worldcup 2010


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Final key battles

Some of the key battles for today’s World Cup final at Soccer City between the Netherlands and Spain:

Mark van Bommel v Xabi Alonso: Bayern Munich’s hardman van Bommel against Real Madrid’s tough guy Alonso will be the key battle in the midfield. The 33-year-old Dutchman has had a new lease of life at this World Cup and his consistent performances have helped put the Dutch in the final. Van Bommel – who returned to the national side once his father-in-law Bert van Marwijk replaced Marco van Basten after Euro 2008 – does the hard work in midfield to allow Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to test defences up front. Alonso, 28, put in a big defensive performance to snuff out Germany’s fire in the semi-final and the Real midfielder will again be looking to leave Oranje attackers red-faced.

Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben v Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique: Between them, the Dutch dynamos have bagged seven goals so far and defenders get nervous whenever either of the pair have the ball at their feet. But Spain’s centre-backs Puyol and Pique managed to subdue Germany’s attack – which is more than England or Argentina managed. Together, the Barcelona defenders are a powerful unit at the back.

David Villa v Maarten Stekelenburg: Barcelona’s new signing has five goals and is battling with Sneijder to win the golden boot as the tournament’s top-scorer, while Holland’s goalkeeper Stekelenburg leaked two goals to Uruguay in the semi-final. Spain’s finishing has left a lot to be desired at this tournament – they have yet to win by more than a single goal – but they have been creating many chances and Stekelenburg is usually reliable, though, he could be held to account for Diego Forlan’s goal in the semi-final.

Iker Casillas v Robin van Persie: Arsenal’s van Persie has a dream of holding the World Cup on his team-mates shoulders, but Spain’s captain and goalkeeper is a major obstacle in making the dream become reality. After a season blighted by an ankle injury that kept him out of action from November to mid-April, van Persie scored his only goal of the World Cup so far against Cameroon and has looked desperately out of touch, but Casillas is one of the world’s top goalkeepers.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst v Andres Iniesta: This will be the Dutch captain’s last game as a professional footballer before he studies for his coaching badge and then takes over as assistant coach to the national Under-21 side. The 35-year-old – who numbers Barcelona among his former clubs – wants to finish his playing career by lifting the World Cup trophy and is sure to have a titanic tussle down the left wing up against Iniesta. Barcelona’s creative midfielder already has one goal from this World Cup and is often at the heart of Spain’s attacking play.

Dirk Kuyt v Sergio Ramos: Ramos virtually shut down the left wing for Germany, allowing nothing to come down his channel in the semi-final and Liverpool’s Kuyt will have his work cut out. The Reds’ forward has been a permanent fixture in the Dutch team and a major force in their immaculate qualifying campaign. He is always dangerous with the ball at his feet.
Dutch creativity v Spanish efficiency: Spain have not yet dazzled, but having shut down Germany in the semi-final with a technically impressive display, they have shown just how hard sides find it to play against them. In Fernando Torres and David Villa they have two potentially lethal goal-scorers, but Spain’s patient build up means teams find them hard to break down. The Dutch have been just as flawless here as they were in their qualification campaign and are chasing their 15th straight win. With names like Sneijder, Robben and van Persie to call on, they have a star-studded attack. But whether the Dutch can break down Spain’s highly-efficient defence will go a long way to deciding the final.

Spain v Netherlands Final World Cup Watch Live

Spain v Netherlands Strategy

Some of the biggest names in world football will grace today’s World Cup final, but will Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie turn on the style or be shackled by a safety-first desire to bring the title home for the first time?

Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said his team has buried the happy-go-lucky style of play that thrilled fans for 40 years. Instead of the free-flowing moves of Johan Cruyff, there’s tight discipline, an emphasis on possession—and careful buildup from the back. The tactics have brought criticism, but also results: The Dutch unbeaten streak is now up to 25 games, including 10 straight wins.
The same could be said to some extent for Spain. The team has yet to truly light up the World Cup, losing to Switzerland and struggling to get past lesser teams. Xavi and Iniesta raised their game for the 1-0 semifinal win over Germany with the intricate passing and movement—a Barcelona trademark. But the European champions seem more driven by a collective desire to win rather than shine individually.
Here’s a look at both teams, and the tactics they may adopt today at Soccer City:

