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Arlen Robben's Dutch boots

World Cup Diary

1978 REPLAY

GAME 37, GROUP C, JUNE 21, 2006 --FRANKFURT
NETHERLANDS 0, ARGENTINA 0
FINAL

Looks like we won't be seeing Robben's boots today. He's on the bench.

8... Eight minutes for the game to produce its first attack, an Argentine rush that led to a corner. It's not yet clear whether these two sides, guaranteed an advance to the next round, have come out to play or to practice. But the winner of the match has to think that it would be the equivalent of a ticket to the quarterfinals. That team would face Mexico in the round of 16. Mexico looks spent. These two teams look like they're just getting started. The loser of this match would play Portugal--not quite a threat either. So the incentive to win here not Tobasco-strong.

11... Great close-ups that give us a look at the astounding dribbling abilities of these players... I intend to sit back more in this game and take it in: fewer comments, more fun. Argentinian player down.

Don't remind me of that 1978 Dutch final against Argentina. It's one of the reasons the Argentinians have never turned me on. 1-1 after regulation, and two Argentina goals in extra time. The country's junta looked on, undeservedly proud of itself (it had had quite a hand in coddling the Argentine players for the cup). Not one of the world cup's most shining moments. Holland played the whole tournament one man down, remember: Johan Cruijff refused to travel to Argentina, out of principle. He wasn't interested in abetting the junta's joys.

Meanwhile Wesley Sneijder robs the argentine defender of the ball, swerves into the box and shoots from an impossible angle, forcing a good save.

They're stepping it up just a bit. 2-0 Serbia over the dispirited elephants of the Ivory Coast, who played such terrific football without the results.

23...Argentina pressing but not managing to make it into the box without provoking the off-side flag. Already a sub for Argentina to get the injured player out (Burdisso, who got clipped in the Holland box). Very poor pace to this game, very poor entertainment value, considering who's playing. One shot for each team altogether. Terrible. I might as well go on Amazon to order Ron Suskind's latest. Speaking of which, these two teams have taken Total Football and reduced it to the One Percent Doctrine (exert as little effort as possible).

28... And another goal-post shot this one for Argentina. Actually damn near an own goal by Holland's Khaled Boularhouz, and Argentina keep at it from outside the box until Maxi Rodriguez unleashes a right footer that skims just past a diving Edwin van der Sar in goal, and the goal post.

36... Are the players even sweating?

Meanwhile, a view of Portugal.

44... Too bad for this game. The players have other things on their mind, and the teams' best (Robben and Crespo) are watching from the sidelines. So we're reduced to silly gaping at other scenes.

SECOND HALF...

AGAIN, nothing doing.

52 minutes into the game and we have all of three shots on goal by both teams. Even the crowd is more exciting at the Serbia-Ivory Coast match.

What a terrible display of football from both sides.

I've switched to the Ivory Coast game...just in time for a smashing shot by an Elephant from 30 yards out--right on the crossbar again. And a header that sails just wide. Come on elephants!

Much livelier football here: attacks, battles, enthusiasm, style, skill. From both sides.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ELEPHANTS! One more and we have the come-back of the tournament.

77. Meanwhile at Holland-Argentina the crowds' whistles tell the story.

A few words about tomorrow's games, since these ones here are less than critical (and the Elephants miss another corner-header chance in front of goal): too much is being assumed of a US victory over Ghana. The tone of expectations goes like this: The US will win, but the question mark will be whether Italy can defeat the Czechs. No one has thought of the likelier scenario: a 1-1 draw between Italy and the Czechs, whose form so far seems to fate them to just such a result, while Ghana will want to one-up neighbor Ivory Coast and beat the daylights out of the United States. It's one thing for the elephants to hold off Serbia, a minuscule if mobbish country. It would be the story of the tournament, inj Africa anyway, if Ghana were able to pull off a victory over the mighty Americans. That is what to watch out for tomorrow. And no matter what the United States do, it would all be immaterial if the Europeans draw their match.

The Elephants with another penalty shot!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL IVORY COAST!

The Holland-Argentina match has ticked up a bit, but not enough to dig it out from the tomb it dug for itself in its first seventy minutes. This game here could have ranked among the games of the tournament (should, anyway) had its result not been mea ningless. It won't be so meaningless in Africa. Too bad these Elephants aren't moving on. They're so much more exciting than teams like Mexico and Portugal, and from what we're seeing today, a team like Holland, or--certainly--teams like England, who've given us nothing but entitlement football.

And so it ends in a 0-0 draw at Argentina-Holland, stupidly enough.

Ivory Coast pulls it out as well over Serbia. Wonderful stuff, great contrast. Hold out for Ghana's fury tomorrow.

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