Saturday, 14 June 2014

Match Day 2 - Review - The Future's Oranje?

We were treated to a feast of football on day 2 of the World Cup. Undoubtedly the highlight was the thrilling performance of the Dutch as they dismantled the reigning champions in emphatic style akin to the Bayern Munich performances against Barcelona just over a year ago. Central to those performances was one man, Arjen Robben, a player who is consistently, and criminally overlooked when it comes to handing out the awards at the end of each season. His pace and direct play coupled with his unbelievable close control were too much for a leaden footed Spanish defence, and he punished them mercilessly. An individual performance as good as that has not been seen in some time. Truly sensational.
Elsewhere we saw more goals, lots of attacking play, and unfortunately further poor officiating.

Rio Ferdinand , as expected, brought nothing to the party. How a man who can barely string two sentences together has been employed as an analyst by the BBC is beyond me? His comparing of Busquets with Carrick summed up his ineptitude, and I for one shall be avoiding him at all costs going forward. the BBC have two of the most erudite and knowledgeable men, in Pat Nevin and Danny Murphy, available to them, yet they go with this muppet.
And, as for Mark 'Lawro' Lawrenson, well, you'd think he'd be delighted to be at the World Cup in Brazil, but no, it would appear that he'd rather be anywhere but. Cheer up you miserable old sod!

Rio Ferdinand. No thanks.
Match of the Day: Spain v Holland

Arguably the most anticipated of the first round of matches, pitting the two finalists from 4 years ago against one another. One hoped that there would be unfinished business from that tempestuous affair, but the game panned out in a much different fashion, in a way that no one would have predicted.
Following a slow start in which Spain maintained possession without creating anything (sound familiar?), the first chance fell to Sneijder, who went one on one with Casillas after a slide rule pass by Robben cut through the heart of the Spanish midfield. His shot was weak, and easily smothered by the Spaniard.
Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar was marshalling the ineffective Costa (being booed by the home fans) well, and made a great block to stop a goalbound effort.
David Silva's influence was growing, and he looked the man most likely to unlock the solid Dutch rearguard. He himself was found for a great chance, but opted to pass when a shot was on. Not for the first time would his decision making prove wasteful.
The opening goal came when Costa got the ball inside the area, and as he cut inside, he was caught by the trailing leg of the defender. Replays showed that he was definitely looking for it, and had conned the referee.
The magnificently hirsute Alonso made no mistake from the spot to give Spain the lead. After 27 minutes, this the first shot on goal from the Spanish.

Xabi: Knows how to wear a beard (and score a penalty)
The cracks were however starting to show in the Spain defence. Their high line was nearly exposed by Robben a number of times, and you got the feeling that should they beat the offside trap, they would get a chance. It was becoming increasingly clear that Spain are missing their leader Carlos Puyol more than anyone, Ramos and Pique just not in the same class.
The opportunity finally came moments before the break, with a beautiful 50 yard diagonal ball from the impressive Daley Blind (son of former Dutch defender Danny, now a coach with the team), but with a lot still to do, Robin van Persie provided the moment of the tournament so far, with a brilliant diving header from just inside the box, leaving Casillas clutching for air.
The second half would take a very different route. Robben got the first chance of the half, fed by a chipped pass (again by Blind) to the edge of the area. He brought it down expertly, cut inside Pique, before firing home via a deflection from Ramos.

The hapless Sergio Ramos
Another surging Robben run through the middle of the Spanish half saw him get the ball out to Van Persie who crashed a half volley off the bar, nearly snapping the woodwork.
A third was soon to follow though, with a deep free kick into the box fumbled under pressure by Casillas, and de Vrij just about bundled the ball in at the back post.
Substitute Pedro threatened to get Spain back into the game, his good header spilled by Cillessen, but Silva's follow up was correctly ruled off side.
Things were to get much worse for Spain, with veteran keep Casillas dwelling on the ball, and Van Persie robbing him before poking home.
Robben wrapped up the scoring with stunning solo goal, sitting Casillas on his backside before hammering high into the net.
And there was still time for him to be denied the goal of the tournament with a superbly struck volley being saved, before Torres managed to miss an open goal, something which just isn't a surprise any longer.
The match could easily have ended with the Dutch having scored 8 or even 9. A quite formidable effort, and they've turned the group on it's head, and silenced many critics, including myself.