The Netherlands plays a flat back four in front of tall Ajax goalkeeper Maarten. Stekelenburg’s one-handed save against Kaka in the quarterfinal win over Brazil is one of the best of the tournament, but his blunder on Diego Forlan’s equalizer in the semifinals also stands out.
In front of him, John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen are expected to play in the center on Sunday. Heitinga’s pace and tackling complement the strength and aerial prowess of Mathijsen. Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be at left back and 22-year-old Gregory van der Wiel on the right. Both know how to make probing runs on the wings.
Considered the biggest liability coming into the World Cup, the backline has proven to be a sound foundation, if not impregnable.
Van Marwijk, however, counts on everyone to contribute. Even the forwards.
‘You have to work together when the opponent has the ball and then you can go a long way,’ Van Marwijk said.

Van Marwijk will field defensive midfielders Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong to reinforce the defense.
Van Bommel has had a sterling season with Bayern Munich and has used the same mix of grit and intimidation to lead the team. De Jong is stockier, a tireless tackler whose job is to break up opposition attacks.
Their work gives both Robben and Dirk Kuyt freedom on the flanks. Kuyt’s work rate stands out and contrasts with Robben’s flashes of brilliance as he cuts inside from the right, passes defenders and shoots from long range.
Robben was the star of Bayern Munich’s run to the Champions League final and missed the two opening games because of a hamstring strain that still continues to bother him during play.
Van Persie recovered from an ankle injury that had blighted his club season just in time to lead the Netherlands’ attack at the World Cup. He has stuttered in South Africa with just one goal in six appearances. Playmaker Wesley Sneijder has glossed over that deficiency by scoring five goals from his deeper position. It turned him into the star of the team and he is joint leader of the scoring chart with five goals.

Barcelona center back Carles Puyol is a rugged fighter, but also a threat at set-pieces. It was his powerful header from a corner that put Spain into the final, and he marshals a backline of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique and Joan Capdevilla. The defense soaked up Germany’s attacks and rarely looked threatened and gives the team a solid backbone. They have the collective ability to neutralize individual threats, as they did with Cristiano Ronaldo in the second-round match with Portugal. They’re likely to adopt the same tactics against Sneijder.

Iniesta and Xavi have what seems to be a telepathic understanding and can wear teams down with their intricate passing patterns. When on form, frustrated opponents are forced to chase the game and often struggle to get hold of the ball. They can suddenly switch gear and probe opposition defenses in the safe knowledge that midfielder Xabi Alonso is behind them, breaking up opposition attacks and launching Spanish moves from deep. If Spain coach Vicente del Bosque needs a Plan B, he has Cesc Fabregas to call on from the bench.

David Villa is joint top scorer with Sneijder with five goals. The Barcelona-bound striker is a classic poacher but has proved lethal from distance, too, scoring an opportunistic goal from 45 meters (yards) against Chile in the group stage. Fernando Torres has had a disappointing tournament, looks drained of confidence and lost his place in the starting lineup in the semifinals. Yet when on form, Torres is among the best in the world and he scored the only goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany. Whether to play Torres or Pedro Rodriguez, who played in the semifinals and at times tormented the German defenders with his quick dribbling and pace, is probably the major tactical decision Del Bosque must take.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Viva Espana says the octopus

