Tag Archives: Netherlands

Who Will Win the World Cup?

Note: click here for my informal USA-Belgium review.

Someone will win the World Cup. It’s a fact. Someone will have to win it. You probably knew that. But in case you didn’t, it’s a fact. Though the soccer-haters criticize the sport for being communist where there is almost never a winner and winning is punished by having to spend time cleaning bird waste off the statue of Karl Marx that sits outside Wembley Stadium, none of that is actually true. Soccer is a sport like any other (only better) and someone will lift the trophy in less than two weeks’ time.

Let’s analyze the eight countries still alive in the competition, and why they will or won’t win the World Cup:

Brazil

Why they will win: they’re at home…they have Neymar…they have some other fairly good players.

Why they won’t win: they’re not as good, talent-wise, as other teams…there’s too much pressure…they’re one-dimensional (it’s Neymar or Fred nothing).

Colombia

Why they will win: James…confidence…local fan support without nearly the pressure of Brazil and the like.

Why they won’t win: they play Brazil next…they lack quality outside of James and a few others…this is as far as the nation as ever gotten in a World Cup; they’re probably getting a nosebleed.

France

Why they will win: they’ve looked great in their games so far…they’ve made the final in every other World Cup for my entire life.

Why they won’t win: it’s in the Americas…they play Germany next…remember 2010?

Germany

Why they will win: they’re probably the best team in the world…they’re due winning something…Lahm was forced to play at full-back last game; move him to left-back and it’s a team with no weaknesses.

Why they won’t win: it’s in the Americas…after France they have Brazil or Colombia…someone will figure out that 4-3-3-0 at some point.

Netherlands

Why they will win: they have good players…Van Gaal is leaving, he wants to do good for them, they want to do good for him (Ray Lewis Effect).

Why they won’t win: they never do.

Costa Rica

Why they will win: they have momentum…they have no pressure whatsoever…CONCACAF goalkeepers have done great in this World Cup; Keylor Navas is the last one standing.

Why they won’t win: not enough talent to compete with the big boys; all of their wins have either came against a team lacking their best player, a team that just played in Manaus, or Greece.

Argentina

Why they will win: Messi…Messi…Messi.

Why they won’t win: very, very one-dimensional…no defense.

Belgium

Why they will win: loads of super-talented players who have never yet lost a World Cup game.

Why they won’t win: it’s in the Americas…very little World Cup experience.

 

I will genuinely be surprised to see anyone win this World Cup. I mean, I know that someone has to, but it seems so unlikely for any of these teams to win.

I mean, if Brazil wins it they’ll totally revise history and say “from start to finish we all knew they would win; they dominated; oh, how boring!” and if Germany wins they’ll say “yeah, we knew that they were the best. Brazil? Ha!” and if Argentina wins they’ll say “of course; the team with the best player wins, especially with that talent around him.” But we’ll know the truth. Don’t you all just love parity? MLS has more parity than any other sports league that I know of. And I’ll talk a lot about MLS here after the World Cup (actually, I might start on it next week).

Predictions for today:

France 0-2 Germany

Brazil 1-2 Colombia

 

Any thoughts? Questions? Requests? Threats? Predictions of your own? Respectfully add them in the comments below. Hopefully I’ll get back with a report tonight.

Monday/Tuesday Thoughts

Here is what’s going through my mind: World Cup wise. Key topics are bolded. Let’s start with the headliner:

LUIS SUAREZ BIT SOMEONE!!! AGAIN!!! This is absurd. What in the world would compel someone to bite a person? And then suffer the consequences…only to bite a person again? And then to suffer worse consequences (worse because England)…seem to sincerely regret his decision…rebuild his reputation by having a legendary season…only to bite a person FOR THE THIRD TIME!?!?!?

-Something has to be wrong with him mentally. I’m not saying that he’s stupid or even mentally challenged, really, but that there is something about the way that his brain functions that other brains don’t function that way. Something in his mind that for some weird reason tells him to bite another human being, despite past experiences, logic, and common rules of etiquette saying otherwise.

-What is the source of his success is the source of his shortcomings. He’s too competitive for his own good. He’s a player who is a joy to watch 97% of the time unless you are a fan of the team he’s playing against. He’s one of the top 5 attacking players in the world. Not only is he a wonderful goal-scorer, but he’s a team player; he scored 12 assists in the Premier League last year, trailing only his Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard.

