For anyone that read my predictions on the World Cup, you would be correct in saying that I was confident in my pick of Spain as the winner of Group B. I mean, come on, they are the reigning champions and still the number one team in the world. Apparently, that meant absolutely nothing to Robin Van Persie and company as they dispatched Spain to the tune of a 5-1 final score.
I realize the error I made when analyzing the pool before the tournament began. The Netherlands was playing with a chip on their shoulder. They were clearly the underdogs and they had been beat by this exact team four years prior to today in a battle for world soccer supremacy. Spain also had to fight off the feeling of being complacent and the feeling that they were going to win simply because they were thought to be the best. Holland demonstrated, really for the entirety of this match, their burning desire to get revenge. They were first to every loose ball; they were more aggressive in their defending; they were more confident in their strikes on goal, converting five of them. They were simply the better team on the field rather than on paper.
The first take away from the match today has to be how poorly Spain played. They looked lackluster on offense and lazy on defense. Iker Casillas, who I lauded as being a special player for Spain, looked downright out of sync. He hasn’t been getting much time with the first team at Madrid and he certainly looked out of practice today. Casillas single-handedly gave away two goals today; one when he misplayed a cross from a free kick and one where he essentially pass Van Persie the ball in front of the net. I think Casillas will improve from here as he gets into a better rhythm but that has to be concerning for Spain’s supporters. We also witnessed the continued fall of Fernando Torres as he failed to beat a defender one on one to score a goal on an empty net. I don’t think I need to say more than that.
Now, even though Spain had a terrible performance, that should not take away from what the Dutch did today. They played fast and incredibly tactical offense and they played smothering defense. Van Persie and Arjen Robben showed signs of being one of the most dynamic duos on the international stage accounting for four different goals in the match. The fact that Spain’s only goal came from a penalty should indicate dominant the defense played throughout the whole game.
Now here is the fun part: projecting what happens next. I think this puts the Netherlands in the position to sweep the pool and take first. That would mean they would match up with the runner up from Group A, a much easier game than having to likely play Brazil at home. They could make a bit of a stretch run and I think they will wind up in the semi finals.
As for Spain, I still think they move on taking second in the pool. That would likely mean that we would get a matchup of two underachieving teams, Spain and Brazil. It really could be anyone’s game and one of these two tournament favorites could be heading home very early.
The last thing I have to say is how much I enjoyed watching the Spain-Holland game. It was so energetic and fast-paced. It was very entertaining soccer. I simply cannot remember enjoying watching soccer as much as I did today. This might have been one of the best I will ever see. As always, I am open to comments. Thanks for reading.