Germany’s oracle octopus Paul picked Spain to beat the Netherlands in the World Cup final on Sunday in a live television broadcast watched across Europe.
The two-year-old celebrity octopus, who has accurately picked the outcome of all six of Germany’s World Cup matches so far, quickly tipped Spain to beat the Netherlands. It took him only three minutes to make up his mind.
‘That was fast—it looks like a clear-cut victory for Spain,’ said Tanja Munzig, spokeswoman for Sea Life in Oberhausen. She was surprised by his speed in picking Spain. For some matches it took Paul 70 minutes to decide.
The octopus, considered by some to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates, got the choice of picking food from two different transparent containers lowered into his tank—one with a Dutch flag on it and one with Spain’s flag.
Reaction in Spain was swift, with the country’s biggest selling sports daily website running the headline: ‘The octopus Paul makes us champions’.
The container Paul opens first is regarded as his pick. On Friday he wasted no time in diving for the container on the right side with the Spanish flag on it.
Two German television networks interrupted their programming for live coverage of the two-year-old celebrity octopus’s picks. Networks in Spain, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe also broadcast Paul’s decision live.
Earlier on Friday, Germans heaved a sigh of relief when Paul tipped Germany to beat Uruguay in the World Cup match for third place. There were cheers in offices across Germany after crowds of viewers tuned in to watch Paul live.
Normally he only picks Germany matches. But for the final Sea Life made an exception.
The octopus in Oberhausen turned into a global celebrity for correctly picking the winners of all six of Germany’s World Cup matches—including their two defeats to Serbia and Spain.
On Friday Paul first settled on top of the Germany container but after a few minutes shifted to the Uruguay container. Then after about 15 minutes he went back to Germany container, quickly opened the lid and ate the morsel of food inside.
Not an ordinarily superstitious people, Germans have become believers in Paul’s possible psychic powers. The country was shocked and distraught when he picked Spain to beat Germany after tipping German wins over Argentina, England, Ghana and Australia.
Paul’s selections have become top news across Germany and around the world. Some commentators even wondered aloud whether his improbable winning streak might have begun to influence some of the more superstitious players.
But after Paul accurately picked Spain to beat Germany in the semi-final, some Germans called for a public roasting of the oracle octopus. Newspapers and websites were filled with suggestions on how to cook and eat him.
Officials at Sea Life in Oberhausen have installed extra security to protect their octopus.
‘Paul is in safe hands with us,’ said Munzig.
Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was quoted in Spanish media reports saying—in jest—he was concerned about Paul’s safety.
‘I am concerned for the octopus…I am thinking of sending him a protective team,’ Zapatero said.
Spain’s Environment and Fisheries Minister Elena Espinosa also said: ‘On Monday I shall be at the European Council of Ministers and I shall be asking for a (fishing) ban on Paul the octopus so Germans do not eat him.’

(Reuters . Berlin)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Holland are ready to end their 32-year wait for a World Cup

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk insists Holland are ready to end their 32-year wait for a World Cup title in Sunday’s final and write their own chapter in Netherlands’ football history.
The Dutch face European champions Spain at Johannesburg’s Soccer City with both sides bidding to win a first world title.
Holland reached both the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals, losing to West Germany and Argentina respectively, but van Marwijk says his side are ready to go a step further than those great Dutch teams.
‘We will play for the whole of Holland,’ said van Marwijk. ‘I do not think in terms of revenge (for those defeats).
‘I will watch the game without thinking about historical statistics. We haven’t experienced winning a final and neither have Spain.’
The Dutch are expecting a tight, tactical game against the Euro 2008 winners, who under Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, dominated Germany in Wednesday’s semi-final.
‘I suppose that the two coaches will work from a clear strategy, both sides will have a little bit of tension,’ said van Marwijk.
‘Spain deserved to beat Germany, I like the way they played, we will play our way against them. We respect them, but we are not afraid of them.
‘It will be a big challenge for us, they made it hard for the Germans to play.’
If they win Sunday’s final, the Dutch will become only the second team to record a perfect World Cup campaign, after Brazil in 1970, by winning every single match in both qualification and the finals.
Van Marwijk says the key games on their run to the final have been neither the shock quarter-final defeat of Brazil, nor the semi-final win over Uruguay, but the matches against minnows Japan and Slovakia, which he feared.
‘There were two key games for us,’ he said.
‘The match against Japan in the group phase, then the victory over Slovakia in the second round.
‘Everybody predicted an easy game, but I really feared we would go out.
‘I was afraid the demons of the past would resurface and send us home.
‘After that, against Brazil, it was easier for me to motivate the players.’
After his side were well beaten in Durban’s semi-final, Germany coach Joachim Low has tipped Spain to claim victory in Sunday’s final, but van Marwijk insists he is confident the Oranje will win.
‘It doesn’t interest me who thinks who is the favourite. I am preparing for the match and I am confident,’ said the 58-year-old.

