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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

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It begins!!

Finally it’s starting. We’ve waited four years since the last but now its here!

When you woke up this morning were you excited? Did it seem like the world had a pleasant gloss when you looked out your window?

Football, and in particular today the World Cup, is a more than a sport and while that sounds like a cliche there is significant truth to that statement.

In the past we have seen conflict and hatred between nations put aside to allow the beautiful game its moment. Do you remember USA v. Iran? Everyone thought it would be an ill-tempered game fueled by poor political relationships. In reality it was a well-mannered game between two respectful opponents.

This time around in South Africa North Korea have qualified for the tournament proper with what is mostly a team of unknowns.

We might all assume that this team is made up of dour individuals who are oppressed by The Leader and His expectations. However, if at any time there is good sportsmanship between a North Korean and an opponent or if there is a handshake of mutual respect between solemn gladiators then the oppression that we all know exists in their country will be defeated if but for a short while.

The World Cup is bigger than the host nation and it is bigger than the ultimate winner. Huge salaries are put aside and only national pride and love for your fellow human beings is required.

This is why I’m excited. There is nothing more beautiful.