Holland 2, Slovakia 1
Holland beat a poor Slovakian outfit that had nothing left after upsetting Italy on Thursday. It was the first truly boring quarterfinal so far.
Arjen Robben’s 18th minute goal was the only highlight of a drab first half Robben ran onto a long ball and fired a low shot into the near corner of the net. If you see the replay and want to truly appreciate the goal, watch Robin v. Persie, who never touches the ball. Robben faced three Slovak defenders, and none of them closed Robben down. Why? V. Persie made a decoy run into space that distracted the defenders for half a second—just long enough for Robben to find a shooting lane. This is soccer’s version of a well executed trap-play on second-and-6 that rumbles for 15 yards. Well done all around.
Slovakia briefly came into the game after 65 minutes and managed a couple of shots, but that was it. The clincher came late when Dirk Kuyt unselfishly fed Wesley Sneijder to make it 2-0 while a couple Slovak defenders were still trying to squabble with the ref over a previous free kick. Slovakia was awarded a dodgy penalty deep in stoppage time, and Robert Vittek put his team on the board with the final kick of the game—meaningless to the result but a massive swing in the betting markets as most outs had Holland -1.5 or -1.25. I know one bookie who had a $4 million swing to the good.
Brazil 3, Chile 0
Chile came to play right from the opening whistle. Full credit to Chile for not being overawed in the first half by a Brazil team that had won the previous seven meetings by an aggregate of 26-3. Brazil were just a little bit better in the opening half however, and cracked Chile open twice. Juan headed a Maicon corner home to open the scoring in the 35th. Four minutes later Luis Fabiano finished off a great break set up by Robinho and Kaka. Chile kept coming, and were likely saved from more damage by the halftime whistle.
The second half was the same story—Chile the welterweight champion in a heavyweight fight. Robinho put the game to bed on the hour mark, scoring Brazil’s third. Chile kept working, but had little quality in the final third.
Ramires picked up a yellow card for Brazil, ruling him out of the Holland game on Friday. With Felipe Melo still a question mark, this could put Brazil’s defence under strain with more runners now coming through. Felipe Melo will be rushed back if he can so much as walk.