FIFA World Cup

Netherlands vs. Uruguay 2010: Midfield Key for Netherlands in Semifinal

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 02:  Dani Alves of Brazil tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Netherlands and Brazil at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on July 2, 2010 in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Lars Baron/Getty Images
Daniel ZylberkanCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2010

Coming into the game tomorrow, the main talking point will be all of the suspensions for both sides.

Luis Suarez got a red card for something that he did out of instinct and clearly not on purpose. Heroism shouldn't be punished and I think that's a shame for the game of football.

The Netherlands will be missing two key pieces of the defensive shape and discipline that makes their cavalier attacking attitude possible at all. Nigel De Jong and Gregory van der Wiel will be missing tomorrow's game for too many yellow cards.

Despite this, the Dutch still have the upper hand on an Uruguayan team that will most definitely retreat into their own half of the pitch and try to capitalize on the counterattack.

This tactic will prove unsuccessful against a Dutch side that is deep and balanced enough to replace their suspended defensive stalwarts. I'll admit that I don't know who will replace van der Wiel and De Jong. But they will be able to replace them with little impact to the quality of the defense.

Uruguay has made it this far by honestly and no disrespect by playing ugly, defensive football. The only scored more than one goal twice and against two teams that are not known for their defensive discipline, attitude, or skill; South Africa and South Korea.

Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who will probably be replaced by Abreu, have scored a gross of goals in the past year (a gross is a lot, I guess). But they've had problems actually getting the ball to the strikers in  compromising positions for the other team.

Edinson Cavani, Nicolas Lodeiro, Alvaro Fernandez, and Maxi Pereira have tried to feed good balls into the penalty area for the strikers, but they have been largely unsuccessful or unwilling. A defensive style of play can lead to complacency on the attack.

But it seems that Uruguay's midfield and servicing is obviously their weakness, which against a team like the Netherlands will make it very hard to score on regular possession. The counter attack, their main offensive weapon, will prove too imprecise against a very stout and disciplined Dutch defensive six.

The Netherlands have the opposite outlook and style in their midfield; Robben, Kuyt, and Sneijder have a quality to their attack which sparkles, fizzes, and excites. In essence, they are still playing the "Total Football" their forefathers introduced and forced upon the world in the 1970s.

What is nominally a 4-5-1 can be a 4-4-2 a 4-3-3 or even a 4-2-4 depending on how the play works out. All their offensive midfielders have the ability to play the other attacking positions and have a willingness to tuck in and combine in and around the box in a very ad-hoc, but organized and elegant form of attack.

Most importantly, this style of play always gives van Persie good chances to score in front of the goal.

Uruguay hasn't played a side as good and creative as the Dutch so far in this tournament, and they've gotten to the semifinal almost by default—and through a lot of luck.

The Four Horsemen are in attack for the men in Orange. Robben, Kuyt, van Persie, and Sneijder will prove too much for an ugly, boring Uruguay side.

Netherlands 3:0 Uruguay

 

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