Sportsball (World Cup 2010), Matchday Twenty (Quarter Finals)

Netherlands 2-1 Brazil

A real game of two halves. In the first, Brazil were awe-inspiring in their dominance, giving a great display of attacking quality. The Dutch were sheared in two for Robinho’s strike. The Brazilians should have pushed on and finished the game as a contest before the half time whistle. But, the Netherlands held it at 1-0. The defence was shaken and the attack wasn’t doing the business.

But they held on. And came out swinging from the dressing room. Suddenly, they were the Dutch team of old. The defensive tactics of the group stages were thrown off. The equalizer and the winner both came from set plays where the Brazilian back line self destructed. Poor marking, bad communication between keeper and defence. With the red card, Brazil, seemed to lose their way completely and never really looked like they could get back into it, or force extra time. The Orange defence was solid, and they could have stolen a few more goals at the death. As it is, they should be proud of their turnaround in form here, and can look forward to (on paper) the easier of the semi-final draws.

Bad days from Brazil who must face the fact that they have failed to progress beyond the quarter finals two tournaments in a row. That’s Dunga finished. And a bad start to their hosting of the next tournament.

I said before when discussing this game that I was concerned that the Netherlands had yet to face a true test in this tournament or in their long unbeaten run. Well, they have faced that test today and passed it with flying colours.

The Dutch team of the 1970s is often considered the best national side that never won the World Cup. Could we be looking at Dutch redemption for that side? We’ll see. They have a real chance to do it.

A should say a word about the officials who were poor. A lot of needless frees, cards and believed dives. The Linesmen were similarly poor, slow to react.

Ghana 1-1 Uruguay (Uruguay win on penalties)

This game has many stories coming out of it.

It’s underdog against underdog. Faint hope against faint hope. Champions of long ago against the last chance of the host continent.

The first half saw Uruguay make up most of the running, creating a number of chances. Forlan was on form and Suarez was a constant threat. Ghana held out, though it was more to do with Uruguay’s lack of finishing than anything.

Then, the stunning blow that was Ghana’s opener, coming at a truly awful time for Uruguay. Detractors of the ball will point to this goal as major evidence: it certainly seemed to curve unnaturally on the way in. Ghana had the lead, a little against the run of play.

Uruguay came out with intent in the second, refusing to give into panic (like say, England) and sticking to the gameplan: pressure, passing, waiting for the opportunities. Forlan became the hero he has always has the capability to be, with an excellent swerving free-kick (more Jubalani concerns?).

From there it seemed like neither side wanted to press too hard for a winner, fearful of leaving too many gaps at the back. Ghana were the more defensive of the two, probably more concerned with fatigue, heading into their second consecutive extra time. They pressed harder in the extra thirty but didn’t seem to have the initiative to win like they had against the US.

Gyan had the chance. Suarez did what any player would have done, sacrificing his involvement in this game (and possibly a semi-final) to keep Uruguay in the contest. Gyan stepped up and blasted it off the bar.

Then, we saw something extraordinary. Gyan volunteered, stepped up to take one of the shoot-out kicks. And not any kick, the first one. Having just botched Ghana’s chances of getting to the semis, it was a truly brave act. He didn’t change his style either, still hitting high.

In the end, it was the Uruguayan keeper who was the real hero of the shoot-out, his second stop being truly excellent. Muslera, a very young stickkeeper, should feel very proud of his effort tonight.

They were two very even teams, and I would hesitate to name Uruguay as the better one. It’s a shame about Ghana, they should take great heart from their tournament run. They should go on to success in the next African Nations and Brazil in four years time. The best of Africa by a country mile.

Uruguay face the Dutch then. Uruguay have done very well to get this far but the Dutch have faced the big test and passed it. They would seem to be the best of the remaining nations at this point. With Suarez missing from the semis, I have to favour the Dutch.

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