Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 7 of the World Cup: s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

After the amazing victory of the Netherlands over the World Champions, I thought I would visit a friend in the Duke's Bush, or s-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands, to watch the match that the orange side would play against Australia. Taking the train from Brussels, it is often not immediately obvious that you are changing country, but for the fact that the colours displayed on windows suddenly changed from red to orange.
On my way to s-Hertogenbosch I decided to do a bit of exploring, and went off the train in the small and lovely city of Breda, where I visited the Gothic church of Grote Kerk, where the ancestors of the house of Nassau-Orange are buried. The football connection is undeniable, as this is where the use of orange for the Dutch national team comes from. Indeed, the beautiful Grote Markt in front of the church was decorated with orange colours in preparation of the match.  And you could feel the World Cup fever getting higher as more and more people dressed in often creative orange garments would appear on the train to s-Hertogenbosch.
Another lovely Dutch city, I was received by a great Dutch friend who gave me an orange shirt and a cape adorned with the Dutch lion. I blended completely into the orange sea of people who we joined at one of the lively pubs showing the match in downtown s-Hertogenbosch.
The Dutch are committed; the national anthem was sung with loud national pride. And I must mention that Dutch ladies are the most beautiful football fans I have come across. The Netherlands wins on almost all fronts, if not on their tiny beers.
But the Dutch suffered. And here I must be honest; I was caught on by the Dutch, and celebrated their every goal (how could you not with beautiful Dutch girls celebrating all around you?), but at the same time I was happy they were suffering a bit, as the match then got much more interesting for... me.
In the end, it is all about me.
Australia are no pushover. They have proved that again and again, and therefore it is amazing to see that some countries, notably arrogant Europeans and South Americans, are again and again taken by surprise. I do not know if this was the case of the Dutch, who were a shadow of themselves in the first half. They were slow, imprecise and uncommitted. It was not deserved when they went ahead, but Tim Cahill's equalizer was fully deserved. And how ironic that a goal so fantastic that one would have expected to come from the feet of the great Dutch, came from an Australian!
The Dutch improved a lot in the second half, but had to suffer more when Australia went 2-1 up. In the end Van Persie and the young Memphis Depay gave them a deserved victory, and depending on the result between Spain and Chile, the Dutch could be the first team to qualify for the last-16.
Chile won 2-0 over the defending World Champions. Spain joins France in 2002 and Italy in 2010 as World Champions who have been eliminated in the first round. This Spanish golden generation gave the world of football a lot, but fell from greatness due to lack of preparation and respect for their opponents. I am sorry to say this, but the responsible is not Iker Casillas, Xavi, Diego Costa, or any of the players, but Vicente del Bosque. He did not set a team according to the opponents, whom he did not bother to study. Had he, Mr. Del Bosque would have known that Chile were a team to be reckoned with. Just being Spain is not enough to win a match; this is also to disrespect your opponents. As much as the Spanish team will be remembered as one of the greatest side ever, Chile did the world a favour.
Chile and the Netherlands will be playing for first spot in the group in what will be a great match. 
The last match of the day was Croatia-Cameroon. Cameroon proved to be perhaps the poorest side of the World Cup. They do not play like a team and are as committed as a cock to monogamy. Croatia's victory was too easy, and not too small. I guess we have all been expecting a lot from Cameroon since 1990, but truth is that since then they have gone out every time in the first round, and suffered some humiliating defeats. Of all those bad Cameroon sides, this is surely the worst of the lot.
Croatia will face Mexico in the last group match, a clash that will decide who goes on to the next round.
In my orange cape I have celebrated the Netherlands, and hope they get far, just because of this great day I had amid the awesome (and stunning) Dutch fans! Hup Holland Hup!

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