‘Het Wilhelmus’ anthem has been played for the last time in the World Cup 2006 in what proved to be a rather peculiar match. Not so much the way the Dutch lost. They deserved to lose, no doubt, as Portugal did score a valid goal whereas the Dutch missed chances.
It’s the coming of the Netherlands v. Portugal encounters that may soon give way to bitter major tourney rivalries ala Holland v. Brazil, Holland v. Argentina, and naturally Holland v. Germany. For in 2 major tournaments consecutively, the Dutch has lost to Portugal without so much as a goal to show in both encounters. It goes without saying that the first Holland loss at Euro 2004 in Portuguese soil was the more sordid one,but the 2nd meeting also ranks not far behind in the dreck-o-meter. All in all, it was exactly as bookmakers had predicted. It’s men against boys and the men showed how football is to be played and played well. Just amusing if you think how England must have observed this game, as they can pretty much expect a relatively easier time out as Deco and Costinha are suspended. England’s path to glory is clear, but I still prefer the French to lift the World Cup.Forget about the Germans.
It’s hard to predict where this current Dutch team will go. To expect these young squad to win the World Cup for many of these debutants is the mentality of those observers who barely comprehend football at all. I don’t think that many of these players will stay on in the Dutch setup. Expect Joris Mathijsen, John Heitinga, Gio van Bronckhorst and Mark van Bommel to leave on permanent basis. Don’t even bother about those players above 35 years.
A few issues regarding Marco van Basten’s tactics. No ranting, just for the good of the Dutch team. And no reason for disappointment at all, after I’d to suffer at World Cup 2002 of Japan and Korea without orange or ‘het Oranje’ as the major colour.
1. Ruud van Nistelrooy- I can’t guess this one. Reports from those media vultures have swooped on a news scoop that van Nistelrooy is back at his disharmony antics again and will miss the Portugal match after a training ground bust-up. If this goes some way to remind football fans of the Dutch tendency to self-destruct at major tournaments, this is one tangible sign that even van Basten’s noble intentions of banding together a group of players in virtuous harmony is no guarantee that Dutch players will behave.
Now, back to RVN. His replacement for the frontman job, Dirk Kuyt is a curious one. I’m no fan of Kuijt, but his performances on the pitch ain’t that bad either. His efforts in the Portuguese game was okay but we can’t win games with an ok performance. Holland needed a match-winner. Who can do it? Robben is not. Van Persie can possibly work some wonders but his finishing is still in sorry need of a polish. Kuyt has no top-drawer experience. Given the handful of chances which the Dutch have, van Nistelrooy should at least get involved. RVN should have played. What was van Basten thinking? RVN’s form may have been indifferent, but Kuyt has no finishing skill and is rather poor at positioning, something RVN had in abundance. To be fair, Kuyt has moments to score but for Ricardo Carvalho’s excellent defence.
2. Joris Mathijsen- van Basten may have seen something about his talents which merit a 1st team slot for so important match, but I can’t reasonably do so. Looked lost in 2 of 3 matches he started until and only then when Khalid Boulahrouz came on. The ‘Cannibal’ was also not one of my favored centrebacks but at least he doesn’t leave poo for others to clean up after him. Mathijsen is gone, when he was subbed. I can’t feel sorry one bit.
3. Ryan Babel- another strange choice. How he ended up on the subs’ bench on all occasions is devoid of logic. If Kuijt lacked pace and technique, Babel had it all. His reading of the game is arguably poor and his finishing showed his tender age. For me, no RVN, the Babel it is.
4. Poor defence choice- Among all the defenders who started against Argentina, they share 16 caps amongst themselves. Jaap Stam, Frank de Boer, Michael Reiziger and Arthur Numan had more caps individually than all the Dutch defense combined excluding Edwin van der Sar. And don’t count in Gio van Bronckhorst as he earned most of his caps as a forward or a midfielder before apparently finding new life as long-term successor of Numan for the Dutch leftback spot. So, the Dutch will have the likes of Kew Jaliens, Kromkamp etc to stop names like Hernan Crespo, Savo Milosevic, Pedro Pauleta and of course,the Dutch jinx Maniche. Van Basten may have to think twice about bringing in spring chickens again to a major tournament.
5. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink- How van Basten processed the decision to introduce his World Cup debut at the critical 84th minute is also rid of reason. His favored central role has been taken by Kuyt, so he’d nowhere to go and ended up stranded at the midfield line. Unable to feed Kuyt and hopeless at defending, he was a wasted sub. Why not RVN?
So another experimental side has been thrown into the real thing and came away licking its wounds. No one suggested that this side could have won something of note and in that the off record prophesy proved right. It may have been van Basten’s lowly expectations which backfired but this can be a team for the future depending on your personal optimism level. For me, it’s back to the drawing board, KNVB and do a decent thing for the first time in 8 years. Bring back the free-flowing football of the 1998 Oranje team and I’ll keep the powder dry for a successful Euro 2008. Still, and still will be…ik hou van Oranje!