Tag Archives: World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014 Final

Some random observations after the final game:


Germany 1-0 Argentina (aet):  The Magician vs. The Machine. For Argentina the game plan was pretty simple: defend deep and make quick breaks. The Albiceleste conceded the middle third of the pitch to the Germans, then closed down the ball when they got to the final third. Argentina was finding some success attacking down Germany’s left flank; it was much easier taking on Benedikt Höwedes and Mesut Oezil than it was taking on Phillip Lahm and Thomas Mueller on the opposite flank. Argentina, particularly The Magician, was anything but magical, missing easy conversions in the box at least four times. The telling stat of the game is the ten shots Argentina took – but none on target! Also telling, as throughout the entire tournament, the lack of meaningful contributions from Argentina’s strikers Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain; if either of them were able to finish just a few of their chances it would be Argentina holding up that trophy. The two best defenses in the tournament met in this final, and they both played like it. Argentina gave up way too much possession, and against a team like Germany, which is the best at short passing and long, organized attacking buildup, it eventually was going to make a difference. German coach Joachim Loew was the best throughout tournament with his substituions, and this game was no different. It’s instructive to note that the two substitutes (André Schürrle, who himself had to come on early for an injured Cristoph Kramer, and Mario Goetze) were the ones to score the goal that got Germany the World Cup (tired Argentine legs clearly contributed to it, also). A great and uncharacteristic defensive performance from Argentina throughout the tournament, but eventually not enough against an efficient and world-class organized attack from the Germans. Even without Marco Reus and and injured Sami Khedira in the final, the best team over 31 days won the World Cup.


– daveydoug

World Cup 2014 Semi-Finals

Some random observations after the Semi-Finals:


Brazil 1-7 Germany:  Without Neymar as the focal point of their attack, Brazil went with Bernard up front on the left, with Oscar in the center as the creative forward with the freedom to roam. Germany looked to change things up themselves, bringin in career goalscorer Miroslav Klose as the loan target man up front, pushing forward Thomas Mueller to the right flank and forward Mesut Oezil to the left. Also, Phillip Lahm was pushed back in his customary right fullback role, which allowed Bastien Schweinsteiger to come in as the holding midfielder. My guess is that, to deal with the world-class Brazilian wingers, Germany wanted a more natural defensive fullback than the four center backs they had been using up until now. Germany surprisingly allowed Brazil to dominate possession early, letting them build up an attack from the back. Of all the players to leave unmarked on a corner, Thomas Mueller is the wrong person. Gawd the Germans are expert at making that short combination passing in the box work to perfection. Brazil’s inability to close down the German attack and their disorganization in the midfield and the back allowed Germany to take advantage of spacing both in the center and on the flanks – and a Brazil team in shambles got throttled early. Against a team as great (usually) like Brazil, when you get them down for the count, you have to go for the jugular – and that’s exactly what Germany did. Most surprising was the play in the attacking end by Sami Khedira, usually a defensive/holding midfielder who went forward and literally toyed with the Brazilian defense. It was obvious that Brazil just mentally checked out; they played with no pride, conviction, or effort. German coach Joachim Loew made the mistake of bringing in Per Mertesacker in the center of defense for Mats Hummels, which gave Brazil a small glimmer of hope that they could take advantage of a weakness in the center of defense. Putting Lahm on the German right flank worked to perfection as he dispossessed and interrupted the Brazilian attack at every turn. A Master class by Die Mannschaft. It is hard to think of any championship-quality team that was ever embarrassed and humiliated like this.


Netherlands 0-0 Argentina (2-4 aet):  After yesterday’s semi-final destruction, both teams spent the first minutes of this game feeling each other out like cautious boxers, getting and maintaining possession, and building from the back, bobbing in and out of the attacking end. As usual, the Dutch still looked to make those long passes over the top of the Argentine defense to the front players. And as usual, when the Dutch were able to get Arjen Robben on the end of one of their long passes into the box, he looked to make a run at the goal by himself, regardless of whoever had him blanketed or what teammates may have been trailing into the attacking end. Closing down Lionel Messi was the primary goal of the Dutch midfield. Both sides had the flanks pretty well blanketed, although the Dutch were slightly better at switching play. Zabaleta did a good job of picking up the attacking slack on the flank with the absence of Angel di Maria. Way too cautious of a game all around, although Argentina did pick up the slack a little in the second half. The best scoring chance for either team came late in the game; for Argentina in the 90th minute, for the Netherlands in the 98th minute. This was by far the least productive game for both Robben and Messi, the stars scorers of both teams. Even without their defensive expert Nigel de Jong (substituted after 28 minutes due to injury), the Dutch were able to suffocate Messi. Argentina were anything but free-flowing this game, and they have yet to offer that truly convincing display in any match during this tournament. I could understand what Dutch coach Louis van Gaal was trying to do with his substitutes if they were actually trying to score, but I never got the sense that that’s what they were trying to do, so not having the ability to bring on his penalty kick stopping specialist Tim Krul late made no sense. While Messi has gotten all the attention, midfielder Javier Mascherana is quietly having the best tournament of any Argentine, throwing a wet blanket over any opposition attack that tries coming through the middle. The Dutch shut down Argentina and threw a sack over Messi, but they couldn’t do all that and still impose themselves upon the game as well.


