What to Watch This Weekend – Interlull Edition, Pt 1 (Friday March 25)

March 24, 2011 — by Suman2

The Interlull is upon us.  Just when the domestic and Champions leagues are hurtling towards their conclusions, getting us all hot and bothered…they take a break so the best players can fly all over the world to risk injury playing for their respective national teams in largely meaningless international games.  (Full disclosure: we picked up the “Interlull” terminology from the indispensable Arseblog.)

That said, some of these games aren’t completely meaningless–included on this weekend’s are a handful of Euro 2012 and African Cup qualifiers featuring some nations/players we like to watch. And some of the meaningless international friendlies shouldn’t be completely uninteresting–particularly USA hosting Argentina at the (New) Meadowlands (Saturday), Brazil playing Scotland at the Emirates (Sunday), and Ghana playing England at Wembley (Tuesday).

But you’ll have to come back for our previews of the latter matches.  There are so many fixtures (over 100) spread out over so many days (Friday thru Tuesday) that we’ve been forced to split up this weekend’s viewing guide into a multi-installment day-by-day affair.   As in the past, we’ve relied upon WaPo’s Soccer Insider for a complete listing of matches, times, and US television options.  Here our choices for…

Friday, March 25

Hungary-Netherlands in Budapest (3:30pmET,; 7pm on ESPND): A Euro 2012 qualifier between the two teams at the top of the Group E standings.

For the Dutch, no Arjen Robben nor Huntelaar due to injuries.  But still plenty of talent to watch in midfield, on the wings, and up front: Schneijder, van der Vaart, van Persie, Kuyt, Elia, Affelay.  Plus watch for up-and-coming right wingback Gregory van der Wiel. Barcelona was said to be keeping an eye on him in case they were unable to resign Dani Alves.  Now that Alves has turned his back on a potential big money transfer to Man City and signed on for a few more seasons in Catalonia, Man City has apparently shifted their focus to van der Wiel.

We’re really not sure who to watch for on the current Hungarian squad–but after watching this match we should know for the return fixture in Amsterdam on Tuesday (see below).


Gelukkige Verjaardag Ruud Krol!

March 24, 2011 — by Suman1

Ruud Krol at the 1978 World Cup - captaining the Dutch team with his lucky necklace

Ruud Krol, one of the original Dutch masters, was born in Amsterdam on this day in 1949. So: Gelukkige Verjaardag Ruud Krol!

Krol was part of the great Dutch generation of the 1970s: he played on the great Ajax side that was managed by Rinus Michels and led on the field by Johan Cruijff, Johan NeeskensPiet Keizer and Krol.  Together they famously won three consecutive UEFA European Cups (the precursor to today’s Champions League), and in doing so introduced totaalvoetbal to the world.

Indeed, Krol stayed at Ajax throughout the ’70s, after Cruiff and Neeskens had left for Barcelona and Keizer had also left the squad (for retirement?), leaving only in 1980 to spend a year with the Vancouver Whitecaps of NASL, followed by four seasons in Serie A with Napoli and a couple seasons in France with Cannes.

Krol was also a featured member of the great Dutch national teams of that era–the legendary 1974 team that was probably the best side to not win the World Cup, and he captained the 1978 team that returned to the championship game only to lose to the host nation yet again.

PS: A hat-tip to @retro_mbm for re-tweeting @barafundler‘s message that noted today is Krol’s brirthday and included the link this video. Follow @retro_mbm if you’re interested in the history of the game (“Modern football? No thanks! Classic matches, as they happened.”).


The last few days, June 27-29

August 10, 2010 — by Larry

[Editor’s note: This is the final installment in Coach Larry’s account of his trip to South Africa for WC2010.  See his previous SA dispatches here.]

Victoria Market - Durban, South Africa

Poor weather drives us away from the beachfront and up to Umhlanga to the mall for some shopping in the largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere.  Disappointingly, I cannot locate the indoor roller coaster, though it does feature a climbing wall and a goodly number of surf shops.  Over and after lunch we see the surprisingly entertaining Germans roll through the English as if every English defender has lost all sense of position.  The evening match and dinner prove not much more exciting, though it does horrifyingly display more inept refereeing.  Alas, we have worse ideas than an early bedtime, as tomorrow brings us Netherlands v Slovakia.

We make an early trip to Victoria Market, acquiring a mish-mash of souvenirs after walking well past the structure, getting a bit lost in the day market.  At least I have some peri-peri spice for the World Cup Final party back home (fyi, it was pretty good).  A quick beer over at Wilson’s Wharf gets us off our feet, but we return our treasures home to head to the match.  Back down the hill we walk.  We barely make it past the top of Florida Road before we start mixing with head-to-toe Orange clad Dutch fans.  The two miles go quickly as we continue to pick up jumpsuits, admiral outfits, curly wigs, and cow hats.  There was even an Houston Dynamo (Holden) kit thrown into the mix.  As the extreme wind nearly carries away my pre-match beer, I worry the action might get affected.


