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Fresh Meat

NETHERLANDS – SPAIN

“Fresh Meat”

Final – Preview

July 11th, 2010

There’s a first time for everything, and for Spain, it’s a World Cup Final.  For the Netherlands, it could potentially be their first ever World Cup trophy after featuring in the final in 1974 and 1978.  Those appearances coupled with their Euro 1988 win give the Dutch the historical edge, but recently, Spain is the more accomplished of the two sides after winning Euro 2008.

Neither side is a sure bet for the win, as they are both more than capable of winning the tournament.  The pitch will be packed with talent as the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt will take on the Spanish Armada consisting of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and David Villa.  Ironically, both teams have been notorious for choking in the past, yet both find themselves thrust onto literally the greatest stage in world football.

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Netherlands –

The Oranje are a well oiled machine.  Any questions that were asked of them before the tournament have promptly been answered as the Dutch are now 6/6 in South Africa.  They’re not as flashy as some of their supporters would like, but you can’t argue with the results they’re cranking out.  Beating Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay is no small order but the Oranje have done it well.

In a rich vein of form, the Inter Milan man could win the Champions League and World Cup this year.

Stengths

The Dutch have world class talent littered across the pitch.  Wesley Sneijder is almost without question, the best attacking midfielder in the world and he’s flanked by Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt – two very different players but both extremely effective in their play.  Against Uruguay, their back line looked a lot better than it did in the first half against Brazil, and all four starters should be fit and ready to go against Spain.

Weaknesses

Their defensive unit.  Van Bronckhorst, their captain is 35, Joris Mathijsen is 30 and Andre Ooijer (should he be used) is 35.  Now Van Bronckhorst showed that he still has quite a bit of power in his screamer against Uruguay, but he still can be exposed by speed and trickery.  Notably, he will face quite a bit more of that against the Spaniards, who are brimming with confidence and skill.  If David Villa has a bad game (you never know), then it could really open the match up as Netherlands will be able to fortify the back line while using van Bommel to help defense flow seamlessly into attack.  Also, the Dutch will really have to hope that Robin Van Persie finds some kind of form, because their striking department has lacked bite.

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Spain

If there’s any time to buckle, this is not it.  However, you can’t help but feel that having never been to the finals, that this might be their most likely time to do so.  With so much expectation and playing such hot-and-cold football, who really knows what Spain team will show up against the Netherlands.

Strengths

What isn’t a strength for Spain?  The boast one of the best keepers on the planet, Pique and Puyol anchor the back line, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and Pedro/Busquets make up the midfield and they have one of the most in-form strikers in the world in David Villa.  They play classy and attractive football, and should they score the first goal, the Netherlands will find it incredibly tough to bounce back.  They’re the strongest squad on paper going into the final, but, as we all know well, that doesn’t mean much.

Weaknesses

The Spanish aren’t flawless, as many would like to believe.  They have tendencies and soft spots that can be exposed if rubbed the right way.  Playing with a lone striker allows teams to crowd them out and frustrate their attack.  Netherlands isn’t known as a counter attacking team, which isn’t good news for Spain as their style is tailormade for stiffling counter attacking play.  I’ve always said that Joan Capdevila is their weakest player, and while that says a lot about their starting line up (because Capdevila is a solid player), he will be facing Arjen Robben and likely Dirk Kuyt.  As the Germans tried to exploit (albeit unsuccessfully) were the soft spots behind the holding midfielder and in front of the defense.  And with Ramos pushing so far up the pitch, Sneijder will make a killing off those pockets in which he can work with Kuyt or Robben.

Gelson Fernandes scores the winner for Switzerland against Spain in the Group opener.

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Prediction – Both teams are formidable sides, but it’s hard to look past Spain now.  Germany was probably their sternest test, and with that out of the way, they look like they could well go on to win it.

Netherlands 0 – 2  Spain

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Round 2 – Germany v. Spain Preview

A late addition to Football Station, I know, but today is a vital match up between familiar foes who have met on the international stage before in Euro 2008.  In that instance, Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game as the Iberian squad marched to victory over the Germans.

David Villa has carried the goal count almost entirely (Iniesta has one!).

This time, it’s different.  Much different.  Germany are steamrolling teams and looking like an downright powerhouse going into this tie, and despite the fact that Spain has one of the most talented rosters in the world, they haven’t hit top gear in South Africa just yet.  After losing to Switzerland, the Spanish have won every game, but they have yet to play a team such as Germany, and their shortcomings could become evident while playing such a team.

