Sorry Holland, but now that you have lost, you are back to the Netherlands. Frankly, the Dutch were lucky to get the game to extra time. Russia dominated this game from the beginning to the end. The only thing that the Dutch had going for them was the slack marking – frankly baffling given how good a coach Hiddink is – off of free kicks that almost had Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Nigel De Jong scoring in the first half. Other than that it was Russia that dominated midfield and looked the more dangerous going forward. Sneijder and Van der Vaart had below average games and Ooijer and Mathijsen looked pedestrian. If it wasn’t for Van der Sar’s heroics, this game would have been over by the 60 minute mark. As it was, he kept Russia out till the 56th minute when Pavlyuchenko brilliantly finished on the near post after getting goal side of his marker. The fault lies with Heitenga who had just come on for Bouhlarouz and was nowhere near the crosser, Semak. Too much time allowed him to deliver a perfect pass for Pavlyuchenko to leave Van der Sar flat footed.
After that, the Dutch tried everything to get back into the game but most of their efforts involved long range blasts by Sneijder. Unfortunately, my prediction for man of the match, Arjen Robben could not play due to injury and that limited Dutch penetration on the wings. They played too narrow which didn’t work against the Russians who packed it inside and didn’t give Van Nistelrooy or Sneijder much room. Meanwhile, Van Der Sar and De Jong somehow managed to keep Russia from scoring with Ooijer and Mathijsen clearly struggling with the pace of Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko and Zhirkov. However, there was just one free kick too many for the Russians and Ruud headed in unmarked to tie it up in the 86th minute. The game may not have ended the way it did if not for the referee overturning his decision to give Kolodin a second yellow card for a foul on Sneijder after consulting with his linesman who told him the ball had gone out of play before the foul. I have never seen that happen before. Good thing he did, because otherwise it would have unfairly given the Dutch an advantage in extra time, as replays showed no contact.
In extra time, it was clear that the Dutch were just hanging on and that it was Russia’s to win. Man of the match, Andrei Arshavin, demonstrated clearly that he was the best player on the park by showing the same pace at the end of the game as he did in the beginning. His stop start left his defender standing before he crossed for Torbinsky to turn the ball inside the far post when Van Der Vaart and Gio Van Bronckhorst left him get between and ahead of them. Arshavin finished the scoring with a diagonal run, received a throw in and put it between Van der Sar’s legs. Wenger, you better add some more millions to that transfer fee.
The result didn’t surprise me. As I had suggested in my pre-game post, IF both teams played the way they could, I thought the Russians would win. The Russians played the way they can and the Dutch didn’t even reach their regular potential. Russia and Turkey in the semi finals. What a tournament.
Pre-game prediction: Russia 1 Holland 3
Result: Russia 3 Netherlands 1 (a little dyslexia from HC21)
Scorers: Roman Pavlyuchenko, Dmitri Torbinsky, Andrei Arshavin (Russia) Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)
Spain, could you please win one for the pre-game favorites and have CH12 at least correctly predict one of the four quarter finals…