03 July 2010

World Cup 2010, Match Day 21

Today, they'll set up the other semifinal.

Argentina 0:4 Germany — A thoroughly deserved domination and beatdown. This was the epitome of the team game overcoming street ball, even more than yesterday's Brazil–Netherlands match. All four of Germany's goals had that inevitable look of the training ground to them; they may have required skill, they may have required a cool head, but they were simple (not necessarily the same thing as easy!). Argentina, on the other hand, played from the beginning relying on creating a moment of individual brilliance; meanwhile, the German team — the whole team played defense — just wouldn't give Argentina a short pass, daring them to find a medium pass around the area... and with the exception of Messi, the Argentinian heads were so far down looking for that short pass that they couldn't even find the medium one, let alone execute it. Unfortunately, the officiating was often dicey and never felt in control, particularly regarding the somewhat random decisions on whom (and when) to issue or not issue a caution.

Tactically, the German attack was also its best form of defense. South American teams, and Brazil and Argentina in particular, rely upon shifting a defender into deep midfield, with a chain reaction pushing a defensive midfielder into attack and another midfielder into the penalty area, to create the local superiority in the opposing penalty area that is necessary for a pure short-passing attack to create those one-on-one iso plays. The German attack (not just the menace of Klose, but the runs from Müller, Özil, and especially Podolski in the second half) kept the Argentinian defense at home... but the Argentinian defensive midfielders didn't recognize that, leaving a huge hole for German possession. C/A/B-

Spain 1:0 Paraguay — And then there's manufactured action. At this rate, Spain is asking to be blown out by Germany, because the German gameplan against Argentina would be at least equally effective. This match was just a dire exercise in playing the ball through the center and into the strength of the defense, until the 56th minute, when Paraguay earned a penalty kick off a corner... and Casillas saved it. The ball then went back up to the other end, and Spain earned a penalty kick a matter of seconds after Casillas's save. The referee then blew it, three times: He only issued a yellow card to Alcaraz (the Paraguay defender who stopped a clear chance on goal as the last man, which calls for an automatic red card); he required a penalty that went in to be retaken due to encroachment by Spain, while ignoring Villar's early step forward in the Paraguay goal; and then, he missed another penalty during the melée when Villar saved the retake.

And so, "boringly" enough, David Villa scores for Spain after the on-the-hour nonsense began to liven up play on the field, too. The referee very nearly lost control of the match on several occasions, but was finally able to yank things back into some semblance of control. Unfortunately, the fourth official blew it when calculating stoppage time (there should have been at least five minutes, and another two minutes tacked on for the injury to Ramos — which could well have resulted in a card to Ramos himself for dangerous play). Overall, a shambles of a match with nowhere near the entertainment value of the afternoon's (morning, US time) match between Germany and Argentina. B/B-/C+

So the other semifinal will be Germany against Spain on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Thomas Müller of Germany will be suspended (for an errant yellow card); fortunately, I suspect that the referees have seen their last action of the tournament, which is a disappointment: They handled their prior refereeing assignments quite well. And after doing so well in the group phase, South American nations have demonstrated the flaw with their tactical inflexibility: Only one is left (Uruguay), and that due to penalties.