– daveydoug

World Cup 2014: Quarterfinals

Some random observations from the quarterfinals:

France 0-1 Germany: these neighboring nations have a contentious history that spilled onto the futbol pitch at the 1982 World Cup semi-finals when German goalie Harald Schumacher delivered a brutal hip and shoulder check on French star Patrick Battiston knocking him unconscious, fracturing some of his ribs, and knocking out a few of his teeth. In only their second World Cup contest since then, the match proved to be more slugfest than the beautiful game. The Germans started the game with Philipp Lahm back at his natural right back position instead of the midfield where he had not seemed completely comfortable in earlier games (despite good play there for his club team). Neither team developed much rhythm as nearly every pass, header, or dribble was contested and both teams committed a lot of fouls. While Germany, as it has all tournament, led the possession battle, it was France that dominated in the final third on offense. Les Bleus tried to expose the high back line of the German defense with runs on the flanks and deep balls into the box, but could not finish. The Germans made the most of an early set piece when Toni Kroos delivered a perfect kick to just outside the six yard box where Mats Hummels placed a header off the crossbar and into the goal. Apropos of the style of this game, Hummels used a forearm shiver to drive off a defender and get to the ball. The Germans made this goal stand up, withstanding some near misses by the French offense. It wasn’t a pretty match, but Germany advances to its fourth straight World Cup semi-final.

Brazil 2-1 Colombia: Unlike the earlier France-Germany game, this one was played at a higher gear with both teams playing with a great deal of urgency. Both teams found a lot of space to work with and pressed their attacks with Brazil able to dominate possession and create the better opportunities. The failure of Colombia to protect the back post on a Brazilian corner kick allowed Brazilian defender Thiago Silva to knee in an easy goal early in the first half. Midway through the second half, fellow back David Luiz put the game away with a 30-yard searing free kick into the upper right of the goal. On the kick, Colombian goalie David Ospina set up his wall to protect the left side of the goal, set himself up to protect the right side of the goal, and then inexplicably drifted back to the left side as Luiz began his run up for the kick. Colombia did not go down without a fight though, playing with renewed passion after the second Brazilian goal. A breakaway led to Brazilian goalie Julio Cesar taking down a Colombian in the box. Tournament sensation James Rodriguez then stutter-stepped his away to an easy conversion on the penalty kick. Colombia continued to press, but could not find the back of the net again. It was a physical game with lots of fouls committed but nonetheless both squads showed much fluidity in their attacks, making for an exciting game to watch. However, one particularly brutal foul late in the game resulted in a broken vertebrae for Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr., who will now miss the rest of the tournament.  This dampens Brazil’s chances to win against a very tough and disciplined German team in the semi-finals.

Belgium 0-1 Argentina: This game was dominated by Argentina in the midfield, both offensively in working their attack up field and defensively in cutting off the Belgian passing lanes. Early in the first half, a tipped pass found Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain at the 18-yard mark and he pulled off a brilliant spin and volley shot that the Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois had no chance at. The Belgians have been strong on set pieces throughout the tournament, but their services on free kicks were poor on this day. With time running out, Belgium pressed a desperate attack, but the Argentine back line was able to repeatedly step up and catch the Red Devils offside. As with other teams, the Belgians focused their defense on Lionel Messi, who nevertheless nearly scored at the end when Belgium over-committed on offense. A quick counterattack found Messi one-on-one with Courtois, who managed to stuff Messi’s shot. Courtois, who tends goal for Chelsea in the Premier League, only allowed 3 goals in 5 World Cup games, but the one given up to Argentina was too much.

Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (4-3 aet): To see the final score, one would think this was a hard fought, tight match. In fact, the Dutch so thoroughly dominated possession that the Costa Ricans had no shots on goal until there was five minutes left in the second extra time period. Los Ticos seemed content to sit back on defense, clog the shooting lanes, and run their offside trap, which they did to perfection. The Dutch used the flanks well playing a wide attack, but their usually reliable scoring duo of Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben could not find the finishing touch. Costa Rica was thrice saved by shots off the goal posts as Clockwork Orange was relentless on the attack. What little offense that was mustered by Costa Rica was frequently interrupted by sloppy passing on their part. In the second overtime, the Dutch brought on another striker, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who converted the penalty kick that beat Mexico, and back-up goalie Tim Krul, clearly with an eye toward the looming penalty kicks. The Netherlands had nobody to blame but themselves for failing to convert numerous scoring opportunities. The Costa Ricans, who nailed every penalty kick against Greece in the Round of 16 had to view getting to penalty kicks as a huge win. However, Louis van Gaal’s maneuvering proved to be the difference as Krul stopped two penalty kicks while his teammates converted all the kicks they took. This match should not have gone to penalty kicks given its lopsided nature. Costa Rican goalie Keylor Navas deserves a lot of credit for giving his team a chance against the Dutch onslaught. Although they won the game, the Dutch have to be disappointed that they could not put this game away earlier. They will not be able to similarly dominate possession in their semi-final match-up with Argentina, so they will need their scoring touch to return to have a chance.