-He shouldn’t be banned for life or anything like that. A hefty suspension, yes, but going overboard is silly. They should slap a hefty suspension and a hefty fine on him, which obviously includes him being out of the rest of the World Cup, and then make sure that he sees a psychiatrist of some sort. For 97% of the time he’s playing he’s entertaining, and for probably about 98% of the time he’s living he’s a good person. But when he’s playing, sometimes his competitiveness gets too much for him to handle.

-He’s actually said that he’s like a different person when he’s playing soccer. Part of that is the Latin American (especially Uruguayan) culture, where winning at all costs is considered an admirable trait, but part of that is just him. He goes all out. Oh, and for whatever reason his go-to reaction is to bite someone. I really don’t understand it. It doesn’t make him an evil person, however, just one who has serious problems.

-The Netherlands are second to last in possession, with 39.5% (Iran is last). No one has scored more goals than them, although France may equal their mark of 10. As I always like to say, possession is not a measure of how good a team is but rather a measure of how good it plays. The Dutch went undefeated in a very hard group, which included beating reigning champions Spain 5-1, beating a surprisingly good Australia side 3-2 (that Tim Cahill goal was m-a-g-i-c), and then efficiently beating Chile 2-0. They’ve been killing teams on the counter, and it’s working. Can Rafa Marquez and Maza Rodriguez keep up with the speed of Arjen Robben? Is there anything that can stop this Dutch team?

Miguel Herrera is great. After each Mexico goal he was going crazy. No, literally, going crazy.

-Do you know who is leading the World Cup in scoring goals? Neymar. Yes, that’s right. He’s had the weight of a country on his shoulders, and he’s capitalized. The 22-year-old also had the weight of the country on his shoulders in the Confederations Cup last year. He was named that tournament’s best player. Does this guy even feel pressure?

Diego Godin’s Head should win the Ballon d’Or this year. His Head scored the equalizer in the final game of La Liga, which propelled Atletico Madrid to historically win the title; his Head scored the opening goal in the Champions League final, which would’ve been the winner if it wasn’t for Sergio Ramos; and his Head also scored the goal that got Uruguay out of the group stage in this World Cup. Wow.

COSTA RICA WON GROUP D!!!!!!!! EVERYONE ELSE LOST!!!!!!

-Seriously though, Italy and England both got knocked out, while Costa Rica won the group. UEFA have more losses than wins, while CONCACAF have 5 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses. Undefeated not counting Honduras, who have very little World Cup experience.

-I’ll mention the players who have most likely finished their last World Cups. On Tuesday alone, Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and maybe Yaya Toure all played in their last World Cup games, and on Monday David Villa, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, and Samuel Eto’o ended their own World Cup careers. These are greats of the game. Fortunately they’ll still play at club level. Might I add that one of them (Villa) plays in MLS, and most of the others have been rumored to come to MLS? Just something to think about.

Wednesday Picks:

Argentina 2-0 Nigeria – At some point this Argentine attack has to gel, right? And if not, Messi will still probably bail them out.

Bosnia 1-0 Iran – I still can’t believe that those refs made those calls against Bosnia. Terrible, terrible calls. Even if you think that Emineke didn’t foul Spahic, that Dzeko goal was clearly onside.

Honduras 2-1 Switzerland – Upset alert! It’s the alpine nation of Switzerland vs. the Central American nation of Honduras. In Manaus, in the Amazon Rainforest. Doesn’t sound like much of an upset now, eh?

Ecuador 0-2 France – Les Blues might go far in this tournament. Then again, they may not. Unless the Argentines just collapse, they’ll face either Nigeria or Iran in the Round of 16. No offense, but those aren’t the hardest opponents in the world.

 

My next post will be my preview of the United States vs. Germany. Stay tuned.

Netherlands 5-1 Spain: The World Champions Get Crushed by a Rock Band

Before I get into the epic destruction of the World Champs, I need to do some housekeeping: I’m changing my format. The whole idea where I talk about everything is too hard for me. Besides, you don’t need me for the dry facts. That’s what everyone else gives. I’m here for commentary. And baked goods. I will continually write up a bunch of fairly short pieces on things in the World Cup. I’ll try to do the same for MLS and other stuff afterwards. For now, ESP-NED:

First of all, I did not see that coming.

