Posts Tagged ‘netherlands’
I find amusement in overlaying national footballing stereotypes onto cricket teams. Thus the Dutch were pioneers of ‘total cricket’ in 1970s in which batters and bowlers were interchangeable and in so doing created the concept of the ‘all-rounder’. After a long period of underachievement, the Dutch have recently favoured a more prosaic, belligerent style executed by borderline psychotics in the middle order called Nigel. England have been warned to strap on their chest pads in preparation.
In actuality the Netherlands side have no chance of following their footballing compatriots up the road to the World Cup final. To do so they would require eleven Doeschate in the team. Sadly they only have ten Doeschate.
England will attempt to kick their vexatious habit of only being able to perform to the same level of whichever opposition pitches up that day. Judging by speed at which they shuffled to victory against Canada on Wednesday, they’re still wearing their patches.
England by 5 wickets.
It seems that thoracic assault is becoming a tradition in World Cup finals. Nigel de Jong’s ambush on Xabi Alonso’s chest is less iconic than Zidane’s effort four years ago, but will endure in similar fashion. And we should be thankful for that.
Because without the brutal tactics of De Jong and the rest of the Dutch peril, the final may have played out between two nice passive sides with all the incident of a game of backgammon. It may not have been football, and it may not have been likeable, but at least it was something. Something to provide a compelling narrative between the forces of good and orange. Something to talk about at half-time. Like Alan Hansen, who seemed weirdly and wildly scandalised by the Dutch antics, as if horrid memories of a childhood trauma involving his chest had been revived.
The Netherlands’ foray into the quarter-finals brings back happy memories of their last visit to this stage in 1998. And a winning goal by Dennis Bergkamp. A goal that only Bergkamp could have scored.
I watched on BBC, where comments were provided by Barry Davies. Most football fans suspect Davies as a bourgeois jack-of-all-trades, given his dalliances with effete sports such as tennis and ice-skating. But I really liked his commentary on the goal as he let out a sort of spontaneous primal scream.
But Davies’ effort is positively conservative compared this admirable outburst by Dutch commentator Jack van Gelder. It will sound familiar to anyone who has shouted out the name of Dennis Bergkamp during an orgasm. Which, let’s face it, we’ve all done.
The nation has a new hero. Howard Webb is bidding to end 36 years of hurt by becoming the first English referee to officiate at a World Cup final since Jack Taylor took charge of the 1974 match and awarded that penalty to the Dutch in the second minute of play.
It has been a sorry tale of misplaced optimism since Taylor’s appearance, as a succession of hopefuls has foundered under the weight of expectation back at home.
If Webb succeeds then he will step up to take his place in the pantheon of great English officials alongside Dickie Bird and that man who used to stand by Centre Court at Wimbledon looking fretfully at rainclouds.
An open-top bus parade has been planned in Webb’s hometown of Rotherham. His assistants Mike Mullarkey and Darren Cann are have been invited to wave their flags from the sides of the bus. The bus will make its way to the town hall where a civic reception will be held by the mayor. The function will be attended by local dignitaries and businessmen, including Rotherham’s other favourite sons, Paul and Barry Chuckle.
It is believed that a bronze statue of Webb is to be erected outside the Parkgate shopping centre. He will be cast in his favourite pose: brandishing a yellow card. At anyone leaving Mark and Spencers.
The one downside is that the local police expect a spike in the crime rate on Webb’s return to the area. The concerns are that there will be a rise in petty felonies by those hoping to meet the great man or even, if they’re lucky, to be arrested by him. Webb is a policeman.
Rumours abound that a proposed OBE has been put on ice until the start of the domestic season. When everyone will think he’s a wanker again.
Of all the nauseating possibilities that could transpire tomorrow, there is one that stimulates the vomit reflex more than most. England are a couple of plausible results away from handing their fate to the drawing of lots.
I’m not really sure what a lot looks like. I presume similar to a straw. Straws are meant for slurping strawberry milkshakes. You wouldn’t want your progression in an international tournament to depend on one.
Last time the evil lot wormed its way into the World Cup story was in 1990 when Ireland and Holland finished up their group with identical records. But it represented a scene of only moderate peril. Both teams had already qualified, the draw was to discover second round opponents.
I can’t recall how the result was advertised to a world without internet and rolling news, but you would suspect that coverage would be more intense this time around.
Particularly if Sky Sports News start sniffing around. Without live footage the network has been watching the competition at the same distance of a henpecked husband through the window of Dixons on his wife’s shopping trip. Attempts to piece together the scraps to create something resembling excitement have included broadcasting newsflashes to tell us that there is some news. It’s the televisual equivalent of mad cow disease.
The Sky producers will be gurning with anticipation at the action leaving the stadium and heading towards some office. No-one films admin like Sky Sports. Hospital appointments, disciplinary hearings, they are superb at pointing cameras at people leaving buildings. If a draw does eventuate then we can expect lengthy profiles of the onlooking officials, analysis of the straws, and Alan Mullery holding forth on Sepp Blatter’s face.
I sort of hope it happens now.
The Dutch used like squabbling with each other during major tournaments. A World Cup or European Championships never seemed to pass by without Edgar Davids flushing Dennis Bergkamp’s head down the dressing-room toilet or Clarence Seedorf writing ‘Dick Advocaat smells of rotten Edam’ on the tactics board. Detente seems to have descended over the camp in recent years and now they direct their aggression on the opposition. Like Portugal in 2006. Not clear who the Dutch will target this year, but we can only hope it’s anyone blowing enthusiatically into a vuvuzela.
