Boy, we did not see that coming. All of a sudden, Europe has taken over the World Cup, making El Angelo’s college football analogy all the more apt. It now looks as though the equivalent of an Ohio State-Michigan game will decide the title on the last day of the season.
The sole potential fly in the ointment, Uruguay, plays on Tuesday. Is there any hope for the good citizens of Montevideo (and any USA fans who are following our advice)?
Netherlands v. Uruguay
Well, not really, no. The problem doesn’t lie with the Uruguay team’s performances to date—although they haven’t claimed any big scalps, they’ve looked the better team in all the games they’ve played, which is something you can’t really say about a couple of the other semifinalists. No, the problem is that the Uruguay team who achieved those results isn’t the one who will take the field against Holland. No Luis Suarez, the team’s best goal scoring threat (and about whom, more later*). No Nicolas Lodeiro, one of the team’s few natural creative midfielders. Possibly no Diego Lugano, the team’s captain and best defender. The cupboard is just looking pretty bare. We can’t even really do a tactical analysis, because we have no idea how the team will line up in the absence of those players. They’ll play hard, no doubt, but will need to find some skill somewhere to keep up with Holland.
* We have seen a lot of criticism of Suarez, particularly from English media. Not to put too fine a point on it, but those critics are totally fucking wrong. Suarez’s intentional handball was just about the most heads-up play we’ve seen in years—in that situation, you trade the PK and red card for the sure goal 100% of the time. And it’s not as though he tried to hide it, or protest the card, Thierry Henry-style. He just gambled and won, and it was awesome. If you don’t like to see people trying to win, go to the ballet instead.
Holland was pretty much run off the field by Brazil in the first half of their quarterfinal game. But then Holland caught a break when Brazil keeper Julio Cesar because the 5,000th keeper in this tournament to misjudge a ball, and the Dutch then capitalized on Brazil’s subsequent meltdown.
They are still an odd team, one that lines up with what appear to be traditional Dutch wide wingmen, but then play everything up the middle. But they’ve been ruthlessly effective, which is something that could not be said about any other Dutch tournament team in history. The Brazil game showed that they can also take a punch, which is a trait that the other semifinalists mostly haven’t shown (or haven’t had the opportunity to show). Honestly, if this wasn’t the Dutch we were dealing with, we’d predict them to advance in a walk. But the robust history of Dutch gagging gives us at least a little pause.
Prediction: Netherlands 1-0 Uruguay. The Uruguayans claw and scratch for about an hour, but eventually succumb to a superior team.