Brent Atema stands in as host along with guests Euan Marshall and Ed Malyon to discuss the action in the Copa America Group Stages.

Best moments, players, goals etc are all up for discussion. And they also look forward to the Knock-out stages.

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Been so lazy since the end of the World Cup should have had this on sooner but where would a football blog be without picking my World Cup XI, nowhere, so to fall into line, and probably the umpteenth list you’ve read here’s my team, just a note I have picked this team as an actual team that I would hope has a balance that would work well together, so not England then.

FORMATION 4-2-3-1

For the English media this is been a revelation for anyone who watches football outside of the British Isles it’s a formation you will be well aware of, very successful throughout the tournament and dominating any team that tried to go 4-4-2 against it, I’m sure you’ll see more and more teams adapt to this system throughout the season.

 

“Too inexperience” “They’ll miss Ballack” “Not as good as past German teams” all these things were said about Low’s side before they had even kicked a ball, that all stopped once they played Australia, Low had picked a side with pace, athleticism, a really good team and work ethic, and on top of that he got his tactics spot on for the knockout stages until they came up against Spain, and even having the bravado to come out after the games and explain how he had beaten England and Argentina, I think this shows the confidence in the man, that’s the attitude I want in a leader of men.

Mentions: Oscar Tabarez (Uru) Bob Bradley (USA) Diego Maradona (Arg)

I found this a hard choice, quite a few keepers impressed in the Group Stage, and a few shown in the knockout stages, You have to pick someone that really turns up when it counts, Iker saved Paraguays penalty and Santa Cruz’s chance in the Quarters, then in the Final with Robben through on goal on his left foot, Casillas had the presence of mind to left his leg and provide the vital touch, keeping the game at 0-0 and of course Spain went on to win the trophy surely a pivotal moment and that’s what you want in a Goalkeeper, Stekenlenberg probably had a better final than Casillas, however when he was most needed he produced the good, Saint Iker indeed.

Mentions: Vincent Enyeama (Nig) Maarten Stekelenber (Ned) Eduardo (Por)

I will confess that Jorge is a player that wasn’t on my radar before the World Cup, with every game that I watched he just grew and grew, great performances against France and South Africa, Solid against Korea, he was unlucky to miss out against Holland in the Semi-Final and they really missed him, having to re think the whole system to nullify Robben, If Fucile had been there It would have been a different game I think, came back into the side against Germany and he didn’t miss a beat, Muller didn’t have an easy game, making him come inside more often, Fucile never looked out of position very often, the Porto full back has a good future ahead of him.

Mentions: Fabio Coentrao (Por) Gio Van Bronckhorst (Ned) Carlos Salcido (Mex)

Many sites and pundits I’ve read or listened to have mentioned Gerald Pique quite a few times, for me the rock in Spain’s defence has been Captain Fantastic himself, showing that he can play with the same passion and intensity as he can for Barcelona, he may not have the pace he once had, however his positioning and awareness is top notch, a few seasons ago questions had been asked of Puyol but under Guardiola he has blossomed again and looks like a defender on top of his game.

Mentions: Joris Mathijsen (Ned) Jonathan Mensah (Gha)

At 31 this was probably his last World Cup, with a disappointing season behind him (relegated with Hertha) he came to the tournament with question marks over his ability, I thought he answered all those critics, up against some young forwards Gyan, Defoe, Messi he never looked worried, dealt with all the youthful exuberance with a calmness and typical German efficiency, a nice way to finish his International career with his first goal for his country, and a derserved place in my team.

Mentions: Diego Godin (Uru) Antolin Alcaraz (Par)

High hopes were had for this Ajax youngster, picked him out in my 32 players to watch piece, and he didn’t let me down, look wise past his years, showing good positioning a willingness to get forward, maybe didn’t reach the byline as often as I would have likes but played well front to back, had a very solid final for such a young player, made some great challenges on Pedro and Iniesta and didn’t seem overawed by the occasion, a target now for some big teams, not surprising to be honest.

Mentions: Phillip Lahm (Ger) Sergio Ramos (Esp) Maicon (Bra)

I must confess I had not seen much of Bayern Munich this year, only the 2nd half of the later stages of the Champions League so I was unaware of how good Bastian had performed in his newly found position for his club, so seeing him play there for his country was new to me, and boy did he impress, always making sure he had time on the ball, the ability to beat a man to find more space, his passing was deliberate, some of the runs were superb exemplified by the run for Friedrich’s goal against Argentina, a joy to watch in the middle of the park, so commanding for what is still a young player.

