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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    I feel torn. Only one day ago, Holland lost the World Cup final. It may as well, after just ten years, have been our Match of the Century. And I feel torn between the supporter in me and the trainer/analyst. Yesterday evening, moments after the match, the supporter won it. Definitely. Yes, I was lying flat on the floor when Robben missed his chances for a place in history. Yes, I felt emotional while consoling my 11 years old Max who was in tears after the match. It brought back that day in 1974 when my father tried to pick me up at half time when Holland were losing 2-1 against West Germany. I was crying 36 years ago, devastated, just like Max was this night.

    But more and more, after a short night, the analyst in me gets the upper hand. What would it have done to world football had Holland after this match taken the ultimate award in this sport? The world might as well have thought that leaning back with 8 or 9 players and rely on a quick counter attack has the future. I must be fair. How much I have been hoping that they would win it, Holland have done just too little to crown themselves world champion. Waiting for those two of three moments in a match when your number 1 midfielder (Sneijder) gets the ball, kicks it deep to your number 1 striker (Robben) and hoping that the dribbler will do the job, is not enough. You expect more from the best team in the world. Spain are the well deserved champions. They were better on the night, they were better during the tournament, they have the better players. Don’t get me wrong: had Holland won the final, I would still be running through the streets of my town Duiven, celebrating. The supporter in me, you know? Of course, no question about it, you want to be champion.

But the analyst has whispered in my ear: not in this way.

    As a coach Bert van Marwijk did not add much to the quality of the game. However he has been an outstanding people’s manager during this World Cup. This Holland team is not the easiest to manage. Van Persie and Sneijder are huge ego’s. He succeeded in having all players heading for the same direction; an achievement that must not be underrated. Holland were willing to pay any price to win this World Cup. That is an excellent thing in itself. To win the biggest trophy football has to offer, you’ve got to be prepared do to anything. Correction: almost anything. The only price you should not be willing to pay, is the price of your reputation. And after exploding in the match against Portugal in 2006 (where Holland were thrown out of World Cup 2006, both teams divided about 16 yellow and 4 red cards among them) I am afraid that this country has done just that: they lost their reputation. The reputation that the excellent team of Total Football earned in 1974 and that the Dutch national team has carried with them for decades.

    After 28 minutes, Holland should have been down to nine men. Van Bommel as well as De Jong should have been given their marching orders by referee Howard Webb. Van Bommel for a blatant foul on Iniesta, De Jong for his cynical kick in the chest against Xabi Alonso. Webb had a difficult night, not strange because this was the almost impossible match to officiate. Had he sent both midfielders off, Spain would have demolished Holland by a sensational score, I am sure. But Webb did not want to decide the match, it seemed.

    Why is it that they play this way? Nine yellow cards, many of them justified. Haven’t they learned from Nuremberg 2006? Van Bommel is an excellent player, very important in building up from the back as well as putting the opponent under pressure, without all these nasty fouls. I have never seen the true value of De Jong, but this cruel kicking around doesn’t make him any better. The international press has crushed the Dutch performance in this final. They also called it ‘the worst final ever’. I don’t agree. I think this was a too physical final but there were quite a few scoring situations and, Spain being the better side definitely, it could have gone both ways. Not so bad at all. I do agree that Holland played dirty at times.

    Now Johan Cruijff, not the worst player this tiny country has produced, has said ‘Ieder nadeel heeft zijn voordeel’. It means ‘Every disadvantage has an advantage in it’. If we take the right conclusions, this second place on world stage may send Holland the right way. We should not be blinded by this great result and realize that it is not the right direction we have taken by changing to physical play rather than using our natural skills. It is not a question of whether to use the physical part or the skills. You can combine it just as easy. And stay away from the dark side of the game that some seem to think is needed to win. The new world champions have proven it throughout the last years. I am not saying Holland are just as good. They aren’t. But they can do better than they showed during World Cup 2010. We have the players, now let’s add the attitude back again.

    At least the defeat in yesterday’s game saved my book. I wrote ‘De Mechanische Sinaasappel’ (Mechanical Orange) about the World Cup that Holland won back in 1970 and I have yet to publish it. It is a mixture of facts and fiction, as you may understand. Who would have been interested in the pure imagination of a Holland World Cup in 1970, had they won it in real fourty years later?

What did Cruijff say again about disadvantage and advantage?



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