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Quarter Final Video Love

Can you believe that its been almost 48 hours since we put out Brazil in the quarter finals?  I can’t really come to grips with it and I keep smiling.  Can you remember the last time you were impressed by a Dutch team’s fighting spirit?  I certainly can’t and I think that’s why I’m stilling having trouble believing it.  We took on a superpower and beat them.

Okay Mike, let’s have a little perspective.  Brazil weren’t at their best and it was an error that let the Dutch back into the game.  My point is simple.  I thought as soon as Robinho slid home that lovely goal in the tenth minute the Dutch spirit would be broken.  Up to that point they had been happily trundling along content to nudge opponents out of the way.  It was at this point where adversity pummeled the Oranje that I was near certain it was over.

Shame on me for my lack of faith.  Isn’t it a trademark of good sides that all they need is a door left slightly ajar?  At 1-1 there was much to do and through perserverance and determination not only did they get the second goal they needed but their opponents lost their minds a little bit.

With all the talking done let’s sit back and look at some of the history that was intermingled with Friday’s game.

We start with the 2-0 victory over Brazil in 1974; one of the greatest Dutch sides of all time.  Both of these goals, Neeskens and Cruyff, are without a doubt two of the best from the tournament.  Both seem to typify the type of player the scorer was.  Neeskens with a lung busting run into the box going into a hard challenge for the ball and in doing so lifting it over the keeper and into the net.  Cruyff’s mid-air lunging volley captured his outrageous skill.  Notice also some horrific tackling by the Brazilians…

Next we have the defeat to Brazil in 1994.  Essentially a clinic for awful defending.

Here we see the devastating semi-final loss to Brazil on penalties in 1998.  Likely the best team at the tournament the Oranje thrilled the crowds.  The Dutch are most remembered in 1998 for Dennis Bergkamps spine-tingling 88 minute winner against Argentina.

And last but perhaps most significant of all is Friday’s come from behind victory.  Apologies for the abbreviated highlights but FIFA is making it hard to get a decent video.

Obviously the true significance of the victory will be determined as time goes by.  For now all we can do is enjoy the incredible acheivement and hope there is more to come.

Our Opponents: Brazil

It certainly seems like a different tournament now.  Of course I can only speak for myself but from this morning onwards I haven’t been able to shake a feeling of trepidation.  I just don’t know what to expect!

I’ve made my case about the current squad’s style of play but at this point I’m left scratching my head as to how this will lend itself to tomorrow’s game against Brazil.  In truth I’ve heard very few people who believe the Netherlands can win. 

I know what’s causing my hesitation but I’m afraid to admit it.  It’s the lack of attacking spark from the Dutch.  I’ve tried to be very positive about their performances because I have seen a lot of good things about the shape of the side, the mentality of the side and the overall results.  After watching a couple of the Brazil games it seems the South American’s are more comfortable in their own skin with more chances being taken. 

The Dutch have for the most part been comfortable but at times in matches the team appears too comfortable and allow oppositions back into the match.  The win against Slovakia should be a warning as for large parts of the second half the Dutch allowed Slovakia to make inroads and Maarten Stekelenburg was called into true action for the first time in this tournament.

Tactics

We can be fairly sure of the starting lineup on Friday.  As much as everyone has been calling for two wingers in order to pin back the Brazilian fullbacks its highly unlikely van Marwijk will begin with Kuyt on the left and Robben on the right as he did against Slovakia. 

Brazil also have an established line up and only injury concerns are forcing changes for Dunga.  There is no doubt Brazil will actually attack as opposed to Japan and Denmark.  Samuel Eto’o in the group stage and the in-from Vittek for Slovakia were good practice for the back line but the true danger comes from Kaka and Robinho who will be moving between the Dutch midfielders and central defenders. 

For the Dutch to be successful they will have to come out of their shells to a certain degree when attacking.  They have been very disciplined when defending and provided de Jong and van Bommel can marshall Kaka and pick up any runs from deep they will be able to realistically look to win the match.  Given that Brazil will not be looking to merely shut down the Dutch there should be space with which the Dutch can create opportunities.

Personalities

For the Dutch Arjen Robben is the key man.  He will be looking to exploit the inexperience and suspect defending of Brazilian leftback Bastos.

For Brazil Kaka will have the spotlight firmed planted on him.  Playing a similar role to Sneijder on the other end of the pitch Kaka will need to link well with his midfielders and Fabiano if the Samba boys are going to have any success.

Key matchups

Bastos versus Robben.  Kaka versus de Jong.  Kuyt/van Bronckhorst versus Alves/Maicon.

Predictions

I’ve always been told that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do.  One of those things is to predict the outcome of this match because truly I can’t grasp it!  I think I’ve come up with a way to squeak out without really committing myself.  I have no idea who will win.  What I do is how the game will play out defending on the result.

If the Dutch win the game will go this way: Brazil will be stifled, struggling to create chances and the Dutch will successfully convert a half chance or two.  The Dutch may come to life late on the match as belief because solidified: 2-0

If the Brazilians win we will see a game (I can’t believe I’m saying this) similar to the North Korea match where for long periods Brazil were frustrated but their quality up front eventually finds a way through the as yet untested Dutch defense: 3-1

An alternate tactical preview can be found at Zonalmarking.net