FIFA World Cup 2010
From the Quarter Finals to the Semi-Finals
Over the weekend, a feast of football. The Netherlands, Uruguay, Germany and Spain all won through to the Semi-Finals and the losers fell by the wayside. Such is soccer, but itís exciting, isnít it? And itís getting seriously so.
During the course of this week 2 teams will go on to the Final, where there can of course only be one winner.
Who will it be? And how? We already know the where and when - The FIFA World Cup Final 2010 takes place in Soccer City, Johannesburg on on Sunday July 11th 2010.
But first the fabulous four of world football - here we are at the Semi-finals.
Netherlands v Uruguay (July 6th 2010)
Germany v Spain (July 7th 2010)
In Cape Town, Tuesday night, Netherlands will play Uruguay for a place in the final. On Wednesday night in Durban Germany will play European Champions Spain as they did just two years ago in that European Championship Final.
Before the Quarter-finals, in some parts of the media they had been predicting the demise of European football. With only 3 teams from the UEFA Confederation progressing to the Quarter-finals they believed this was going to be a South American World Cup. It still could be, with Uruguay being the unexpected sole survivor to reach the penultimate round, they will be hoping so, while their more famous neighbours answer questions back home. All 3 European teams survived and the gloom laden predictions about Europe being a spent force were premature.†
Netherlands aim to win the World Cup for the first time, Spain reach the Semi-finals for the first time, and then theres Germany! Well we all know about the powerhouse that is three times Champions Germany - that super soccer machine have been relentless this tournament with their counter-attacking football.
On recent showing it would seem unlikely that Spain will be able to muster a repeat of the victory that gave them the European crown in 2008, but you just never know for sure. Their ability to win matches while coasting along is quite admirable in itís way, but they have yet to really excite the crowd and television viewers. Donít write them off yet though! This World Cup is full of surprises.†
Like the emphatic German victory over Argentina. The two sides seemed evenly matched, both had a good world cup, and a win was by no means certain for Germany. Few then, would have predicted Argentina to be swept aside so easily. Germany powered past them with all the acceleration power of a top of the range Mercedes-Benz. Firing on all cylinders may be an apt description of the German team, for the Spanish in the tournament so far I would have to say they are still in 3rd Gear.
Germany on the other hand have been patient, methodical and ruthless. They have a relatively young side, but experience does not always count and this team has a very formidable counter-attack, with plenty of pace all over the park. Prior to the tournament we thought they would miss their Captain, Michael Ballack but that is not evident on this showing. This is a great football team, Urzel and Thomas Mueller have been a revelation! Klose is scoring for fun again. Formidable, but not invincible, they did lose a game in the Group Stage, and if Spain actually turn up as a team they will give them a game. There is no such thing as inevitability in the World Cup Finals.
Luckily for the Spanish they have got this far in large part thanks to the incredible goal scoring machine that is David Villa, but we have yet to see the best of Spain throughout the whole team. Against the Germans they will need to step it up a notch. Spain beat Paraguay in the Quarter-final in a tense match which was evenly balanced. Paraguay missed a penalty, then shortly after Spain got one at the other end. Alonso scored it but had to take it again due to the rarely used rule of encroachment into the penalty box. The retaken penalty was saved. When the winner finally came it was almost a comedy, quite a bizarre goal, Pedro hitting the post before David Villa scored the rebound, but not before it had gone in off the post and across the width of the goal and hit the other post on itís way in. Villa is on top form and if only the rest of the team would catch up to his level, the Spanish could well win their first world cup title. But ifís donít win tournaments, as many teams who nearly did can tell you.
Meanwhile, World Cup giants Brazil and Argentina fell short. In Brazil, the performance was deemed not good enough, and Coach Dunger was sacked. It remains to be seen if Maradona will continue as Argentina's head Coach, and although they excited us with goals galore through to the final 8, the inspirational footballing icon was found out to be tactically naÔve, it might be said, kindly on reflection.
