Tuesday, July 06, 2010


In the South America vs. Europe storyline, Europe definitely won the battle over the weekend. Only one South American team survived, and they didn't even beat a European side in the quarterfinals. And that South American team is a bit of a surprise. Two of the three European representatives are also somewhat surprising. So let's look at these matches.

Today 2:30 PM - ESPN
Uruguay vs. Netherlands
Uruguay hasn't advanced this far since the 50s. The Dutch haven't since the 70s. So this is a pretty big deal for both countries. The Uruguayans have been tough, gritty, rugged, determined, and more than a little lucky. They needed several penalty misses in order to beat Ghana. The Dutch, on the other hand, haven't mesmerized, but they have won. They're the only team that's won every single game it's played. They just beat Brazil, and they should trouble Uruguay's worn out defenders with their multifaceted offensive approach. The Uruguayans will also be missing Suarez, the guy who slapped away Ghana's would-be-game-winning-goal. Without him, it's really only the 31 year old Forlan up front, and he's looked increasingly tired. Netherlands 3, Uruguay 1.

Wednesday 2:30 PM - ESPN
Germany vs. Spain
A rematch of the Euro 2008 title game. The Germans are in their 3rd straight World Cup semifinal, and 10th overall. The Spanish are in their first ever semifinal. Which is stunning to the casual fan. You'd think Spain would get into the final four more often, but until they won Euro 2008, they had a reputation as underachievers and chokers. And they have underachieved at this tournament a bit, they've just been able to eek out the results. And Germany has overachieved, or rather has gotten the absolute maximum from their talent. But they've shown gaps. And they'll miss the suspended Thomas Müller, who's scored 4 of their 13 goals.

The Germans will still test Spain, and put them under pressure. Spain's had to deal with some stifling defensive tactics (Switzerland, Portugal, Paraguay), which is probably why they haven't looked that stellar. Germany has a solid defense, but they play forward and aggressive. Germany will need to finish their chances and hope for another early lead. I'm picking Spain, but hoping I'm wrong. 3-2 Spain.


The World Cup had been dominated by South America up to this point. All 5 South American teams advanced to the Round of 16. And the only one to get knocked out was Chile, who were eliminated by a fellow South American team. Europe, meanwhile, had seen powers like Italy and France fail to escape the group phase. But Europe vs. South America has been flipped on its head, as the Europeans were 3-0 against South American opponents in the quarterfinals.

Netherlands 2, Brazil 1

This wasn't as big of an upset as you might think. I picked the Netherlands to win, and they're also the 4th ranked team in the world. And they're one of the only team that's won every single game they've played in this World Cup. That being said, Brazil is Brazil is Brazil. They went up 1-0, and before Friday Brazil had NEVER lost a World Cup game when they led at half-time. 37 straight games without losing when leading at halftime. But they did so on Friday and lost 2-1. Watch out for the Dutch (the wave of Orange should make them easy to see), who are aiming for their first World Cup title.

Uruguay 1 (4), Ghana 1 (2)

I was not rooting for Ghana. Fuck Ghana. How can you root for the team that knocked out the US two Cups in a row? And I've been rooting for Uruguay since they won over my heart by stifling France on Day 1 of this tournament.

Both teams scored non-traditional, long distance goals. Sulley Muntari had a forgettable game, except for his why-not-shoot goal just before halftime. Diego Forlan had a monumental game and scored with a free kick in the 55th.

But the ending of this game is the story. After 120 minutes of back-and-forth soccer, Luis Suarez makes a fist save on a ball ticketed for the back of the net. But Suarez is a forward, not a goalie. So he gets a straight red for an intentional handball, but it was an intelligent play. If he keeps his hands down, Ghana scores and wins. Instead, he gave his team a fraction of a chance to win. They just needed Ghana to miss the penalty.

And that's what happened. The Uruguayan goalie became my new favorite non-German player when he started talking to the crossbar after Asamoah Gyan bounced his shot off it. Then when his teammates are taking penalties, the goalie has his back turned to the action, watching the crowd. Fernando Muslero, you are the man. Oh yeah, he also made a great diving save that turned out to be the difference in the penalty shootout.

Germany 4, Argentina 0

Again, Germany blows a team out, but it wasn't as close as the score suggests. That being said, Germany never looked the inferior team in this one. Their defense was able to stop Argentina's ferocious attacking just in the nick of time. And Germany's vaunted counterattack produced the final 3 goals.

Fuck Argentina, and fuck Maradonna, who called Thomas Müller a ball-boy a while back. Well Müller scored the opening goal, and participated in another. He was also harshly yellow carded and will miss the semifinals.

Miroslav Klose played his 100th game for Germany Saturday, and scored twice, which gives him 14 career World Cup goals. That's tied for 2nd all-time.

This game was the first of the elimination stage that I didn't pick correctly. I love being wrong sometimes.

Spain 1, Paraguay 0

The Paraguayans kept the Spanish at bay for over 80 minutes. At one crazy point of the game, two penalties were missed in the span of 2 or 3 minutes (one was hit, but disallowed for encroachment). Spain hasn't dazzled, but they've been able to win without playing at their absolute best. That's the mark of a potential World Cup Champion.

Believe it or not, this will be Spain's first trip to the World Cup semifinals.

We'll have a preview of the Semifinals very soon.