I mean, I totally did not see that coming. Like, at all. Even at half-time, I did not see that coming. Until the van Persie goal, I was expecting Spain to close them out. They seemed to be the better team for a good bit of that first half, although I did have distractions when watching that first half (nothing interesting).

Again, I didn’t see that coming.

Spain, the reigning World Cup champions and two-time reigning European Champions, who only conceded 2 goals in the entire 2010 World Cup, just conceded 5 goals to a team that was widely picked to not make the Round of 16.

See, the way that Spain plays has been about culture, and beauty, and being better than other people. Possession-based play is one of the few strategies in sports where the fundamental philosophy is “we are better than you.” They keep the ball, because they can. When they lose it, they try to get it back.

Watching a counter-attacking team destroy a superior possession-based team is fascinating. It’s like an upper-class banquet where the wealthy are hob-nobbing and wearing clothes that cost the total GDP of small African nations, and then mischievous children run in and take their food. It totally works when the security guards are Pique and Ramos.

Yeah, okay, that’s illegal in real life, but in soccer it isn’t. You can take the ball from opponents without receiving punishment from law enforcement.

I’ll put it this way: it’s like a classical music concert, and then a rock band comes in and plays rock music. Everyone is confused and a bit upset. Yet they kind of love it. I mean, the rock band analogy is perfect: in at least one each of RvP and Robben’s goals, they stick their tongue out. You’re lying if you don’t picture an electric guitar.

The Dutch defended well, and then played rock music going forward. It was too much for world-renowned comedy duo Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, and it was also too much for Iker Casillas, their legendary goalkeeper who has hit poor form.

Quick observations/questions:

-Can the Dutch win the World Cup? How high is their ceiling?

-Whoever finishes second in Group B plays the winner of Group A. Who is currently leading Group A? Brazil. It previously seemed like Spain were going to win this group, but a second-place finish seems more probable.

-Let me spell it out: A SPAIN-BRAZIL GAME IN THE ROUND OF 16 IS A SIGNIFICANT POSSIBILITY!

-Will Diego Costa be back from his suspension by then? That was one of the weakest head-butts ever, but it was a head-butt. Martins Indi did himself no favors by going down like a sniper hit him. See, the proper strategy is to yell at the ref “he hit me!” in an annoying voice. I’m only half-joking.

-Bruno Martins Indi: 1) cool name 2) he was the guy who got into a fight with Arjen Robben in training. Remember then? When it seemed that the Netherlands were definitely going out early? Where they seemed like a meltdown waiting to happen? Where things seemed Netherlandsy? That feels so long ago now.

-Also, the rock band analogy works for this too. These guys are rock stars. They’re going to quarrel a bit.

-A very important note: Spain are terrible defensively. It’s always been their dirty secret, and a reason to why they play a possession game; they won’t need to defend very much if the opponents never get the ball. But against good, disciplined teams that can attack with fury, they don’t need to get the ball very much to score on Pique and Ramos.

-Should Iker Casillas be benched?

-I’ll probably write a full report of this if/when Spain go out, but it’s an interesting question: is Tiki-Taka dead?

 

That’s it. Answer any questions, or pose your own, with the comments sections. Stay tuned for a Balotelli article later, followed by more World Cup coverage.

World Cup Report: Day 1: Much to Talk About

The first day of the World Cup is in the books. And it was a doozy. Table of contents:

-Super-brief recap of Brazil-Croatia.

-A Few Takeaways.

-Mexico-Cameroon preview.

-Group B preview.

-Spain-Netherlands preview.

-Chile-Australia preview.

-Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings.

Yeah, whatever. Let’s go:

In Case You Missed It

-Croatia was better in the first 10 minutes.

-Croatia scored, Marcelo own goal.

-Neymar scored, to tie it up.

-Halftime.

-Penalty on Fred. Yeah, I’ll talk about it a lot. Bad call.

-Neymar puts it home. 2-1.

-Oscar gets the insurance late on. 3-1.

Brazil 3-1 Croatia: A Few Takeaways

This is the meat of the World Cup Report sandwich. (I save the PK talk for last.)

Croatia played well

This is Brazil that they just played against! Brazil! The team that has entered the tournament as favorites. This Croatia team were better in the first 10 minutes, they scored, and then they defended well for most of the game. This team will play Cameroon and then Mexico, and they’ll have Mario Mandzukic, their best striker, who was suspended from this game.

Brazil didn’t play well

They looked sloppy against a team they should’ve beaten. They only scored one goal in regulation time from the run of play (which is an insanely loaded stat, but okay).

