1. The Dutch are in phenomenal form. Van der Sar is strong in goal, their midfield is dominant and their strikers are finishing with clinical efficiency. The defense is the weak point, but with the midfield controlling the ball and Van der Sar backing them up, they may prove sufficient. Robben was the only Dutch player who looked good in the World Cup; he’s maintained his high level of play and those around him have raised theirs. Van Persie is playing very well in a substitute’s role, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen him play with Arsenal over the last few years.
2. My suspicions of the French, particularly their strikers, were correct. Riberry is the only effective French player, but he’s a ball-controlling midfielder with the typical midfielder’s inability to finish. Henry can still be occasionally dangerous, but he’s lost both his scorer’s confidence and finishing touch. That silly attempt to lob Van der Sar was a classic “I’m one-on-one and I have no idea what to do” shot.
3. Without both Cannavaro and Maldini in back, Italy’s defense is in disarray. Had Buffon not saved Mutu’s penalty, the Azzurri would be out already. Another thing I really dislike about Toni; he’s always offside. No striker worth his salt should ever be caught offsides more than once per game, it’s really bad because it kills an attack dead on the spot and it’s simply not necessary.
4. Nevertheless, Italy should still make it through to the next stage, since a tie or a win against France will almost surely be enough to do it. Romania plays hard, but I don’t see them keeping it particularly close against the Dutch.
5. I knew the Dutch were quite amusing when their team is losing, but they’re even funnier when their team is winning. SB was on the phone with the Dutch Girl after every goal; when I called the Plastic Man to congratulate him on the Orange going through, he announced “I am so happy… my whole body is sweating!” I’m still supporting the Azurri, of course, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Dutch finally claim a big tournament again.
6. Spain and Holland look like the two teams most likely to claim the crown, with Portugal the dark horse.