In the other matches, my dark horses Chile overcame Australia in a match which looked like it could be a rout after 15 minutes, with Chile leading 2-0 through goals from the irresistible Alexis Sanchez and Valdivia. Australia to their credit fought back well, led by an inspired Tim Cahill, the former Everton man halving the deficit with a textbook header before the break. Chile completed the scoring through Wigan player Jean Beausejour in injury time at the end of the match.
Doubts will be raised over Chile's defence, with their clear lack of height sure to be an area which is exploited by better teams than Australia.
And you have to wonder how they'd cope should they get an injury to their star player, Sanchez, or less so Vidal? I'd suspect that their reserves would be no match.
Elsewhere, Mexico overcame Cameroon, thanks to a second half strike from the prolific Oribe Peralta, his 7th goal in his last 9 appearances. Eto'o came closest for the Africans, hitting the outside of the post in their only chance of note. Cameroon looked particularly poor, with no attacking players in their midfield at. Mexico will challenge Croatia for second spot in Group A, and the match between the two will no doubt be an interesting watch.

Hero of the day: Arjen Robben - as I've said elsewhere, a truly sensational display, this was Robben at his free flowing best. He might look 40, but he can still run like he's 20. An early contender for player of the tournament if he can keep this form up.

Robben - Magnificent
Disappointment of the day: Diego Costa - one could argue that he wasn't fully fit following a recent recurring hamstring strain (in which case he shouldn't have been playing), but the big Brazilian did not turn up at all. Lawro assured us in the early stages that Costa was offering the Spanish something different, but I wasn't seeing that at all. Leaden footed, short of pace, and the ball kept bouncing off him. His only contribution was to dive/'be clever' to win the penalty.
You have to respect his wonderful record with Atletico Madrid this season, but I have my reservations. I keep hearing that he is perfect for the Premier League, but without any experience of it I can't help but feel he is yet another expensive risk for Chelsea. They already have a player who has proven his ability in the league, in Lukaku, on their books. And if they wanted another player, I'd argue that a player such as Dzeko would be a better bet.

Villain of the day: The lineman in the Mexico v Cameroon match, incorrectly ruling out two Giovani Dos Santos goals. Yet more poor officiating in a tournament which is in danger of getting a reputation after only two days. Fortunately for the Mexicans it did not cost them, or there would have no doubt have been many protestations and accusations.

Wanker of the day: Iker Cssillas - I'd be very surprised if he retains his position in Spain's next match after two poor (one horrendous) errors led to goals against the Dutch. Surely it's time for the excellent David de Gea to be given his opportunity. Casillas we should remember is back up for his club (in everything but the Champions League), so it does seem very strange that he is still employed at international level.

Moment of the day: The slow motion replay of Robin van Persie's goal as he slides across the floor having just connected with the ball. His face was an absolute picture as he realised what he'd just achieved. the less said about the miss high five with his manager, Luois van Gaal, the better!

The flying Dutchman
A quick word on England tonight. Regardless of result, I hope the boys can do us all proud with a performance where they give their all, and have a real go at attacking an Italian side that I believe is not that strong.
From an outsiders point of view, it's unusual to see such a good team spirit in the England camp, and the noises coming from the players suggests that they are ready, and feeling confident.
I think Roy Hodgson deserves a lot of credit, and I for one am proud that he is our national manager. he knows the game, and he comes across like an affable and kind man. the FA, who we often criticise, should be commended on their appointment of Roy, when there was a clamour from the press for other less suitable candidates (the dodgy Harry Redknapp).
Come on England!!

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