In what is arguably the most awaited quarter-final clash of the tournament, a pragmatic Brazilian side will take on a high-flying Dutch outfit as both sides seek to silence the critics back home. Dunga, the Brazilian coach has received a lot of flak for his defensive-mindedness and perceived willingness to grind out a result by shackling his naturally gifted players, while his Dutch counterpart van Marwijk has been at the receiving end of a barrage of criticism directed at a run of “boring” victories by his wards.
Moreover, the timing for the raft of recent developments, concerning their squads, couldn’t have been worse for both beleaguered coaches. Brazilian midfield star Elano was ruled out of the quarterfinals with an injury, while Brazilian icon Kaka is on a yellow card and, despite his rediscovered form, has stuttered with refereeing decisions that have not gone his way. Keeping Kaka company in the referee watchlist, are compatriots Luis Fabiano, Juan and Felipe Melo. The Oranje do not have much to cheer about on this front, either, with no fewer than 7 of their stars in danger of potentially missing the semifinal – including Arjen Robben and van Persie.
To make matters worse, rumors of a bust-up in the Dutch dressing room are doing the rounds – with usual suspects van Persie and Wesley Sneijder reportedly at each other’s throats. The ensuing denials notwithstanding, the Netherlands will have to be at their very best if they are to topple the eternal favorites from their perch. Interestingly, both sides head into this clash exemplifying the cultural style of playing football that is predominant in each other’s continents – it is the Dutch who seek to rely on individual talent and moments of genius, while the Brazilians have taken more than a leaf or two out of that highly-technical playbook of the Europeans.
World Cup Head-to-Head Record:
Brazil and the Netherlands have met 3 times in the World Cup, and have managed to divide the honors equally among themselves – with a win each, and a draw. These stats will effectively swing in favor of one of the teams, after this clash.
Player to watch out for: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Sidelined for the first couple of games of the tournament, the fit-again and raring-to-go Dutchman has provided a shot in the arm for his team’s campaign. A marauding presence on the flanks, he can be expected to run circles around Michel Bastos.
Key player battles: Kaka (Brazil) v van Bommel (Netherlands)
As playmaker-in-chief and as a player whose star is suddenly on the ascendancy in the tournament, Kaka is expected to play an integral role in determining how far his side progress. On a yellow card already, Kaka is vulnerable to being drawn into a terribly timed tackle and missing out on the semi-finals should Brazil prevail. The indomitable van Bommel will have his task cut out for him as he seeks to restrain the Brazilian, but could yet have the last laugh if he manages to con the Brazilian (or the referee, for that matter) into making a costly mistake.
Quarter-Finals – Match 2
Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg
July 3, 2010, 00:00 IST
The second clash of the night, between these two unlikely quarter-finalists, is one that history will have a lot to say about. One side is aiming to be the first ever African side to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament, while the other is looking to resurrect its fortunes as an erstwhile footballing powerhouse. While Uruguay were expected to be also-rans in the tournament, Ghana were the rank outsider – the side that nobody gave a chance, in a group boasting of the likes of Australia, Germany and Serbia.
Yet, the Black Star brigade have exceeded all expectations by not only progressing from their group – but beating the impressive United States in the Round-of-16 encounter as well. Their astounding run of success, minus their star Michael Essien, has come at a heavy price though. Andre Ayew will miss this all-important clash against Uruguay, thanks to a suspension. Kevin-Prince Boateng, John Mensah and Asamoah Gyan have reportedly picked up knocks that might rule them out of playing all 90 minutes.
In stark contrast, the Uruguayans have seen their fortunes move on the upswing, an injury to defender Diego Godin notwithstanding. Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, as a strike-pair, have proven to be a revelation in the tournament, much to Oscar Tabarez’s delight. They’ll look to attack the Ghanaians from the word go, while the relatively-weaker African side will probably be more comfortable hitting the South Americans on the counter.
World Cup Head-to-Head Record:
This is virgin territory as far as both these sides are concerned, since Uruguay and Ghana have never met in the World Cup prior to this.
Player to watch out for: Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
Carrying forward in his rich vein of club form, Suarez has emerged as one of the most effective offensive players in this edition of the tournament. Even as some of the bigger names of the tournament went home early, he has progressed with his team from strength to strength. Not only he is the team’s highest scorer, but also such a highly important factor that it is almost impossible to imagine Uruguay – or even compatriot Forlan – getting on the scoresheet without Suarez having a touch on the ball first.
Key Player Battles: Asamoah Gyan (Ghana) v Mauricio Victorino (Uruguay)
Asamoah Gyan is the proverbial atlas carrying aloft the aspirations of his countrymen. Having scored the most crucial penalties in the clashes against Serbia and Australia, before sneaking away with the extra-time winner against the United States, Gyan is in prime form – a matter of concern for the Uruguayan defense that will be minus Godin – whose replacement will most likely be Mauricio Victorino. The Uruguayan stand-in defender would do well to learn his lessons from the shock goal that Gyan conjured up to send the Americans out of the tournament.