Mentions: Mark Van Bommel (Ned) Michael Bradley (USA)

The heart of the Spanish engine room, I would call him the Leonardo Da Vinci of the Tiki-Taka masterpiece, so eloquent on the ball, made more passes than any other player in the tournament, I don’t remember a bad one, doesn’t break forward as often as he used to, he does find space better than most players in the world, just a joy to watch.

Mentions: Gilberto Silva (Bra) Raul Meireles (Por)

Big decision to make with this pick, could have easily been Wesley Sneijder but I think everyone got a little carried away with his performances, Mesut however took the World by storm, not a name everyone knew before the tournament his name is on the lips of the world now, great movement, vision, pace to beat a man, a youthful exuberance and naievity which makes him so dangerous.
Mesut has the world at his feet, I hope he can go on to delight us in future World Cups and seeing him develop more this season in the Bundesliga for Bremen (hopefully!)

Mentions: Wesley Sneijder (Hol)

This was a very hard decision, not whether Andres deserved to be in the team, but where to play him, I could have chosen him to play in Xavi’s role, Oezil’s role, which would have given space to Thomas Mueller, I think however, this decision for me brings balance to the side if it was an actual team, like he did for Spain Iniesta starts on the left but he has a license to roam into the midfield and provide support but is very active at breaking forward into the box and down the channels, lovely passer of the ball, finds space with ease, the awareness to know where and when to make runs is incredible, and compliments this with his goalscoring abilty, they say playing with great players makes the game easier, Andres must make it very easy.

Mentions: Robinho (Bra), Carlos Tevez (Arg), Jean Beausejour (Cho)

If the interest in the Spanish forward wasn’t already sky-high his move to Barcelona brought even more attention, after the first game when Spain failed to score and no one on the Spainish team impressed, it was Villa who announced the team to the tournament with his goal against Honduras, collecting the ball from the left, beat 2 men and his shot found the top corner, a quality goal that just summed up Villa’s excellence, he went on to score 5 goals in the tournament and was so important to the Spain team, without him they would not have reached the final.

Mentions: Luis Suarez (Uru), Asamoah Gyan (Gha), Luis Fabiano (Bra)

Voted player of the whole tournament and a very worthy winner, not only an excellent footballer but comes across as a really nice guy also, dangerous on both feet so I have no trouble playing him on the right, has the ability to come in off either flank, find space and if you give him space outside the box he will score goals, specialist from Free Kicks as he showed, the one person in the tournament that tamed the Jabulani ball, Captain and Cheerleader for his Country, a tremendous players, finally getting the Worldwide recognition for all his hard work, 2 Golden boots for his goals in La Liga and now a Golden Ball for his performances in South Africa.

Mentions: Thomas Mueller (Ger) - was so hard to leave him out, Arjen Robben (Ned), Lionel Messi (Arg)

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Well we’re down to 4 teams, 3 Europeans, 1 South American, 2 teams that have won it before, 2 that are European Champions but never won the main prize, 1 team with a star striker suspended another with a star striker not playing at his best and his place being questioned, 4 countries with fans that will be on the end of their seat in the next 48 hours, unfortunately only two of them can make the final, no disgrace for the loser, but the World Cup Final is surely still the pinnacle that all players would love to play in, isn’t it?

URUGUAY

2

 

NETHERLANDS

3

Diego FORLAN (41′)     Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST (18′)  
Maxi PEREIRA (90+2′)     Wesley SNEIJDER (70′)  
      Arjen ROBBEN (73′)  
         
1.Fernando MUSLERA     1.Maarten STEKELENBERG  
3.Diego GODIN     3.John HEITINGA  
5.Walter GARGANO     4.Joris MATHIJSEN  
6.Mauricio VICTORINO     5.Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST – C  
7.Edinson CAVANI     6.Mark VAN BOMMEL – Y  
10.Diego FORLAN – C OUT – 84   7.Dirk KUYT  
11.Alvaro Pereira OUT – 78   9.Robin VAN PERSIE  
15.Diego PEREZ     10.Wesley SNEIJDER – Y  
16.Maximiliano PEREIRA – Y     11.Arjen ROBBEN OUT – 89
17.Egidio AREVALO     12.Khalid BOULAHROUZ – Y  
22.Martin CACERES – Y     14.Demy DE ZEEUW OUT – 46
         
