Denmark 1 Holland 0
It was a reasonably entertaining game, but the Dutch looked simultaneously in control and inept. Rob van Persie was uncharacteristically hapless in front of goal, at one point actually managing to swing, miss, and fall down after finding himself through to goal. The Danish keeper kept them in the game, although most of Holland’s 28 shots really weren’t very dangerous. While the Dutch controlled the midfield as effectively as the Russians had against the Czechs, they weren’t able to deliver the ball to the strikers anywhere nearly as effectively. Of course, on the rare occasions they did so, the opportunity was either wasted or stuffed by the Danish keeper. The Danes, on the other hand, got a lucky bounce at just the right time, followed by a goal that was less indicative of a great finish as a poor effort by the Dutch keeper. I’ve never understood why some keepers at the top levels appear to be inordinately disposed to permitting the one sort of goals that even children can block, namely, a shot on the ground aimed directly at their feet.
Germany 1 Portugal 0
This was a better game, although the Germans didn’t look like the world beaters that they do on paper. Although Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani get all the press, the Portuguese defense was easily the most impressive aspect of the team. I didn’t like Germany’s attacking style, as it mostly consisted of sending the ball down the sidelines, then crossing it into the middle over and over again. The Germans didn’t appear to have any ability or even intent to break down the defense by attacking it on the ground, either in transition or with the defense set in the box. The German manager was just about to send in Klose for Gomez when the latter headed in a deflected cross for the game’s only goal. Portugal actually created the better opportunities, but Pepe hit the bar and Varela simply choked when presented with a near empty net. Every matchup is different, of course, but based on these two games alone, I’d be more surprised to see Holland beat Germany than to see Portugal beat Holland.
And one more thing… avanti Azzurrri!