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Champions League Final: Sneijder v. Robben

Well there’s been no love lost as of yet.  I begin to write this 20 minutes into the match.

It’s been a somewhat sedate beginning with more tackles than attacks.  Sneijder had one particularly ugly challenge on Robben.  Strangely Ribery was sent off in the first leg against Lyon for a very similar challenge.  As of 25 minutes Bayern have had the lion’s share of possession with precisely nothing to show for it.

As of 28th minute the possession numbers look like this: Bayern 67% – 33% Inter.  Boring stuff really.  The fact that I’ve been able to write this runner without missing a thing is testament to the lack of anything…

Sneijder is involved in Inter Milan’s opener.  His composure on the ball and a deft pass puts Milito through.  Add  a lovely finish by Milito and you have a goal that essentially sums up what Mourinho’s team is all about.  Inter have beaten Bayern in the first half through patience and the ability to take the single excellent chance they’ve been provided with.

At half time its Inter with the lead really the game feels like its over.  You have to feel like Mourinho is in the dressing room right now laying out his plans with his club saying, “Alright, we’ve got our goal and that’s all we need.  Let’s park the bus and frustrate for the next 45 minutes. ”

Without wanting to be guilty of stating the bleeding obvious Bayern really need to score.  I would argue that they shouldn’t score too early providing Inter with a lot of time to absorb the ensuing pressure and hit them again.  Were Bayern to score after teh 75th I would put my money on the Germans grabbing the second.  If it goes to Extra time regardless of momentum and the score my money switches to Inter.

Now in the second half there has been more excitement in the first 2 minutes then in the whole of the first half INCLUDING the goal.

Inter Milan eventually get their second goal through Milito.  The two goals were completely different each requiring a different set of skills.  Fifteen yards inside the Bayern half Eto’o sprayed a through ball for Milito, just hanging onside, who made an utter fool of van Buyten who ended up on his backside while Milito coolly stroked the ball past Butt.  Bayern have had incredible possession but have been able to create absolutely nothing.  Inter are now cruising to victory with Bayern meekly firing attempts at goal.

The final whistle blows and Inter are Champions.  Regrettably Bayern did not offer much of a test.  They were allowed to have an inordinate amount of possession but were able to create SQUAT.

As much as it pains me to say it they are worthy champions given the context.  And so how does this look for the Oranje?  As far as we can see all three vital Dutchmen emerge unscathed and ready for he World Cup.  Sneijder will go to camp with club football’s greatest prize.

Robben v Messi (Ronaldo who?)

 

Have you heard of this kid from Argentina?  He’s about 2.3 feet tall, runs like a man possessed and scores goals for fun.  His name is Lionel Messi and he will be crowned the best player in the world.  There is no player in world football today that can compare with the creativity and skill posessed by this soft-spoken marvel.

And how about this fellow from Bedum of the Low Countries (that would be the Netherlands).  He’s a bit cocky, has a peculiar gait and looks to be about 45 years old.  He has single-handedly kept Bayern Munich’s season alive.  Throughout Spain, France, England and Italy there is no team that has relied on a solitary player the way Bayern have depended on him in Germany. 

Rewind a year: the Champions League Final in Rome.  Manchester United v. Barcelona also known as Ronaldo v. Messi.  The Handsome Star v. The Reluctant Hero.  At the end of 90 minutes Ronaldo’s star had faded and Messi had scored a sumptuous header to kill the game off.  Three months later Ronaldo had unpacked his undoubtedly expensive luggage in Madrid and these two marvelous players faced off in the same league.  Many people predicted an exciting and enthralling season.  And for those fans of Barcelona and Real Madrid it has been since they have been able to watch their clubs win almost constantly for 9 months.  No fewer than 24 point separate 2nd place Madrid and 3rd place Valencia.  Yet Real Madrid have not fulfilled their potential this season.  With all their galaxy of stars they have not matched the panache of the Catalans.  Ronaldo has been shunted to the side of the world stage. 

Robben: No longer playing second fiddle to Messi

Consider Bayern Munich complete with Arjen Robben.  They have built unstoppable momentum as the season has progressed and few people believe they will lose their nerve.  In the past week they annihilated Hannover 7-0 with the talismanic Robben netting a terrible treble.  Skip ahead to Wednesday and Robben again found his range in the Champions League against Lyon.  Lyon for all their endeavour had no answer for the devastating combination of Robben and Lahm on the right hand side.  Cissohko laboured admirably but by marking Robben he provided space for the indefatiguable Lahm.  Toulalan was harshly awarded a second yellow but the first after tackling Robben was testamant to the skill and speed of thought which Robben possesses.  The best Toulalan could muster was a desperate challenge that arrived about a week late.

