Chat with Leander Schaerlaeckens
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, our man on the scene in South Africa, Leander Schaerlaeckens, stops by to chat about the 2010 World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain..
Schaerlaeckens is a soccer writer for ESPN.com and is in South Africa covering the World Cup.
Send your questions now and join Schaerlaeckens Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:02 PM)
Afternoon, everybody! And greetings from Port Elizabeth. Thanks for joining me for this chat. Let's get started.
What should i call them The Dutch, Netherland or Holland
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:06 PM)
When you refer to them as a team, the Dutch. When you refer to the country, the Netherlands.There's really no such thing as Holland. There are two populous provinces in the west that are called North Holland and South Holland. Does that make sense, Nick.
a??The game is so fast, the ball is flying so quickly, we have to help them [the referees] and we have to do something and thata??s why I say it is the last World Cup under the current system.a?ý FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke told the BBC. Thoughts?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:09 PM)
I'm glad they're finally seeing it that way. He's got it right on the money. They're still talking about adding two goal-line referees, which I believe they experimented with in the Europa League last year, but I don't think that's the answers. Humans will continue to make mistakes. Four extra eyes won't do that trick. Instal the cameras and do it now, I say. And it's important to keep in mind that FIFA saying it will consider something and FIFA saying that it will do something is a huge, huge difference.
Tim V. (Kankakee, IL)
Leander, much has been made of the squabbles on the Dutch side, and their individual ego battles could end in a team defeat on Sunday. However, little has been mentioned of the apparent loss of confidence on the Spain side in Torres. When Pedro failed to pass to an open Torres late in the semifinal, it showed that even his teammates have recognized he is not a scoring option right now. If Torres logs significant minutes in the final, will the rest of the squad get him involved? Would it be better to leave him on the bench?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:11 PM)
I think you're reading a little bit too much into Pedro not passing. I don't think he had the presence of mind to look up, see that he had a teammate in a better scoring position, realize that he was Torres, ascertain that he wouldn't be able to convert and then decide to take it himself. I think Pedro, a young, driven player, wanted to take it for himself and be the hero. Plain and simple.
I know this is an old question, but how did Ghana manage to lose versus Uruguay? Which is worse- losing a game at the FT line or a PK to win a match?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:16 PM)
Ghana leaned a little too heavily on Gyan's brilliant breakaways, I gather, because he got a few and wasn't able to convert when needed for the first time in the tournament. That got them in trouble. Both are terrible ways of losing, but the PK is perhaps worse because it's an unnatural way of losing. Free throws are a part of the flow of basketball and you don't each take five throws if the game is tied after the first OT. It's as if a when a baseball game is still tied after 12 innings they stage a homerun derby to anoint a winner.
Leander will you be running through the streets naked if the Dutch win(a la Maradona)?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:17 PM)
No. The Dutch reward for winning the World Cup will be not seeing me run through the streets naked.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will win the 2010 FIFA World Cup on Sunday?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:18 PM)
My heart: the NetherlandsMy head: Spain My pessimism hasn't let the Dutch down all tournament. Let's hope it doesn't stop now.
Flemming (Copenhagen, Denmark)
I love the World Cup. It is an amazing spectacle, but it's gonna be tough to watch the Final with the Dutch whining and diving their way forward and Spain being.........you know..........well, you would if you were Danish.......Spain!!! There's really no question in there, it's just weird.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:20 PM)
I don't think the Dutch dive as much as people say they do. Arjen Robben, on the other hand, is the king of floppers. I think he gives the entire team a bad rap.
So does that mean that you will be running through the streets naked if Spain wins(a la Larissa Riquelme)?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:21 PM)
Also no. Their consolation for not having won the World Cup will be not having to see me run through the streets naked.
Please tell me that the Dutch Middies can put pressure on the ball control middies of Spain. The German game just wasn't very entertaining because they could not, and had to sit back and let the action come to them, and maybe get a counter attack when Spain got a little anxious.
Will the Dutch be able to counter the Spanish possession and passing game? As we know Spain has the highest possession percentage in the tournament..
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:23 PM)
I think the Dutch won't sit back and let matters unfold. Firstly, it's not in their DNA. Secondly, they must know their rickety defense will get picked apart. The Dutch will try -- and this will be very hard indeed -- to match Spain's possession. That will be key. This game, as most games, will be won in the midfield.
Peter (Pensacola, FL)
I have been huge Dutch fan since '88 Euro. Been 22 years of hoping for a repeat. I might run through the streets in only my scarf if they win
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:24 PM)
You were warned, Pensacola.
Leander, does anyone care about the 3rd place game? I'm very excited to see more play by such great teams, but it seems like no one else is with me.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:25 PM)
I am, and not just because I'll be there. (I've been confirmed for the final too, woo!) It should, as you point out, be a good game between two very good teams that will be hellbent on setting the record straight. And without the immense pressure of elimination hanging over them, I would be surprised to see soccer fireworks all night. I'll be doing live commentary on the GameCast from 1.30 p.m. ET onwards on ESPN.com/WorldCup.