Do the Germans have any flaws?  You bet.  They aren’t as deep a squad as they would like, luckily for the Germans, it doesn’t look like they need one.  However, with Thomas Mueller suspended from the freak “handball” call in their game against Argentina, the youngster will have to sit this one out.  Piotr Trochowski the 26 year old Hamburg man, takes his spot and will be looking to take the Spanish apart with his skillful dribbling.

The Spanish don’t exactly have many flaws.  If the form of Fernando Torres was present in one of their full backs, then there might be a real problem.  Maybe that’s why he isn’t starting.  But the nice thing for the Spanish is that you can afford to have a

Mesut Ozil has been key for the Germans in South Africa.

forward not on top form.  That said, Spain’s biggest problem, historically, is their inability to finish teams off.  This could be entirely possible if Torres doesn’t hit top gear.  Villa has been carrying the goal load almost single handedly in South Africa and could really use some help from his striking compatriot.  Germany play rough and tough defense, something Torres will be familiar from being a Liverpool player.  Will it pay dividends?  Eh, we’ll see.

The Spanish have a loaded midfield full of talent, pinpoint passing and plenty of guile.  Well isn’t that convenient…because so do the Germans.  Germany have Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Ozil and Podolski.  Spain have Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets.  It’s close but the edge may go to Spain.  Spain are vulnerable to the counter attack, though, as their striking department contain the most pace on the pitch.  Xabi Alonso isn’t known for pace, nor is Busquets.  Puyol can be vulnerable to a pacy player and Capdevila (probably the weakest link for the Spaniards, which is saying a lot) has been exposed in the past as well.

Germany’s biggest fear should be extra time.  Should they have to draw from the bench late on in the game, the Spanish can take it.  Also, the Germans haven’t had to really chase a game this World Cup, and when they did, they lost to Serbia.  If the Spaniards score first, that could be curtains as well.

Prediction

If the match doesn’t go to extra time…

Germany 2 – 1  Spain

If it does…

Could go anywhere…but we fancy Spain.



Surprise Package?

As the knockout stages get under way, let’s examine who some of the most influential and surprising players of the tournament have been in South Africa.

5. Robert Vittek – The 28 year old Slovakian striker made a name for himself with two goals in the 3-2 victory over defending

Vittek nets his first for Slovakia against Italy.

champion Italy on Thursday.  Vittek and the Slovaks caught the Italian defense sleeping several times in their match yesterday, and were able to capitalize on three of those chances.  Turns out, that was enough.  The spritely hitman who plies his trade at…uh…Ankaragücü (Turkish side) seemingly ran for the entire 92 minutes he was on the pitch.  He is tied for top scorer in South Africa alongside big names like Gonzalo Higuain and David Villa.  Despite the fact that Vittek, along with the entire Slovakian side, have impressed so far in South Africa, they face an undefeated Dutch side in the knockout rounds.  But if history has told us anything, the Dutch will choke against some opponent, and the Slovak’s will be wondering: why not us?

4. Michael Bradley – For the coach’s son, South Africa has been his playground.  The calm and collected center midfielder is only 22 years old, but to the passing onlooker could be confused for a player 8 years older.  Bradley has turned in key performances in every game the Yanks have played in the World Cup, regardless of who his midfield partner is.  He scored the equalizer in one of the games of the tournament against Slovakia, and has been a rock in stopping attacks and a spark plug in starting them.  Without him, the United States would be standing on sea legs in the ocean that is South Africa.  The Borussia Mochengladbach lynchpin could have put himself in the shop window for bigger European clubs this summer, and with his displays against talented opposition, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get a look.

3.  Alexis Sanchez – Quick and dynamic, Sanchez has played a hand in most every attacking move for the Chilean side, who

He'll be listening to offers after South Africa.

have been impressive going forward the in all their matches.  The winger/striker plays for a very respectable Udinese side in Serie A.  Interestingly, the young gun has no goals this tournament, but has still been a key player for his South American side’s progression into the knockout stages.  They now face a Brazilian side coming off of a disappointing draw against Portugal and may be prime for some surprise attacking football…something that the Chileans almost guarantee.  Chile were unlucky to be reduced to 10 men against Spain.  It would have been a very different game if they were at full strength, as Sanchez & Co were running at the Spanish backline with speed and technically aplomb.

