Netherlands 2-1 Brazil
This matchup of two of the most celebrated diving/soccer teams lived up to its billing. It helped that Brazil took advantage of Holland’s defense napping early on. Then came some wonderful attacking soccer, with plenty of flopping, by both teams. That led to Wesley Sneijder forcing Felipe Melo into heading the ball into his own net ten minutes into the second half. Unlike Michael Parr’s mom, Brazil aren’t used to having someone come from behind, and their defense, like Parr’s mom began to show cracks. Holland’s second goal was inevitable, as was Melo’s red card, which sealed their fate. As with Portugal the other day, a team that adapts a defensive mentality despite having world-class attacking talent looks tentative in these situations.
So now Brazil have had two consecutive Quarterfinal exits after making it to the Final the previous three times out, which will have serious repercussions back home. Dunga has already paid the price for this (which likely would’ve happened even if they had won the Cup). It’s funny how, in the days leading up to this game, Brazil were being lauded for playing better team defense by everybody (outside of Brazil, of course), including me, and as soon as they lose, we say, “They should have played more like Brazil.”
But this wasn’t entirely Brazil’s fault. The Netherlands firmly deserved this win, for putting their past behind them and winning a tough match. Sneijder is having the tournament he was expected to have four years ago, and Arjen Robben coming back from injury at the right time has been critical to their success in their last two games. Could this finally be their year? I still would love a Netherlands v. Spain Final, but I won’t believe it until I see it.
Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (Uruguay advances 4-2 on penalties)
Both teams got to the Quarterfinals through tough defense and strong counterattacks. Both teams opened up throughout the entire game and had stretches of offensive dominance. Both teams played with fire in the back, with only the other team’s poor finishing keeping the score low. Both teams were exhausted and incapable of creativity during the extra time periods. The incredible final play of extra time, Luis Suarez’s handball off the line and Asamoah Gyan’s penalty miss, was a microcosm of the entire match.
But you have to wonder why Ghana’s coach chose not to use his third substitution. Some fresh legs in there couldn’t have hurt, especially since they controlled the second extra time period. It was simply a bad decision, and one that could have prevented the game from going to penalties.
And now, for their efforts, Uruguay have to play the Netherlands without Luis Suarez, who, coincidentally, plays in Holland.
Matchday 21 Previews
Argentina v. Germany, 10:00 AM ET, ABC
Argentina has had a fairly smooth ride to the quarterfinals, coasting to four wins and outscoring their opponents 10-2. Their defense has occasionally looked shaky, and Germany should be able to capitalize on that.
Prediction: Germany 3, Argentina 2
Paraguay v. Spain 2:30 PM, ABC
Spain’s victory against Portugal showed that they learned how to break down defensive teams after their loss to Switzerland. Look for Paraguay to hold on as long as possible (55th minute?) until David Villa scores. Once they’re forced to break out, they’ll leave themselves open for Spain to pick up a second on the counter-attack.
Prediction: Spain 2, Paraguay 0