Am I the only person who feels like the Dutch still haven't played up to their full potential (i.e. a full 90 minutes that looked sound)?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:27 PM)
You are not, Mike. I completely agree with you. They played 20 good minutes against Denmark, 40 good minutes against Brazil and another 40 or so good minutes -- broken up into 10-minute phases -- against Uruguay. I don't think Spain has really hit its stride either.
Josh S. (Philly)
Does Torres start for spain?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:30 PM)
I don't think so, Josh. This is a proposition deemed impossible just a few years ago, but Torres is simply not one of the best eleven players Spain has at the moment. I thought Pedro did well. His shot selection wasn't good, but against Germany he was much more dangerous than Torres has been in each of his games combined.
Drew (Gainesville, FL)
If Spain scores first they win. If the Dutch score first Spain wins. Thoughts?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:33 PM)
I disagree. The Dutch have done a terrific job this tournament of not panicking when they get in a pickle. When Brazil went ahead you thought that game was over. When Uruguay equalized, things weren't looking good for the Dutch. They're sufficiently confident and focused that they're crawled their way our of all of their jams.
Tim V. (Kankakee, IL)
Looking forward to you and the others on the Game Casts for the 3rd place game and the final! Thanks for the insights.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:33 PM)
What do you think the Netherlands has to do to win the final, strategy wise.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:34 PM)
Try to match Spain's possession and clog the middle, the same way the U.S. and Switzerland beat Spain. Spain runs into trouble when Xavi can't operate properly. Oh, and jump into the hole Xavi leaves when he goes on the attack. At Barcelona and for Spain he's not used to having to defend, since his teams command so much of possession, so he often leaves a lot of room behind him which Sergio Busquets can't all cover by himself.
Dirk (New York City)
Why do people still need to find controversy amongst the Dutch players when there is none?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:35 PM)
Force of habit, Dirk. Because, in the past, there usually was.
Tom (Simi Valley, CA)
What exactly does Van Bommel have to do to get a yellow card anyway? Channel his inner Wookie and pull a guy's arm out of its socket?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:37 PM)
Van Bommel, people don't always realize, is just as much of a bruiser as Nigel de Jong. Only he's much more subtle about it, and he seems to spend an awful lot of time talking to the ref. Like Johan Cruyff once did, he gets a conversation going and he tends to get away with stuff.
do you really believe that soccer is "really" catching on in the US and on the rise? and if so, how long do you think it will be before we are finally at the level of truly being a global competitor?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:40 PM)
I don't believe in the big watershed moment when the U.S. suddenly and overnight becomes a soccer country. I think it's a gradual thing. I've been astonished by the number of really well-informed and knowledgeable fans since moving to the U.S. I truly believe the soccer fans here know more on the average about the sport than those in many European countries. They're that dedicated.
I think on the whole the process is a gradual one. The sport is constantly growing in the U.S. MLS is getting bigger and better, the national team has more good players each time around, more players making an impact in Europe. It's just hard to see the growth in a micro level. You have to take a macro point of view and compare things to how they were 10 years ago, or even a few years ago. You get wall-to-wall coverage of the World Cup now. You wouldn't believe how many American reporters are here at the World Cup. That's a telltale sign of growth.
Phil (Nashville, TN)
Leander, Will you guys ever do any gamecast coverage for any of the european leagues? this summer has been a blast at work following you guys
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:41 PM)
Thanks, Phil. I hope we do. We have big plans for expanding our worldwide soccer coverage on ESPN.com, so watch this space.
Robin V. Persie (S. Africa)
Am I finally back to form?
Peter (Pensacola, FL)
Do we really have to have RVP onthe field? He has been driving me insane with his wastefulness when he has the ball. Can't we start Huntelaar and let him run wild before we bring in Elia to run wild as well?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:42 PM)
He hasn't done a very good job of it, but you have to keep in mind that with the less gung ho strategy van Marwijk has been playing, he's also seen much less of the ball. He's the sort of striker that needs a ton of touches, like he gets at Arsenal. I don't think Huntelaar would really offer an upgrade with the tactics as they are. But I agree, he hasn't at all had a strong tournament.
Jennifer (Los Angeles)
I've been a fan of the Dutch since the 94 campaign, even if they did break my heart in the QF. This squad seems so much more brutal than usual though. Is the Spanish defense that much better than the Brazilian defense that they should be warier of it? Btw, I like your pieces in general, but your non-match WC blogs have been really moving.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:46 PM)
Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate that. I've put a lot of works into those, as have all the editors.
I think Brazil had the strongest defense in the entire tournament. It is a squad that is much tougher physically than those of the past few decades, but perhaps the success lie therein. What people forget is that the supersuccessful '70s squads had plenty of bruisers in them too with Wim Jansen, Willem van Hanegem and, of course, Johan Neeskens. I think this game will be decided in the midfield, the Dutch have enough talent up front to overcome any defense. But will the offense get the ball?
what i find interesting is the match seems much more like the dutch vs. germany, except that the dutch are actually spain and germany is actually the dutch
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:46 PM)
Ha! Intersting observation, Jeff. And not at all one without base.
