WORLD CUP JULY 1, 2010
Of all the match-ups, the most intriguing one (by a narrow margin) is Brazil-Holland. For one thing, they have a nearly identical tactical formation: two holding midfielders in De Yong and Van Bommel for Holland and Melo (or Ramires) and Silva for Brazil, a linking attacking midfielder in Kaka (Brazil) and Sneijder (Holland), four in the back, and a single man up top (Van Persie and Luis Fabiano) supported by pacey wingers. The difference is the flexibility of the Brazilian formation—Robinho quickly switches sides (often at the expense of tracking back), the full backs Maicon and Bastos are perfectly capable of flying on the wings and getting back in time to defend, while Lucio and Juan are not shy about advancing up the field. Such flexibility works to Brazil's advantage, as does the team discipline firmly established by Dunga—recall Dani Alves against Chile brilliantly covering the right side of central midfield, never succumbing to his natural desire to move farther out to the right. Holland is not good at discipline—Van Persie swore at the coach for being subbed against Slovakia, and Robben received a typically stupid yellow card for a handball. If they get frustrated by Brazil, they might implode. But if they keep it together, figure out a way to slow down Brazilian counterattacks and put up a midfield fight, anything can happen.
I'm also curious to see what Germany will do to conquer the Argentine midfield. Messi and Tevez have had to drop all the way back to get the ball. Essentially there is a gap between Mascherano and the front three. Germany also plays with two holding midfielders in Khedira and Schweinsteiger who can crowd the midfield and prevent Messi and Tevez from running toward the goal with the ball. Schweinsteiger's speed and quick advancing of the ball played a huge part in destroying England, linking very well with Muller. He is liable to exploit the gap in Argentine midfield. I don't think that Maradona has any idea how to match the German tactical formation. But then, Argentina has so much firepower that they might just score more goals than Germany. It might just end up being a wild game.