The Netherlands 2-1 Slovakia
My Prediction: The Netherlands
After the controversy that swirled around yesterday’s matches, today seemed almost placid in comparison; not a single major mistake, a referee who was whipping out cards like he was at a job fair in the Group stages suddenly chastened by the realization that the cards have a huge impact on player eligibility, and the favorites showing no real signs of weakness against their opponents in either match. It started early in Durban when The Netherlands lined up against Slovakia; cruising through the early stages, the Dutch showed a lot of patient and control in their build up and were rewarded in the 18th minute when Wesley Sneijder sent a looping ball over the Slovak defense and onto the run of Arjen Robben, who latched onto the ball, cut inside on his favored left foot, and drilled a low shot into the corner of the net. It was what the Dutch deserved and it looked as though the match would open up from there, but credit to Slovakia, they played touch and held their lines. In the second half, Slovakia had two glorious chances on goal saved by Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, palmed two shots away from the goal from close range. After a foul at midfield in the 84th minute drew a yellow card for Marten Skrtel, the Dutch restarted quickly, and Dirk Kuyt ran into the box and, miracle of miracles, beat Slovakian keeper Jan Mucha to the ball; after controlling, he turned and slid a pass to an onrushing Sneijder, who made no mistake in front of an empty net. 2-0 now and only a last second (literally) penalty to Robert Vittek, who dove over the arms of Stekelenburg and earned a spot kick at the death, could get Slovakia on the board; Vittek converted to make it 2-1 and the whistle blew immediately, ruining an otherwise perfect night for the Dutch defense.
Robben Is Back (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Brazil 3-0 Chile
My Prediction: Brazil
Brazil were even more dominant in their defensive performance, shutting down Chile 3-0 with a style as punishing as it was elegant; I am not sure anyone can stop this team. They were my pick to win it all and on this form, I feel good about that rather safe bet. Chile played a bright, attacking style for the first 30 minutes but couldn’t score and once Maicon’s corner kick was headed in by Juan in the 34th minute to put Brazil up 1-0, it was a daunting task for Chile to catch up; when Kaká played Luis Fabiano in on goal and the striker rounded the keeper to knock it into an empty net and make it 2-0 just four minutes later, it was clear that the match was done and dusted; Brazil have never lost a match in the World Cup when they have been up 2-0 and today was no exception. Chile made a couple of attacking changes at the half, the most influential being Jorge Valdivia, who replaced an ineffective Mark Gonzalez, but nothing could stop Brazil on the night. they are too big, too strong, too skilled, just too good and in the 59th minute, the launched a counter attack that saw Ramires play a heavy ball to Robinho, who one timed a beatiful shot inside the post to make it 3-0. With Brazil’s defense airtight and up three goals now, Dunga began his substitutions, replacing Luis Fabiano and Kaká and saving them for the quarterfinal against The Netherlands on Saturday. Brazil were all smiles at the final whistle, deserving, dominant winners on the night.
Juan Was Enough (AP Photo/Claudio Cruz)
Sorry so brief today, but this was a case of two dominant teams and error-free performances from almost everyone on the pitch, officials included. That said, the Quarterfinals are going to be insanely intense matches with Brazil/Netherlands and Argentina/Germany topping the list of must-see games. One more day of the Round of 16 and then a couple days of rest (which I sorely need)…
Up Next: Day Nineteen | Round Of Sixteen (aka Spain vs Portugal)