The first of the World Cup Semi Finals Pitts the last remaining South American side Uruguay against the Dutch who sneaked into the quarter finals somewhat under the radar before announcing their intentions in no uncertain way with a battling win against Brazil. On paper this looks quite a one sided tie, but the beauty of these one off games is that anything can and often does happen.
Uruguay came into the finals largely written off being stuck in a fairly tough group with France, Mexico and the hosts South Africa. The only really recognisable member of the squad was Diego Forlan and although he has been a revelation in Spanish football he was best remembered by many as a Manchester United reject. Thus the expectations for them was an early trip home. However France decided to self destruct and Uruguay defied the critics with some nice compact defensive football capped off with great attacking flair from Mr Forlan and the hitherto little known Luis Suarez, who is suspended for this game.
To be fair Uruguay have had a pretty easy ride to the Semis beating South Korea and Ghana but they could only beat who is put in front of them so they remain something of an unknown quantity.
Holland who still have a 100% record in the 2010 competition, including winning all their qualifying matches have had things much tougher having to overcome a better than expected Slovakia side and then fighting back to beat then tournament favourites Brazil. On all form they should be good enough top win this match and probably the final too. However they will be without Nigel De Jong who although somewhat unsung has been a key part of their success.
Still despite this it will be a major surprise if Holland dont progress to their first final since 1978 where they will be hoping its third time lucky.
This will be the most anticipated match of the tournament with the devastating counter attacking of the Germans coming up against the stylish passind and ball control of the Spanish. It goes without saying that whoever grabs the first goal in a game like this will have a huge advantage and this could either lead to a cautious start or a German Blitzkrieg like their opening against Argentina.
Germany have been one of the surprises of the tournament, largely written off by most pundits as being too young and lacking any big star names. this is possibly true as if you put a transfer value on the German starting line up they would cost a fraction of what the Spanish team would command, and they would even be valued below the teams they have already soundly beaten in the second stages, namely England & Argentina. But as has been shown so often in the past it is the “better team” who wins rather than the better collection of individual players and in this respect Germany are one of the best this World Cup. If Germany do have a weakness it is in the centre of their defense and this could be a worry against a neat passing team like Spain.
Spain by comparison have a team stuffed with household names and in David Villa they probably have the player of the tournament. The rest of the squad is strong too and they seem to be able to retain possession even when they are being pressurised as shown in their surprisingly tough match against Paraguay. They will be at full strength for the game unlike Germany who will be without Thomas Muller due to suspension.
Spain have never reached a World Cup Semi Final before (their 4th place in 1950 was the result of finishing botom of the final group) while Germany and regular last four competitors, however this should count for nothing as this Spain side are full of confidence following their 2008 European Championships win when they beat Germany in the final.
Overall this is going to be a close game and although Germany will make things tough for spain I just feel that finally this exciting Germany team will sucumb. Thus the prediction is for Spain to advance to the final by the odd goal possibly in extra time.
Argentina never knew what had hit them as Germany produced the performance of the tournament going a goal up after three minutes and then proceeding to add 3 more in the second half to round off a resounding victory.
Argentina to their credit didn’t play badly and actually had more shots and possession, but their defensive frailties were cruelly exposed as the Germans produced a devastating display of counter attacking football.
Germany must now be favourites to win the final and despite the pre tournament doubters they have kept up their enviable record of consistency in the World Cup having only failed to make the Quarter Finals once since their first victory in 1954.
Now the possibility of a re-run of the 1974 final looks probable and that would be a great game as Holland will want to add their name to the list of winners, something they would have done in 1974 had they not started showboating in the final when 1-0 up.
Argentina Manager Diego Maradonna will probably be contemplating his future now, but hopefully he will stay on.
Argentina 0-4 Germany
Venue: Green Point Stadium
199 years ago Paraguay managed to regain their independence and tonight they will be looking to secure a first ever World Cup victory against their former masters in Johannesburg.
Paraguay have never reached this stage before and whatever happens now they will have exceeded their expectations greatly. They are likely to field the same side which beat Japan in a penalty shoot out meaning goals might be hard to come by for Spain especially in the opening stages.
Spain who have recovered well from their opening slip up against Switzerland will also be close to full strength but may choose not to start Fabregas who still looks a little short of match fit. If they do make a change then it will be up front where Torres has looked a shadow of his former self. They will need to be sharp to break down what will be a dogged Paraguay rear guard and it is possible they will try using Fernando Llorente as a target man given his height.
So overall this could be a hard fought game but history doesn’t favour a Paraguay win, and in their last World Cip meeting in 2002 Spain won 3-1. A similar score tonight looks the most likely outcome.
This could be the game of the tournament today as the spirited by youthful Germany take on the experienced players from Argentina in Cape Town today. Both teams are attack minded and Germany in particular have shown that they can hit a team on the break.
So far Argentina under the management of ex star Maradonna have looked the most impressive team in the tournament and have maintained a 100% record but unlike the Dutch they have done it with a bit of style. They have scored 10 goals so far and only conceded 2 and beat one of the better last 16 teams, Mexico with a bit in hand to reach the Quarter Finals.
Germany too have been quite impressive with 9 goals scored and only 2 conceded, but they did somehow manage to lose to Serbia and only just got the better of Ghana in their final group match. Their 4-1 trouncing of England looks good on paper but there are severe questions over the England team and this form is probably not as good as it would appear.
Germany will undoubtedly be a major force in International football over the next few years, but they might just find Argentina a step too far at this stage and although there might not be more than a goal in it Argentina are tipped to gain revenge for their 2006 exit to Germany so progress to the Semi Finals where they should meet Spain.
You would have to search far and wide to find anyone who predicted that these two would meet in the Quarter Finals of the 2010 World Cup. However here they are and both have played well enough to merit their place. So will it be a classic or another Paraguay v Japan insomnia cure? Well I feal the latter given that Ghana are lacking a bit up front and Uruguay like to keep things tight at the back. In the group stages Ghana had to rely on Penalty kicks to get on the score sheet, but did manage a goal from open play against the USA so maybe they have a goal in them for this tie but more than that looks unlikely.
Uruguay are very compact and despite playing from the back they have a big threat in the shape of Diego Forlan and if anyone is going to grab them a goal it will be him.
This is a hard one to call but if pushed I would go with Uruguay by the odd goal probably in extra time.