Ruud Doevendans


 
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.

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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 matches:


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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