My original trip to Germany was supposed to start on June 7th. And with that date, I had purchased Holland / Germany tickets because... well, really... why wouldn't you?
Undoubtedly the glamour match of the group stage, and my team involved? Yes, I'll have two tickets, please.
And then I tried to get to Kharkiv.
And then I tried some more. Flights and hotels had been so incredibly price-gouged that it was nearly impossible. At one point, I was considering a flight to Zuerich, then over night to Istanbul (not Constantinople), next day landing in Lviv. And still faced with a long train ride. All for nearly 800 Euro. And that's before lodging.
But, my life got in the way here, and I had to delay my trip for a week (I now leave Thursday). However, I'll make the Denmark match in Berlin, and get to the quarterfinal. I definitely feel like I'm coming out a winner. But, oh! To actually be there in Kharkiv?! It's gonna be fantastic!
I don't think it's necessary to comment on the contentious history- football and otherwise- between these two squads. Frank Rijkaard and Rudy Voeller? Berti Vogts and Johan Cruyff? But, with both teams being ranked top five in all the land? And, a Germany that's playing pretty similar to the Dutch "Total Voetbal" way? It's destined to be a classic.
I think I might be the only person in the world that suggested that Denmark would nick off Holland in their opener. (I will graciously accept my "genius" status for as long as I can.) I don't know why I thought so, but I did. And Denmark did. Group B got a lot more interesting.
Now, Denmark didn't throw ten men in front of goal in the first half, they tried to play football with varying degrees of success. Only after they scored did they start to pull, en masse, in front of goal. And got exceeding lucky that Robin van Persie lacked a final touch. Really, the only guy that was effective offensively for the Dutch was Wesley Sneijder, who could not be stopped by any Dane.
Bert van Marwijk’s Netherlands plays in the same 4-2-3-1 formation as the Germans. The coach seems likely to retain the two defensive midfielders, captain Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong in the starting XI even though the pundits have been clamouring for Rafael van der Vaart to start there, in more of an offensive role. First choice centre-back Joris Mathijsen was back in training and is expected to get the starting nod over Ron Vlaar. And up front, the coach is expected to start Klaas-Jan Huntelaar over Robin Van Persie, who Bert would move out to a wide position opposite Arjen Robben.
Netherlands Projecting Starting XI: Stekelenburg - Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Willems - N. De Jong, Van Bommel - Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie - Huntelaar
On Jogi Loew's side of things, even though he stated that he could make changes, I don't think it's likely here. Lukas Podolski will get about 45 minutes to show what faith the coach has in him, but I think it's likely he's the first to be subbed out for Andre Schuerrle.
Say what you want about Mario Gomez, but he's earned his right to stay up front. While his chances were few in the Portugal match, he did score the winner and had a goal disallowed. However, if he doesn't get on the scoresheet, you will see Miroslav Klose.
Germany Projected Starting XI: Neuer - Boateng , Hummels , Badstuber , Lahm - Khedira , Schweinsteiger - Mueller , Oezil , Podolski – Gomez
The best possible thing to happen before this match is the Dutch have started their famous infighting already. Factions for Huntelaar, factions for Van Persie... And a crybaby Van der Vaart who inexplicably gave an interview stating that Germany only had three "world class" players- Oezil, Schweinsteiger and Goetze. Silly Rafael, you're not making it any easier for your wife to work in Germany, now are you? I think I can safely say that his statements were completely disregarded, but I hope it gives all of our world class players on the pitch a little impetus to prove him wrong.
This is a must-win for the Netherlands. And we can play the spoilers and send our arch-rivals home early. I am salivating at the prospect! However, with that being said, we may face a Dutch side like the 2010 World Cup- a slashing, destructive side playing with their backs against a wall.
Swedish millionaire referee, Jonas Eriksson, hands out an average of four yellows a match. I would think the total will be higher here. Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber will have to be careful as their bookings would cause them both to miss the Denmark match on Sunday.
The final before the final? Deutschland, are you ready to rumble?