Saturday, June 21, 2008

Netherlands - Russia Quarterfinal Preview

After yet another unbelievable finish yesterday, we now know 2 of the 4 teams that will play in the semifinals. And now we turn to the better half of the draw, home to 2 of the most exciting teams in the world, the defending world cup champions and a young team not afraid to get swole on unsuspecting squads. Today matches The Netherlands against Russia in a game that just may be the best of the entire tournament. Time to take a look GDB style at a possible classic encounter.

How they got here:

Not only have the Dutch gone unbeaten in the toughest group in the tournament, they also looked the best in doing so. They are the best counter-attacking team I have ever seen and are playing with a cohesiveness and unity that has long been foreign to Dutch national teams. Watching them play has been a revelation, because with a combination of unmatched technical prowess and freedom to attack at all times from their coach they have been transformed from an afterthought into an attacking juggernaut. Now they go up against a Russia team that nobody really knows too well, but seems to be growing up at the perfect time. I didn't get to watch them dismantle Sweden 2-0, but all reports said that Russia looked like a team ready to join the elite of European squads.

Possible Starting 11's:

G - Edwin Van Der Sar
D - Khalid Bouhlarouz
D - Andre Ooijer
D - Tom Mathijsen
D - Gio Van Bronckhorst
M - Orlando Engelaar
M - Nigel De Jong
M - Rafael Van Der Vaart
M - Wesley Sneijder
F - Ruud Van Nistelrooy
F - Robin Van Persie

G - Igor Afinkeev
D - Sergei Ifnasevich
D - Aleksander Aniukov
D - Denis Kolodin
M- Konstantin Zurianov
M- Igor Semshov
M- Sergei Semak
M- Diniyar Bilyletdinov
M - Yuri Zhirkov
F - Andre Arshavin
F - Roman Pavluchenko

Tactics Board:

What makes this possibly such an exciting game is that both teams play the same way. We all know that the Netherlands are going to play the game at a rapid tempo thanks to quick passing and excellent movement. Well guess what, Russia are going to try and play just as fast. Their coach, Guus Hiddink, is already on record of saying Russia is not going to back down from the Dutch and will attack right back at them. And it goes without saying that Hiddink will know a thing or two about Holland because it is his nationality and because he has coached the Dutch style for decades. All this boils up to a rapidly-paced game with chances galore for both teams. If the Netherlands gets ahead early in this one, they will once again employ their counterattack to great success. Don't forget that Spain (maybe the only squad with the technical prowess of the Dutch left in the field) already put up a 4 spot on the Russian defense, so things could get ugly quick. But Russia has two really good strikers up front and will get chances against a Holland defense that while having been good so far, will be prone to giving up chances.

3 Interesting questions to ponder:

Can the Netherlands possibly keep up this level of play? The Oranje played so amazingly well in the group stages that it would be heartbreaking for them to desintegrate back into what they appeared to be before the tournament started. Considering their opponent today and the way the game is going to played, I don't see them backing off the gas pedal at all. Furthermore, many of their starters got to rest in the Romania game and should be fresh for this crucial quarterfinal. I see no way the Dutch don't score at least 2 goals today.

What effect does Guus Hiddink have for the Russian team? This is kinda like one of those games where the old coach got fired from one team and now has a chance to get back at them for a different team. Hiddink knows all about Van Basten's coaching style and all of the players for the Dutch so nothing will be new to him. The question is can he somehow make his Russian players as comfortable with the opposition as he will be? This is still a very young team and they have nowhere near the experience that Holland has in games of this magnitude. Either they will carry the momentum from last game or be blown away by the Clockwork Oranje.

Will there be any defense played today? I'm hoping the answer is a definitive no, which will make goalkeeping a huge part of today's game. We've all heard of Edwin Van Der Sar and know what he can do. Most people don't know that Russian keeper Igor Afinkeev has been goalie for the national team since he was 18 and is one of the best young keepers in the world. We just never hear about him because he plays in the Russian League instead of the EPL or La Liga. Today will be a crucible for young Afinkeev because of the opposition. He is going to have to make incredible saves to keep the Russkies in the game, which he is definitely capable of. But if he does not have a good game and makes mistakes, Russia simply has no chance to win.


In a lot of previous tournaments, the Dutch have looked awesome in the early stages of the tournament and then been bounced out prematurely once the knockout stages begin. There was the loss to Italy at home in Euro 2000, an epic loss to the Czech in Euro 2004 and a terrible loss to Portugal in the last world cup. Today they got lucky in that they are playing an upstart team that will cater to the Dutch style and play a game they'll be comfortable in. This will allow the Dutch players to play the free-flowing game that they have been so successful at so far in this tournament. And while i think today Russia will capitalize on some mistakes in the Netherlands defense, that offense is simply too spectacular right now to be held down by a young and unproven Russian defense. I expect a total shootout at the OK Corral today, with the Oranje advancing to the semifinals to take on the winner of Italy and Spain courtesy of a 4-2 victory over the precocious neophytes of Russia.


dr. burns said...

Dr. Burns, Esq. has scoured GMB for an NBA Finals post so I could tell ya'll about the time I met Paul Pierce in Lawrence. But nothing; instead I find some stupid video about the new IU basketball facility to which I'm sure Knuckleballer and Cicero have been jerking off to for the last month. In regards to the IU basketball program, as my old boss used to say, you can polish a piece of shit all you want, but it's still a piece of shit.

Young Sweezy, I'm coming to your crib soon to watch the games. Peace.

Young Cicero said...

5 > 3.

dr. burns said...

21 years.

Young Cicero said...

"Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?" -Cicero