Sunday, June 11, 2006

Going Dutch

Holland 1-0 Serbia & Montenegro

We're always going to feel to down by the Dutch. You see the luminous orange shirts on a football pitch, and instantly your mind turns back to Cruyff & Neeskens in 1974, Arie Haan and his fabulous long-range strike in 1978, and Marco Van Basten coming from nowhere to become, briefly, one of the greatest strikers that Europe has ever seen, before injury robbed us all of his best. The Dutch allowed us to dream. In 1974, they played "total football", the nearest that the game has ever embracing hippiedom. In 1978, they allowed the story to circulate that Johann Cruyff was boycotting the tournament on account of the Argentinian military junta, although popular belief now has it that his wife insisted in him staying at home after his extra-curricular activities four years prior. As recently as 1998, Dennis Bergkamp brought about a near-universal gasp with a goal of sublime individual brilliance in the last minute of their quarter-final against Argentina.

Nowadays though, they're just the same as everybody else. Workmanlike, solid, and, on this display, not playing to their full strength. Robben looks as impresssive as he does in the Premiership but is, as I understand it, flakey. They can't depend on that level of performance from him in every match. Van Nistelrooy just looks bored with football full-stop. Having said that, Serbia & Montenegro are atrocious. Milosevic looks as if he walked onto the pitch by accident, and the only chances that Serbia created (that looked likely to score from) were shots controlled by the FIFA remote-control ball that caused Van Der Saar some problems.

The biggest problem that i've come across in this tournament in that all the teams look the same, and it's not always a terribly exciting "same". I'll be looking for more of this from the rest of the first round.


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