Tag Archives: Netherlands

South Africa 2010 Match Observations: Championship Game

Some random observations after the final:

Netherlands 0-1 Spain: For the second straight game, Spain started with striker Fernando Torres on the bench and employed a 4-5-1 formation, as did the Dutch. Early on, Holland played a bit tentative while the Spanish probed the midfield looking for openings. Sergio Ramos had a couple of good early opportunities, one a good header off a free kick, but blew a breakaway opportunity on the other. After 15 minutes, Holland started to get more aggressive and physical. Five yellow cards early, but all were merited, as players on both teams were making silly late challenges and taking out opposing players. Nigel de Jong’s yellow could have been a red as he put his boot into the chest of Alonso who was up for a header. Neither team showed much sustained possession in the first half. Mathijsen had an excellent opportunity on a corner kick, but mis-hit the ball. He was serving the ball out of the defensive third very poorly as well. Mark Van Bommel, the Dutch enforcer, who already had a yellow card had several other challenges that could have resulted in another booking and expulsion from the game. The Netherlands finally got some pressure in the box in first half injury time resulting in a shot by Robben that forced Casillas to make a good save. The first half was ugly and clearly the Dutch turned up the physical pressure to take the Spaniards out of their game and it worked, though at the cost of many yellow cards. The Orange continued their physicality into the second and earned two more early yellow cards. Holland got Robben on a breakaway, but Casillas made a great save with his foot despite guessing wrong on the kick direction. Robben should have chipped over the goalie knowing Casillas would have to slide. The Netherlands harassed the Spanish midfield out of their usual possession passing game and the Spanish did not push the ball out on the flanks to open space. Midway through the second half, the game began to open up, likely because the Dutch had to back off the physical challenges for fear of losing a man and Spain amped up their pressure in response. David Villa got a couple of good opportunities, but could not convert and Sergio Ramos blew an unmolested header on a corner. Robben beat the Spanish defense to a through ball and was nearly taken down, but Casillas was able to slide into the ball before a shot was taken. Robben probably would have earned a free kick just outside the box if he had gone down when shoved by the defender, but goal scorers stay on their feet when they think they have a chance to beat the goalie. Despite the increased Spanish pressure, regulation time ended in the nil-nil draw. Neither team played particularly well in the first 90, as both looked too tight, passes were not crisp, and neither team used the flanks effectively.La Furia Roja began to put the petal to the metal in extra time. Cesc Fabregas broke free on a through ball early, but Stekelenburg made a great save. The Spanish then make a three-on-one break, but Iniesta, with the only defender on him, failed to give the ball up to either teammate open on his wings. The Dutch finally lost a player when John Heitinga got his second yellow, though it was probably the softest foul resulting in a booking. Spain was doing some acting in extra time trying to draw fouls. Shortly thereafter Holland gave up possession in its defensive third resulting in a perfect through ball to Iniesta on the right wing and he blasted it by Stekelenburg on a half-volley from 10 yards out with four minutes left. Spain fell into a protective defensive shell in the last few minutes and the Dutch could not find an equalizer. Overall, the game was not a beautiful game one would have hoped for. The Orange apparently decided that they could not match the Spanish possession game and tried to beat the Spaniards into submission. To their credit, Spain did not react in anger, but they also did not effectively use their flanks to open space in the middle. Both teams missed some excellent opportunities and had any of those found the back of the net, this could have been a much different and potentially better game to watch. Instead, both teams looked afraid to give up the first goal as the game progressed. Both teams are likely to be top seeds four years from now in Brazil. Until then, Spain deserves much credit for their consistently tough defense (no goals given up in the knockout rounds) and their ability to kick up the urgency late in games to find the winning goals. And for the next four years, Spain is your world champion.


2010 FIFA World Cup: Semifinals Observations, Part I

Some random observations after the Semifinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Uruguay 2-3 Netherlands: The best defense in the tournament so far in Uruguay were not sending numbers forward early on, trying to keep tactical discipline, especially in the back, practically leaving Diego Forlan and Cavani up front by themselves. The Dutch let it be known that they were mentally and physically tough. Lots of possession on the flanks from both sides. Holland were more likely to put offensive pressure on the final third, doing a much better job of opening up space with their play on the flanks, thereby getting the ball into the Uruguayan penalty area. Sustained possession (by almost 2-1 in the first 25 minutes), switching play and patient ball movement left Uruguay asleep in the 18th minute as a long strike from 35 yards out on the left by fullback Giovanni van Bronckhorst surprised Uruguayan keeper Muslera and found the extreme upper right corner of the net to give the Dutch an early lead (when you give up that much possession bad things usually happen). Surprisingly physical game (kicking a player in the face, elbowing a player in the box) from both sides. The Netherlands is a surprisingly fast team, so the slow Uruguayan attacking buildup was not going to surprise the Dutch. Great individual ball skills from Forlan opened up space in the center in the final third for him to take a 25 yard shot that keeper Martin Stekelenburg got his hand onto but couldn’t deflect enough to prevent the ball from finding the back of the net. A little more offensive creativity by the Netherlands in the second half when Rafael van der Vaart came on. In the second half, even though Uruguay was playing with a little more confidence with a few well-timed counterattacks, Holland on several occasions had them pinned down in their own half because Uruguay was again conceding much of the possession. On the few occasions the Dutch broke down the Uruguayan backline they just simply missed massive scoring opportunities. In the 70th minute, however, Wesley Sneijder made a quality shot that ricocheted off of two Uruguayan defenders and made it just past both teammate Robin van Persie (who did not touch the ball in an offside position) and Muslera for a Dutch lead. Three minutes later the Dutch iced the game when, in a desperate attempt to get a goal back, Uruguay pushed forward, opening up space in the back for Dirk Kuyt to find Arjen Robben in the center of the penalty area for a scoring header (I have to say here that van Bronckhorst and Kuyt played a brilliant linkup game on the left flank all tournament long; today was no different). Maxi Pereira made it temporarily interesting in extra time with an indirect free kick strike that found the Dutch asleep, but in the end Uruguay simply ran out of time. MADD PROPS to Uruguay for finding a world-class form they hadn’t had in 60 years and playing a wonderful tournament. In an era when the Oranje don’t have the quality of legends like Kruyf, Neeskens, Rykaard, Gullit, van Basten, Bergkamp or van der Saar, the Netherlands will be playing in their first World Cup final in 32 years, with the chance to accomplish what none of those legends ever could.