Spain coping with the pressure world cup final

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso said the European champions are coping with the pressure of being favourites after reaching the World Cup final.
Spain beat Germany 1-0 here in the semi-finals on Wednesday to reach their first ever World Cup final, where the Netherlands await them.
And while Spain have not been spectacular in their progress, they have been ruthlessly efficient since suffering a shock 1-0 reverse against Switzerland in their opening group match of the tournament.
‘We have been coping with the pressure quite well,’ said Alonso. ‘We knew the pressure would be quite high, but the favourite thing means nothing, you have to show that on the pitch.
‘But we’ve been playing well and now we’re in the final against Holland.’
Wednesday’s semi-final was anything but a classic with a headed goal from centre-back Carles Puyol from a Xavi corner proving decisive.
But although the match was short on excitement, Spain did manage to control proceedings with their smooth-passing game.
‘It was the performance we needed,’ added Alonso. ‘We have seen that when Germany get ahead in the scoreline they play on the counter-attack and score many goals so we were really concerned about that.
‘We tried to keep a good balance between attack and defence, we controlled the game and although it took a little bit longer than expected to score the first goal we’re really pleased and delighted to play the final.’
Alonso also praised the team’s maturity in managing to impose their system on every opponent despite not scoring many goals.
‘It’s our style, it’s the way we know how to play and the results have been good because we stick with that idea.
‘We’re happy with our performance, it was really mature and what we needed in the semi-final of the World Cup.’
Barcelona playmaker Xavi said Spain got what they deserved but warned that the Dutch will be a tougher proposition in the final.
‘I’m delighted because we deserved to win and be in the final,’ he said. ‘We dominated the match and managed to impose our game, especially in the second half when Germany hardly touched the ball.
‘We felt comfortable on the pitch, that’s what we wanted from the match.
‘Holland are a great team with good attacking and creative players but if we play like we did (against Germany) then we’ve got a good chance.’
Real Madrid right-back Sergio Ramos said he was surprised by just how well the Spanish were playing.
‘I’m really happy. No-one expected us to perform quite so well. Finally after all these years of hard work we’re getting our reward,’ he said.
‘I’m happy with how I’m playing but I’m lucky to be playing for such a team. ‘We play with a system that allows me to get forward and I benefit from that, it seems more as if I’m a winger than a full-back.’
Star striker David Villa has his eye on more than one prize as he also leads the top-scorers charts.
‘I hope I can finish top scorer but right now the only thing I want is to help my team become world champions,’ he said.
‘If we manage that and we also win an individual title it will be a collective achievement, it wouldn’t just be for me but for the whole team.’

Thursday, 8 July 2010

World Cup champions will be

Same old, same old. The World Cup champions will be European. Either Dutch, Spanish or German, to be precise.
Hang on a second, the old continent hogging the summit of world football, haven’t we seen that before?
Well, yes. Four years ago, in fact. Remember Italy winning and the head-butt that rocked the world by French captain Zinedine Zidane?
The truth is we shouldn’t be surprised. Four weeks and 61 matches into the first World Cup in Africa – there’s just one semifinal, Sunday’s final and the third-place game still to play – have reaffirmed a cold, hard fact: The sport’s centre of gravity is still, and perhaps more than ever, in Europe.
Africa proved at this World Cup that it is more than capable of hosting the biggest single event in sport, but that it also is nowhere close to winning it. Ghana was the only country to make a real impression and even it got no further than the quarterfinals. Africa has fine players, competing across Europe in some of the biggest clubs. It also has passion, as evidenced by the way the continent swung behind the Ghanaians after the other five African sides failed to get out of the group stage. But Africa doesn’t have the decades of experience, the coaching expertise, and the wealth that make Europe’s giants so strong.
For a while at this World Cup of relatively few goals but also genuine upsets, South America strung us along with the illusion that it would be the dominant force. But that, too, wasn’t to be. Four of the eight quarterfinalists were South American. None will be in the final. Thank you, Brazil for letting someone else win for a change. The five-time champions were nowhere near their dancing, awesome best in South Africa. The Brazilians are organizing the next World Cup and must regroup, perhaps unearth a new Pele, if they want to win it and add a sixth gold star to their bright yellow jerseys.
Thanks, too, to Argentina for a bundle of goals and for lighting up the World Cup with the passion and quirkiness of Diego Maradona, Argentina’s greatest player, who discovered that coaching wasn’t so easy. His philosophy of swashbuckling attacking football was the necessary antidote to the dull defensive fare served by teams so unambitious that we’ve already forgotten them.
And gracias Uruguay, for giving the World Cup its pantomime villain, Luis Suarez. At the very end of an absorbing quarterfinal, he illegally used his hands to block what would have been a match-winning goal for Ghana. But that cheat also proved to be a Pyhrric victory for Uruguay. As punishment, football governing body FIFA made him sit out Tuesday’s semifinal against the Netherlands at Cape Town’s ghostly white and brand new Green Point Stadium. Deprived of Suarez’s goal-scoring talents, Uruguay never looked likely to win. There was a measure of poetic justice for Ghana and Africa in the scoreline – Netherlands 3, Uruguay 2.
The Dutch captain, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, lit up the match with a moment of beauty. His goal after 18 minutes of constricted and flat football—neither side wanted to make a mistake—whooshed into the top corner of Uruguay’s net. He thwacked the ball from 36 meters (yards) out, top speed: 109 kilometers (67 miles) per hour.
So often at this World Cup similar shots have zoomed frustratingly over the crossbar. Players have blamed their lack of control on the Jabulani ball, said by some to be too fast and too light, and the high altitude of some of the stadiums, where shots cut quicker through the thin air. Maybe Cape Town’s muggy, denser sea air was a factor in van Bronckhorst finding the back of the net so sweetly against Uruguay. Of all the goals at this World Cup, only the very first of the tournament was better. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s shot on the run for South Africa was both athletic and the perfect start.
The Netherlands will play either Spain or the most impressive side of the tournament, Germany, in Sunday’s final at the cooking pot-shaped Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.
Germany’s young side has played with such verve and teamwork that it is the favourite. But Spain is the European champion and, unlike three-time champion Germany, has never won a World Cup. Its talented team of players, many from Spanish champion Barcelona, has not been as impressive as was expected, but could make amends now when it counts.
The Dutch have reached the final playing not the prettiest football, but perhaps the most pragmatic. Defend well. Score goals. They have won all six of their matches in South Africa. Like the Spanish, they have yet to win a World Cup.
And while no European side has ever won the cup outside of Europe, that will change Sunday.
So in the end, it won’t be same old, same old, after all.

