Brazil V Portugal was probably The marquee game when the draw was announced. After all, it can’t get much better than the top ranked team playing the third ranked nation, can it?!
However, based on the way the tournament has turned out so far, it is difficult to imagine this one will live up to its billing. Brazil have been lacklustre even when they’ve dominated the games and Portugal need a draw to ensure qualification. In such a scenario, it’s difficult to imagine that either of these teams is going to light up the tournament with a sensational display of attacking football.
I hope I’m wrong and we get a spectacle that justifies the status of these teams but my guess is that Portugal will play on the counter. Brazil under Dunga have been, to put it politely, extremely pragmatic, so we can’t expect them to outclass a team that has gone 17 games unbeaten and have 21 clean sheets from the last 25 games. Some might say, Brazil are Brazil and they can spank anyone. I don’t have an argument against that; we’ll just have to see.
Thankfully, both teams have an incentive to top the group. They won’t know whether Spain will finish first or second (assuming they qualify) so they can’t really plan for that. It would be safe to think that the Spaniards will top the group (more on that later in the article). Moreover, if they top the group they will have a much easier path to the final. Except for the Dutch in the quarter-finals there shouldn’t be much resistance for either of these teams as they will face one of Ghana, USA, Uruguay or South Korea in the semi-finals.
I’m not trying to belittle these teams but in my honest opinion they don’t stand a chance against Brazil or Portugal. There are too many “ifs” involved here but if I was the manager of Brazil or Portugal I’d surely want to top the group. If Carlos Queiroz thinks the same then this game could actually be quite interesting.
In the other group, La Roja take on La Roja! I mean, Spain (probably La Furia Roja is more commonly used name) take on Chile who are top of the group with two wins. In the other game Switzerland take on minnows Honduras. If Span and the Swiss win all three teams will be tied on 6 points and it will come down to goal difference and goals scored.
As Chile have an attacking style of play, I think Spain will win that one with a good goal difference. I also have a feeling this game will turn out to be the most entertaining game of the first round. The South Americans have a very unique style and they will create some chances while giving Spain ample opportunities to play their game. If Spain win they will qualify as they will go above Chile on goal difference or goals scored.
The Swiss can then qualify with a win but it won’t be easy for them. There are other permutations but it doesn’t make sense in doing a comprehensive if-then-else analysis. I’d certainly like to see Spain and Chile advance.
In the earlier games from Group E, Van Persie scored and got the Man of the Match award for a good outing against the Indomitable Lions. The Dutch haven’t been in top gear but have managed three wins out of three against quality opposition. I’m convinced they will beat Slovakia in the second round and we will have a terrific quarter-final no matter who they face from Group G or H.
Japan were the other team to qualify with a comprehensive win over Bendtner’s Denmark. The Danes had to win this one to go through and that favoured the Asian side who were happy to sit back and attack on the counter. Japan scored a couple of goals from brilliant free-kicks. It could be that the players are now getting used to the ball as we are finally seeing some wonderful goals.
I thought Sorenson was at fault for both goals. Taking nothing away from the strikes, the keeper moved prematurely on the first one and got his wall wrong for the second. He left a gap for the right footed player to exploit and had the shorter players on the far side. The wall should have been further to his left and he should have had his big men on that side to create a bigger challenge for the right footed free kick. If Honda took it left footed or the right footed player went central, then Sorenson would have had a better chance of saving it. Of course this is just my opinion based on some observations and common sense and I’m not a qualified coach so I could be completely wrong.
Japan have been surprisingly good I must say. They have done really well on set-pieces at both ends of the pitch, especially against physically bigger and stronger opponents. They’ve also maintained their organization and worked really hard without losing focus.
On one side we’ve seen teams like France and Italy who have underperformed miserably and on the other there are those like Japan and Uruguay who have outdone all expectations. I really like it when some of the unheralded sides do well as I have a tendency to support the underdogs when I’m watching as a neutral. That is also the reason I’m backing Chile to entertain us more than Brazil or Portugal!