Well, here we are at the business end of the World Cup. I have really enjoyed the Tournament to this point; usually, my summer are filled with long, hot days where I simply read club transfer speculation, chew on my fingernails and drive myself a little insane waiting for the start of the new season. The World Cup has been a wonderful respite from the typical American summer and despite the massive disappointment of Team USA going out against Ghana (coulda woulda shoulda), I have been having a ball writing about the matches and making educated guesses about who might win and why. So far, pretty good; I've gone 10 for 12 since the Group stages ended and if I had access to a casino and massive amounts of disposable income, I probably would have made a decent return at the sports book. I'm game to keep it going, so here's a guess as to the Semifinal match results; hope I can keep the good times rolling...
The Netherlands vs Uruguay
The Dutch have been my dark horse from the beginning and now, coming off of a huge come-from-behind win against Brazil, it seems prudent to stick with them. Uruguay will be missing some key players, with Luis Suárez suspended for his heroic handball against Ghana, defensive stalwart Diego Lugano out with a damaged knee ligament and Nicolas Lodeiro done with a broken foot; the injury bug seems to have arrived at precisely the wrong moment for Uruguay. Yes, they have class with Diego Forlán, who has been one of the big stars of this Tournament, but I just don't think Diego Perez and Egidio Arévalo are going to be enough in the midfield against Rafael Van der Vaart and Mark Van Bommel, let alone Wesley Sneijder, who is on fire right now. And with Jorge Fucile suspended, Alvaro Pereira will have to mark Arjen Robben, who should torture him all night long. I think the Dutch are in such good shape, I expect the out-of-sorts Robin Van Persie to score in this one and give The Netherlands a comfortable win against Uruguay, a team who are missing too many crucial players to overcome an in-form and undefeated Dutch side. Holland all the way to the Final.
Winner: The Netherlands
Germany vs Spain
This is a really, really tough call.
I'm going with Germany.
With Fernando Torres completely out of form for Spain and perhaps relegated to the bench, the Germans will have to focus on stopping David Villa, whose performance in the World Cup has cemented him as the best striker in the world right now, hands down and no question about it. If they focus too hard on that task, they'll get a face full of Xavi and Iniesta, both of whom are dominant in possession and who can carve open a defense with patience alone. Add in Cesc Fabregas playing in front of Busquets and Xabi Alonso, and you have a drool-inducing line-up of creative, attacking players, anyone of whom can get the job done and score a crucial goal to send Spain into the Final.
For me, the surprising MVP of the Tournament so far has been Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has been converted from a winger into a playmaking central midfielder in this German set-up only to thrive and dominate the midfield against England and Argentina, respectively. I think Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira can spring Germany into attack by besting Busquets and Alonso; if Germany can contain Spain like Paraguay did, by pressing the ball and then punching back through Özil, Podolski and Klose, they have a huge chance to dismantle Spain this time around. You probably remember the Euro 2008 Final, when Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the match and Spain controlled the ball against the Germans? A refresher, just in case:
You recognize all of those faces, right? Same team for Spain, it should be the same result, right? I just don't think so; Spain have, as they say, flattered to deceive, controlling their matches but unable to make much of a breakthrough in the attack, relying on Villa's late game magic again and again to pull out results. At the same time, their defense, especially Gerard Pique, have struggled against fast, creative players on the counter attack which, unfortunately for them, describes the Germany team perfectly. I think this is another tight game, I don't see Germany walking it with four goals again, but I think Spain, despite having a wide array of tremendous players, will be found out against a fast, powerful Germany. This one could go either way, but based on the evidence I've seen in the past month, Germany are the team to beat in this match. I have them meeting The Netherlands in what should be a classic Final.
These should be great matches... can't wait to see what unfolds next.
Up Next: Semifinals