Stage: 1/16th Final
Winner Plays: Brazil or Chile
Time: 1600h GMT +1
Venue: Moses Mahiba Durban Stadium. Excellent tv coverage here, especially with the top down images. But the live editors seem to get trigger happy with replays while the ball is in a dangerous situation.
Referee: Alberto Undiano. The Basque referee is my candidate to referee the final, he is the best foul and dive spotter, and has refereed top games in Spain and the Champions League. The reason people don’t know him is because he tends to go unnoticed, which for a referee is a good thing.
Date of Birth: 08.10.1973
Height: 181 cm
Place of residence: Ansoain (NAVARRA) in the Basque country.
Mother tongue: Spanish
Other languages: English, French
International since: 2004
First international: Finland-Sweden (28.05.2004)
Fondest memory: FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, Final
Netherlands were expected to have the attacking power in the tournament that Germany has exhibited, but with Arjen Robben injured and van Persie in poor form they have huffed and chuffed thus far. Slovakia, after a mediocre start shockingly knocked Italy out of the tournament. They are not to be disregarded, but all indicators suggest that it will be Holland who picks up their game here and finally jump start the attractive style of play that Holland is renowned for.
Suggested Menu With Your Game
Appetizer: Dutch “Hollandse Nieuwe maatjesharing” or raw herring consumed by holding the tail above your mouth and lowering it down gradually. Takes some skill to do it elegantly and that is exactly the way Holland needs to play today.
Main Course: Bryndzové Halušky or gnocchi-like dumpling in sheep cheese is a delicious, heavy and rich Slovak recipe that if the Slovak team ate the night before should give them the necessary energy to beat Holland.
Drink: Žinčica the Dutch sour sheep’s milk should accompany this meal... you really need the heavy artillery against Holland!
Desert: Dutch “zoute drop“ or liquorice should have the final word... bitter and salty like the disappointment if Holland doesn’t play their best here, and to overpower the Slovak sheepish onslaught.
Wine: Slovak Tokai wine, especially dry Furmint, is not worse than the excellent Hungarian variety and should accompany this meal generously. Its musky, white roundness should go well with an entertaining match.
Squad Analysis: Holland
Unofficial Theme Song to Accompany Style of Play
An oldie, Dutch ‘90’s dance group 2 Unlimited provides us with “Are you for this?” and “No Limit” (One of the best electronic songs of all time really) because we still haven’t seen the real Holland and now is the time, and so far Holland has looked limited... and because there is no limit when Holland plays at its best.
Dutch total football is a flooding of the opponent’s defensive area and retaining possession while in an offensive posture. Coined by the marvellous, but sadly unsuccessful Dutch team of the 1970s, the style was adopted by Barcelona and is still what attracts fans to the club to this day. It depends on quick movements, rapid changes of tempo, skilled one or two touch passing, and a lot of work outside of set positions for the players.
This style has been represented by PSV and Ajax of the Dutch league for years, and in a more defensive version by Feyenoord Rotterdam. Now former Feyenoord coach Bert van Marwijk is in charge of the team and he has added a bit of defensive stability to sacrifice the all out attacking. Nevertheless, the Dutch tactic is based on aggressive off the ball movements from many players simultaneously, rapid passes, through balls and stretching the opponents defence to the maximum. It doesn’t so much depend on a dedicated forward, as the midfielders and wingers often get into scoring position. One defensive midfielder (De Jong) protects a defence with one strong (Mathijsen) and another fast (Heitinga) defender and the wingbacks are very important in defence and attack.
The Dutch offense rarely fails, and the whole team looks relatively well prepared for this tournament.
The Dutch goalkeeper is Stecklenburg is no Van der Sar.. but he has played well. Van Persie has looked tired in the Dutch attack line, and the defence could prove vulnerable against a tougher opponent like Brazil or Germany.
