Demolition men

I watched all of the second game, although I saw the first hour of it quite a few hours before seeing the last half hour.

It started out like a deadly-serious chess match between two teams that were both out to win the game one-nil.  And for that time, Spain looked like the better team; they were possessing the ball more and doing more with it when they had it.  But what was interesting was just how clogged the middle of the field was; both teams were heavily pressuring the ball to force turnovers.

They managed to get the ball behind all but one defender twice; the first of those resulted in a ball out of bounds as that one defender blocked the pass across.  I think the other resulted in a goal kick when Spain missed the net.  Between those two, they did manage to take the lead on a penalty kick following a pretty-bad call in the box.  Knowing what both teams were playing for, I thought about tweeting, "Game over?" after that, but was glad I didn't.

And that's because, after that, the Dutch started to come back, slowly.  They only really got close to the goal once, but started to hold the ball a lot more and work it down a bit.

That one time close, however, came when one of the midfields, near the sideline and just inside the attacking half, saw van Persie make a run toward the net and lofted it towards the box.  van Persie had to wait for it to get there, but he had lots of time (I'm not sure what the goalie was doing, but I suspect he couldn't make up his mind whether to come out to challenge the pass or to wait for the shot) and calmly lofted it (from a hair inside the 17-yard line) over the goalie and into the net.  That was in the forty-fifth minute, and that considered tweet was already looking ill-considered.

Things seemed to stay about the same with the start of the second half, with a lot of pressure, Spain mostly looking better, and not much really happening.  But about ten minutes in, Robben was found making a run across the middle.  The ball came down in front of him, as he was running, but he corralled it with one foot, and pulled it back toward the middle, giving himself a little space from the two defenders on him.  He got half a step, and pounded it into the net, with a slight deflection from one of the defenders.

And from there, it was almost all the Netherlands.  They had a couple more chances (including van Persie putting a hard shot across off the crossbar right at the sixty-minute mark) before they started finding the net again.

Four minutes later, van Persie got the goalie's attention on a cross into the box.  The ball sailed over both, into de Vrij's head and then one of his feet, finally going into the net at de Vrij hit the post.

A minute or two after it became three-nil, Spain's last real chance came, and it ended with David Villa putting it into the net.  Unfortunately, he was called off-sides, and that was the end of the game seeming competitive.

Seven minutes after de Vrij's goal, van Persie scored again, and Robben finished the scoring eight minutes later on a very long and impressive run, that ended with him running the goalie to ground and calmly slotting it into the net.

That might have been the end of the scoring, but the Dutch had several more chances before the end (including at least one where the goalie went down, but they couldn't put the shot on net).

It ended in utter annihilation of Spain, and made you wonder if it is the end of Spain's dominance on the international level.  My suspicion is that it is, although I still see Spain as competitive for a while longer (perhaps until the next World Cup).  I certainly don't see Iker Casillas getting much more (if any) chance in goal.  We'll see, I guess.

And the Dutch, of course, are flying as high as they can.  We'll see how that carries over into their play in the next game.

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