2. Mesut Ozil – Controversial pick here, because Ozil of Werder Bremen was known as a great player before his time in South Africa.  However, many did not give him the credit they are giving him now after his performances in group play.  In Germany’s first game against Australia, the 21 year old checked in with two assists, not to mention countless passes over and through the Australian back line.  Ozil has single handedly ensured that the presence of Michael Ballack has not been missed.  Ozil’s creativity has been the high point of Germany’s World Cup campaign and he capped off group play with a stunning strike against Ghana. He is just about as young as anybody at the tournament, but is playing at a level that the highest performers are on.  Looking for a bet?  Put it on Ozil moving to a bigger name European club for big bucks.

Honda will grow to be one of the hottest talents in world football.

1. Keisuke Honda – CSKA Moscow’s paying £6 millon for Honda now looks like a steal, as the Japanese wizard has lit up Group E.  He opened his first ever World Cup with the winning goal over Cameroon, and has continued to work his magic on the back lines in South Africa, most recently against Denmark as first he smashed a freekick into Thomas Sorenson’s net from 30 yards out but, towards the end of the game, he gave a craftily turned inside the box, and, rather than being selfish, played the ball across to substitute Shinji Okazaki for a goal.  He has been a revelation for the Japanese, and will be their biggest asset going into their clash with Paraguay, which is entirely winnable.  The manager’s claim that they could make their way into the quarterfinals.  With Keisuke Honda’s help, it’s a real possibility.



Spain Chokes…again

Before the tournament started, Spain were tipped by many to make a massive impact, even take home the Cup.  But their perennial underachievers tag keeps several pundits in check, as they consistently find a way to make themselves lose.  With no Fernando Torres in the starting lineup, David Villa started on his own up top for La Furia Roja.

After a fairly drab first half (now a standard at this World Cup), the second half was promising much of the same.  However, a chaotic goal from Switzerland in the form of Gelson Fernandes was squeezed past the Spanish backline.  After being pinned back in their half for the entirety of the second half, the rare break forward and goal was particularly surprising for anybody watching the game.

Goal scorer Gelson Fernandes battles Sergio Ramos in Durban

In response, Vicente Del Bosque brought in Fernando Torres and Jesus Navas to try and pry apart the Swiss.  The change nearly paid immediate dividends as Torres was played in twice by Villa in what is looking reminiscent of their once potent partnership, but the former scuffed his first shot and forced a corner with his second.  With the ensuing corner, Xabi Alonso absolutely thrashed his shot into the crossbar to see it bounce out.  Jesus Navas also managed an effort that made Diego Benaglio get down for the save.

Eren Derdiyok nearly made it two for the Swiss as he danced around Pique and then Puyol to hit the post.  Had that gone in, Spain would have emulated their underachieving ways from times past.

Spain attacked with 9 men and the Swiss defended with 10 while looking dangerous on the counter attack all match.  With time winding down, Spain repeatedly beat on the door and won several corners…but to no avail.

The Swiss pulled off the upset of the tournament as they beat Spain 1-0 and that has officially concluded the first round of games.  Here’s a fun fact – this is the lowest scoring World Cup ever after 16 games. A moot issue.  Now the tournament has started.

Spain didn’t play terribly, Switzerland just defended like crazy and countered well.  One may argue La Furia Roja could have used Fabregas to give a different edge to the Spanish side.

Diego. He's got your number.

Man of the Match – Diego Benaglio – The Swiss keeper was on top form all match and kept the Spaniards at bay.

Analysis – Spain should still make it out of the group alive, but it throws a huge spin on Group H…especially when Chile plays Switzerland.  Spain need to shrug this off in order to advance, though.



Battle for Second Spot – Group H
Group H –

Spain
Switzerland
Honduras
Chile

The top dog here looks assuredly like Spain.  La Furia Roja are one of the most complete sides in the world, and they, along with the entire nation, would be disappointed with anything less that 9 points from 3 matches.  So with Spain looking the dominant force in Group H, an intriguing battle arises for the runner-up spot.  Honduras are no slouches by any means, this isn’t the Swiss’s first rodeo, not to mention they have a superb coach, and Chile’s attacking mentality is sure to disrupt some of the backlines in the group.
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Chile –
The Chileans look to be one of the early favorites to head into the next round.  With their attacking play and free form