WC2010: “The tournament of 4-2-3-1”

July 17, 2010 — by Suman1

"Spain have adopted the Barcelona formula, which seems to be the way club football is going"

From a Guardian Football column by one Jonathan Wilson, published just before the WC2010 final between Spain and Holland, and brought to our attention at that time by one otheradamnovy; the column is titled “The Question: What have been the tactical lessons of World Cup 2010?” and open as follows:

This has been the tournament of 4-2-3-1. The move has been apparent in club football for some time; in fact, it may be that 4-2-3-1 is beginning to be supplanted by variants of 4-3-3 at club level, but international football these days lags behind the club game, and this tournament has confirmed the trend that began to emerge at Euro 2008. Even Michael Owen seems to have noticed, which is surely the tipping point.

Click thru for more–much more: commentary on the tactics of Spain, Germany, Holland, Argentina, Ghana, and Brazil, with some notes about all that fit into the context of club football tactics over the past decade , e.g.:

Live Blog

1st Semifinal, Netherlands v Uruguay: Liveblog/Open Thread

July 6, 2010 — by Suman23

"Those Dutch fans just don't make the effort." Photograph: Tony Marshall/Empics Sport

After two more long empty days, the semifinals are upon us!  A mere five minutes until the Netherlands kickoff against Uruguay.

Both teams advanced in dramatic quarterfinal matches on Friday.  The Dutch came back after conceding an early goal to the heavily favored Brazilians to win 2-1, while Uruguay also came back from a goal down to Ghana, eventually winning on penalty kicks (after their star forward preserved a 1-1 tie in the 120th minute with a controversial handball clearance off the Uruguayan goal line).

We’ll be doing a bit of liveblogging during the match, but most of the action will be happening in the comments thread.  Join us for the action!

Final score: Holland 3-2 Uruguay (Van Bronckhorst 18′, Sneijder 70′, Robben 73′ ; Forlan 41′, Pereira 90′)


Brilliant Orange: A Brief History of Dutch Football

July 6, 2010 — by Suman4


[Editor’s note: this post was written the morning of Friday July 2, prior to Holland’s upset of Brazil. We will need to update this post for Friday’s victory–the most significant in Dutch history at least since dramatic quarterfinal win over Argentina in 1998 (see video below), and perhaps since winning Euro ’88 over the USSR.]

Today’s first quarterfinal match may just be the most anticipated of the bunch–Brazil vs. Holland.  It’s a contest between two great footballing nations, both known over the decades for playing beautiful football–technically precise, individually and tactically creative, seemingly able to maintain possession as long as they want–and for producing some of the greatest players of all time.  From Brazil: Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Romario, Garrincha, and of course Pele. From the Netherlands: Ruud van Nistelroy, Denis Bergkamp, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, and the greatest and original Dutch master, Johan Cryuff.

Where Brazil and Holland differ, of course, is in their records of World Cup success.  Brazil has won the Cup five times, more than any other nation–in 1958, 1966, 1970 (those three with Pele on the squad), 1994, and 2002.

By way of comparison, Italy has won four times, Germany three (twice as West Germany), Argentina and Uruguay twice each, and England and France once each.

Conspicuously absent from that list is Holland.  The Dutch have come close–twice in a row finishing in 2nd place, both times losing to the hosts: to West Germany in 1974 and to Argentina in 1978, and advancing to the semifinals in 1998, only to lose to Brazil in a penalty shootout.

Live Blog

Brazil vs Netherlands: Liveblog/Open Thread

July 2, 2010 — by Suman51

1998 World Cup Semi-Final: Holland's captain Frank De Boer after his team were knocked out by Brazil in a penalty shoot-out

[Note: We’re setting this up as a liveblog, but we’ll probably be too focused on the game to actually do so.  So we’ll treat this one as an open thread.  We’ll be throwing up some in-game comments–please do the same!]

Doesn’t it feel like a whole new, more compressed and more intense tournament starts today? Eight teams remaining, seven games to go (well, eight if you count the 3rd place game–but who really does?), beginning with four quarterfinal matchups–two today (Brazil vs Netherlands followed by Uruguay vs Ghana) and two tomorrow (Argentina vs Germany followed by Spain vs Paraguay).

The first of these may just be the most highly anticipated: Brazil vs Netherlands. What to say about this match? Obviously, this might just be a true classic.


Quarterfinalists News Roundup: Elano, van Persie, Forlan

July 1, 2010 — by Suman2

Asamoah Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng: "Let's set those records!"

As we eagerly await the resumption of play with tomorrow’s two quarterfinal matches (Brazil vs. Holland in the early game, Uruguay vs Ghana in the late game), here are a few links with the some news on each side:

Brazil’s Elano will miss tomorrow’s game due to an ankle injury–and may be done for the tournament;

Robin van Persie’s petulance causes yet more rumblings of strife within the Dutch camp;

Off the Post blog posts a handful of clips from Diego Forlan’s WC video diary;

and from, “Top Five Records Ghana Will Set If They Beat Uruguay.”