Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest
collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as
a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
the World Cup.
Read earlier columns
Ukraine are more than halfway
The first legs of the play-offs for next year’s World Cup brought us no
surprises. Close scores, and no ties have been decided yet. Although the Irish
Republic and Turkey hold strong claims for qualifying.
The Turks did well to hold off Austria in Vienna behind an Okan Buruk goal.
He poked in after a splitting pass beat the sleeping Austrian defenders, and
goalie Wohlfarth could get a hand to Okan’s shot, but failed to parry it. I
still expect a tough second leg for Turkey, because Austria is a team with
not too much talent, but it’s difficult to beat them easily. They are mostly
capable of holding on, and score in the final minutes of a game. And let’s
be fair, there is only one goal that separates the two teams and a goal can
be scored at any time in a match. But still, my favourites here are the
Turks, who have a decent team. Certainly more entertaining than Austria, no
particular favourites of mine.
Ireland beat Iran, and should they be capable of scoring in Teheran, this
encounter is over. And I think Ireland will score there within the first 15
minutes. I think there will be an upset in the Slovenia-Romania match-up, I
think Katanec’ men will go through there. I can see them conceding very few
chances in Bucharest. And Acimovic is a man who can score goals, from any
position, any time. I am looking forward to the match in Prague between the
Czech Republic and Belgium. I saw the first match live on tv, and Belgium,
with some newcomers in the team, surprised me with their fighting spirit. A
team without stars, but with the ability to rise to the occasion. Czech
defender Repka shot his own team in the foot when he collected a red card
for elbowing Bart Goor, although it wasn’t so bad as Goor wanted it to look.
Repka “only” hit Goor’s shoulder, but still it was a stupid action. The
Czechs are my favourites to qualify, because there is more talent in their
squad than in Belgium’s. But this tie is also close, and Belgium is
certainly in contention for a surprise. Seeing myself in coach Waseige's
shoes, I would choose an attacking style from the beginning, as one goal
scored by Belgium will almost certainly kill off all Czech hopes. Belgium
can not rely on keeping the classy home side from scoring.
Then there is Ukraine against Germany. The former Soviets started strongly
against a nervous German side, who were lucky to escape with a 1-0 deficit,
before Michael Ballack, Germany's hope these days, equalised. After that,
Germany took control and could have won it when both Rehmer and Linke hit
the bar. So far, so good for Völler’s men, but how will it develop later
this week in Dortmund’s Westfalen Stadium? I fear for Germany. Ukraine are
very strong away from home, and that is because their defenders do a better
job with little space behind them, and then of course, there’s the pace of
Andrei Shevchenko, one of the world’s best strikers at the moment.
Germany does a difficult job when they have to make the game, and when the
Ukrainians should let them do so. Okay, the Germans don’t have to score – a
0-0 draw will do – but I can’t see Germany just defending at home, they will
carefully try to make the play. That will give Shevchenko, Rebrov and
Vorobej the space they need. Germany these days is so extremely vulnerable
at the back, that I expect a similar match as Germany-England. Okay, Ukraine
have no Campbell at the back (though Golovko is a good stopper), and no
Beckham or Gerrard. But they have their own Owen in Shevchenko. He can do
what Owen did in Munich. In each match you get chances, and when Ukraine can
send Shevchenko through two or three times, he could do the damage. Who
should hold him? Rehmer? Wörns or Linke? Or even Nowotny? None of them has a
chance. Ukraine can play easily and wait for their chances. The first German
goal will make no difference, Ukraine know they have to score. When Germany
scores first, they will automatically get back to defence, the weakest part
of their team. It will be no surprise to me when they fail to qualify for
the first time since 1950.
Here are my expectations for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s return
Turkey - Austria 1-1 agg: 2-1 (Turkey through)
Romania - Slovenia 1-1 agg: 2-3 (Slovenia through)
Czech Rep - Belgium 2-0 agg: 2-1 (Czech Rep through)
Germany - Ukraine 1-2 agg: 2-3 (Ukraine through)
Iran - Ireland 0-2 agg: 0-4 (Ireland through)
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