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World Cup Diary

BATTLE OF THE COASTERS

GAME 22, GROUP C, JUNE 16, 2006 --STUTTGART LIVE COMMENTARY NOW!
NETHERLANDS 2, CÔTE D'IVOIRE 1
FINAL

 

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Cote d'Ivoire's Elephants played damn near admirably in their 2-1 loss to Argentina on June 10. They played better than Serbia did in both its games combined. The Dutch had a pretty good game against the Serbs too, not the rain of goals Argentina managed, but one stylish one by Robben. In both Holland's and Arghentina's first games, domination was not evident. Domination was evident in Argentina's second game today--and style, too: Argentina's goals weren't hack work--let's hope we'll see the same from the Dutch, who can guarantee themselves an advance to the second round with a win in Stuttgart, and a nice third game for first place against Argentina next week. But judging from Cote d'Ivoire's play against Argentina, at least in the first half (the Elephants folded in the second half) we may yet have a game on our hands. Let this be the day for goals, and for African flourishes.

7... Well, the elephants are playing like elephants, and the Dutch are playing like orange-drenched gods.Normally I'd be all for the underdog, but here I'd like to see Holland win decisively to send a message to those Argentinians, whose global-warming hot air is endangering the planet a bit: they had a nice win over Serbia, but they've not yet been tested. 11 minutes in: not a single shot for either team.

15... A fast game, but not an inventive game so far. We've had an even number of attempts on the penalty box (as opposed to attempts on goal) by either side, but so far the physicality has been all flirty. No one is dominating yet, which is to say this is an even game of probes and retreats. A mild little attempt on goal by the Elephants just now sums it up: good passing all the way to the boxes, no serious finishes.

20... The Elephants' passing game has been brisker so far, more team-like; Holland are playing hard, but not smart. Free kick Holland just outside the box, straight on.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL HOLLAND! Superb shot above the wall by Van Persie, 1-0. Might as well have been a penalty shot with no one in goal. It was that crushing.

26...GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL VAN NISTLEROOIJ

The Dutch started moving the ball from deep in their half, Robben, the star of the first game, moved it toward the Elephants' penalty box, drawing a swarm of Elephants on his boots--three of them surrounded Robben, leaving Van Nist all by himself at the far edge of the box, primed for the well-timed pass. He gets it, swerves, shoots: scores. Much better passing game from the Dutch. 2-0.

32... Hand it to the Elephants: no Serbian-style surrender here, not on style, not on grit, and they just put together a terrific run of passes and a shot that almost took out the crossbar. Robben at the other end just got himself a yellow for diving.

35... The game's violence is edging up without affecting its high quality; another free kick for the Elephants, shot high above goal. the Dutch have not been able to control the game, but they've made the best of their good opportunities. The Elephants have actually had more chances on goal, but not the finesse of well-timed executions. There's overanxiousness on the Elephants' part, and obvious poise, from experience, on the Dutch's part.

38... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL IVORY COAST, WHAT A BEAUTY! WHAT A BEAUTY!

Bakary Kone slurps up a long pass from midfield as he rushes the Dutch goal, zips left, zips right, outruns a Dutch defender as if he were running the 100-meter dash, and slams a right-footer past the keeper, high in the net's corner. What a terrific goal, what incredible execution. And the ref just now giving an undeserved yellow to one of the elephants' best players. Drogba, for supposedly harming the keeper. Not true. Drogba won't play the game against Serbia.

46... KONA, KONA, what are you doing? Could have just had the equalizer, a terrific get-and-twist in front of goal, shot high above the crossbar...

HALF-TIME... JUST ABOUT THE BEST HALF WE'VE SEEN SO FAR in this World Cup

Half-time fun... Remember Hendrik Johannes Cruijff? Anyone who speaks football, total football especially, would consider the question an insult for having to be asked. Cruijff is to the Dutch what Pele is to the world, what Maradona, that scamp, is to Argentina, but with this added flavor: Where Maradona is the cheat and the prima donna, Cruijff was above all principled: Maradona never forgave the coach of the 1978 Argentine squad for not picking him and playing him in that World Cup, which was held in Argentina. Cruijff didn't participate in the World Cup because he wouldn't give the Argentine junta the pleasure. Holland had lost the 1974 final to Germany, in Germany, 2-1, a game that, looking back, should have been won by Cruijff and his Total Footballer side. Holland would lose again in the final in Argentina, 3-1 in overtime.