Humberto Suazo (left) and Mark Gonalez look to celebrate in Group H.

forward movements, they will surely wreak havoc on more than one team.  In Humberto Suazo, they have South America’s leading scorer in qualifying with 10 goals, and playing off him is Alexis Sanchez, who has been dubbed “The Wonder Boy” for his technical ability.  On the other side, there’s Mark Gonzalez aka “Speedy Gonzalez”, and make no mistake, his pace will undoubtedly cause some problems for slower outside backs, particularly Switzerland, Chile’s main rival for second spot.  Behind these three lies Mathias Fernandez, the 2006 South American Player of the Year, who not only takes on defenders with aplomb, but is known for his creative play and no look passes.  Chile has top notch manager in Marcelo Bielsa, nicknamed “El Loco”.  However, there’s nothing crazy his results.  He experiments…a lot.  He plays a 3-3-1-3 some days, a 3-4-3 the next or a 4-1-2-1-2 when he’s feeling lucky.  His experimentation and attack-minded play have been a revelation for Chile and they will look to bring that same style of play to South Africa.

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Honduras –
The technically gifted South Americans will be nothing to take lightly.  They have talented players in just about every area across the pitch and though they might be favorites to bottom the group, are by no means the minnows of Group H.  Up top, there’s David Suazo of Genoa on loan from Internazionale , the Serie A Foreign Player of the Year in 2006.  Behind him is his cousin and Wigan Athletic’s Hendry Thomas and Tottenham’s Wilson Palacios.  The manager Reinaldo Rueda will likely play a 4-4-2 with Palacios and Thomas playing holding mid while Edgar Alvarez and captain Amado Guevara feed the ball up top. Their trickery will be interesting to see when paired with that of Chile’s own ability and then Switzerland’s defensive approach to the game.  Los Catrachos’ biggest flaw lies between the goalposts.  Noel Valladares guards the goalmouth for Honduran professional team Olimpia, but he is known for shaky displays and weak clearances.  That could cost them dearly in a group hell bent on advancing to the next round.
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Switzerland –
The Swiss have qualified for the World Cup for the second time in a row, and they are hoping to avoid their fate last time around when they narrowly missed out on the knockout stages.  Going in their favor they have Alexander Frei , their captain and leading goalscorer by twice the amount of the second highest scorer (40 goals).  Unfortunately, the second highest scorer is Hakan Yakin, the 33 year old midfielder/striker.  Yakin is past his prime and should only feature as a substitute.  The next highest scorer is Blaise Nkufo, who is 35 and has scored a lowly 7 goals.  After them, Tranquillo Barnetta has 6 goals and Philippe Senderos with 5.  Obviously, Switzerland’s biggest problem lies in front of goal.  The goal scoring tally goes: 40, 20, 7, 6, 5…etc.  That is why the Swiss rely on their defense to get them through.  They do, however, have several midfielders that are looking to be quite the players but aren’t quite at the pinnacle of their careers.  Next World Cup could be a much different story for the Swiss.
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Joan Capdevila could be the achilles heel of the Spanish side, if any.

Spain
They are technically gifted, pinpoint passers, clinical finishers and overall world class opponents.  Spain has something that not every team in South Africa has, talent AND team chemistry.  The Spanish duo of Xavi and Iniesta are very familiar with each other from playing at Barcelona together, and Fernando Torres and David Villa have partnered each other for the last few years.  Xabi Alonso sits deep and sprays long passes all over the pitch and opens up the wide lanes for play.  If you had to chose a weakness in this Spanish side it would be the left side of defense, Joan Capdevila.  Capdevila is a very capable outside back, however he is probably the least capable player at their position on the pitch, which is saying a lot at how talented this squad is.  Even if there is some shortcomings in defense, they have Iker Casillas in goal, who is a World Player of the Year for 2009 and one of the best ‘keepers on the planet.  It will take some great skill to make one’s way through the midfield, defense and goalkeeper to score, and we may only see that in the later stages
of the competition.
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Prediction
1.  Spain
2.  Chile (possibly by goal difference)
3.  Switzerland
4.  Honduras


Robb-ed!
June 5, 2010, 8:32 AM
Filed under: World Cup | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Arjen Robben has become the latest casualty to injury, as he has had a hamstring injury in the Dutch’s 6-1 mauling of Hungary.

The winger could be down and out.