So Uruguay find themselves carrying the torch for South America, how refreshing it seems that they instead are the sole South American representative in the Semi-Finals? This was the first team ever to host a World Cup, and indeed to the first team ever to win the FIFA World Cup, way back in 1930.
Yet despite that historical accolade and the one further time they were World Champions, this 'Scotland' sized country of less than four million people, have remained in the footballing shadows of Brazil and Argentina for many years. It is pleasant to see their footballing renaissance, if for no other reason than a nostalgic yearning for a golden age of soccer that is a fantastical dream. But they are playing well, and getting that little bit of luck that a team needs to win the World Cup, so who knows if soccer will revisit history, and 'go full circle'?
However far Uruguay can go, the country will no doubt be glad of the inevitable tourism that they will benefit from, now that those who can afford to or dare to dream have looked it up on a map!
This revival is in no small part due to their star striker Suarez, for both goal scoring and controversially goal saving. Scoring 3 tournament goals, and being key to much of Uruguay success this far, Suarez has been one of the unexpected stars. From a Ghana point of view, a villian! What do you think about this?
Ghana will feel cheated, as rightly they might, when in the 29th minute of extra time, Luis Suarez jumped up on the goal line to save a certain goal and winner with his hands. The inevitable red card ensued, but the Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan could not convert the penalty that would have seen the African side progress into the Semi-finals.
But from a neutral point of view, who wouldn't have done what he did? Would a Ghanaian defender have done the same?
Theres no denying Suarez contribution to the Urugyian resurgence. While we were watching for a Messi, a Rooney, a Ronaldo or a Kaka to shine, Suarez, has been quietly creating and scoring goals, some of them spectacular like the winner he scored in the previous round, his second of the game in a 2-1 victory over South Korea. He will not be able to add to his tally though, in the Semi Final at least, and if FIFA extend his ban, not even in the final, should they get there.
Instead the result was a draw and only a penalty shoot out could separate the teams. For Ghana, their first time in the Quarter-finals and their resolute performance that led up to that final minute of extra time mean that the opportunity that was missed hurt even more, and it was Uruguay, not they who held their nerve in the decider. Ghana lost 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out. It would be unfair to apportion blame, and Gyan had a great tournament, playing very well and scoring 3 goals. The Ghana team should be proud to have got so close the Semi-Finals and their furthest yet in the competition. They can build on this.
Last Friday in Port Elisabeth, five times winners and number one seeds Brazil took on the much fancied Netherlands. Ranked fourth but yet to win soccerís most treasured prize, the Dutch were hoping to find a way past the tournament favourites. After a poor first half by their own standards they raised their game in the second after a deflected free kick for the equaliser. The Dutch found their way to the penultimate round, thanks to a rare headed goal from Wesley Sneijder.
Both sides made glaring defensive errors, the favourites taking the lead early on thanks to a Robinho goal, the Dutch defence spilt in two by a searching ball from the Brazilian half. Brazil held a 1-0 lead to half time, but were found wanting in defence, not once but twice soon after the restart. First Sneijder put a diagonal cross into the box which glanced off the head of Felipe Melo and into the net, and then shortly after a Robben corner and a flick on from Kuyt before Sneijder headed the winner. Further misery for Brazil and Melo when he was awarded the red card for a dangerous tackle. It wasnít for lack of effort, the Brazilians fought hard to get back into the match. Netherlands were resolute and almost like a different team from the first half. Not even individual skills from Kaka were enough though, and the writing was on the wall for Dunga. The mighty Brazil were out, and the Netherlands advanced.
Who will win from here is not something to be predicted lightly, so I wonít, but it is certainly getting entertaining!
FRIDAY 2nd July 2010
Netherlands 2-1 Brazil
Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (4-2 pens)
SATURDAY 3rd July 2010
Argentina 0-4 Germany
Paraguay 0-1 Spain
Previous Results: ROUND OF 16 / 2nd Round.
Brazil 3-0 Chile
Netherlands 2-1 Slovakia
Argentina 3-1 Mexico
Germany 4-1 England
USA 1-2 Ghana (after extra time)
Uruguay 2-1 South Korea