Subs     Subs  
2.Diego LUGANO     16.Michel VORM  
4.Jorge FUCILE  SUS   22.Sander BOSCHKER  
8.Sebastian EGUREN     2.Gregory VAN DER WIEL  SUS
9.Luis SUAREZ  SUS   8.Nigel DE JONG  SUS
12.Juan CASTILLO     13.Andre OOIJER  
13.Sebastian ABREU IN – 78   15.Edson BRAAFHEID  
14.Nicolas LODEIRO  INJ   17.Eljero ELIA IN – 89
18.Ignacio GONZALEZ     18.Stijn SCHAARS  
19.Andres SCOTTI     19.Ryan BABEL  
20.Alvaro FERNANDEZ     20.Ibrahim AFELLAY  
21.Sebastian FERNANDEZ IN – 84   21.Klass Jan HUNTELAAR  
23.Martin SILVA     23.Rafael VAN DER VAART IN – 46

What a really good game, it probably only had about 15-20 minutes that it went a bit stale, when it got going it really got going. Some more superb goals, some questionable decisions and a grand stand finish. The Oranje took the lead on 18 minutes, a nice passing move led Sneijder to lay the ball of to van Bronckhorst he had a look up and tried his luck, and what a try it was an absolute missile into the top corner Muslera got a finger to it but it wasn’t enough, a great goal to kick off the game. Uruguay had possibly been the better team before the goal looking the more comfortable on the ball, the goal settled the Dutch down and they went about trying to find a second. The game looked to be staying the same towards the break, that was until Diego Forlan decided to grace us with another World Cup beauty, putting the ball onto his unfancied left foot, he let rip and the swerve caught Stekelenberg off guard and he could only get a hand onto it and watch it ripple the net.

For 15 minutes the second half was a very cagey affair both teams seeming to know what was up for grabs and the tension stalled the game a little, then in a bit of a strange moment Sneijder found some space on the edge of the box, he tried to curl an effort it came off a defender just missed van Persie’s foot and beat Muslera to the near post, the goal seemed to stun everyone, Uruguay fans couldn’t see how the ball had beat their goalie and the Dutch were shocked to be in the lead again. Then came what would be the killer blow, Kuyt free on the left got the ball onto his right and crossed a teasing ball in, Robben had found a great position and a lovely header back towards the near post had Muslera beaten all ends up and it sent the Dutch fans delirious with delight, surely they were going to their first World Cup final since 1974.

Uruguay had 17 minutes to save their tournament but it came all little too little, they won a free kick on the 90th minute it was put wide to Maxi Pereira he cut inside onto his left foot and curled a lovely shot past Stekelenberg a great goal but not enough to save the boys from Montevideo, the next three minutes saw Uruguay set siege upon the Dutch goal and in the last seconds Gargano nearly found some space to craft a shot but he was smothered and couldn’t get the shot off, the ball was then cleared and to every Dutch fans relief the referee blew his whistle and sent their team in the Final, the favourites had staved off the underdogs fight a most enjoyable game, much better than semi-finals usually produce.

MY THOUGHTS

Players of the game for me were Robben and Sneijder for the Dutch, and Forlan, Cavani and Adriano Pereira for Uruguay, Robben had an excellent game, started on the right, drifted to the left at times, and he was a constant threat his pace means you have to respect the distance you keep from him, but his skill means you don’t want to give him time on the ball, I thought Caceres and Pereira did well to contain him at times but you are never going to keep him quiet for 90 minutes, scoring an unchareteristic header, he had a couple of other half chances, but when your Arjen Robben just being on the pitch causes teams problems.

Sneijder again was the architect of the Dutch attacks, always open for a pass, great sense of where the space is on the field, another goals that makes it 5 for the tournament, maybe another own goals, but you don’t get the luck unless you have a go and he is going to get shots off and create chances, he has been one of the players of the tournament and it was evidentaly clear why by tonights performance.

Forlan spearheaded the uruguay attack and probably by his standards he had a quiet night, but his goal was superb and he is just a quality footballer, he missed Suarez, Suarez being in the middle allows Diego to drift, and Cavani and Forlan are quite similar in that way which doesn’t always work upfront, at times Cavani made some superb runs without the ball I was screaming at the TV for Pereira and Forlan to try and find him but it’s easy to see these passes when your not there on the pitch, he impressed me with his movement.