Cameroon’s Rigobert Song is one of only two men appearing in this World Cup that also played in the 1994 tournament. His longevity is remarkable considering that he isn’t very good. Possibly the inspiration for the most apposite bit of Cockney rhyming slang when long-suffering West Hams fans coined the phrase “it’s all gone a bit Rigobert” after yet another clownish exhibition of defending. In case you were wondering the other player to endure from the 1994 World Cup is Lee Woon Jae of South Korea. Of course it was.
Japan’s manager Takeshi Okada has predicted that his side will reach the semi-finals. Based on the unfailingly helpful and polite manner in which they allowed an ailing England team to beat them in last week’s friendly, I would suggest that Takeshi needs to go back to his castle and re-think his prognosis.
Denmark will want to extinguish the sour memories of the last game they played in a World Cup finals. It was in the second round in 2002 against England. They lost 3-0. Emile Heskey scored. The team’s famously amiable supporters are known as roligans. This is derived from from a Danish word for ‘peace’. This is funny because it sounds a bit like ‘hooligans’. In 2008 a Danish fan ran onto the pitch and attacked the referee who had shown red card for Christian Poulsen. This fan was not a roligan.
The biggest news in the build-up to the 1990 World Cup was the installation of a second television in my house up in my parent’s bedroom. It was miniscule in comparison to the vast one downstairs, which must have been at least 18 inches in width. We invited the neighbours over to celebrate the switching on of the new set as we perched on the end of the bed to squint at the opening game between the champions Argentina and Cameroon, the most memorable moment of which was a concerted and vicious attack on Claudio Caniggia, the violence of which still contaminates my nightmares:
The Argentinians muscled their way into the knockout stages despite their African tribulations with a victory over the Soviet Union, who were a limp spectre of the side that had helped knock out England of the group stages of last European Championships.
The English and the other two members of that Euro ’88 group, Ireland and the Netherlands, were re-united out in the Mediterranean. England had lost to both in 1988, including defeat to the Irish on the same afternoon as my sister fell out of a tree. That was a bad day.
I remember that the chat was that England and their belligerent fans had been expelled out to Sardinia as if it was footballing penal colony. I was irrationally terrified of hooligans, like monsters in the cupboard. It wasn’t as if they were bashing down the front door to come in and throw the dining room chairs about. In order not to agitate the hooligan faction it seemed that the four teams of the group had agreed to play out insipid stalemates, England progressing as winners by default when they accidently beat Egypt.
Elsewhere Scotland yet again flirted coquettishly with the knockout phase before rejecting the opportunity to advance, performing their regular party piece of slipping on a banana skin, this time Costa Rica. It never fails to entertain, even on a tiny television.
David Platt sent me out of the French windows and skidding onto the lawn when he volleyed England past the Belgians in the second round. I spent a lot of the England games out on that lawn, not having the emotional faculties to cope with the tension, particularly in the quarter-final against Cameroon. In fact I can’t remember any of that game, just the half-time assessment by Jimmy Hill who maniacally repeated ‘shut up shop’ as England were ahead, his grotesque chin oscillating wildly like a terrifying ventriloquist’s dummy. And ventriloquist’s dummies are terrifying at the best of times.
I didn’t see much of the semi-final against the West Germans. I was continuing my vigil on the lawn. I covered every blade of grass that night, collecting myself to watch us blow it in the shoot-out. After which I went back through the French windows this time to sink my knees into the turf and cry.
Most of the more colourful memories of that World Cup are of the squalor: the defensive tactics, Frank Rijkaard’s flob clutching to Rudi Voller’s perm, and the Argentinians skipping and barging bizarrely into the referee during the latter minutes of the final.
There is one aspect of the tournament that will never be bettered in terms of artistic integrity though. The accompanying graphics supplied by the Italians were all cascading full-stops and sliding text. It was beautiful. Home broadcast graphics seem to have been dispensed in favour of more homogenised BBC and ITV versions since. It’s a crying shame.
So the Harris Sportsthoughts Twenty20 World Cup preview grinds to an apologetic halt on the eve of the tournament. Group D, you’re up:
We are now able to add Twenty20 cricket to that tedious list of sports that England invented and are now a bit rubbish at. Built in the image of the national football team, England only perform as well as the opposition put in front of them. Hence last year, England were shamed by the Dutch, before defeating defending champions India and future ones Pakistan. If they could courageously exit in the semi-finals on penalties to Germany having had Kevin Pietersen sent off, then they surely would. Currently undergoing an operation to become fully South African, which means they are even more likely to plummet out of the tournament in hilarious style. Has anyone seen England and South Africa in the same room? Oh yes, today in Bridgetown.
The West Indies are the home team, which counted for not very much during the last World Cup in the region when most of its support was loitering ticketless outside the grounds trying to listen to what was going down. Might be amazing, might be awful. Which is an improvement on last year’s Champions Trophy, where a second string side were only going to be awful.
Ireland have recently made a habit of taking a scalp in the preliminary stages of major tournaments, before clogging up the second phase with their mediocrity. Quite capable of repeating the trick (see England above). Are destined to be forever plagued by strange men in synthetic orange beards.