Dutch will play smart game at the final

No style points. Winning is what matters. After losing in their two previous trips to the World Cup final, the Netherlands is determined not to let its flashy play get ahead of going home with the big prize.
‘We know we can play football,’ Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst said. ‘To be mentally strong is now most important.’
The Netherlands reached the 1974 and ’78 finals with some of soccer’s greatest players, but each time the host nation—West Germany and then Argentina—beat Oranje teams with a reputation for overconfidence.
After Tuesday’s 3-2 semifinal win over Uruguay, coach Bert van Marwijk is determined to make sure that his team’s 10-game winning streak—including six at this tournament—does not create the same problem.
Van Marwijk’s memories of the 1974 tournament, when the Dutch thrilled the world only to fall 2-1 to the Germans, are too strong for him to let his players fall to the same weakness.
‘Often when we start beating people, we become overly confident and then we are sent home,’ Van Marwijk said. ‘We did lose the match whereas we should have won it because we played wonderfully well.
Dutch great ‘Johan Cruyff was the best football player that ever existed.’
The Netherlands could face Germany in the final—or Spain, depending on the outcome of Wednesday’s semifinal.
Assistant coach Frank de Boer was a defender in 1998 when the Dutch last reached the semifinals—only to be eliminated by Germany in a penalty shootout. He says the character of the Dutch team has changed over the years.
‘In 98, we were happy just to get in the semis and could play Brazil,’ he said.
He noticed the same attitude among the Uruguay players Tuesday night and felt a win was coming from the moment the Netherlands players first stepped on the field.
‘Let me give you a small example: I knew we’d win when a saw a half dozen of their players come onto the field with their cameras—and I am talking starting lineup players. They filmed the stadium, filmed the players.’
‘Then I knew our approach was much better,’ De Boer said. ‘That is why it is important to keep that focus.’
The Dutch coaches have the support of a talented group of players who would love nothing better than flaunt their skills.
Striker Robin van Persie said the team won’t get carried away by an occasion marked by fans back home painting villages and cities orange in honor of the Dutch jersey color.
‘I will only realize it looking back,’ Van Persie said. ‘Now I have this tunnel vision, and you just do what you have to do.’
Forward Dirk Kuyt knows how bad it is to lose a final after falling to AC Milan while he played for Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League.
‘I was there and I know what it is,’ Kuyt said. ‘It is not going to happen to me a second time.’


(Associated Press . Cape Town)