Adriano Pereira ran a tireless shift tonight given the job to help Careces on the left back spot when needed but then asked to bomb forward and protect the front two, a thankless task but he did it without complaint for the 78 minutes he was on the pitch.

Uruguay played very well and should be proud, maybe 2 quality players away from being a superb team, if they had a midfielder was great ability I would back them to go all the way, with Forlan they have a World Class forward, look forward to seeing how they progress for the Copa America, The Dutch again won the game without playing superb football but it was good enough to win the game and that’s what matters, they seem to be hotting up at the right time, I think they would prefer the grudge match with the Germans, but both Opponents will test their defence.

You can’t ask for more than 5 goals in a Semi-Final and I really hope tomorrow’s game lives up to the expectation, but usually they don’t.

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Quarter Final time, and teams only 2 games from the final, some classic games lined up and the two games today did not let anyone down, Brazil and Holland played out a good match however the limelight was stolen by Uruguay and Ghana a tremendous match end to end action, great goals controversy, heroes, villians, it had everything.

NETHERLANDS

2

 

BRAZIL

1

Wesley SNEIJDER (53′ 68′)     ROBINHO (10′)  
         
1.Maarten STEKELENBERG     1.Julio CESAR  
2.Gregory VAN DER WIEL – Y     2.MAICON  
3.John HEITINGA – Y     3.LUCIO – C  
5.Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST     4.JUAN  
6.Mark VAN BOMMEL     5.Felipe MELO – R  
7.Dirk KUYT     6.Michel BASTOS – Y OUT – 62
8.Nigel DE JONG – Y     7.ELANO  
9.Robin VAN PERSIE OUT – 85   8.Gilberto SILVA  
10.Wesley SNEIJDER     9.Luis FABIANO OUT – 77
11.Arjen ROBBEN     10.KAKA  
13.Andre OOIJER     11.ROBINHO  
         
Subs     Subs  
21.Klass Jan HUNTELAAR IN – 85   16.GILBERTO IN – 62
      21.NILMAR IN – 77

MY THOUGHTS
Brazil could not have hoped for a better start, Melo’s great pass found Robinho 1 on 1 and he finished neatly and Brazil looked in cruise control some lovely football, passing and moving off the ball, Holland looked lost of ideas and the best thing that happened for them was the half time whistle.

I don’t think anyone could see a way back for the Dutch or how the Brazilians could not find a way to extend their lead, Sneijder found a way though swinging a free kick in from the left, Melo jumped to head the ball away but he only got a slight contact and Cesar was unable to punch it away, an equaliser that shocked everyone, the Brazilians were the most effected the passing stopped flowing and movement wasn’t the same, from that point I could only see one winner, and I wasn’t wrong, Holland won a corner, it was whipped into the near post Kuyt flicked it on and Sneijder was left alone to head the ball past Cesar a shock lead, the Oranje delighted and Brazil had no way back Kaka’, Robinho, and Luis Fabiano couldn’t combine to any effect and the Netherlands booked their place in the semi-finals.

It really was a game of two halves, no Dutch players to mention from the first half and no Brazilians to mention from the second half, Robinho started very brightly, the touch and passing was superb, causing endless problems for van der Wiel on the right of Hollands defence.

Also the Brazilian defending overall in the first half was fantastic, everytime the Dutch got near the Brazilian box, 3 or 4 players swarmed round them, Lucio and Juan did a great job of slowing the attack down so the midfield could close in, a great display of defending.

In the second half I thought Sneijder was the best player on the pitch started getting on the ball controlling the game, Robben was quiet second half, apart from that no Dutch players stood out for me, just the fact the Brazilians stopped playing and allowed the pressure to build on them.

Overall I think it has to go down as a bad Brazilian performance, Melo has to take the blame, cause the first goal, lost his man for the second and sent off for a horrible stamp, Brazil were the favourites to win the whole thing but this performance really let them down, Holland move on and have a great chance to make the final and could win the tournament playing in a not typically Dutch style.

