Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Third time lucky for the Dutch?
Things were so busy for me this morning I didn't have time to pontificate or bloviate about Netherlands-Uruguay before the game was played. Long time readers can imagine the pain this caused me.
The Dutch were favored and they didn't disappoint. While the quarterfinals looked good for South America, the final will be an all-European affair, either Netherlands-Germany or Netherlands-Spain.
Here are the positives and negatives for all three teams left in the hunt.
Dutch Positives: Here's an excellent one. They have won every game they have played in South Africa. No one else can say that. Six games, six wins, all in regulation. They haven't demolished anyone, the biggest win they have is 2-0 against Denmark. But when the 90 minute whistle blew, the score was always Netherlands Just Enough, Opponents Somewhat Less.
Dutch Negatives: They have never won a World Cup. In the 1970s after Pele left the stage for Brazil, experts agreed that the Dutch were the team to beat.
In 1974, the hosts of the World Cup West Germany beat them.
In 1978, the hosts of the World Cup Argentina beat them.
They are not a populous enough country to have a host of top quality players every four years when the World Cup happens, but the stars are certainly aligned now. And the host country South Africa? Nowhere to be seen.
Spanish Positives: David Villa, the top goal scorer in the tournament so far. And they have shut out three of their five opponents so far. That's nice math to have on your side.
Spanish Negatives: They have never played in a World Cup final. They are the famous chokers of Europe in this regard. For American sports fans, the Dutch are like the Minnesota Vikings, who have played in plenty of Super Bowls but never won once. The Spanish are like the Cleveland Browns, who have never played in a Super Bowl, always losing some time in the AFC Playoffs.
Also, the Spanish lost in the opening round to Switzerland, a team that didn't make the knockout rounds.
German Positives: The Germans have won World Cups in the past, the only team left in the mix that can say that. In five games so far, they have DEMOLISHED three, count them three opponents. Australia 4-0? Maybe not impressive. England 4-1? The English can say they were robbed, but the rest of the world isn't listening. Argentina 4-0? Okay, that was a serious ass-kicking. When this team is working, they look really good.
German Negatives: Like the Spanish, they lost in the round robin part of the tourney, falling 1-0 to the Serbs who didn't make the knockout round. More to the point tomorrow, they lost Thomas Müller, their 20 year old wunderkind to a yellow card last game and he won't suit up against Spain. He has four goals, one off the tournament lead, and three assists, the best in the tourney so far. That's a lot of firepower off the pitch, but the Germans lost team leader Michael Ballack to injury just before the tournament and many doubted they would compete without him. They have proved all the doubters wrong so far.
Matty Boy out on a limb: It's a very sturdy limb, though. I pick Germany over Spain in a nail biter and the Dutch over the Germans in the final. It's finally time for the Clockwork Orange.
(I'll also pick them over the Spanish if I'm wrong about tomorrow's game.)
I won't see tomorrow's game, what with all that pesky working for a living and all, but I will be in front of a TV, vuvuzela at the ready, for the Grand Final on Sunday.
Only one month every four years, but so much fun packed in!