Sunday, 4 July 2010

This time next week, it'll be all over

We have our final four. Each, to a degree, is making history. 60 years ago Uruguay won their second World Cup, but not since 1954 have they reached the semi finals. A re-united Germany has never won it (I wonder when they'll start singing about it). The Netherlands have never won it at all (they definitely aren't singing about it), but have lost two finals. As for the Spanish, they have never even got this far before, which is perhaps why they made Paraguay look like the greatest side of all time for an hour yesterday. By now, everyone has chosen their favourite, it's time for someone else's country to let us down.

Since we have a couple of rest days, we'll look at the first two semi-finalists today, and the other two tomorrow. I think the little list I did for the quarter finalists was quite nifty so I'll do something similar for the four teams remaining.


Quarter Final result:

Ghana 1-1 (4-2 on penalties)

Who are they missing?

Jorge Fucile and Luis Suarez, tragically

Best Performance:

Beating South Africa 3-0 in the second group game. After their 0-0 draw with France they were already being written off, but responded by thumping the hosts, and ultimately were the only team to actually beat them.

Worst Performance:

0-0 draw with France. Even if it was their plan from the start, was still an awful game. At least until England took awful to a whole new level against Algeria.

Why they'll win it:

They're very solid, and even without Suarez they still have one of the best strikers around to rely on for goals. Diego Forlan has already dragged Atletico Madrid to the Europa League title, and maybe it's just his year. He has been outstanding throughout this tournament, and if anyone deserves to win it it's him. They have also shown considerable mental strength in both knockout rounds so far, Suarez scoring a screamer after being pegged back by South Korea and Forlan doing likewise when behind against Ghana. Their main problem might be that they're running out of people to dig them out of holes (or punch them out, as the case may be), it's time for someone else to step up.

Why they won't win it:

The Dutch are not going to be easy to break down, and Uruguay will be weakened without Luis Suarez. Pushing Forlan forward to become a genuine striker could be a problem too, he has been the creative force in the side, leaving that to a midfield who probably can't even spell attack never mind do it might be their downfall. On top of that, if they go behind against anyone now it's going to be a much tougher ask to come back, especially as all 3 of the other sides are brilliant on the counter attack.

Where will they finish:


The Netherlands

Quarter Final Result:

2-1 over Brazil.

Who are they missing?

Nigel de Jong & Gregory van der Wiel, both suspended.

Best Performance:

The victory over Brazil, even if they were sparked into life by a ridiculous own goal, which has been inexplicably awarded to Wesley Sneijder. I do wonder sometimes if FIFA make their decisions on the way back from the pub.

Worst Performance:

Their opening game 2-0 win over Denmark, again they had to rely on a ridiculous own goal to get them started, except in this instance they continued being rubbish despite Dirk Kuyt scoring a thunderbolt second from a yard out.

Why they'll win it:

It seems like Holland have paced themselves perfectly, a very slow start has been followed by constant improvement since then. They're also being helped along by the opposition, two vital own goals already, plus a goalkeeping mistake against Japan (and arguably Slovakia as well). If this was Italy rather than the loveable Dutch I'd extremely suspicious by now. To supplement all the luck, the form of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben virtually guarantees them a goal a game.

Why they won't win it:

This is Holland we're talking about, glorious failure is very much on the agenda, as is a catastrophic self-destruction. Robin van Persie has already gone into a big strop after the coach dared to substitute him, and it's surely only a matter of time. There are also still slight question marks over the defence, mainly out of the belief that it's a Dutch defence so it must be rubbish.

Where will they finish?

Heart says second, head says first. We'll stick with another runners up medal.

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