Argentina 0-4 Germany
Germany might not have played a traditional Teutonic style, but their tactics today were straight out of their playbook: score early, sit back and counter strongly. Part of that was because of their respect for Argentina’s talent (as opposed to England), but also because it’s how they’ve been successful. And you could also see how, by the hour mark, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez had run out of ideas. Fifteen minutes later, it was all over after Miroslav Klose and Arne Friedrich caught Argentina’s dispirited defense standing around.
When a team crashes out, it’s typical to ask whether an injured player or someone left home could have made the difference. But when the cameras showed Michael Ballack sitting in the stands, I couldn’t help but wonder how much he would have hurt this team. He would have jogged between the 18s, demanding the ball at his feet on every attack, playing for set pieces, which he wouldn’t have put on goal.
And questions are also going to be asked of Diego Maradona, but I don’t know what anybody else could have done better. The tactics were right, turn the attack loose. That’s what got them there. Could Juan Sebastian Veron or Diego Milito, who did nothing against weaker teams in the minutes they were given, have supported Messi? Could the old guard of Javier Zanetti or Esteban Cambiasso, both of whom were dropped from the squad during qualification, have stopped Germany’s counterattack? The answer to both is “No, not in the least, and you’re crazy if you even think such a thing.”
But that doesn’t mean Maradona is blameless. More effort towards defensive organization should have been given, especially going into a game against Germany. Without it, this was always a team destined to crash out in the Quarterfinals.
Paraguay 0-1 Spain
It was obvious from the start that this was not going to be Gerard Pique’s day. His distribution was terrible and, on Paraguay’s few ventures forward, repeatedly screwed up to put Paraguay in a dangerous position. He was also bailed out when the AR’s flag ruled Nelson Valdez offside on the disallowed goal. So when Spain had a penalty called against them in the 57th minute, it was only natural that the foul was called against Pique. Fortunately, he had Iker Casillas to bail him out (which caused the beautiful Spanish woman in the bar I was in to scream, “Thank you, Iker! Also, you are hot!”), giving Spain a reprieve.
Two minutes later, David Villa earned a penalty, which led to a rare retake for encroachment, and Justo Villar saved Xabi Alonso’s retake. It was a crazy five minute spell of an otherwise frustrating game. It took Spain a while to figure out Paraguay’s bunker but, even after they did, they couldn’t convert their passes. Until his run that set up Spain’s goal in the 83rd minute, Andres Iniesta was playing almost as badly as Pique, and even Xavi was unable to get the ball forward. This reduced David Villa and Fernando Torres to trying to dribble through the entire Paraguayan defense.
Semifinal 1 Preview
Uruguay v. Netherlands
The difference between Uruguay and Paraguay in this tournament has been Uruguay’s strike team of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. Without Suarez, Forlan will have to play further up top, but there’s nobody who can get him the ball. The Dutch don’t have that problem. Wesley Sneijder is on fire right now, and that’s not about to change.
Prediction: Netherlands 2, Uruguay 0