>Two spots in the 2010 FIFA World Cup semi-finals will be up for grabs tonight as Brazil face the Netherlands and Uruguay take on Ghana in South Africa.
These four sides occupy one side of the draw, which means the two winners will face off in the semi-final for the right to a spot in the final at Soccer City.
Brazil are highly fancied to get through this section and are clear favourites against the Netherlands, but we shouldn’t forget they’ll face a dangerous Dutch side containing the likes of Champions League finalists Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben.
These are the probable line-ups for Friday’s early game (4pm CET in Port Elizabeth);
Netherlands 1 Maarten Stekelenburg – 2 Gregory van der Wiel, 3 Johnny Heitinga, 4 Joris Mathijsen, 5 Giovanni van Bronckhorst – 6 Mark van Bommel, 8 Nigel de Jong – 11 Arjen Robben, 10 Wesley Sneijder, 7 Dirk Kuyt – 9 Robin van Persie
*Unavailable’ – ‘‘full strength’’Key man– ‘‘Arjen Robben, back from injury and capable of brilliance & inspiration.’’Brazil'’1 Julio Cesar – 2 Maicon, 3 Lucio, 4 Juan, 6 Michel Bastos – 13 Dani Alves, 8 Gilberto Silva, 5 Felipe Melo – 10 Kaka – 11 Robinho, 9 Luis Fabiano’’Unavailable– ‘‘Elano (injury), Ramires (suspended)’’*Key man’’’ – ‘‘Maicon, a terror down the wing, yet formidable in defence. Will create whilst being solid.
This should be an intriguing contest, although both sides have had their critics due to their style. Dunga’s Brazil have been defensive-minded, while Bert van Marwijk’s Oranje have produced some unspectacular yet effective football. Both styles go against their reputation.
In that respect, don’t expect a glittering contest, but it’ll be an interesting battle between 22 top-class footballers and two coaches with sharp minds.
Elsewhere, Africa’s remaining hope, Ghana, face another South American nation in the form of Uruguay. It’s incredible to think one of these nations will be a semi-finalists, so there’s so much at stake for both these countries as they seek to create history.
Uruguay may edge it as favourites following some excellent form this World Cup (they have only conceded one goal so far and are yet to lose), but Ghana have been resilient all tournament and appear quite focused on the job, plus they’ve got that perceived advantage of being on their home continent.
These are the probable line-ups for Friday’s late kick-off (7.30pm CET in Johannesburg);
Uruguay 1 Fernando Muslera – 16 Maxi Pereira, 2 Diego Lugano, 6 Mauricio Victorino, 4 Jorge Fucile – 20 Alvaro Fernandez, 15 Diego Perez, 17 Egidio Arevalo Rios – 7 Edinson Cavani, 9 Luis Suarez, 10 Diego Forlan
*Unavailable’ – ‘‘Diego Godin (injury)’’Key man– ‘‘Diego Forlan, has maintained his bright form up front after leading Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory.’’Ghana'’22 Richard Kingson – 4 John Pantsil, 15 Isaac Vorsah, 5 John Mensah, 2 Hans Sarpei – 6 Anthony Annan, 23 Kevin-Prince Boateng – 7 Samuel Inkoom, 21 Kwadwo Asamoah, 10 Stephen Appiah – 3 Asamoah Gyan’’Unavailable– ‘‘Andre Ayew (suspended), Jonathan Mensah (suspended)’’*Key man’’’ – ‘‘Asamoah Gyan, pacy and powerful, he’s scored three goals this tournament but will have his hands full against Uruguay’s defence.
It’s been 40 years between World Cup quarter-final appearances for two-time winners Uruguay so they’ll want to take full advantage of their shot at glory this time around, but then again Ghana will be hoping to break Africa’s duck by becoming the first nation from the continent to qualify for the semi-finals.
Milovan Rajevac’s Black Stars have overly impressed in South Africa with their football (they’ve only won one match after 90 minutes) but they’ve shown good attitude and strong minds to reach this point. Oscar Tabarez’s La Celeste have a rock solid defence and probably deserve favouritism here, but it’s realistically anyone’s guess who’ll progress.