Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Semifinal Preview #1

(ESPN Soccernet)

That lasting image of Uruguay's passage to this game will forever scar this tournament. It has opened up the discussion of whether or not to allow penalty goals in a situation like that (and why on earth he wasn't suspended for the rest of the tournament), but we can save that argument for a later date. The fact remains that Uruguay have played their way into this semi-final with grit and determination. The same can be said about their counterparts in the Netherlands, whose free-flowing attack has been absent the past few weeks, making way for some hard nosed football and goals in the unlikeliest of manners.

Aesthetics may want to avoid this game and wait until Wednesday because both these teams will do us no favors...

Expect the Dutch to retain much more of the possession than they did against Brazil. Although a little less physical than their neighbors, Uruguay has shown they can remain much more disciplined than most teams in this tournament. By no means will it be easy for the Dutch to break down this unit - especially after many average displays throughout. It would behoove them to use the entire width of the field - with Robben on the right and Kuyt at to the left - to spread the Uruguayan defence and open up some lanes for Robin Van Persie. Especially with some of the notable absences for La Celeste.

First off, left back Jorge Fucile is out due to accumulation of yellow cards. The thought of a substitute taking the field to stop Arjen Robben (be it Alvaro Pereira or Martin Caceres) is extremely ominous. At least Pereira has played consistently throughout this tournament. It also looks like the skipper, Diego Lugano - the heart of that central defense - will be unable to play due to damaged knee ligaments. His absence in the game versus Ghana noticeable immediately as the Africans found it easy to break through the back line. In addition to being a very talented central defender, his leadership will sorely be missed and it will be up to someone else to keep that back line in order. Although they haven't shows their ability to link cutting edge passes on a consistent basis, you cannot allow space for the Dutch to operate because eventually, they will skin you.

On the other end, Luis Suarez won't be playing due to his volleyball spike on the goal line. Should Oscar Tabárez decide to deploy Sebastián Abreu as another forward with Edinson Cavani up front, it will allow Forlan to roam as he has the entire tournament. Forlan is the key for Uruguay's attack. He has played in the midfield, up front, left, right, and center. No Nigel De Jong due to suspension means Van Bommel MUST help out marking this guy. He hasn't been at his best so far, and awfully lucky not to have received at least 10 yellow cards to date. Another mental lapse like the one which allowed Felipe Melo to find Robinho through the middle will put the Dutch in a big hole. Without much of the ball, though, Uruguay will most likely look to counter and catch the Dutch out of position on the counter.

La Celeste have exceeded all expectations set out for them before this tournament. Unfortunately, their luck will run out at the hands of the Dutch. There's a different feel to this team. In years past beautiful football has resulted in implosion and early exits from the tournament. Now, with a first ever World Cup trophy within reach, and a style of play that hasn't mesmerized but has been ruthlessly efficient, the Dutch seem to be on a mission that not even the best of defenses can stop. 2-1 for the Netherlands and a ticket to the final.

SIDE NOTE: On certain days Robben looks like the best player in the world. At the very least he's second best. But the reason he, and Cristiano Ronaldo, will NEVER be like Messi is because of the pathetic, disgraceful, and abhorrent play acting. Hit em' with a feather and they'll go down quicker than any of Mike Tyson's victims. Uruguay will be very physical against Robben and I hope the referee has done his research and watched previous tapes. Diving and unnecessary yellow cards stand to ruin this game and I really hope it doesn't come to that.

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