The first 10 minutes was bad. The next 80 minutes was a mix of mediocre and good.

Was Croatia’s goalkeeper terrible?

Kind of. Everyone is used to seeing Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois and Iker Casillas make all these crazy saves, but Pletikosa, Croatia’s 35-year-old goalkeeper, isn’t anything near World Class. He plays for an average Russian team. In no way is he World Class.

Did he mess up? Yeah, sure. Goalkeepers mess up all the time, especially against Brazil in Brazil in the first game of the World Cup. He did good stuff, too.

And you can’t blame him on the penalty. He did everything right except actually gripping the ball. Most goalkeepers would not have gotten to that.

The penalty kick

It was a terrible call. I’m 75% sure that Fred dived. The other 25% says that he clumsily fell down. I know that it wasn’t a PK.

I’ll serve up a full-length piece on that call, and the entire World Cup, for tomorrow.

Mexico-Cameroon preview

-Mexico will have Chicharito on the bench, with Giovani Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta starting up top.

-Cameroon will have Old Man Eto’o, who is by far their best player. Any chance they have to make it out of the group is based on how Eto’o can play.

-I’m very interested in seeing how Mexico can do. They were terrible last year, but under Miguel Herrera they’ve done well. Generally Mexico shows up for the big tournaments. Will they show up this year? They have a chance to set the tone against the weakest team in the group.

-Prediction: 2-1. Eto’o is good, Marquez is slow, Mexico will get a lot of chances, waste them, Chicharito will come on off the bench and help the team score twice.

Group B: The Group of Death: Revenge Edition

There are three groups of death in this tournament. Group D is notable due to three former champions (oh, and it could get Englandy!), Group G is notable due to no real weak teams, while Group B is notable because two of the teams in the group, who play each other tomorrow, faced off in last year’s final.

Without further ado, the teams:

Spain

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best Result: WINNER! 2010.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 3 out of 3: Serious Title-Contenders!

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque (completely expressionless).

Key Players:

-Andres Iniesta (#6, pos: MF, age: 30, club: Barcelona)

He scored the winning goal in the last World Cup. A lot of people think he’s regressed, and maybe that’s partially true, but he’s still really, really good.

-Diego Costa (#19, pos: FW, age: 25, club: Atletico Madrid)

The soon-to-be Chelsea player was born in Brazil, but he plays for Spain. The Brazilian crowd will not be too happy with him, and I have my doubts that the Spanish team will be all too happy that he’s there. In addition to being Brazilian, and in addition to being an injury doubt, his style of play seems very anti-Spain. Not tiki-taka, but more “I will shove you and then kick you and if you try to hit me back I will go down really easily.”

This could be Spain’s ticket to the final, or Spain’s ticket to an early exit.

-Cesc Fábregas (#10, pos: MF, age: 27, club: Barcelona)

Fábregas will join Costa at Chelsea. He’ll look good in blue, eh? Fábregas, Hazard, and Oscar? On one team? This would be really exciting if I didn’t think that Costa would be a flop.

And yeah, I put Cesc into here just so that I could talk about Chelsea. Apologies.

Outlook:

This Spain team won last year, but can they win again this year? It’s arguably the last tournament within their “championship window,” considering that many of their key players are getting older. They have good talent coming up in the ranks, but they may never again have a team that can win 3 straight major championships. Can they extend that streak in Brazil?

Netherlands

Confederation: UEFA (Europe)

Best Result: Runner-up. Three times (ouch).

Chances in this year’s tournament: 2 out of 3: Yeah, they could win it.

Coach: Louis van Gaal.

Key Players:

-Robin van Persie (#9, pos: FW, age: 30, club: Manchester United)

The former Arsenal star has had some minor injury problems (because he’s RvP and that’s how he rolls) but he looks likely to lead this Dutch team. Which RvP will we see? The one who won the 2012-13 Golden Boot in the EPL? Or the one who was another dull part of the dull 2013-14 Manchester United season?

-Louis van Gaal (manager, age: 62, club: Manchester United)

Yeah, I totally could’ve talked about Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich star winger, or Wesley Sneijder, who had a great World Cup in South Africa, and I certainly could’ve done 3 “key players.” But instead, I talk about Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal (Wikipedia says it’s his real name), who will take charge of Manchester United after the World Cup. The Dutch will be interesting to watch if only for that.

