Ladies and Gentlemen. The Semi-finals are here , here are some things to watch out for as we get ready for the games.
1. When Germany plays Spain in Durban, two of the favorite contenders for the Golden Boot will face off against each other: David Villa, of Spain with five goals, and Miroslav Klose , of Germany with four. Villa has been Spain’s only significant offensive threat, and his late goal against Paraguay saved him — and the rest of us — from the agony of extra time. With 14 career World Cup goals, Klose needs only one more to tie Brazil’s Ronaldo for the all-time lead. Watching them play head-to-head? A match made in heaven
2. Klose, known mostly for his ability in the air, has relied more on his ground game in South Africa. That can’t last. If he scores against Spain — when he scores against Spain — watch for the Jabulani to swing off his forehead, not his feet.
3. Uruguay will miss Luis Suarez‘s attack in their semifinal against the Netherlands in Cape Town. He’ll be serving a one-game suspension for his now-infamous hand ball against Ghana, otherwise known as The Greatest Red Card Of All Time. Wherever he’ll be sitting — in the press box, in the dressing room, on the team bus idling in the parking lot — the demonstrative Suarez will make for some kind of spectacle. The biggest game of his young life, and he’ll be wearing a suit.
4. If the Uruguayans are to have any hope against the Dutch, Diego Forlan will need to score early and possibly often. Somehow, the former bust of a player — ask a Manchester United fan, if you can find one, what he thinks of Forlan — has become a credible threat, especially on set pieces. His free kick goal against Ghana was beautiful and pivotal. He’ll take virtually every free kick the Dutch give up within 40 yards of their goal. If Forlan doesn’t score on one, Uruguay will be in trouble, and not just with the Ghanaians.
5. Diego Maradona, still in the midst of a post-elimination bender, will run naked across the field, probably in Cape Town. He knows the Germans won’t let him finish.
6. Iker Casillas, arguably the world’s best goalkeeper, has been uncharacteristically shaky during Spain’s wobbly run. Although he’s made spectacular saves — the penalty stop against Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo comes to mind — he’s also given up some big rebounds and gone after loose balls with his feet rather than his hands, which betrays a tender heart. Casillas hasn’t made a genuine gaffe yet, but he looks like a man ready to make one.
7. Ancient Dutch defender Andre Ooijer — a Netherlands victory will see him celebrate his 36th birthday on the same day as the final — will be a man to watch against Uruguay. Ooijer was a last-minute replacement for the injured Joris Mathijsen against Brazil and calmed down after a rocky start. In his mind, another surprise appearance in the semifinal could serve as a kind of audition: He was dropped by PSV Eindhoven and is currently without a club — the only interest, so far, coming from a team in Cyprus. Watch Ooijer try to play his way off the island..
8. David Villa has played like a man possessed. Unfortunately for Spain, their other usual offensive presence — Fernando Torres — clearly lost all his strength when he cut his once-golden locks. Torres has looked slow and unsure where to go, and when he has managed to get shots off, especially against Paraguay, he hasn’t come close to the target. After he was substituted early in the second half, he looked frustrated and near tears. A poor game against Germany combined with his not having scored for Spain in a year, could spur a memorable on-field meltdown. Don’t be surprised to see Looserpool letting him go.
9. Lost a little in the chaos that followed Brazil’s exit courtesy of the Netherlands was the terrific save made by Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg to prevent the favorites from going up 2-0. It was on a high, swerving shot by Kaka, and the tall, athletic Stekelenburg displayed perfect form — reaching over with his opposite hand, and with enough sense of where he was to send the ball more safely to the side rather than over top of the goal. It was a textbook save, a save made by a keeper who relied on muscle memory and fundamentals in a time of great stress. Look for him to make a big save against Uruguay, too.