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World Cup Quarter Finals

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I was going to write something about this, but . . . no.  I’ve grown addicted to my monthly “paycheque”.

The quarter final brackets for the World Cup are . . . unbalanced.  Look for yourself:

Friday, 2 July
Netherlands v Brazil 15:00 BST, 10:00 EDT, 07:00 PDT
Uruguay v Ghana 19:30 BST, 14:30 EDT, 11:30 PDT

Saturday, 3 July
Argentina v Germany 15:00 BST, 10:00 EDT, 07:00 PDT
Paraguay v Spain 19:30 BST, 14:30 EDT, 11:30 PDT

I’m going to boldly predict that the final will include the team that wins the Netherlands v Brazil match and the Argentina v Germany match.  This should not be taken as a disparagement of Spain, the reigning European Champions, but they haven’t really appeared all that sharp, especially with a blatantly unfit Fernando Torres playing in every match.

As I am now happily ensconced in Oregon, catching up on research that I haven’t had the time to work on back in Plymouth (goal for the next month: three new articles sent off, and two book proposals in the can by September.  no, really!), I’ll be waking early to go visit a friend’s house to watch the Netherlands v Brazil match.  Since the USA were eliminated, I’ve transferred my allegiance to the Dutch.  Ironic, considering the only tournament held during my three years in the NL, the 2002 World Cup, didn’t feature the side at all.

This will not be one of the Holland Brazil matches of yore.  Both sides have adopted the more circumspect, cautious football that everybody save for the English have managed to master at this level (which in part may explain the relative paucity of goals at this tournament).  Both sides line up in what traditional nomenclature would refer to a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3, but both formations are more nuanced than tradition allows: it’s really a 4-2-1-2-1.  England, of course, stay wedded to the tried and true (and outdated) 4-4-2.  It worked in 1966!!!  But then, they also stay wedded to the tried and true Single Member District / Plurality electoral system, but I digress.

Realistically, one has to like Brazil to win this match, but I am holding out hope for De Oranje, as Brazil have a few niggles and suspensions, whereas Holland manager Bert van Marwijk has an injury and suspension free 23 to choose from.

For those interested, I’ve read a few excellent books on Dutch football.  Indeed, I’ve found the quality of insightful writing on football soccer to be excellent at times, and both of these blend football with broader observations of Dutch politics and society:

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football (at Amazon here).

as well as the brilliant Simon Kuper‘s Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe during the Second World War.

Kuper also wrote the excellent Football Against the Enemy, which includes a chapter on the 1974 World Cup final between the Dutch and West Germany if I recall correctly, as well as coverage of the same two sides match in the finals of the 1988 European Championship.  I have several other suggestions, but, alas, my library is in England, and I’m in Oregon.

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