Outlook:

It’s a hard group, everyone.

It could get Netherlandsy.

Chile

Confederation: CONMEBOL (South America)

Best Result: Third, 1962.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 2 out of 3: Yeah, they could win it.

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Key Players:

-Alexis Sanchez (#7, pos: FW, age: 25, club: Barcelona)

The young Barcelona winger/striker, as Ray Hudson says “ELECTRIC SANCHEZ!!!!” will certainly be the key for Chile’s attack. He’s shown the ability to score goals, but for Chile to have a shot at a great World Cup, he’ll need to be elite.

-Arturo Vidal (#8, pos: MF, age: 27, club: Juventus)

One of the premier box-to-box midfielders in the game today, Vidal is a major injury concern. Will he play? Probably, but he’s very likely to sit out the first game.

Outlook:

This Chile team is considered dark horses by everyone. They have a very hard group, but they can certainly do it in their home continent. How far can they go? I’m not sure.

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Sorry.

Australia

Confederation: AFC (Asia)

Best Result: Round of 16, in 2006.

Chances in this year’s tournament: 0 out of 3: Snowball’s Chance in Qatar.

Coach: Ange Postecoglou (Greek origin).

Key Players:

-Tim Cahill (#4, pos: MF/FW, age: 34, club: New York Red Bulls)

The MLS star is in most likely his last World Cup (his third, and only the third World Cup that the Socceroos have qualified for in his lifetime) can play up front or in midfield, and he can score goals; he’s Australia’s all-time leader in scoring. Can the former Millwall and Everton man make any noise in Brazil, in a very hard group?

Outlook:

If they do well, they can get a point. Maybe multiple points, but that would be very hard considering that the second team of their opponents would be highly favored against them. Spain’s third team would be favored against Australia.

Prediction

Chance to make it out of the group (rounded to 5s):

Spain 80%

Chile 60%

Netherlands 55%

Australia 5%

Both Chile and the Netherlands are certainly quality teams. I think Spain not making the round of 16 is more probable than Australia advancing.

Schedule:

13th: Spain-Netherlands

13th: Chile-Australia

18th: Australia-Netherlands

18th: Spain-Chile

23rd: Australia-Spain

23rd: Netherlands-Chile

This will probably come down to the final game.

Spain-Netherlands Preview

-Rematch of the 2010 World Cup Final!

-Will Diego Costa play?

-Will the Dutch kick the Spanish again?

-Prediction: 2-1 for Spain. Diego Costa dives, and his Chelsea teammate Fábregas puts it away. Instant villains to the Brazilians.

Chile-Australia Preview

-How will Chile adjust to not having Arturo Vidal?

-How well can Australia defend, and can they get anything on the counter?

-Prediction: 2-0 for Chile. ELECTRIC SANCHEZ!!! with a brace.

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

Go back to Day 0 if you want to get all of my blurbs. I’m just blurbing the teams that I’m changing, right here, with a couple exceptions. And one of my key rules (no moving up teams that lose) is explicitly broken. Remember, I have no idea what I’m talking about:

1. Brazil (0)

Sure, they only barely won, but they won nonetheless. They’ll need to improve if they want to win the tournament, but 3 points isn’t enough to do anything more than make them a softer #1.

2. Spain

If they convincingly beat the Dutch, I’m moving them to #1. Just a little extra motivation.

3. Germany

4. Argentina

5. Italy

6. Uruguay

7. Belgium

8. Portugal

9. Chile

10. Netherlands

11. Colombia

12. Bosnia-H

13. Croatia (+3)

They looked good against arguably the best team in the world. They have Cameroon next, followed by a Mexico team that would’ve just played Brazil at that point. And they get Mandzukic back. This team seems likely to make the Round of 16.

14. England

I know, it worked so well to have England at #13. Oh, well. They’re still #13 in spirit.

15. France

16. Ghana

17. USA

18. Russia

19. Switzerland

20. Mexico

21. Ivory Coast

22. Nigeria

23. Ecuador

24. Greece

25. Korea

26. Japan

27. Cameroon

28. Costa Rica

29. Honduras

30. Australia

31. Iran

32. Algeria

 

That’s it! Stay tuned for my detailed report on that penalty and the 2014 World Cup itself, and soccer itself, and, well, life itself, and then stay tuned for the Day 2 report Friday night. All right here on Daniel’s Soccer Emporium, your home for adults kicking stuff.