Reflections on the World Cup 2010 quarter finals

Not so long ago you couldn't do a World Cup 2010 search on Google without stumbling on articles about South American dominance and how all the likes of Kaka and Messi had to do was turn up and it would only be matter of time before European teams were genuflecting before them, gasping in amazement at yet another 70-pass move, and wanting to take them home to meet their mothers.

OK, I'm paraphrasing, but the general message is the same: the South Americans were expected to canter their way to the semi-finals, only stopping occasionally to swat inferior and ugly Europeans out of their path.

The evidence did look pretty conclusive. They (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay) lost one game out of 15 in the group stage.

The losing side (Chile) didn't last long anyway, leaving the field open for the real cream (and Paraguay and Uruguay) to rise to the top.

Sure enough, all four made it through to the quarters as speculation grew about an all-South American final.

Meanwhile, the ugly Europeans were scrambling their way through the group stage with varying degrees of difficulty.

Germany and Spain lost group games, Italy and France were rubbish, the Dutch were effective but seemingly over-reliant on Robben, and the less said about England, the better, I think.

Surely the Kuyts and Friedrichs of this world would realise the game was up once they pitted their decrepit brand of football against the divine righters from Buenos Aires and Rio?

Well, it didn't happen, and I'm delighted. The Brazilians weren't very good and frankly never played anywhere close to their potential. The way coach Dunga had them playing was the polar opposite of the great sides of the early seventies and eighties. If the response to the Dutch defeat is to dump Dunga and go back to their roots I'll be delighted.

The next Argentina manager has a different dilemma: how to get the best out of Messi. The Barca striker had a terrible World Cup. While his team mates put the goals away, Messi huffed and puffed, keeping opposing defences distracted but rarely threatening. Ineffective against the Germans, he was a pale imitation of the player who terrorised defences in Spain and across Europe last season.

None of this is intended to take anything away from Holland or Germany. The Dutch were resilient and refused to go down without a fight. They now have an excellent opportunity to reach the final with a semi against a Uruguay side which was lucky to get past Ghana. The loss of Suarez will not help the Uruguayan cause, nor will his references to another "Hand of God" endear him to sensible football fans.

As for Germany, their 4 - 0 demolition of Argentina was a pleasure to watch: compact defensive work allied to a swift and incisive counter-attacking style. They have a core of gifted players who see hard work as the platform for launching devastating strikes. This remarkably effective strategy could serve them equally well against Spain.

The European champions held off a spirited Paraguay, surviving a penalty, missing one themselves, and then scrambling a late goal through Villa. The Germans will hardly be quaking in their boots.

We've gone from South American domination to seeing their top sides humbled. Their Spanish cousins may not be up to the job. We may be heading for a Holland v Germany final - and who could say they saw that coming?

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after the quarter final games: 30/60

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