Sunday, 11 July 2010

Is The Future Here?

In all the obsessing about the World Cup & England’s performance, spare a thought for Scotland. In qualifying for the Last World Cup, they had to get past Italy for the automatic place. At the qualification process for Euro 2008, Scotland faced three of the teams who reached the Quarter finals of the World Cup, Italy (again) and France contested the final of that contest, while Ukraine were the fallers at the Quarter Final stage. For the qualifiers for this tournament Scotland had to get past the Dutch for the automatic place, but fell behind Norway. It doesn’t get any easier for Scotland for the qualifiers for Euro 2010, in their way are the other World Cup finalists (and current European Champions) Spain.

The seeds of this current Dutch side were sown, ironically enough, in a previous encounter with Scotland. 1-0 down after the first leg of the Euro 2004 play-off. The Dutch turned to the likes of Wesley Schneider, Arjen Robben and Van Persie (they also discarded Patrick Kluivert in favour of Ruud Van Nistelrooy for the second leg), and reaped the rewards as they blew away Scotland 6-0. The tone being set with Schneider’s turning of Cauldwell before shooting from distance. It would be the following European Championships under Marco Van Basten where the Dutch would adopt their current formation of 4-2-3-1, again the rewards were instant, they blew away both Italy & France to qualify for the quarter finals, but looked sluggish against an equally talented Dutch coached Russia. It should be pointed out that this was the Netherland’s last defeat in competitive football.

For this World Cup though, the Netherlands have been content to grind out the results. Uninspiring wins against Denmark, Japan & Cameroon saw them into the knockout phase and a half with only one of the heavyweights of football. After a last 16 win over Slovakia, the Dutch had a quarter final with Brazil to contend with. Not unlike the Dutch themselves, Brazil had adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation. Unlike the Dutch, Brazil had been heavily criticised back home for not being expansive enough. Despite the fact that they had been convincing winners in each of their games up to that point, I though that Brazil were maybe vulnerable. The Brazil game-plan was based around Kaka, but there did not appear to be any plan B/C… for if Kaka did not perform, or was nullified.

When Brazil scored (traditional manner for them, ball through the middle of the Dutch defence to the borderline offside forward – compare & contrast this goal to the Romario & Bebeto goals in the ‘94 Quarter Final or the Ronaldo Goal from the ‘98 semi or even Lopez equaliser in the Quarter final against Argentina in ‘98) it looked like a question of how many. The Netherlands buckled down, and in the second half equalised and then took the lead. The goals both came from fantastic, accurate, crosses from the Brazil left, Brazil were now under pressure and crumbled as a result.

Facing the Dutch in the semi final were a revitalised Uruguay, who unfortunately for them were shorn of the talents of their defender Lugano and the forward Suarez. The Dutch did not get going until they switched to a 4-1-4-1 by bringing on Van Der Vaart for the second half. It was only then they were able to step up the tempo and put Uruguay out of the match, despite a late goal to take the match to 3-2.

The Future’s bright… the future’s Orange” was the old Orange mobile phone network’s slogan. For this type of orange to bring the future forward by winning, they have to make the most of any possession that they have, and also minimise any opportunities for Spain.

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