With the tournament drawing to a close, the final four matchups have been decided. Of the three European clubs remaining, Spain and Netherlands have never won a World Cup title, while Germany is closing in on its fourth.
The vaunted South American contingent is down to one nation. Despite the oddsmaker’s (and my own) best predictions, it isn’t Brazil or Argentina. It is Uruguay that will round out the final four with a match against the Netherlands. With only a few games left to go, here is yet another attempt at getting a set of predictions right in this tournament.
Netherlands vs Uruguay
Last Friday, the Dutch played the role of giant killers, defeating tournament favourites Brazil and putting themselves in position to reach their first Cup final since the 1970s. The victory was Holland’s fifth straight in the tournament. The Oranje have the look of a force to be reckoned with heading into the final four.
Much of the credit for their rise can be given to the stalwart play exhibited by Arjen Robben and Wesley Snejder, who have overcome both injury and inconsistent play to find the form that gave them so much success for their clubs this year. Robben’s mastery along the right sideline proved fatal for Brazil, who weren’t able to match Miguel Bastos nor Felipe Melo against him. Both defenders’ mistakes, particularly Melo’s, eventually allowed Snejder to equalize, and then put Holland ahead in the second half.
Uruguay, winners of the first ever World Cup and South America’s lone remaining nation in the tournament. La Celeste have managed a few lucky breaks to get them into the semifinals. However, they are still a confident and dangerous squad that is built solid at the back and in the attack.
Uruguay’s forwards are led by Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan, playing at the top of his game and leading his country with three goals in the tournament. His finishing skill is counted amongst the best in the world. He will be called upon to lead Uruguay against the Dutch defense.
Tuesday night in Cape Town, Uruguay and the Netherlands will face off to determine which nation will be represented in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final. Though many are counting the Dutch as clear favourites, they will be in for a fight against a South American opponent familiar with shutting down potent attacks.
However, when they are playing at their top form Holland has been dominant. They will look to prevail on the cusp of their third Finals appearance and possibly their first ever World Cup title.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-Uruguay 0
In their quest for a fourth World Cup, Germany has reaped the benefits of a youth movement within their national soccer program. The Mannschaft ’s average player age falls just under 25 years old. In the absence of veteran Michael Ballack, captain Philipp Lahm and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger have displayed commanding performances for their nation.
With strikers Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose reaching their usual top form, Germany’s attack has developed into a fearsome one. In their matchup against Spain, the Germans will miss the services of suspended forward Thomas Mueller, a key part of the German attack with four goals in the tournament.
The 20-year-old has been instrumental in moving the ball up to Klose and Podolski. His absence could remove some of the fluidity to the German game.
Despite their own considerable talent up front, the Spanish have found goals hard to come by in South Africa. La Furia Roja scored just four goals playing in a relatively easy group. They have only managed to find the back of the net twice in their last two matches. With Fernando Torres unable to regain his form, striker David Villa has been counted on to lead the attack.
This Villa has done admirably, notching five goals so far and leading the race for the Golden Boot award given to the tournament’s top scorer. Despite Villa’s prowess, Spain was slow to get going in the first half against Paraguay. They can’t afford to do the same against a German side that has made a habit of scoring early in this tournament.
With both teams playing strong attacking football, this game will come down to each team’s ability to play responsibly at the back. With Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol manning the centre Spain looks to have the advantage, especially with Mueller out. However Germany is a team with a wealth of depth and a backline has given away few opportunities to opponents. All factors considered this semifinal has the potential to be a beauty.
Prediction: Spain 2-Germany 1