Group E Final Redux: Japan Masters Art of the Free Kick, Holland Enjoy Life at the Top

25 June 2010

Klaas Jan Huntelaar celebrates with Arjen Robben (R) and Eljero Elia (L) after scoring the second goal for Holland. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
We’ve all been talking about it: the lack of goals coming from free kicks. Everyone was blaming the ball, some were adding the altitude into that equation, but no one seemed to talk about the fact no one really wanted to take the time and practice with it so they could learn about it’s intricate nature. Japan must have spent some time working on that this week, and were handsomely rewarded for it.

We could argue which free kick produced the better goal; whether it was Honda’s seventeenth minute effort, or Endo’s free kick on the half hour. Personally, I say why not call that contest a tie? Honda’s was pure brilliance because of how he was able to get Sorensen to wrong foot himself on the line. A free kick from that distance should easily be handled, unless it’s whipped into the box and flicked on goal. Honda bypassed everyone. Sure, there was some swerve on the ball, but anytime you can get the keeper to guess wrong, you should be commended.

Endo’s free kick was all about placement, in more ways than one. With the location of this set piece being perfect, Japan put both Honda and Endo over the ball. It was funny seeing the wall set up, and how they were all expecting Honda to shoot. Instead, Endo showed that this ball could be perfectly curled. If there was any complaint about how Denmark set up, it was that Sorensen was too close to the far post. It was really an open invitation for Endo to give the near post a try, and he was handsomely rewarded. Let that be proof enough that you can use this ball to score off free kicks.

I have to give Cameroon credit: they could have easily folded like a cheap tent today against Holland, but they didn’t. Yes, they weren’t exactly threatening in front of goal, but they did attack, making it a nice open game of football.

Holland can take a few positives from their performance. They finally started passing the ball around like we all expect them to in major competitions. While they would probably argue they could use some work on their end product, they were finally making the right runs through the channels. However, their biggest positive has to be the twenty minute run out Arjen Robben had. He looked fit, controlled the ball well, and could have easily scored. Yes, his shot hit the post, but with Hamidou out of position, Huntelaar was in perfect position to finish the opportunity.

Both Holland and Japan are entering the knockout stages on a high. Where that takes them the rest of the way is just anybody’s guess. Holland look like they might have an easy path to the quarter finals. While Japan might think they do, their defending could easily give Paraguay plenty of problems.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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