Andy Cole: Villa knows the way to goal – he just has to show his team-mates
Thursday 08 July 2010
My money is on Spain. From the start it was between them, Brazil and Argentina, and now I feel it is their time. They have already won the European Championship, they are young, and they have players of such incredible quality that Cesc Fabregas cannot even get in the team.
Nevertheless there was something ironic in how they spent such a long time trying to score the perfect goal against Germany before the winner came from Carles Puyol's great centre-half's header at a corner.
Last night they played as they always do, keeping the ball, stringing passes together – and sometimes that meant taking a touch too many. At least Puyol's goal made a change from David Villa scoring. I think he is a very exciting player and it is a shame he is not coming to the Premier League, but he has looked better coming off the left than leading the line. Villa has a real chance to finish as top scorer and he would be a worthy one. He has great movement, quick feet and crucially, unlike most of his team-mates, he likes to get his shots off. Villa had to play in the centre yesterday because the Spanish dropped Fernando Torres. It has been difficult for him as he has come off an-injury-interrupted season in which he has not scored many goals. He could really have done with Pedro passing to him last night so he could get off the mark. But you know how it is, he could end up scoring the winner in the final, just as he did in the Euros two years ago.
In a way I was sad to see the Germans go out. They have been fantastic, playing the best football of the tournament. I've really enjoyed watching them. It is a young team with an average age around 25 and I take my hat off to them for that. England would never have played so many young players at a major tournament. Just think how strong they will be in four years' time.
I barely finished digesting last night's match before I was looking forward to Sunday's final. I think it will be a more open game than the Germany v Spain semi-final. Spain will keep the ball, the Dutch will try and break out.
A lot of people will remember the great Dutch sides of the past. I am a bit too young to recall the 1970s team, the one that lost two World Cup finals, but I saw the 1988 team which won the European Championships with the likes of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard.
Bert van Marwijk's team is not as talented as those predecessors, but this one has got results, which is why they are in the final. They have had some fortune but successful teams usually need a bit of that along the way. In the quarter-final they were lucky in that Brazil lost their heads for 20 minutes. The Brazilians could have been two- or three-up, but then their concentration went and they were out of the World Cup. In contrast the Dutch have stayed focused. That is not always thrilling to watch, but it has helped them put together a 26-match unbeaten run.
The Dutch were also fortunate to play an under-strength Uruguay in the semi-finals, not that Luis Suarez did not deserve to be suspended after his goalline handball against Ghana. Like any professional I would have done the same in his position, so I don't blame him, and the referee did his job, sent him off and gave a penalty. The problem was Ghana missed the kick. Suarez's subsequent celebrations and comments about the "Hand of God" then left a nasty taste. That is why people wondered whether he should be allowed to play in the final, if Uruguay had made it.
Extra time: Team work, not solo displays, is key to Holland success
Goalscorers by definition need to score goals but, forgive the old cliché, it is a team game. That is why Robin van Persie won't be losing any sleep over the fact that he has only scored once in this World Cup despite being the Netherlands' centre-forward.
Some people think he'll be upset. He'll be disappointed, sure, but he is going to play in a World Cup final on Sunday so he won't be unhappy. If he scores the winner in Johannesburg no one will care that he only scored against Cameroon in the games leading up to it, least of all him.
Van Persie could be said to have played a crucial part in the Dutch reaching the final because it was he who stepped around Wesley Sneijder's shot for their crucial second goal on Tuesday. Had he played the ball he might have blocked it, diverted it wide, or been called offside. I think the flag should have gone up even though he did not touch the ball as he was interfering with play.
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