4 more games....
And my mad little project will be over. I can't believe we are at the semi-finals. It has been an extremely entertaining tournament to this point. The first week wasn't raising anyone's hopes, but the last two have completely raised the level of excitement to fever pitch. The ideal ending is probably to have the Netherlands vs. Spain so we get a new World Cup winner. We essentially crown a new king of Europe in a run up to Euro 2012.
First things first, we got a game to cover!
Uruguay v. Netherlands.
Uruguay still has a game to play despite my expectations for the Dutch. I don't expect them to roll over and die for the Netherlands. The problem is they are severely hampered with roster issues. The most pressing issue is how to handle the hole left by the suspension of Luis Suarez on his red card from the Ghana game. Diego Forlan has been one of the outstanding players of the tournament, but a lot of that has been in service to Suarez. Captain Diego Lugano is out with a knee injury leaving a big hole in the midfield. Player of the future Nicolas Lodeiro is also gone with a broken foot. They come in looking like the walking wounded. They will try and fill the hole at forward with Sebastian Abreu who plays like Frankenstein's Monster set loose upon a small village. Shambling, always shambling...
The game change for the Dutch defense is to try and negate headers now instead of worrying about Suarez' speed. They have their own concerns with over half the lineup with at least one yellow card and Nigel De Jong out on suspension due to his own accumulation of yellows. They have to be incredibly careful because even one suspension from the big three forwards up top could seriously throw off the offense for the next game whether it be the final or the third place game. Van Persie, Robben, and Kuyt are all in jeopardy. If things get dicey at all for the Uruguayans, they could go into spoiler mode and start taking to their own three ring circus at the expense of the Dutch.
Uruguay's keys to the game:
1. Neutralize Arjen Robben. Wesley Sneider may be the most dangerous man on the field, but Robben is the one up front who creates havoc with his coring runs and auditions for Broadway. The Uruguayan defense cannot allow themselves to get suckered in like Felipe Melo did in the Brazil game. Their main job will be to cut off the goal box parallel to the goal and shut down his shooting and passing.
2. Frustrate Wesley Sneijder. Cutting off his passing lanes and using physical play to knock him off the ball may give them the time to create counter attacks.
3. Pressure the right side of the Dutch Defense. This is probably the best spot for Uruguay to attack. Brazil penetrated this side early and often. It will be up to Forlan to make this his home for 90 minutes as he takes free kicks and bombs in crosses for Abreu.
Netherland's keys to the game:
1. Remain calm. I can't overemphasize the yellow card situation enough. If you get past Uruguay, you are facing off against Germany and Spain, both more than likely at full strength.
2. Ram the ball down the middle. Netherlands plays really well down the wings, but the middle of the Uruguayan defense seems to be it's weak point especially with Lugano out of the midfield. I think Dirk Kuyt is critical to the finishing this World Cup campaign as champions. His pace and relentless work ethic should be used to frustrate the Uruguayan defense and draw markers away from Van Persie and Robben.
3. Play the game that got you here. Their ball control has been impeccable in just about every game except the Brazil game, and Uruguay will not be anywhere near the level of Brazil in terms of control. Sneijder's passing and field awareness is the best on the field. He is the post on which all the offense swings.
Netherlands 2-0 Uruguay. I think Netherlands scores in the first half and then closes it down with another in the second. Uruguay goes into the third place game dissappointed, but still riding with a chance to win something.
Tomorrow night we get the barn-burner between Germany and Spain. Woooo!