Match Day 19- Did you really think three men at the back was a good idea?
I am going to miss Chile in this World Cup. They were a lot of fun to watch. Tim Vickery said that this was the easiest game to predict, and I have to agree. Brazil was a larger side that excels on counter attacks and set pieces. With Chile playing a three man back line, they were just begging to be broken open. For 30 minutes, Chile had done a really nice job defensively and had created some good chances. However, it ended up looking like a lot of their other games with chances that built up only to fail in the box with no one getting open or bad finishing. That said, they have some real promise. Alexis Sanchez is certainly a superstar in the making. Brazil just outworked them. They were kept at bay for a brief time, but after their first goal they opened up and Chile had no solution for Brazil's attack.
The Netherlands v. Slovakia game played out as it did in my head. Slovakia had a few chances, but their aggressive style played into the Dutch game plan. Netherlands controlled, controlled, and controlled. They looked really good, and their two goals were brilliant. Arjen Robben is so dangerous when running parallel to the goal. Dirk Kuyt showed great awareness in dishing off his pass to Wesley Sneijder for that clinical finish. Slovakia as a team has to work on staying cool under pressure. They were screaming at the referees at every opportunity late in the game. They just unraveled mentally. Their goal, while well earned, was utterly pointless as it was the very last play of the game. Slovakia is still a team with a lot of promise. I'm really excited to see the Dutch play Brazil. These are two great sides and even though Brazil is not playing with the 'samba' philosophy, they are playing amazing football.
Paraguay and Japan get us underway tonight with Spain and Portugal finishing off the 2nd round. Paraguay v. Japan is a contest of two of the most organized sides in the contest. They both play a really tight defense and a balanced methodical attack. Combined with that measured attack, both sides have some real creative zeal as well. Keisuke Honda has been one of the top players of the tournament and looks to torture the Paraguayan back line. Both teams are very dangerous from set pieces too. I think Paraguay takes this one, but Japan will makes it insanely difficult. We could have both games tonight go to penalty kicks. The first game seems more likely than the last.
Spain v. Portugal will hopefully answer some lingering questions for both sides. Portugal has been a mystery for me as I can't quite figure out whether or not they have the ability to play at the highest level and win out. The North Korea game was this bizarre anomaly against a much weaker side. Their games against Brazil and Ivory Coast showed no real inspiration. So the focus for me tonight is to really observe the defense and see how well they handle Fernando Torres and David Villa. Spain has a different attack from Brazil and I think they could be the team to break open the Portuguese puzzle box. At the same time, Spain looks like a team that has been working for every single goal. Will we see a repeat of the Switzerland game where they are constantly frustrated and put off balance? I think Spain takes this one, but again don't rule out Portugal's defense holding up and this goes to a penalty kick shoot-out where anything can happen. I would also say that Spain seemingly holds the edge in that too.
Competition takes a couple of days off until the start of the Quarter finals and I might too. I have got to be honest, keeping up with every second of this tournament has been fun, but exhausting. I still want to look at the young players of the tournament, and also give a preview of what may be in store for the U.S. Men's national team down the road.