Another day, another flight and another hotel room – so this is why rock bands go crackers on the road. At least the setting here is stunning – Cape Town’s Table Mountain looks down on our suite and the entire city, and it’s futuristic-looking Green Point Stadium is the setting for tomorrow’s semi-final between the swaggering Dutch and the rather ‘handy’ Uruguayans.
Jim Proudfoot and I had a long chat last night trying to make a case for the “Celeste” winning through to the final and frankly not getting very far. No Suarez, no Fucile & potentially no Lugano, Lodeiro or Godin either. That’s 4 first-teamers and 1 useful bench option out. Not only that but also there’s no recognised left-back available to come in for Fucile and try and deal with the threat of Arjen Robben – it’s a tough call for Oscar Tabarez and he has the option of changing systems to 3-5-2 at this late stage, which sounds suicidal given the solidity Uruguay have shown up to this point with 4-3-1-2.
My money’s on Maxi Pereira switching flanks to left back and Martin Caceres at right back, and hopefully either Godin or Lugano will be fit enough to resume their place at the heart of the back 4.
But that isn’t to say that Holland have no Achilles heel of their own. The absence of De Jong and Van Der Wiel through suspension means that Bert van Marwijk will surely have to pick Khalid Boularouz at right back, and Chelsea fans will doubtless already be laughing at the prospect – De Zeuww for De Jong is less problematic, and at least Robin Van Persie is fit to lead the line. Rumours that Mathijsen is fit to return at centre-half will allay Dutch fears that Andre Oojer will have to be used again – and so essentially it’s a game more about how badly the inexperienced men on the field will handle the occasion more than how the star names can affect things positively.
I gather Stekelenburg the Dutch & Ajax keeper texted his club team-mate Luis Suarez to cheekily suggest he should win the Lev Yashin goalkeeping award for his little stunt against Ghana that got him suspended and made him the latest in a relatively short line of South American ‘hate’ figures to us moralistic stiff-upper-lip-its-just-not-cricket Brits. I sometimes wonder whether the rod up our collective arse must have a rod up its arse, such is our straight-laced outlook sometimes. Every ex-pro and amateur player I know would’ve instinctively done the same as him, so let’s not take the moral high ground too quickly.
Ray Parlour and I are sharing rooms for the next 2 nights – he’s roomed with Paul Merson during his Arsenal days and I doubt I’ll live up to that billing, as I’ll be swotting up on stats rather than swilling beverages. Ok then, maybe one…
I gather from back at home that the managerial merry-go-round is in full swing – Paolo Souza has suddenly arrived at Leicester City, which will no doubt leave my good mate and Foxes fan Geoff Peters totally underwhelmed. He’s like a Championship footballing nomad isn’t he, old Paolo? A bit like The Littlest Hobo was on the telly, only he used to actually achieve something before he ‘moved on’. Maybe 3rd time lucky for him? For Leicester fans’ sake I hope so, but it’s not an appointment to stir the blood.
I see Blues have been linked with about 75 different World Cup stars, and perhaps one of those leads might end with a capture, but after the nightmare that was Ferdinand Coly after 2002, I don’t expect much.