Ronaldo will be attempting to haul back Barcelona and will have eyes on South Africa.  Both Robben and Messi have a dometic title in sight as well as the possibility of a Champions League final ahead; Barcelona with it all to do in the second leg though.  Each can feel some optimism ahead of the World Cup finals too.  Argentina lack cohesion and organization but possess quality in the extreme.  The Dutch have a settled and talented side with all the main-stays enjoying solid performances on a weekly basis.

Euro 2004 provided the first grand stage for Arjen Robben.  Most who can recall the Oranje’s exit from that competition can also pinpoint the moment when Dick Advocaat signed his own pink slip.  With the Dutch leading 2-1 he withdrew Robben and replaced him with Paul Bosvelt.  They went on to lose 2-3 which cost them top spot in the group and gave them Portugal who they ultimately lost to.  Robben has had a start/stop career since that time blighted with many injuries.  He has managed to win everywhere he’s been but only now at Bayern has he taken hold of the spotlight with both hands and firmly placed it on himself.

Each is faced with a potentially life changing spring.  Robben has come on too late in the season to oust Messi from his world player of the year crown but Robben may have the last laugh though depending on the success he can muster from his sizzling left boot.

Netherlands Almost the End of the Season Update

Hello out there in Football blog reading land. 

We’ve now reached what just about everyone likes to call the “business end” of the season.  There isn’t very much to talk about as far as international football is concerned so I thought I’d briefly summarize the seasons of our starting eleven.

We can look forward to a team playing regularly and performing well consistently.  With the exception of van Persie the team will be match fit. 

 

The only position that lacks a clear first choice at this point is centre forward.  van Persie is coming off of a long lay off, van Nistelrooy has yet to regain his previous form and Huntelaar does not seem to have the confidence of van Marwijk and would likely not be chosen above a fully fit – if not match fit – Robin van Persie.

The problem is…statistics are crap and mean nothing.  Elia might bottle it, Huntelaar could be put up front and van Persie shunted out to the left.  The Dutch actually have a settled squad with each player enjoying reasonable success with his club.  Sneijder and Robben are enjoying their best form of recent memory.  Each has led his team to the brink of domestic success and the Champions League semi-final.   

Could this really be the tournament?  There has never been a better chance for our team but they will have to overcome the other leading lights in World Football and only time will tell.

Key Men in South Africa: Arjen Robben

I was thinking recently about the Dutch team as a complete unit. 

There are weaknesses.  But then name a country that has none: only Spain perhaps is near the goal of a perfectly balanced and even side. 

This reality forces us to really examine our sides if we want to gauge any upcoming success.  So let’s talk Oranje then.  There are holes in the defence and there are holes in the midfield.  Up front there are more pegs than holes and the difficulty is fitting the right peg in the … well you get the slightly overcomplicated idea. 

Arjen Robben represents the best aspects of Dutch attacking power rolled into a single individual.  He has pace on the wing and he can certainly cross a ball. 

His most important trait though is his combination of pace and his ability to cut inside on his marker and shot at goal.  Robben enjoyed muted success at both Chelsea and Real Madrid.  The confounding point is his talent has never been in doubt.  Instead he has often been likened to some type of fine dinner china in the hands of a child.  Fragile.  He’s definitely found a vein of strength though and has been the most significant acquisition by Bayern Munich this year.  He has single-handedly kept Bayern in the hunt for the Champions League and the Bundesliga.

It’s hard to imagine a more critical member of the squad.  Sneijder looks to be a crucial cog in the machine but Sneijder requires a lethal finisher to be the tip to his blade.  Robben is hilt, blade, tip, and sheath.  He can provide that single piece of attacking devastation from within himself. 

Sneijder and Robben combined below against France to score one of the most remarkable goals I’ve ever seen. 

The pass from Sneijder is key but ultimately Robben’s pace, dribbling ability and accurate left foot are what create the goal.  Scintillating stuff.  The Oranje can’t rely on their world renowned defence to carry them to glory.  As meager as they were in qualifying they will most certainly rely on the attacking storm they can create to overwhelm their opponents.