Coach Van Marwijk told reporters, “I would rather lose this match and have Arjen stay fit.  He felt a sharp pain.  That does not bode well.  But I do not lose hope.”

The manager ruled out calling up any standby players until Robben’s scans come back tomorrow, and then will “make a plan”  based off that.

Is this a conspiracy?  Did some country pay everybody to have their stars “injured”?  I suppose Kaká and David Villa are next then!  Here’s to what is sure to be an exciting World Cup.



Transfer News July 23rd

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July 23rd, 2009

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MIRROR

  • Xabi Alonso has raised the stakes in his tense battle of wills with Rafa Benitez over his move to Real Madrid.
  • John Terry has told his team-mates he will stay at Chelsea.
  • Eidur Gudjohnsen admits he s thinking over a move to West Ham and the chance to work with Zola again.
  • Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is ready to move in on Aston Villa’s bid for Pompey defender Sylvain Distin.
  • Burnley boss Owen Coyle wants to sign Ecuadorian winger Fernando Guerrero after his sensational debut on their American tour.
  • Portsmouth have made a £2million offer for Hull defender Sam Ricketts.
  • Phil Brown aims to end his frustrations in the transfer market with a £7million deal for Cardiff’s Joe Ledley and Ross McCormack.
  • Preston boss Alan Irvine is in talks with Didi Hamann about a shock move to the Championship after he was freed by Manchester City.
  • THE SUN
  • John Terry will be staying at Chelsea.
  • Jamie Carragher has led the call for Liverpool to keep Real Madrid target Xabi Alonso.

    David Villa - still linked with a move abroad to England now that his moves to Spain seem to have fallen through

    David Villa - still linked with a move abroad to England now that his moves to Spain seem to have fallen through

  • Manchester United have denied any transfer funds are being kept from Alex Ferguson.
  • Steve Bruce wants to seal a £10million deal for Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh.
  • Phil Brown will test Cardiff’s determination to hang on to Joe Ledley by tabling a £5million bis.
  • Tony Pulis is poised to make Dean Whitehead his first summer signing at Stoke.
  • DAILY STAR:
  • Diego Maradona is being lined up by Portsmouth for a sensational move to the Premier League.
  • Chelsea expect John Terry to make a public announcement that he is staying at the club by the end of the week.
  • Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh was last night on the verge of joining Sunderland.
  • Hull manager Phil Brown will test Cardiff’s resolve with a £5million bid for Joe Ledley.
  • DAILY EXPRESS:
  • AC Milan are poised to make a shock £10million bid for Nicklas Bendtner.
  • Sunderland are in pole position to sign Marouane Chamakh.
  • Sunderland have also made a new move to sign Spurs striker Darren Bent.
  • Burnely have reignited their attempts to sign Norwich midfielder Darel Russell.
  • Manchester United’s owners, the Glazer family, have denied claims they have bocked Sir Alex Ferguson from spending the rest of the £8om kitty from Cristiano Ronaldo’s sale.
  • DAILY MAIL:
  • Manchester City will make a sensational last-gasp bid to sign John Terry by offering the Chelsea captain £1m a month in wages.
  • Darren Bent’s move to Sunderland looked back on last night.
  • Rafael Benitez is facing a crucial stage in his tenure as Liverpool manager as he fends off renewed interest in his disgruntled midfielders Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.
  • Blackburn defender Keith Andrews is a target for Fulham.
  • Aston Villa will return with an improved £3m offer for 31-year-old Sylvain Distin.
    Bendtner - a surprise target for AC Milan

    Bendtner - a surprise target for AC Milan

    DAILY RECORD:

  • Macedonian striker Ilco Naumoski has asked Hearts to improve their offer and bring him to the SPL.
  • Rumours -Pure, unadulterated rumours.  No facts.  Just rumours.

    • Manchester United and Liverpool are both teeing up large bids for David Villa, but are both wary that should the Spaniard choose the rival club, it would spell humiliation for the other.
    • If Arsenal want Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, Real Madrid are asking to have first option on Cesc Fabregas when he chooses to leave the Emirates in the future.
    • Luis Fabiano and fellow Brazilian and former Ballon D’or winner Ronaldinho are on their way to Stamford Bridge.
    • Tottenham have secured the services on Aston Villa’s Ashley Young.
    • Michael Essien is preparing his move to Manchester United
    • Jermain Defoe will move to Sunderland with Keiron Richardson moving in the opposite direction.