South Africa Match Observations: Quarterfinals, Part I

Some random observations after the Quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Netherlands 2-1 Brazil: Both teams looked to put together sustained passing buildup through the center early, while Brazil further looked to established their physicality. You be sure that with both these teams you are going to get great ball skills. Unlike Slovakia, Brazil did a much better job of taking advantage of the soft center of the Dutch midfield and backline as Felipe Melo sent a long through ball directly to the front to Robinho who one-timed it passed an approaching Martin Stekelenburg to get Brazil quickly on the board within ten minutes. As a result the tempo on both sides went up as both teams opened up and attacked vigorously. The Netherlands began to find space and make diagonal runs in the Brazilian half. Brazil exhibited a mental toughness most of us didn’t think they possessed. Surprising transitional speed by Brazil, who were able to transition back in numbers on defense even on Dutch counterattacks. Better shots on target by Brazil. The Dutch were making headway into the attacking third, creating free kick opportunities and taking cheeky set pieces. After the half the Dutch did a better job of curbing the Brazilian attack by challenging their patient buildup in midfield. Brilliant equalizer by the Netherlands as Wesley Sneijder gets on the end of a back pass from Arjen Robben on the right flank and sends a nice looping long ball into the goal mouth that keeper Julio Cesar couldn’t get on the end of because he was being interfered with my Felipe Melo. To their credit Brazil did not panic, continuing their patient sustained passing. Clearly Brazil was rattled, though, as the Dutch played with a lot more confidence and got into the Brazilian penalty area with regularity. A Dutch corner resulted in a score on a Sneijder header in the box. After that Brazil lost their discipline and composure. Felipe Melo’s cheap foul in the 73rd minute resulted in a red card, leaving Brazil with only 10 men and dooming any hopes they had of evening the score. For the first time ever Brazil lose when leading a World Cup game and go out in a most uncharacteristically ignonimous way. The Dutch pick the right time to finally get by Brazil in the World Cup. It’s too bad either one of them either side had to go home at this stage. In the end, the Netherlands deserved this.

Uruguay 1-1 Ghana a.e.t. (4-2 p.k.): Two entirely different approaches to football on display in this matchup: Uruguay’s tactical discipline and direct counterattack and Ghana’s athleticism, speed, explosion and individual achievement. Good anticipation by Luis Suarez, who managed to beat the Ghana offside trap on several occasions and get on the end of service to take quality shots on goal. Early on Ghana’s rearguard was less organized than in previous games, and keeper Kingson seemed to be suspect in net. Fantastic creative linkup play by Diego Forlan, going back to the half touch line, bringing the ball forward and finding open players in space (specifically Suarez) in the final third. A couple of quick strike opportunities primarily by Kevin Prince Boateng and Asamoah Gyan almost got Ghana on the board, and even though they were content to let Uruguay maintain the majority of possession, Boateng and Gyan got more confident attacking the final third, stretching Uruguay’s defense. Ghana was able to use their speed to stretch Uruguay’s midfield and defense so much that Sulley Muntari shot on goal from about 40 yards and scored in first half stoppage time. Confident if not refined direct attacking from Ghana in the second half as both sides went back and forth, neither spending a lot of time in the middle third. Forlan finally gets Uruguay level with a laser shot on a direct free kick that swerves in from 25 yards that Kingson totally misjudged. Both teams attacked with abandon then; Uruguay more on the counter, Ghana more or less taking advantage of open space and hoping for a defensive mistake. It just became a function of which defense would bend but not break. Much better attacking and quality shots on goal in extra time for Ghana, who got into the box with regularity and made Uruguay work to keep the ball out of their own goal. A handball in the Uruguayan net led to a gift penalty kick in the 122nd minute of extra time for Ghana and the win with no time left, but the golden opportunity was lost when Gyan missed a rocket of a shot off the crossbar. It’s too bad this game had to go to penalty kicks; both teams deserved better than that. After that, you just knew because of karma that Uruguay was going to make it through. A cruel exit for Ghana, who have only themselves to blame for failing to go through to a place no team from Africa has ever been in the World Cup (and still hasn’t).

A decidedly good day of football!

— daveydoug