Upstart Takes on the World (Cup): Day 26

6 July 2010

Written by: Evan Harding

On a day where everyone is looking to the semi-finals – it seems silly to do anything different. But you’re not here to read the same thing you can get elsewhere. In fact, some of you aren’t here at all.

So with that in mind, behold the results from the time capsule that was Day 1 (old choices in italics and indented):

Winners:

Spain Are you really surprised? It’s simply their time. Watch their second goal against Poland from their final warm-up – just brilliant. Golazos don’t necessarily win but with a solid defence also it’s hard to see any team beating the Spanish.

That last line took all of one game to unravel, didn’t it? On the other hand, they are still alive so this has the chance to be correct.

New prediction: Spain – Yes, the Germans have looked brilliant but they too have been beaten. Spain can still improve, and should provide higher-quality defence to that served up by Australia, England and Argentina.

Runners-up:

Netherlands This selection is made with the caveat that Arjen Robben must recover from his hamstring strain. This looks to be the best chance the Dutch have of making the final since their consecutive runners-up performances in 1974 and ’78 and if they can top a wide-open Group E then the draw should open up nicely.

Here’s another with a good chance to be on the mark. The draw has, in a sense, opened up. OK, they had to beat Brazil, but they had to encounter a good team eventually.

New prediction: Netherlands – No reason to go against it with the easier of the semi-finals, against Uruguay.

Golden Boot:

Fernando Torres (Spain) – David Villa sat at the head of the goal-scorers at Euro 2008 with four, but three of them came in the one match. He’s the popular pick but when Torres can stay on the pitch there is nobody deadlier.

Say it with me: ‘Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!’ The only thing more wayward than this prediction was Torres himself.

New prediction: David Villa (Spain) – Not much of a prediction given he’s leading – although German pair Miroslav Klose and Thomas Müller, and the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder trail by just one and Uruguay’s Diego Forlán and Luis Suárez by two. Villa has been the reason Spain have gotten this far, scoring five of their six goals and this mightn’t be the only trophy he receives at the end.

Golden Ball:

Xavi (Spain) – Just like at Euro. Not to fawn over the Spanish but the Player of the Tournament usually comes from the winning team. And watch what he did for Barça against Málaga.

Xavi has still been one of Spain’s leading lights, but it’s fair to say he hasn’t had the same impact upon the tournament as he did at Euro 2008. Vicente del Bosque has had the Spanish playing a slightly less free-wheeling style than his predecessor, Luis Aragonés. This could be attributed to having Sergio Busquets in front of the back four as opposed to Marcos Senna, meaning Xavi and Xabi Alonso have had to provide more assistance. In other words, he has set up less, a huge reason why Spain haven’t clicked in the same fashion.

New prediction: Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) – The man of the match in the Netherlands’ first two fixtures, Sneijder has scored four goals from the midfield, including both of his team’s in the quarter-final victory over Brazil. He has also been the lynchpin of many of the Dutch moves, though much credit should also go to Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong playing the screening roles. It wouldn’t be surprising to see David Villa get the Golden Ball for the efforts mentioned above, or Bastian Schweinsteiger from Germany. Keep an eye on these three in the semis – whoever has the best game of the trio should take the award. The other two should take silver and bronze.

Yashin Award:

Hugo Lloris (France) – I think France will surprise after such a wretched qualifying campaign, and it will be the young guns to step up like Lyon’s excellent ‘keeper Lloris. If I were a gambling man, I would have a few bob on France at 19.00. I am a gambling man, and I did.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. At least Lloris wasn’t France’s worst – in fact he may have been their best but that’s like saying you’d rather have ‘Chopper’ Read on your tail than Ivan Milat because he’s amusing.

New prediction: Manuel Neuer (Germany) – Has had his copybook blotted just twice, one of four ‘keepers to have achieved such. But unlike Iker Casillas, he hasn’t given up a route one goal; unlike Justo Villar he hasn’t finished on the wrong end of a penalty shoot-out; and unlike Fernando Muslera he hasn’t required a teammate to do the ‘keeping for him.

Best Young Player:

Mesut Özil (Germany) – The talk is that Germany will be a better chance to conquer the world in 2014. So we should see the signs, and Özil has impressed for Werder Bremen so I’m picking him to become Germany’s second straight Best Young Player award-winner, and his transfer price to shoot up immediately.

This was on the money, but if Germany are a better chance to conquer the world in 2014, then the world is in big trouble.

New prediction: Mesut Özil (Germany) – Not even his impressive teammate Thomas Müller can take this away from him.

MUST-SEE: Choose your own adventure today. Yes, that’s code for ‘I couldn’t decide because none of these top a maybe’… For a thoughtful analysis, here’s Richard Williams from The Guardian. For slightly entertaining, despite shallow, we have the Herald Sun’s Michael Owen-Brown. And (now) for something completely different… take it away Monty Python!

EYEBROW-RAISER: Yesterday, it was thought that coaching a South American quarter-finalist was a tough job. But it could be worse – imagine being eliminated in the Round of 16?

Chile’s mentor Marcelo Bielsa brought the World Cup some of its most entertaining and innovative play before being squeezed out by Brazil. His reward? Being linked with coaching Australia.

To be fair, it would be a shrewd appointment should the FFA pull it off. Guus Hiddink had come off being one of the coaches of the 2002 World Cup when brought in to take the Socceroos to Germany in 2006. Bielsa’s performance for Chile has been almost as impressive. Forget the Brazil match, the Chileans strong qualifying campaign and subsequent effort to make it to the last 16 deserves acclaim.

Let’s just hope he has a thick skin.

TONIGHT: The first semi-final pits the don’t-judge-us Uruguayans against the so-what-if-we-haven’t-actually-played-well Dutch. Uruguay are of course without Luis Suárez, and regardless of what we may think of his actions, his loss will affect them greatly, with Forlán now the focus of the attack. Jorge Fucile is also suspended after picking up a second yellow. But the Dutch have two suspensions as well in the form of holding midfielder Nigel de Jong and defender Gregory van der Wiel. You get the feeling the Dutch have more depth to cover those losses. Their defence may be a weak link it’s hard to see Uruguay able to penetrate it enough without half of their strike duo: Uruguay 0-2 Netherlands.

Evan Harding is co-producer of The Contenders Daily Bite, a daily World Cup short which can be seen on Tribal Football. A Master of Global Communication student at La Trobe University, he is an upstart editor armed with a month’s supply of coffee and a Spanish chance to still make back the money lost on an ill-conceived bet. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.