After seven blindingly-good matches over two days, I’m already a bit knackered (several pints of cider having nothing to do with it). There have been some shockers and lots of goals… good thing I’ve cleared my calendar.
After almost 48 hours, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the Dutch win over Spain. Five goals against the defending World champions would be unheard of two years ago. Both teams played high and aggressive, but it was power that won over possession, as the Netherlands seemed to find space for their runs. Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie were as good as they’ve ever been, with RvP scoring his Superman header, imitating Bobby Orr in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals. Nigel de Jong dominated the midfield… but strangely, Wesley Sneijder was not as involved as he may have been in the past. Meanwhile Spain’s spine seemed to shut down: Iker Casillas were horrible, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué were caught with their pants down, and Xavi seemed to falter.
Some pundits say the warning signs were there that this is a team in its autumn years… although you could also argue these are players that have come off punishing domestic and Champions league campaigns. Also noteworthy is that Spain had most of the possession, but as Bobby McMahon wrote for Forbes magazine, possession means nothing. Is this the end of Spanish dominance and tika-taka? Netherlands 3-1 Spain
Bad officiating reared its ugly head in this match as well. The second Dutch goal went in as RVP bonked Casillas in the noggin. It should have been foul; instead it was 2-1 and changed the tone of the game.
Meanwhile, Australia performed admirably against a lightning-quick Chile on Friday. Both teams stuck to form, with the Chileans scoring early and dominating the first third of the game. However, the Socceroos gathered the wits and Tim Cahill scored a trademark header. Note: the Chileans are tiny. Who knew? However, they gave as good as they got, with almost as many tackles as the Aussies… but the South Americans had far fewer fouls. The Chileans will get through (especially now that Spain is there for the taking), the Aussies won’t… but neither will be taken lightly from here on in. Chile 3-1 Australia.