores. David Villa (ofcourse, who else?) scores at a return. Spain is in a semifinal!
Maybe you think that this isn’t very big for a big team as spain, but this is very big for them! Spain has never (!) been rewarded with a medal in a World Cup. But this time, they’ve got big chanses to get one. In the semi, we will see a replay of the 2008 years European Cup final between Spain and Germany! So exciting!

In the other one, we will see Uruguay facing the Netherlands.

So, it is as it always have been; 75% of the semifinal teams are European and the 4th team are South American. When will the history be changed?
When will a African team reach a FIFA World Cup-semifinal? And when will the European dominance end?

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