 

And now this from Wikipedia's entry on Cruijff:

During his career Cruijff also became a national phenomenon on account of his comments. His expressions are considered as phrases of such simple, stark logic that it either qualifies as sheer brilliance or ultimate cheesiness. It has become cult in the Netherlands, where his form of speech was dubbed "Cruijffiaans" (eng: Cruyffism). Some examples:

  • "Italians can not beat us, but we can certainly lose against them" ("Italianen kunnen niet van ons winnen, maar we kunnen wel van ze verliezen.")
  • "Without the ball, you can't win" ("Zonder de bal kun je niet winnen.")
  • "A ball is an essential part of the game" ("Een bal is een essentieel onderdeel van het spel") On the Teamgeist football for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
  • "Speed is often confused with insight. When I start running earlier than the others, I appear faster." ("Snelheid wordt vaak verward met inzicht. Als ik eerder ga lopen dan de rest, lijk ik sneller.")
  • "Before I make a mistake, I DO NOT make that mistake" ("Voordat ik een fout maak, maak ik die fout niet.")
  • "Every disadvantage has its advantage" ("Elk nadeel heb z'n voordeel.")
  • "To win you have to score one more goal than your opponent" ("Om te winnen moet je 1 goal meer scoren dan je tegenstander.")
  • "I'm not religious. In Spain all 22 players make the sign of the cross before they enter the pitch. If it worked, then it would always be a draw." ("Ik geloof niet. In Spanje slaan alle 22 spelers een kruisje voordat ze het veld opkomen, als het werkt, zal het dus altijd een gelijkspel worden.")
  • "Coincidence is logical" ("Toeval is logisch.")
  • and his most famous saying: "I don't want to be a thief of my own wallet" ("Ik wil geen dief van mijn eigen portemonnee zijn") - on moving from Ajax Amsterdam to Barcelona.

His influence on the Spanish language has been subject of the documentary En un momento dado released in 2004.

Second half...

51... The game doesn't seem to have lost its high-quality edginess, both sides coming out of the lockers with the same verve for goal.

56... The only thing that could harm this game now has: fouling, injuries, yellows. But Kone just took a lateral pass from the penalty box's half-moon and slammed it just past the crossbar. An equalizer is still very much in the air, but so are further Dutch treats.

62... would you believe it? Ivory Coast, 12 shots, Holland 5. Oh no, Boka gets another yellow, but to keep the Dutch from a breakaway for goal: there was nothing between Van Piersie and the Ivory keeper but a vast steppe of green.

70... The game's torrid pace carries on, even with a few show-offy, magical touches like Robben's scissor kick after he'd fallen to the ground inside the Elephants' penalty box. It's back and forth, trading attacks one after the otherm from one end of the field to the other. Midfield, for once, is barely seeing the ball. Good football.

72 The Elephants are really taking it to the Dutch, they're just not managing that one key pass once they're in range of goal. Van Nistelrooij is leaving the game. The Dutch, it should be said, are not showing themselves to be in form to be top-flight competitors. They're playing well. They're not playing great: their perfection is spotty and their selfishness a bit too pronounced. You can see it here especially, against an Elephant side that plays together very well.

77... The Elephants are restless: they just seemed to have their equalizer on the board, it was all there but for the chest of a Dutch player blocking a floater from going into goal. Too bad. The pace of the game and the elephants' ivory quality play deserved that equalizer.

80... It's going to be very, very difficult to watch molasses sports like baseball after this frenesy.

85... This is it for the Elephants: Holland know how to kill the lock in these international games, Ivory Coast don't know how to make the best of their last five minutes. What they do have going for them at this point is this World Cup's proclivity for late-term goals. The Dutch are poised to abort every attempt though, as they have quite effectively all game.

Let's hear it for African teams: Not a single one has won, yet not a single one has disappointed. They've all played the most entertaining matches of this tournament, even in defeat. Several European and the American team should take note: World Cup 2010 in South Africa is going to be a hell of a party, with Ivory Coast leading the way.

 


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