Game Two of today’s football bonanza is a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, an occasion not remembered so much for the beauty of its football as for the savagery of the Dutch side that day. Even when they don’t turn outright violent, big matches are often marred by the overly cautious approaches of all involved. Today, however, should be a watchable encounter; this is the first game in Group B, so there’s less to lose.
What’s At Stake
These are the two favorites in a strong group that also includes Australia and Chile. Despite the fact that over 90% of teams that lose their first game miss out on the second round, the two-giant, two-minnow makeup of this group means either team will probably expect to progress even if they lose today. At least, as I said in the opening paragraph, I hope they expect that. If the Dutch feel they have more to lose from a loss than they have to gain with a win, we could see some more karate from Nigel de Jong. But I don’t think that will happen.
One reason I think we’ll see a good match is the makeup of the two teams. Spain, as always, have set up with Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso ahead of their back four and slightly behind Xavi in a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3. They have some decisions to make up top, where Iniesta will be joined by two of Silva/Pedro and Fabregas/Costa. Silva and Fabregas are attacking midfielders at heart; playing on the right wing and up top, respectively, they’d serve to congest that area. On the other hand, Pedro and formerly Brazilian Diego Costa are much more direct options.
The Netherlands, meanwhile, will feature a really powerful front three of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, and the despicable Arjen Robben, whose attitude and appearance upset me deeply. Behind that are a lot of players I don’t know much about, but hey might play with a three/five at the back in the style of Mexico or 2010’s Chile squad.
The commentators today are Jon Champion and Stewart Robson. Champion is excellent. Robson is very much the stereotype of the braindead English ex-player. Expect lots of complaining about diving, enthusiasm about de Jong’s nightmare tackles, and dismissiveness about skillful play from him.
Match-specific Drinking Games
Spain Posession: Take a shot every time Spain passes the ball twenty or more times without losing it. How drunk? If the midfield is in form, you’re in trouble.
de Jong Tackles: Drink whenever Nigel de Jong’s foot strikes an opponent above the knee. How drunk? Slight buzz.
Robin’s Red Breast: Throw one back whenever Dutch striker Robin van Persie chests the ball. How drunk? He’s very good with his chest. Expect two or three.
Spain: Sangria. Is this the earliest you’ve ever had sangria? I’ll be drinking it anyway, because…
Holland: Genever gin. Last time I drank gin I was at an Orioles game. Aubrey Huff hit for the cycle and I threw up all over Camden Yards.
– Read my general World Cup watching guide.
– Check out Zonal Marking, my favorite tactics website.
– See a commentary schedule or a review of each commentator.
– See where I’m getting my national drink recommendations.
– Check out other match previews from this group: Chile vs. Australia
Picture credit: metro.co.uk