Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Cup Video #7, How Will the Dutch Be Received and My New Prediction

Okay so this is not actually the World Cup, but the 1988 European Championship, where the Netherlands played the final against the Soviet Union (click here kids if you don't know what I am talking about). One of the most famous goals of all time: Marco Van Basten's wonder-volley.

But this raises two questions for me. The first is simple, can a lucky strike like this really be a 'great' goal?  This is not even in the same class as fellow countryman Dennis Bergkamp's goal in the 1998 World Cup in my opinion.  I value the skill, control and build up as much as the ball slamming into the net.

The second question relates to the Netherlands' participation in the World Cup in South Africa. Now that just about every African superstar is hurt and out of the World Cup my prediction of an African team winning it all is out the window. My pick of Les Éléphants of the Côte d'Ivoire was predicated on Didier Drogba scoring many goals. Now that he is out with a broken elbow (and I don't believe reports that he may play) I have to pick another favorite.

The Netherlands would be an obvious choice. The World Cup is being played in the South African winter so will have conditions not too unlike Europe in the winter and thus European teams are expected to do well. Even though the Dutch are perennial underachievers (1988 Euro Championship notwithstanding) it might just be the year for them - they are packed with tough and creative players.  The Dutch seem to always have personality issues however - and reading the article on the Ajax youth academy makes me think I know where this comes from - they get frustrated with each other and petulant so I normally don't pick them to win it all.  The inevitable implosion will come, thinks I.

But a bigger question in my mind is how the Dutch will be received in South Africa.  I don't pretend to even begin to understand the modern South African society, but with the complex and fraught history of the Boers in South Africa, do modern South Africans still relate to the Netherlands along racial lines?  Anyone know what to expect?  Perhaps they will have strong and emotional support from the crowds, or perhaps they will be treated derisively.  I wonder.

Anyway, I think I am going to write off the Dutch, their defense is a little shaky for me.  Spain looks locked in and I picked them to win Euro 2008, which they did, so you have to believe they have the self-belief.  But they didn't have to get through Brazil and Argentina then.  Brazil has my full emotional support as I travel and work there regularly, but I think Dunga has taken to much of the Brazilian-ness out of the team.  Argentina will lose their heads - obviously.  Italy and Germany always play good solid defense first football which is what you have to do in tournaments like this, so you can never write them off.

So who will it be?  Okay I am going to go with...BRASIL!  I can't bring myself to pick anyone else, I love Brazil, I love Brazilians, I love Brazilian football.  Even Dunga can't keep them down.  Besides my good buddy André in São Paulo is getting worried now that Italy has won four World Cups - time to put a little more distance between the Seleção and number two.

No comments: