TSG is fired up for this game.
TSG’s got Hollish friends and we’ve got Brazilian friends.
Going into this tournament, the one team I thought might give Brazil a run for the money before the ultimate match would be the Netherlands. Beyond Spain and Argentina, who were destined to only walk the tunnel with Dunga’s squad in the finale, Netherlands possess just enough toughness through Van Bommel and cheap shot artist Nigel DeJong to accompany firepower to rival Brazil and, perhaps, threaten what has become some serious lockdown defense by Brazil.
Further, the mix of the Netherlands attacking arsenal which hasn’t really gotten their full swerve on, looked diverse enough to find the right recipe of aerial, speed and link play to create some worthy chances.
In Robin Van Persie, the Dutch have a striker just physical enough, just headcase enough, and just aloof enough to not be thrown of his game by Lucio (and Juan).
In Arjen Robben, the Oranje have a winger who lives for the big game, the dagger play. In Elerjo Elia, a precocious flanker with the confidence of Allen Iverson in his heyday to attack Bastos or Maicon if called for.
And finally, the Dutch have a little bit of lunchpail in Dirk Kuyt–the key Liverpool man is always depositing loose change back in the net, doesn’t get phased by the magnitude of the situation–and in a nod to his responsibilities tomorrow–smart enough to know how to “move” against Maicon and choose his runs.
Sure I’ve got Brazil winning it, but frankly, before the Final, this is Brazil’s biggest test.
Here are some things TSG is looking for:
• Can Bastos defend?
Just like the United States–until the revelation that is Jonathan Bornstein, kidding, was inserted–Brazil have long had trouble filling their leftback occupancy.
Dunga was smart and, in a move that smacked of Florent Malouda’s similar chores at Chelsea, choose to employ Lyon left winger Michel Bastos there, betting that speed, guile, and the threat of the counter would deter teams from continually asking the question of that flank.
Bastos has collected plaudits this World Cup and many have championed his abilities at left back however, if you’ve watched the games, you know Bastos going forward has been his primary defense, not shutdown adhesion-type stuff.
On the day, the Lyon man will need to contend with Arjen Robben who seems to find a way off the right flank with his left foot. He’s like the Latrell Sprewell of the World Cup using his left whether going left or right.
Robben must force Bastos to show his technical ability or expose his lack thereof for Holland to be successful. If Robben is succesful Felipe Melo will need to provide cover for Bastos and the Dutch will get a little morsel of space to work the midfield and maybe some valuable time on the ball.
• Wesley Sneijder goes 1-on-2
No doubt that Sneijder–a TSG fave–has a critical role here in this one, certainly more than any game thus far.
Van Bommel and DeJong are going to play their customary CDM roles in the Oranje’s 4-2-3-1 system. They are going to rip up the foundation, jackhammer a hole and plant themselves in front of the Dutch backline. Both will come out to challenge Kaka at the top of the offensive third or Robinho floating in. However, even if they come forward in defense, they’ll be retarded in their ability to get forward on the attack.
Wesley Sneijder alone will be the Dutch conduit through the midfield.
It will be up to Sniejder to choose the tempo of the game when the Dutch earn possession, maintain possession in the face of challenges from Gilberto and Melo (like Elano, Melo is much better for the national team) and create opportunities in front of him.
And Sneijder will need to make plays, not just distribute the ball for the Dutch to have a shot.
• Will Van Persie show in this one?
I look at Robin Van Persie and I see “quality striker.” He’s got everything, with a little less mood swings than Nicolas Anelka.
Van Persie possesses the ability to go head-to-head with the world’s best and get at least two or three quality chances a game. Will the mercurial forward–who was rumored to be pouting this week–take those chances well?
• Absent Elano, will the defensive duo of Dani Alves and Maicon make hay against Holland’s 35-year-old left fullback, Gio Van Bronkhorst?
Will the match be turned by the play of two venturesome rightbacks against the former face of Holland? It may.
With DeJong and Van Bommel looking to hurt, figuratively and physically, Brazil’s advances in the center and on their right. Alves and the overlapping Maicon will have space to work against Gio. (Interlude: Isn’t hard to believe that this World Cup will close the storied career of Van Bronkhorst?)
…and I think this is the game where Van Bronkhorst may be the weak cog in the oranje juicer.
VB (I have to stop typing that whole last name) has employed Capdevila or DeMerit-like stand-up defense down in South Africa. In other words, if there’s something to grab, tug, pinch, pull, hook on to, VB is going to find it to diminish his attacker’s advantage.
Watch how Brazil–and specfically Dunga–treat that apparent mismatch.
If Alves and Maicon are having success–which means a goal by one of the two or a continued crosses deposited onto Fabiano’s dome–then look for Brazil to abuse the advantage like a boxer knocking on the ribs of his opponent, hoping that the face guard comes down to protect. Next thing you know, roundhouse (Fabiano, Kaka down the middle).
However, if VB is holding his own–which will clearly depend upon the workrate of Kuyt above him–I wouldn’t be suprised for Robinho to take some chances over there floating at the top of Brazil’s 4-2-2-2 or for an early–say 60th minute–substitution of Villarreal’s Nilmar to tip the advantage.
• Will the Dutch unravel?
The Oranje have struggled to claim soccer’s grand global prize. Each year, the knockout game for the Netherlands always seems to be a foul-filled semi-brawl with the Dutch slowly losing their composure.
In 2006, the Dutch went out to Brazil’s mother Portugal in a testy, 1-0 affair. 2002 saw an out of form Netherlands not make the World Cup finals…..
…and the two previous years, ousted by their opponent tomorrow.
Van Persie, Van Bommel, DeJong, and Robben all have a history or “getting mental” when things don’t go their way. It will be up to conductor Sneijder in the midfield control the game for the Dutch, not just the run-of-play.
A good one, tomorrow morning States time.