If I were a betting man, and had bet on some of my predictions, I would have made a couple of pounds today. Here’s a scary thought–Germany has scored more goals than any other team in the tournament (including four goals three times), and completely and utterly dominated Argentina, without their best player, Michael Ballack. Commentators too numerous to mention were hoping that Maradona’s preening would get a reality check, and boy, were they happy. I gather there was dancing in the streets in Brazil. Today’s game may take a bit out of the sting of England’s 4-1 loss, and also may put Ghana’s 1-0 loss to Germany in perspective. If they keep playing the way they did today, it’s difficult to see Germany not winning the whole shebang. First, however, they need to get past Spain. But Spain didn’t really look all that sharp today, and were lucky to not end up goalless against a scrappy Paraguay team that looks a whole lot weaker on paper than they played. Spain needs to take their game up at least a notch if they’re going to compete against a German team that seems to get stronger as the tournament progresses. I don’t see that happening. What was particularly impressive was that Germany tailored their game to challenge Argentina’s defensive weaknesses, and were able to execute the game plan perfectly. Expect something similar against Spain, who got pretty tangled up today by a team that was supposed to be much weaker. Plus there’s the revenge factor–Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the European Cup final two years ago. Germany 3-1.
The other semifinal should be similar. Uruguay was very lucky, and benefited from a bit of outright cheating, to get past Ghana. It does not need pointing out that Ghana should have made the damn penalty kick. But they never should have had to try in the first place. So now the entire continent of Africa will be rooting for the Netherlands, who are the only team left in the tournament, after the exits of Brazil and Argentina, to have won every game they have played. Robben gets my vote as one of the players of the tournament so far, and he missed the first two games. He’s that good. Netherlands 3-0.
So it will be a Germany/Netherlands final. And sadly, Germany will break the Netherlands’ hearts again, as they have in previous World Cups, particularly the legendary 1974 final. This is one of the greatest rivalries in football, and the way both teams are playing, it looks to be a great game. The fact that neither of these teams is even supposed to be in the final makes it even more interesting. Personally, as much as I love watching the way Germany is playing now, I’d like to see the Dutch pull it off, just to even things up a bit. But it probably won’t happen. Germany 3-2.
What with all the hoo-hah about the ball early on, we’ve seen some pretty impressive goalkeeping the past couple of days.
It seems like only two days ago we still had a possible all-South American semifinal. In fact, it was. Now it’s three European teams and one South American interloper.
Lionel Messi of Argentina, perhaps the best player in the game these days, failed to score a single goal in this World Cup. He shouldn’t feel too bad. Other players who also have failed to score so far include Wayne Rooney of England and Fernando Torres of Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scored only one goal the entire tournament, the same number of goals scored by the entire country of France, and one-third the number scored by Landon Donovan of he US.
Paraguay looked pretty feisty today, but a fair amount of that during the tournament has been fouling. They lead the tournament in fouls (97), averaging nearly 20 per game. The Netherlands don’t come out looking good here either–they’re number four on the list. Germany and Spain each have committed only a little over half the number of fouls (55) committed by Paraguay, a bit over 10 per game. The fewest number of fouls per game? North Korea. Whatever that means.