Key to beating Slovakia
Improving the Dutch game, and overwhelming the inexperienced Slovaks with good attacking. The Dutch should not get overconfident like the Italians and try to sit back... the Slovaks showed they are able to score.
Key Squad Members
Maarten Stekelenburg has not had the chance to prove himself at the highest level except through some acceptable performances with Ajax in the Champions League. He has however been a very consistent keeper lately, and this is probably the main reason for his first choice spot with Holland.
Nigel de Jong of Manchester City has been one of the best Dutch performers in South Africa so far. The 25-year-old is playing the vital but unglamorous role of regaining the ball in midfield for the Dutch team very well.
Wesley Sneijder is simply one of the most talented attacking midfielders on the planet. Unpredictable, highly skilled, an excellent free kick taker with a brutal long range shot... Real Madrid stupidly sold him to Inter where he was key in their treble winning season including the European crown. The Dutch going all the way can depend on his ability to demonstrate his genius.
Robin van Persie must show his quality in offence, so that fans can forget the controversial absence of Ruud van Nistleroy. His technique and pace have been largely invisible so far, and he has managed one ordinary goal... now is the time he must start to shine.
Arjen Robben is essential to the Dutch team, one of the best wing players on top of his game this year. His injury has made him absent so far, and his explosiveness and power seemed to be sorely missed for Holland. His reappearance and staying healthy could mean the Dutch can go very very far in this tournament.
Squad Analysis: Slovakia
Unofficial theme songs to accompany style of play
Brilliant classical piano from their greatest composer Eugene Suchon to inspire the perfection and style to which the Slovaks need to bring their game if they are to have any hope of beating Holland.
Slovakia have a lot of unknown talent, and their 4-4-2 has performed quite well. Weiss of Bolton and Stoch of Chelsea can dribble and create danger against other teams and Hamsik is an excellent central midfielder. This assures that the Slovaks will have goal scoring chances against even the best teams.
Surprising technical skill, dribbling, passing and cold finishing from Vittek who scored Slovakia’s first goal in a major tournament and added two more against the World Champions Italy.
Inexperience, and lack of consistent composure in a big game setting. The absence of defensive midfielder Strba due to suspension could really hurt them as he has been important.
Key to beating Holland
Discipline, using the few chances that they will get and not defending too long but trying to take the initiative. Their best chance should be with the wingers cutting inside and trying to use the open space when the Dutch go forward.
Key Squad Members
Jan Mucha the Slovak goalkeeper has had a good tournament and he is on his way to Everton next season to challenge the US’s Tim Howard for the number one spot. His challenge starts at the World Cup, and the pressure of stopping the Dutch attacks will certainly test his abilities.
Martin Skrtel of Liverpool is a maturing, great defender whose physique and determination have been an important source of stability in the Slovak’s maiden adventure. Will he stop his club colleague Dirk Kuijt today? His partner in defence Jan Durica of Hannover has not been weak this tournament either.
The coaches’ son Vladimir Weiss, and his opposite wing Miroslav Stoch who was a large part of FC Twente’s Dutch championship this season on loan from Chelsea are two young, skillful, dribbling wingers who make mistakes but cover for them with good work rate.
Robert Vittek, now at Turkish capital club Ankaragucu has scored loads of goals in his career and is a cool, concentrated, composed finisher. None of the goals have been as important as Slovakia’s first major tournament goal, and the two he has scored against Italy. He keeps his head and composure, and refuses to make a big deal out of the three goal achievement—an attitude that can easily lead to more goals.
Expected Result : Holland, fired by Robben’s return, overpowers Slovakia 4-0 or 4-1.
A Slight Surprise : Holland struggles and wins 2-1.
A real shocker : Slovakia sends the Dutch to join the Italian at the airport. What a performance they would need to put in!
Obi Wan Asterix Says : It won’t be easy, but Slovakia should lack the experience to make the best of their talent here, and Holland should be more effective than in previous matches. Holland can win this game with their substitutes if things get tough.