By: Jacob Singer
Holland’s victory over the Japanese was a tale of two halves. The first half consisted of the Dutch maintaining possession with short passes in the midfield but rarely attacking. The Japanese crowded the defense with bodies. Sneijder’s goal opened the second half and from that point forward the match came to life.
The Dutch have failed to live up to their reputation as a European powerhouse. They have won both games but haven’t played the beautiful soccer fans have come to expect. It seemed that their first half strategy was to simply tire the Japanese. The Dutch had
Photo from fOTOGLIF
more movement off the ball than in their previous match against the Danes. But they were all passing and no dribbling. If they had moved the ball down the flanks, they could’ve earned corner kicks or created other opportunities. Instead, the first half was defined by stale play in the midfield and fouls that stopped the game’s flow.
The second half began with more pace and pressure from the Dutch. There were a number of attacks within the opening ten minutes, and in the 53rd minute a lightning bolt of a goal came from Wesley Sneijder. The play began with van Persie passing the ball back to Sneijder, who had plenty of space and time. The shot seemed to wiggle just enough to cause goaltender Eiji Kawashima trouble. He got a hand on the ball, but its pace and spin were too much. Adidas claimed that the Jabulani ball was designed to create goals just like Sneijder’s. That seemed to be the first good example of such goals.
From that point on the game opened up and the match came to life. Elia came on for Van der Vaart and brought some fresh legs and dribbling skills to the left flank which created a number of opportunities. In the final fifteen minutes, Holland had two great chances at scoring but the players lacked the quality needed to finish the plays.
Earlier in the second half, Japan had an opportunity to draw the match level but failed to do so. Where are the Japanese goals going to come from if they are going to beat the Danes? The Dutch defense isn’t their strong suit but they were able to close down the Japanese. On the other hand, the Danes are good defenders. Japan is going to have to come out attacking in the final match of the group stage if they want to advance to the round of sixteen.