Daily Cup Check: Day 7
The tournament now has its biggest storyline as the title holders crashed out in most hilarious fashion. That, and perhaps the most bonkers game of the tournament. Let’s put our hand in yesterday’s pile of goo…
Netherlands 3 – Australia 2
This one was basically nuts. What we thought Spain and others would be able to do to the Dutch, the Aussies actually did. That is, get at a suspect backline with pressure, and overwhelm Nigel De Jong and De Guzman in the midfield to rob Robben and Van Persie of service. It worked for a while, until Robben actually came back into that midfield and then somehow was able to run all the way to the six-yard box before anyone asked him for I.D. Of course, that was immediately wiped out by the best goal Tim Cahill or possibly any Australian will ever score, and we were back where we were with the Dutch looking pretty shaky.
Australia took a deserved lead, though it was a pretty soft penalty. But eventually, their inexperience would come clear as Davidson didn’t step up with the rest of his trapping backline to keep Van Persie onside, and that’s generally only going to go one way. Then, their keeper caught whatever was ailing Croatia’s keeper in the opening game to gift the Dutch the three points, though you suspect they might have found a winner anyway.
The Dutch will need a positive result in their last group stage game against Chile to avoid Brazil in the next round (assuming Brazil wins Group A, and considering their last game is against the pod people of Cameroon, I think we can safely say they will). You wonder how they’re going to stack up against the Chileans’ lightning midfield and forward corps. Should be something to witness.
Chile 2 – Spain 0
It’s better to burn out than to fade away?
While this flameout really shouldn’t take anything away from the six years of dominance the Spanish squad put forth, we probably should have seen something like this coming. The book has been out on how to play them, and their influences. We saw it when Munich laced Barcelona in the Champions League two years ago with a high-pressure, direct attack. We saw it when Madrid did it to Pep Guardiola’s Munich this year with the same thing. We saw it when Brazil blitzed Spain in last year’s Confederations Cup. Spain have just lost that little bit of spark that would see them play through pressure and take advantage of the space behind.
This tournament, we’ve highlighted box-to-box midfielders or direct attackers. Players like Robben or Ronaldo or Alexis Sanchez up front and out wide, or at least starting there. Midfielders like Vidal, Pogba, Witsel, even Michael Bradley. Did Spain have anyone like that in either category? There was no pace in the lineup, and they lost the ball too quickly and too deep to apply their own high-pressure, if they were even capable.
And how does a country like Spain have to import its only true striker? They don’t have anyone other than Diego Costa who can take in oxygen, unlike Fernando Torres? Teams didn’t give them time to build, they didn’t have the nous to do it anyway, and now they’re going home.
There was some arrogance from Del Bosque as well. Two Madrid managers have discarded Iker Casillas, and even after his horror show against Holland he stuck by him, only to watch him underhand toss a ball out to Aranguiz for the killer second goal. He did bring in Javi Martinez, but the midfield needed some sprucing as well– you know, the one that was so flat a week ago.
Still, Spain will go down as the best international side of this generation. They were very unlikely to win this tournament, but you know they’ll reload.
All of that said, Chile look pretty spicy, and Vidal was better Wednesday than he was in the first game as he’s regaining health. One thing’s certain: this La Roja will be tough to beat if they can remain vibrant.
Croatia 4 – Cameroon 0
Man, I wish Vegas would have offered odds on how likely Cameroon was to get a player sent off, just to see how comically low they would be. After all, you dress a Song, you’re risking a card.
Cameroon still look the likely team to exit without scoring a goal, and they almost certainly won’t get a win for the third straight tournament. They looked more dangerous with Eto’o’ for 20 minutes before Alex Song completely lost his mind and decided to show off his People’s Elbow. From there it was basically a glorified kickabout for Croatia. You would think the Croats would have looked better with both teams at full-strength, and you wonder how they’ll deal with Mexico’s midfield troika with just Rakitic and Modric. That duo has a better chance of remaining in the starting XI than Gustavo and Paulinho, though.
Awkward Analysts Today
Nothing much to write home about, though the Catalan Roberto Martinez looked like he was struggling a bit to hide his glee at the Spanish national team biting it hard.
Awkward Exchange of the Day
OTF Player Of The Day
Let’s go with Chile’s Vargas. A constant nuisance, and a goal as well.
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