A Sneak Peak before the Semi-finals
In my opinion, Holland has been the class of the 2014 World Cup tournament. Much like the other semi-finalists, the Dutch side has been shaky at times. They’ve teetered on the brink of elimination, for example when they were down a goal with minutes left against Mexico before scoring two quick goals to win minutes later in stoppage time. Why?
Resilient or Brilliant?
Whether through resiliency or brilliance the Dutch have marched undefeated into the Semis. For long stretches they have looked dominant or even perhaps brilliant. My favorite part of the Dutch performance in Brazil, however, has been the resiliency the team has displayed. They’ve combated tough calls, heart-breaking shots off crossbars and posts, and too much time playing from behind. They’ve pulled out wins on the strength of possession, offensive pressure, moments of greatness ( the van Persie header) and an underrated backline that has been strong in defending against set pieces.
Stellar Play paired with Sublime Coaching
Arjen Robben has also been playing like a man possessed. He has my vote for best player of the tournament because of his unrivaled danger on the attack. (Yes, I acknowledge Messi is a contender here. Guess we’ll see who wins!) Strong tournament performance from Blind, Martins Indi, and even Kuyt are evident. The players are also bolstered by the coaching in this tournament.
Louis van Gaal has made all the right moves. Literally. Each bold substitution coaching decision: from Huntelaar in for van Persie and taking a PK, to Krul in as a substitute goalie for PKs. Various subs made big players. Krul in particular was a move that paid off in spades as the it got in the heads of the Costa Ricans who had been so good in the previous round against Greece. Furthermore, the substitution interrupted the Dutch streak of bad-luck in World Cup penalties. Van Gaal and the team looks in synch. It has this Dutchman believing.
They’ve beaten very good teams
Strengthening the case for the Dutch is the strength of the teams they’ve beaten.
In group play, downing Spain 5-1 in the opener clearly set the tone and put them in confident position to advance out of the group. Then however a shaky win against Australia showed both the team’s resiliency and vulnerability. I have to admit though, that Cahill’s goal was a truly sublime send-off for the Aussie great.
The win against Chile was a match pitting two class teams. Chile was a real contender and was unlucky against Brazil in regular time before succumbing to them in PKs, and Holland was able to control much of the game. Similarly Mexico showcased class and unbelievable goalkeeping in advancing out of their group with a tie against Brazil in their favor. In the end what’s truly remarkable is that the Dutch have showed an ability to produce goals when needed.
There’s a case to be made for every other team in the field and we could go more in depth comparing them all. But the truth is that no single team has been truly dominant. t Out of the for though I find that the Dutch are the class team. Plus it feels a little like it’s meant to be our time.