Saturday, June 19, 2010
World Cup 2010 Game 24: Netherlands 1, Japan 0
This one followed one of the classic World Cup templates. A stronger side playing an efficient but less accomplished team in a defensive posture. A goal based on individual effort causing the game to be opened up a little. Japan played a countering style, which is effective as long as the defense keeps the ball out of the net but also minimizes the chances for scoring.
Japan had a chance to equalize in the 90th minute when a header forward found a striker in the box. He took the ball on the volley for a strike at goal but hit it a little high off the bounce and it sailed over the crossbar.
Soccer is a team sport, but as with most team sports there are individual plays that can make the difference. Wesley Sneider's strike for Holland was pretty much a display of individual talent. Sometimes stars are responsible for creating opportunities but the most valuable quality in a striker is the ability to put the ball in the net when the opportunity arises.
The announcers and fans appear to be looking for a favorite (or co-favorite with Brazil), and the Germany loss earlier means none of the top 8 squads have looked dominant in both games. Perhaps scoring was down in the first slate of games do to the altitude and the ball,but perhaps parity is evident as well. The Netherlands was clearly a better team but not so much better that a team like Japan could not hang with them. This appears to be a difference from World Cups past where there was usually one team in a group that teams felt they could dominate. Argentina has looked like all of that and Germany at least had an excuse of having to play a man down--is it just me or the press in the United States or do you not hear nearly as much complaining coming from the German side for the poor refereeing that put them at a disadvantage? Is Holland looking like a dangerous team based on two 1-0 victories over inferior opponents? Maybe not, but breaking down defensively minded teams isn't easy--just ask England. If the Netherlands faces a team like, say, Paraguay in the Round of 16 they will have been well prepared for a tight battle. If Italy stumbles in that group and we end up having a Round of 16 battle between two top five rated teams in the world, they would have to worry about Italy playing up to the level of its competition. Once you make it to the second round you never know what to expect.