Last Friday, there were hopes in some parts of the world (the southern half of it), that there would three or even four South American teams in the last four at the World Cup. And, once the quarterfinals wrapped up, there was but one team from South America left, Uruguay, and that one won thanks to either a miracle or some horrible cheating.
The semifinals of the World Cups start Tuesday at 11:30 am PT in Cape Town, when Uruguay takes on the Netherlands. On Wednesday at 11:30 am, Germany will face Spain in Durban.
So what happened to the supposedly unstoppable South American squads of Brazil and Argentina?
The Dutch upset Brazil 2-1 in their quarterfinal match on Friday. Brazil took an early lead, but then never threatened much except for one shot by Kaka that forced Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenberg to make a leaping save to keep it out.
In the second half, the Dutch caught a break when Felipe Melo deflected a Wesley Sneijder shot into the net (Sneijder received credit for the goal.) A few minutes later, Melo received a red card. Not too long after that, Sneijder scored again to give the Dutch a 2-1 lead that held up.
The second half saw Brazilian coach Dunga melt down on the sidelines as he seemingly could not believe what his team was doing. Dunga has been told to look for new work.
Argentina and Germany was expected to be a wild affair, but the Germans dominated the match from the outset. 20-year old Thomas Mueller scored in the third minute to get the Germans off to a fast start. Miroslav Klose added two goals in the second half and defender Arne Freidrich added another. The Germans made Argentina, a team with stars like Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, look like they belonged in a park league.
Spain's match with Paraguay had its share of high drama. After a scoreless first half, Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo won a penalty in the 60th minute. Spanish keeper Iker Casillas made the save.
Spain then went on a quick counterattack and won a penalty of their own. Spain's Xabi Alsonso scored on his first try, but the referee waived it off for encroachment. (All the other players on a penalty kick have to remain a set distance away from the ball until it is kicked.) The kick was retaken and Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar made the save.
It wasn't until the 83rd minute when Spain's David Villa scored the only goal of the match. Spain is in the semifinals for the first time ever.
Tuesday's match between Uruguay and the Netherlands may not have a lot of scoring. Uruguay tends to play somewhat conservatively. Also, Uruguay hasn't faced anyone who is the quality of the Dutch team so far in South Africa. Uruguay's best hope will be to get some good set piece opportunities for Diego Forlan. The team's other scoring threat, Luis Suarez, is suspended for the semifinal after drawing a red card for his game saving handball in the quarterfinal against Ghana.
The Netherlands have been to two World Cup finals before, in 1974 and 1978, only to end up facing the host nation each time (Germany and Argentina) and losing. The Dutch team has a lot of star power, although they are not exactly a team that gets along well. Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, and Wesley Sneijder, are all sizeable talents with sizeable egos. However, the Dutch are the only team left in South Africa that has neither a loss nor a draw on its ledger. And, the Dutch did not lose or draw a qualifying match.
The Spain-Germany semifinal should be outstanding. Germany has scored four goals in each of its first two games in the knockout round. The last team to score more than eight goals in two straight knockout round matches was Brazil in 1958.
Germany likely won't score four against Spain. The Germans will be missing Mueller, who is out for one match because of yellow cards. Spain may have more of its stars available, but the Spanish team so far has looked better on paper than on the field.
I now think that a repeat of the 1974 final between the Netherlands and Germany is likely. Which, if the World Cup continues in the way it's gone for me, means that you can get ready for Spain-Uruguay final next Sunday.