Leander, do you think with ESPN3 and other avenues we will see increased availability of soccer in the US following the US ratings for the World Cup?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:48 PM)
Like I said, we've got all sorts of big plans for after the World Cup. Our interest in soccer will certainly not drop off. Stay tuned!
what's the best non-sports related thing you have seen or done there in South Africa?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:48 PM)
I got to pet lion cubs today! That was pretty sweet. There have been a million amazing moments.
Both Casillas and Stekelenburg have had solid tournaments, despite the occassional slip-up. Which keeper's performance do you think will be more critical to his team's success?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:50 PM)
Good question, Sango. I think Stekelenburg is ever so slightly more gaffe-prone than Casillas. He'll have to keep it cool for another game, so I think the kind of night he has will go a longer way in deciding the outcome of this game.
if i shaved my head like robben and sneijder, would i score more headers?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:51 PM)
I'm not the guy to ask, Ryan. I'm terrible in the air. Perhaps because I've never shaved my head during soccer season...
Food for thought.
You do you think is the favorite to win the Golden Ball Trophy given to the tournaments best player.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:52 PM)
The Golden Ball actually goes to the top scorer, Mike. But I think the best player of the tournament will come from whoever wins the final. If the Dutch win it, it will surely be Sneijder. If Spain wins it I imagine it would be Villa or Xavi.
Angry Gamecast Contributor ((ON))
I've been bringing up Huntelaar all month. Finally you guys post a fan who questions whether Van Persie should be out there at the moment. He's not yet fit.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:52 PM)
Let all of our mistakes then be corrected, Angry Gamecast Contributor.
Who do you see as the stronger side if the game goes into extra time? And if we end up with a penalty shootout, who's the stronger keeper in the net?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:53 PM)
The Dutch will have had an extra day of rest, which could be helpful. If I remember correctly, neither team has yet gone to extra time, so there's no difference there. I think Casillas is better on penalties.
Zubin (Athens, GA)
Leander, how do you think this Dutch squad compares with the legends of the past that have come up short on the biggest stage? It seems as if the teams of the mid-70s (Cruyff, Neeskens, Keizer, Krol), late 80s (Van Basten, Gullit, Koeman) and 90s (Bergkamp, Kluivert, the de Boers, Davids, Seedorf) had much more talent than the 2010 vintage.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:56 PM)
I've been saying that too, Zubin. While up front this Dutch team has as much talent as ever in Robben, Sneijder and van Persie, the rest of the team pales in comparison to some older teams. I talked about this to Frank de Boer and Philip Cocu the other day. They both thought their 1998 team was much better, but that team didn't have the confidence or will to win that this one has, de Boer argued.
Robert (Walla Walla)
What's with Robben never passing the ball in the box and constantly wasting chances all tournament long? It's like the Dutch attack dies when the ball goes to Robben.
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:57 PM)
He's been out of sync with the rest of the attack this tournament, certainly. Perhaps that's because he missed the first few games due to injury, I'm not sure. He's never been one for unselfishness, but that's usually ok, since he adds so much to the game. I still think he has to stay on, because even if he's not playing well, his reputation alone draws a lot of attention from the defense for others to capitalize on.
Leander, over or under, will there be two penalty shots in this game?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:58 PM)
Kyle (Ada, Oklahoma)
Judging by Spain's players, they should win this hands down. But it seems to me that they haven't been at full stregth the whole cup. Do you think that Fernando Torres being hurt makes them that worse of a team? They haven't looked as sound without him (uninjured)
Leander Schaerlaeckens (3:59 PM)
Kyle, I think Torres not being in full form makes a huge difference. His speed and stretching of the defense creates so much space for his teammates. You can see that Iniesta has been creaky without the needed space underneath Torres.
Truth be told, I don't think this tournament will be remembered for the stellar play. I think it will be remembered for scandals (France, England) and the upsets.
Do you think Frank de Boer will be dishing out any strategic advice on how to take penalties if this game goes to extra time?
Leander Schaerlaeckens (4:01 PM)
Ha! I sure hope not.
(Bill was referring to the Euro 2000 semifinals when De Boer missed a penalty during regulation AND the penalty series.)
Leander, when's your promotion coming up. I'll let you in on the secret now, but due to your name being so unusually....awesome?... and the fact that we're all at work hanging on your every word. You know have a more loyal following than any ESPN commentator I know of. I can get NBA news anywhere, but for soccer it's all Schaerlaeckens in the US!!!
Leander Schaerlaeckens (4:02 PM)
Thanks for the nice words, Dan.
And I can't think of a better note to end on. Thanks ever so much for your questions and comments and I'm sorry I couldn't get to all of them. The team and I will be back on ESPN.com/WorldCup all weekend to bring you everything you didn't even know you needed to know about the 3rd place game and the World Cup final!
See you then, everybody!