Ruud Doevendans

Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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Meeting an Aussie in De Kuip

    "Pling".....The e-mailmessage came in on the 1st of may, 3.55 p.m. "Hello Ruud. On Thursday, Australians will be able to apply for tickets for the friendly in Rotterdam on june 4. Do you want me to get a ticket for you?" It was fellow PWC-columnist Paul Marcuccitti saying that he was aiming for a longer stay in Europe to attend some matches during the World Cup. My answer was crystal clear: yes, of course I wanted to go there, especially together with him. Meeting people you have been "talking" to on the internet for years, is always big fun. So I asked him to purchase a ticket for me as well.

    He did get the ticket and we decided to meet at the McDonald's restaurant near the stadium, one and a half hour before the start of the match. He sent me a photograph so it would be easier to recognize him, since he didn't want to wear a purple dress and carry a kangaroo with him, the way I had asked him for with a smile. I arrived there earlier than we agreed so I waited until he would show up. And there he was, coming out of the restaurant, in his gold shirt and, carrying a flag (with a kangaroo on it!) with him and a medium Coke in his other hand. It definititely had to be him, we looked at each other: "Paul?" Bingo!

    I had sent him a sms-message earlier on the day but he hadn't replied. When we started to talk, it was easy to understand why he had not responded to my message. He had lost his phone on the train taking him to the stadium and though we tried to reach the number, we had no success. A mobile phone, fifteen years ago nobody had one, now we can not live without. You simply get used to using it, you rely on it and once it is gone all of a sudden, you feel helpless.

    Despite the misfortune Paul was in a good mood and looking forward to the match in Stadium De Kuip, and so was I. We decided to go into the stadium early. It is always nice watching the crowd coming in and most of all the orange tsunami that always accompanies the Dutch national team. This habit started during the World Cup 1974, all of a sudden. Before, even during the warm-up matches for that tournament, nobody had ever been really interested in the national team, let alone that they would support them by dressing all in orange. When the Dutch players of that famous team entered the pitch in Hannover for the first match against Uruguay, they wouldn't believe their eyes. But after the World Cup it faded away as fast as it had come, only to return during Euro 1988. And ever since, "we" support our team dressing as if it was carnaval. I never do so, but by chance bought myself an orange coat for the summer. Now Paul had told me I would be sitting among Australians, I would be the one orange spot in a gold sea. Easy to recognize for my family at home, watching the match on tv.

    The blaster just in front of our seats made it virtually impossible for us to talk, we had to scream to each other to make ourselves understood. We talked about the sad Vidmar story that Paul wrote a column about recently, the defender missing out because of a heartproblem after chasing for a World Cup participation for about fifteen years. We also discussed the tactical matters of both teams. I told Paul that any team with Guus Hiddink at the wheel will always be prepared defensively, trying to find a way to score but always making sure that they will never be victimized by a quick counter attack. Hiddink's teams are always difficult to beat, mostly because of a good organization.

    The Australian fans went crazy went their team came on for the warming up. Paul was enthusiastic as well but by far the most quiet guy among them. He would only sing the national anthem "Advance Australia Fair" and wave his little yellow flag with the green kangaroo on it, which he left behind after the match for my two sons Stan and Max (Max who is seven years old really liked it and walked around the house with it the next day!). Throughout the match, Paul always seemed to stay in control and never would participate in the shoutings like "C'mon Aussie, score a f*cking goal" and "dig a hole, dig a hole" or "bull shit, bull shit" when a Dutch player was down after an Australian foul. And that happened quite a few times since Australia, down 1-0 soon when Van Nistelrooy scored from a Schwarzer rebound, made it a real match. Cocu clashed with a defender following an Australian cornerkick early on and had himself substituted by Hedwiges Maduro before half-time. Then Wesley Sneijder collided with another defender chasing a loose ball and he limped off as well, before Luke Wilkshire attempted to crack Van Bronckhorst's ankle. Referee Dean from England sent him off, it was a correct decision. Paul agreed.

    In the meantime, the same Dean had awarded Australia a penaltykick when Mathijsen, the Dutch defender with just eight caps to his credit, pulled Viduka on the shirt. Again, a justified call, it seemed. Viduka, the only Australian to miss during the penalty shoot-out with Uruguay that took his team to the finals, took it himself and via the bar, Van der Sar, the post, Ooijer and once more Van der Sar it landed for Cahill's feet who tabbed it in: 1-1. Cahill, very popular among the supporters and Paul's favourite Australian player, had been on for just a few minutes coming back from a nasty injury that had threatened him to miss the World Cup.

    At the end, with the man extra on the pitch, Holland tried to find a way through with Dirk Kuijt as an extra striker but Mark Schwarzer found his best form after a shaky start. He saved from Robben's shot, he parried a Van Nistelrooy cracker as well as a Van Persie effort and when the Arsenal winger blasted his free kick right at the post, it was clear that "Aussie" would survive the match without defeat. It will not be easy to beat them, I told Paul. Against Brazil it may be a big problem if they fall behind early on - but who wouldn't have problems against Brazil? - but I think they can keep a clean sheet against both Croatia and Japan. Hiddink's teams, one way or the other, will always score a goal. Isn't it from set pieces, then from an individual effort. I think Australia aren't a big team but I can see them in the second round. They should be able to take at least four points from their group.

    The Dutch are better technically for sure. They have players who are on a mission. Van Nistelrooy for instance, who thinks that at nearly 30 this may be his last chance and he has something to proof. Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who won his 109th cap on the day, told the press that he would happily leave all sixteen trophies he had won in his career if he was to win the World Cup 2006 with Holland. This attitude might help the team a lot. But do they have the bite, can they survive against teams hanging on against every price, or will they go down once more saying they had been playing the better football but were drawn back just by bad luck. We'll see from next week on, the World Cup is definitely an event to look forward to every inch.

    Anyway, meeting Paul in this thrilling atmosphere was a magnificent experience.

    And when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Holland's brightest young star but not at the World Cup yet, and Nicky Hofs fired in three goals against Ukraine in Porto that took the Dutch U21 team to the European title, it made my day complete. An international title for Holland, you never know but it may as well have been the last this summer. And that with a team without the likes of Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Van Persie, Maduro, Babel, Heitinga and Robben, all in the senior squad for the World Cup but who would be permitted to participate in Portugal. A great end to a great day.

    Paul, thanks for the invitation, have a good trip, enjoy it all the way and C'mon Aussie, score a f*cking goal!!



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