Netherlands 2 - Brazil 1
Its been said that an NBA playoff series doesn't really begin until the home team loses. For me, the true race for the World Cup began with the favorite going down. Brazil not even making the semi finals is a shock. Especially after Robinho's early goal, I assumed that a dominant performance would ensue. The Dutch defense was already questionable with one of the CBs a late scratch and after Melo's easy pass exposed this fact, I figured Brazil would end up with at least 2 more goals.
Who would have thought that it would be Brazil to give up those 2? Who would have thought that it would be a Brazilian to lose his composure at the end of contest? Melo first misfortune was not being able to head Sneijder's sublime left-footed looper away while simulataneously keeping the goalkeeper from punching it out. Still, I couldn't believe that Brazil started to panic. It was just a lucky goal. But their offense looked completely out of sync. Then Dunga's famed defense broke down on Sneijder's second goal with, who else, Melo allowing him a completely free header. When Melo Rooney-stomped Robben's leg, the match was over. Dunga will be lambasted for not having enough offensive firepower since when he really needed a goal, he had to bring in a kid instead of Ronaldinho or any other Brazilian wizard at his disposal.
As for my favorite Brazilian, Kaka, I thought he had a mediocre game. While the Dutch keeper impressively kept out a sure goal in the 1st half, Kaka missed a shot just outside the box in the 2nd half that I fully expected a great player of his stature to make, especially when his team needed it. Near the end, in full stride with one man to beat, he should have cut the ball inside and taken a shot. Instead he cut left, limited his angle and only got a corner out of it. That was that. While Melo and Dunga will receive the brunt of the blame, Kaka will sadly be seen as the one who couldn't deliver.
With France, Italy and now Brazil out, we will definitely have a new champion since 1990.
As for the Netherlands side, I hated how they dove and embellished at every opportunity. It was like watching one of those unsporting Central American teams, like Mexico or Guatemala. Robben was the main culprit in this one. For this reason alone, I'll be rooting for the winner of Germany/Spain to take it all.
Uruguay 1 - Ghana 1 (4-2 PKs)
The two goals scored in this match - Muntari's awesome 45 yard strike before half and Forlan's beautiful swerving free kick - are the kind of quality goals that I wish the US would be able to score. But anyway, the match itself was much more entertaining than the Brazil-Neth contest. It was much more wide open and of course the drama at the end will be a lasting memory from this WC.
Was Suarez's hand ball wrong and not within the spirit of the game? Yes. Was it adjudicated properly? Yes. Would I add a goaltending rule much like in basketball? Well, probably not. There is already too much on the referee's shoulders as it is. Are we really expecting him to decide whether a hand played the ball or if the ball played the hand? It just opens a can of worms that soccer doesn't need. Obviously had the play occurred in the first minute of play, Suarez would have never used his hands since Uruguay would have been a man down the rest of the match. But in his situation, there was nothing to lose. He had to do that. Perhaps the rule should be that if a handball occurs on the goalline in the last 10 minutes of the 2nd half or in extra time, it should automatically be a goal. Anyway, it was an exciting end to an exciting match.
I was trying to figure out who I wanted to root for. Contrary to the rest of the sympathetic world, I was probably hoping for Uruguay to win since I didn't want to see Ghana, the team that had eliminated the US in the last 2 WCs to progress. I really didn't appreciate their diving and injury-faking at the end our last match. Uruguay, with the highly impressive Forlan, and ancient WC history, just seemed to fit a semi-final spot more than Ghana. Plus, I liked that Uruguay beat down Mexico to keep them in the 2nd group spot, something that France couldn't do. But of course after the handball, it would have been better for soccer for Ghana to progress. Also, its better for US to lose to a semifinalist than a quarterfinalist. But oh well.
Germany 4 - Argentina 0
The 2nd shock of this round. Its not surprising that Deutschland won, of course. Whats surpising is the ease with which they won. The question mark was not Argentina's offense, it was always their defense. The Mueller goal in the 3rd minute was the result of horrible man-marking as much as it was the result of Bastian's great set piece and Mueller's run. The 2nd goal was something I can't remember ever seeing in a game of this magnitude. Podolski's pass threaded the keeper and defender so well that Klose literally walked the ball into goal. The 3rd goal was the result of statue-eque defending as Bastian calmly dribbled through the lazy Argentine defense and slotted it to the oncoming Friedrich. With Klose already on the board, how was he completely unmarked as he scored the 4th German goal? That goal was also the 4th of this World Cup and 14th goal of his World Cup career. How its possible that Klose is merely average for his club team but unstoppable for Germany leaves us either incredulous or simply in awe of the machine that is German football. This year, the machine has unleashed Mueller and the newest playmaker to take world soccer by storm, Ozil. He is my favorite German to watch this year. Muller's yellow card was ridiculous and should be rescinded if they used my postgame review system. The fact that he will miss the Spain match will hurt them. Or maybe not. It is Germany after all.
I know everyone is supposed to hate Germany and the ridiculous success they've had in WCs (quarterfinalists every WC since 1982 and semifinalists 6 of last 8 WCs including this year), but after traveling through that country in 2006 and meeting its people, I much prefer them to the French, the Italians and definitely the Dutch. Since they are not the giant superstars and egomaniacs that England players mostly are, so I guess I'd include the English as well. What about the Spanish? well...
Spain 1 - Paraguay 0
Definitely was rooting for Spain in this one. Who wants to see a 2nd South American squad in the final four when neither is Brazil or Argentina? Plus, of the 4 teams left, I definitely want to see Spain win. Germany already has 3 titles and they're still young. Yes, the Netherlands have never won but who wants to see Sneijder, Van Persie and those other punks win anything?
Spain is now in their prime. They won the Euro 2008 and if they win this year, the US will be the only team to eliminate them in a major tournament in the midst of their dominance. Plus, their wordless royal march of an anthem is catchy.
I guessing Netherlands and Germany will meet in the final. Spain just seems vulnerable right now and I've learned not to pick against the machine.