URUGUAY

1

 

GHANA

1

Diego FORLAN (55′)     Sulley MUNTARI (45+2′)  
         
Penalties        
Diego FORLAN Goal   Asamoah GYAN Goal
Mauricio VICTORINO Goal   Stephen APPIAH Goal
Andres SCOTTI Goal   John MENSAH Miss
Maxi PEREIRA Miss   Dominic ADIYIAH Miss
Sebastian ABREU Goal      
         
         
1.Fernando MUSLERA     22.Richard KINGSON  
2.Diego LUGANO OUT – 38   2.Hans SARPEI – Y  
4.Jorge FUCILE     3.Asamoah GYAN  
6.Mauricio VICTORINO     4.John PANTSIL – Y  
7.Edinson CAVANI  OUT – 76   5.John MENSAH – C – Y  
9.Luis SUAREZ     6.Anthony ANNAN  
10.Diego FORLAN     7.Samuel INKOOM  OUT – 74
15.Diego PEREZ     11.Sulley MUNTARI  OUT – 88
16.Maximiliano PEREIRA     15.Issac VORSAH  
17.Egidio AREVALO     21.Kwadwo ASAMOAH  
20.Alvaro FERNANDEZ  OUT – 46   23.Kevin Prince BOATENG  
         
Subs        
13.Sebastian ABREU IN – 76   10.Stephen APPIAH IN – 74
14.Nicolas LODEIRO IN – 46   18.Dominic ADIYIAH IN – 88
19.Andres SCOTTI IN – 38      

MY THOUGHTS

Game of the tournament  I think, it had everything you can ask for in a football match, a great goal (Muntari) great set-piece (Forlan) drama, a player making a sacrifice for his team (Suarez), pressure (Gyan), and them the ultimate drama in a penalty shootout, the bravery of Gyan to score his 2nd penalty, I could go on all day.

Uruguay started the better of the two teams then just before Half-Time Ghana settled down and began attacking, could have scored a couple but it was Sulley Muntari who opened the deadlock with a wonder strike.

Diego Forlan got his team back in the game with a quite tremendous free kick, it seemed to swere from left to right and Kingson’s movement let him down taking a step to the left before watching the ball fire past him and into the top corner.

The game went to Extra-Time and seemed to be heading to penalties in injury time Ghana won a corner and a scamble ensued in the box Appaih had his shot blocked, the ball came to Adiyah’s head surely he must score….but Luis Suarez was there, but this time blocking with his hands, the linesman spotted it, and the referee pointed to the spot, with the last kick of the ball, Asamoah Gyan would either send his team to the World Cup semi-finals or take the game to penalties. The width of the crossbar decided Ghana’s fate, Gyan went for power and not accuracy and the latter failed him, Uruguay and Ghana would decide the game on the lottery of a penalty shoot out.

In all penalty shootouts there are heroes and villains, unfortunately for Ghana they had the villains on their side Captain John Mensah and young Dominic Adiyah missing the spot kicks and it was Sebastien Abreu who stepped up and cooly chipped the ball past the diving Kingson, Suarez the Uruguayan hero, the continent of Africa in disbelief, so close but yet so far.

Kingson the goalkeeper had a good game, making some quality saves one even striking his face, didn’t have a chance with any of the penalties, Boateng and Annan were fantastic in the Ghana midfield, Boateng came to life when asked to play behind Gyan, Annan enhanced his reputation with a solid performance, very likely he’ll be moving from Rosenborg very soon. Not much else I can add to previous reviews of Asamoah Gyan’s performances at this World Cup, he showed he has considerable mental strength, after missing a penalty to win the game for his team he stepped up in the shootout and struck a beautiful penalty into the top corner.

Uruguay will miss Suarez in the semi-final he was always dangerous, looked dead on his feet in extra time (probably why he used his hands) Forlan had a great game, always looking to break forward, scored a great goal, pretty much lead his team forward, a captain’s performance.When Lugano came off injured his replacement Scotti did well hard to come in and play at centre back but he looked assured and never got caught out, also scored his penalty.

A great game to watch, outshone the Netherlands v Brazil game by a mile and Uruguay back in the semi-finals for the first time since 1970 still no African team made it past the Quarter-Finals, they’re getting closer.

SEMI FINALS – NETHERLANDS v URUGUAY

Suarez, van der Wiel and de Jong all missing through suspension, Diego Lugano will miss out through injury, some big decisions to make for both coaches, should be a good game, Netherlands will start as favourites but I don’t think Uruguay are that far away from causing an upset, the loss of Suarez is a huge blow after all the goals he’s scored in Holland, but maybe a more unfarmilar player to them like Cavani and Abreu will cause them more problems, a change to the Netherlands defence and central midfield could cause disruption to the Oranje machine but they have quality players to come in, looking forward to this one, so much at stake for both teams.

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