This day will probably go down as one of the most sensational in World Cup history. In any other domain apart from sport heaping such agony and heartbreak on a country/continent would probably be considered a criminal or terrorist act.
Netherlands beating Brazil was an upset of sorts but it can’t be called a shocker. Even the two hours of football that followed didn’t raise any eyebrows. It all changed in the final minute of extra-time as Ghana’s history making moment hit the bar and flew away.
Before I get into the analysis of the game I want to acknowledge a Luis Suarez moment that was perhaps the antithesis of the Hand of God!
Ghana hadn’t been a threat on set pieces at all during the two hours and I didn’t expect the final free kick to cause much trouble. Somehow, Uruguay managed to lose their discipline and the penalty box turned into a pin-ball machine. As the ball was headed towards the goal with what would most probably have been the last and winning touch, up came a Uruguayan fist and punched the ball away. And it wasn’t the goalkeeper who punched it!
Normally, Suarez would have been criticized for such an act as he was sent off and his team conceded a penalty. In this particular case though, that was the moment that changed the course of history. If ever there was a case of making your own luck, this was it. Had that ball gone in, there was no way Uruguay would have come back as the ref was on the verge of blowing for full time.
Gyan was under pressure as he took the spot kick and I’ve a feeling his attitude spoilt it for him. He went for a glorious looking blast down the middle instead of his regular style of going for the corners. As we’ve seen from his other three spot kicks in the tournament, he isn’t a bad penalty taker. It was just the pressure of the moment combined with a wrong choice.
After that it was up to Muslera to see la celeste through. Mensah’s spot kick attempt was ridiculous and the keeper saved well from the youngster Adiyiah’s kick.
Overall, I think the deserving team qualified. Ghana scored first from a freak shot from distance that the keeper misread, but they didn’t create much in normal or extra time.
Uruguay equalized from a sweetly struck, swerving free kick. They also had some other efforts on target that were saved well by the Ghana keeper Kingson.
The Black Stars have a young team and if they have the right manager they can do well in 2014.
Uruguay will take on Holland in the semi-finals. Wonder how many people predicted that before the World Cup started!?
The Dutch came back from an early setback to stun the top ranked nation. Robinho put Brazil ahead in the tenth minute when he ran onto a lovely through ball from Melo straight through the heart of the Dutch defence. Little did the Juventus man know how his luck was going to change in the course of the game.
The first half in that game was scrappy as both teams were happy to concede fouls to break up play. Brazil continued their defensive approach and looked content on sitting on their one goal lead. They did manage to create another chance when Kaka shot from distance but Stekelenburg was up to it. Holland didn’t create a single noteworthy chance in the first half.
I’d certainly like to know what Van Marwijk said to his team at half time. Holland moved the ball around faster and their movement was much better in the second half. It wasn’t a big change but at least they managed to create some pressure.
Even then Brazil looked comfortable until a moment of madness from the overrated Julio Cesar and Melo. Cesar is a very good goalkeeper but playing for Inter his aerial skills are rarely tested as the whole team defends right in front of him in the big games. In this game he flapped twice and the second one was fatal as Melo headed the ball into his own net.
After that you could see that Brazil were rattled and the Dutch were growing in confidence. The second goal came from a well executed set piece and was very similar to Van Persie’s goal against Blackburn. Only this time it was Kuyt who got the flick on and Sneijder who scored a collector’s item.
By this time Brazil had lost all composure and were quite clueless. Their misery was compounded when Melo was sent off for a petulant kick on Robben. There must be something called the Curse of the Arsenal Linked Player!
Dunga had no real choices on the bench and his ultra-defensive approach was woefully exposed. He must be wondering whether the end might have been a better fight if he had taken at least one or two flair players. Holland absorbed pressure rather well and Brazil never looked like they deserved an equalizer. If anything, the Dutch messed up a couple of great chances on the counter.
The Oranje will take on the Sky-Blues in the Semis and I’d say the Dutch are firm favourites to go through. They will miss De Jong and Van der Weil after they both picked up a second caution but Uruguay will also be without key players Fucile and Suarez. Uruguay fans can certainly hope for an upset if their team can keep Robben in check.
Tomorrow, Argentina take on Germany is a game that is sure to be a thrilling contest. I’ve a feeling the Germans will try to play on the counter attack as they did in the second half against England. The team that is clinical on the day is likely to go through. I’m supporting Argentina in that one and hopefully Messi will have another big game.
Spain should get past Paraguay without many difficulties. The South American side have done well so far but I don’t think their defence is good enough to keep the Spaniards out.
If the day is even half as dramatic as today was, it will be worth watching.