Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup: It's Brazil's To Lose

The winner of Spain-Portugal tonight rounds off the quarter-final line-up.

Spain's trademark flair hasn't really reached full flow, and their defence is highly suspect, so Brazil are strong favourites.

Despite accusations that they are a dour outfit by previous standards, Brazil have an ominous momentum. They've swept aside Ivory Coast and Chile, always giving the impression that if and when necessary, they can shift into a higher gear.

Their final group game, the dead rubber against Portugal, was interesting in hinting at the problems Brazil may have breaking down a well-organised team with little attacking ambition. Then again, key forwards were rested, and you would back the men in yellow if they could call on the full compliment.

Could Portugal themselves have slipped under the radar as possible winners? They have an amazing defensive record in recent times. A team with a great defence and a decent attack is more likely to triumph in a World Cup than a team with a poor defence and a great attack. That is why I do not see Spain as likely winners. Tonight's outcome will tell us more.

Germany's destruction of England has been greeted with a little too much fanfare. Lampard's "goal that wasn't" would have had a huge impact on the game if allowed, to suggest otherwise is moronic. A team levelling a game from 2-0 down- in the space of a minute- is going to have serious momentum for the remainder. Instead, Germany collected themselves, sat back, soaked up and killed the game when the opportunity arose. England would obviously not have left those yawning gaps at the back had the scores been level.

The Germans were delightful in England's final third, and their continued presence in the tournament is reason to be pleased. But the latent flakiness of their young team- apparent in the concession of Lampard's goal and a shakey start to the second half- suggests that they would be no match for Brazil if there is to be a repeat of the 2002 final.

Before speculating about the identity of the finalists, there is the small matter of a mouth-watering quarter-final between Germany and Argentina. To me, Argentina look untested. Messi has been explosive at times, but looks obsessed with scoring, at times to the detriment of better-placed team mates. After a handy group, they enjoyed a lot of luck in negotiating what should have been a tight game against Mexico. Their midfield and defence are nowhere near as impressive as their attack. If they manage to reach the final, again I would see them as fodder for the Brazilians.

Assuming that Brazil will be in the final. This may seem an insult to a Dutch side that have been efficient if unspectacular so far. Unfortunately for Holland, Sneijder and Van Persie have a strained relationship, which is not to mention the fact that they do not dovetail naturally as players. If Arjen Robben plays a blinder, they could spring a shock, but it is more likely that Brazil will expose a defence that looked shakey at times against Slovakia.

Uruguay- Ghana will be the battle of the dark horses. Uruguay in particular could cause Brazil a problem in the semi-finals by refusing to become open to their counter-attacking threat. A cagey affair in prospect.

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