The second match tonight, – and arguably the more interesting one, is Holland v. Italy. For obvious reasons, a lot of people have these two teams as their strongest candidates of this year’s champions.
Let’s take a look at them one by one, shall we ? Holland’s main strength is their open play, fast with short passing with tricky wingers a la Robben and van Persie. I don’t think we should bring up the total football issue anymore for them. There’s really very small possibility of actual total football nowadays. The standard of play today is such that had one team choose to adopt total football as their style of play, they had better be damn uncannily good at it; for one small mistake will be readily converted to the opponent’s advantage. With all due respect, I think 2008 Holland team is not that good.
However, they are really good in the offensive site. I mean, who in their sane mind will love to play against a team with Nistelrooy, Robben, van Persie, van der Vaart, and Sneijder up front ? Bad news is, their defense is a bit shaky. We miss the days when Jaap Stam is a colossus in their backline. Also, the latest news tell us that Robben and van Persie may miss tonight’s match due to injuries.
On the other side, Italy is a team with a totally different strength. Their football philosophy has always been, – and still is, defense first, short bursts of attack later. Plus a willingness to use any means necessary to win, a.k.a. mind games. This style of play was proven effective when they won their last World Cup.
On normal conditions, this will mean that Italy will sit deep in their own half, and do a fast counter-attack for any failed attempt at goal by Holland. God knows that any long or direct ball to their strikers will be relished by the Monster Up-There : Luca Toni. But my question is : will they be able to hold on as strongly as their proverbial catenaccio when their most influential defense general, Fabio Cannavaro, is absent ? Their life maybe easier with the absences of Holland’s best wingers, but I guarantee that Holland still have a bag of tricks ready.
Key figure, I reckon, is Materazzi. A master of intimidating defense play, this man may single-handedly destroy any opponent’s attempt to play, let alone to attack. If let loose, he is like a ghost who haunts your mind everytime you ponder where to pass the ball. That’s his best strength. He may be a bit weaker in actual defending than Cannavaro; but no opponent will be calm when he’s around.
Then again, this is a first match. I seriously doubt if Materazzi will play with his usual uncompromising style. Italy wouldn’t want him to pick up cards, they will tend to save it for later, more important games. On the other hand, I think Holland will also focus to have a respectable result tonight ( draw ), and then forcing a win against Romania to qualify from the group. Simply put, they will cancel each other out in the field.
To sum it all, Holland v. Italy will have draw as a result. But rest assured, it will be exciting. Indeed, I think they will have a 1-1 draw, rather than 0-0. An exciting night we have today..!
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