Tag Archives: Netherlands

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Round of 16 Finale

Dave, of upcoming band After The Explosions is back with his latest evaluation of the World Cup’s heroes and villains.



So it seems the world is still in love with the European Champions. Alan Hansen described it as a “victory for attacking football” and while that point is certainly arguable given Portugal’s suffocation tactics, Spain are looking very shaky indeed. There are holes in their defence and a better team should exploit it. I expect them to ease past Paraguay but once they come against Germany or Argentina, we shall see if they are World Champions material.

David Villa

Barcelona’s new boy can do no wrong.


Another win, another curious and not overly impressive performance. The question has become whether or not Holland are deliberately not playing at their best. The question will be answered on Friday when they line out against Brazil.


Barely broke a sweat. Like Holland they haven’t really been challenged yet which makes their forthcoming clash all the more interesting. I would say mouthwatering but neither team has really excited thus far, despite showing flashes. Hopefully Friday will see the record being changed.


Into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. Gave us a fairly boring game but deserved their win.


English punditry

Tuesday saw a new low in the English presentation of the World Cup. It began with ITV’s Adrian Chiles, Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate openly mocking the Paraguay/Japan game. While the match was undeniably dull, the relentless negativity from the ITV team was unprofessional and unnecessary.

Meanwhile over on BBC, commentator Jonathan Pearce dared to throw out some facts during the Spain/Portugal clash, leading his co-commentator Mark Lawrenson to sneer; “What were you doing before the game?”. Erm I don’t know Mark, his job perhaps? Lawrenson is a joke that is no longer funny, a decrepit and miserable dinosaur who violently lowers the quality of any football match he is allowed commentate on. Of all the complaints in this World Cup (and there have been many, both valid and invalid), my biggest one is the presence of “Lawro”. I’d rather get trapped in a lift full of tarantulas than listen to him again, but then again the alternative is George Hamilton so you can see my dilemma.

BBC also presented a solemn arthouse style film package about the the goal-line technology debate. A patronising easy listening piano plays over various footage of contentious refereeing decisions. The ref in the Germany/England game is jingoisitcally referred to as “England’s nemesis” while we get a cute little interview with nice English referee Howard Webb (who has never ever made mistakes EVER) who says he’s in favour of goal-line technology. There’s a shock.

But leave it to Alan Hansen to take the prize for the biggest idiot on display for offering the following during his analysis of David Villa’s match-winning goal; “There’s a hint of offside, but, who cares?”. His ill-timed, ill-informed and just plain disgraceful comment elicited laughter from Lineker and co but probably couldn’t have come at a worse time. If he was trying to be satirical, he failed. If he was trying to be funny, he failed. Terrible, as the man himself might say.


Negative negative negative. With the exception of the mauling of North Korea, Portugal failed to score a single goal in the competition. That game flattered them hugely and gave false hope to anybody hoping to see the attractive attacking football shown by the Portuguese in Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006. It would seem those days are over, with Carlos Quieroz and his team choosing to employ negative anti-football tactics throughout, resembling a Greece side with more flair by the end of their campaign.

The autopsy report will make for grim reading. Ronaldo was ineffectual throughout, Deco signed off his international career with a whimper while once again Portugal were absolutely toothless up front. A lot of work needs to be done before Portugal become just another football team.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Lived up to his reputation as someone who vanishes in big games by entering in several anonymous performances. He also made sure to enhance his reputation as a petulant brat by spitting at the camera as he trudged off the field in defeat. Many are hesitant to place Ronaldo in the elite “best of all time” bracket and it’s disgusting acts like this that hold him back from such greatness.

While many footballers have their dark side, including Lionel Messi who seems to get away with his gradually increasing petulance due to his ability, there is no excuse for lowering yourself to such a level. It’s frustrating because we all know just how phenomenal Ronaldo can be, but it’s times like these that give his biggest defenders no cause to do so.

Joan Capdevila

The worst piece of simulation to get a player sent off this World Cup will (hopefully) see. Absolutely shameful, but not surprising considering the actions of Torres in the previous round and Sergio Busquets for Barcelona against Inter Milan in the Champions League semi-final.

Fernando Torres

Substituted just shy of the hour mark after another poor showing. He is clearly unfit and by starting him repeatedly, Vincente del Bosque risks harming both his player and his team. It will be interesting to see if  Fernando Llorente lines up alongside golden boy David Villa on Saturday night.


Netherlands crawl to win over Japan

Netherlands 1-0 Japan

Holland maintained their winning start to the World Cup and kept another clean sheet but this was another disappointing display from the Oranje. The traditional image most football fans have of Dutch football is clean and quick passing with plenty of goalscoring opportunities. This image does not yet apply to the Oranje class of 2010. Bert van Marwijk’s side created very little opportunities in front of goal and for the second successive game benefited from a moment of fortune to take the lead.


The first half did little for the imagination. Holland did control possession for long spells and put numerous passes together but the majority of these were uninventive passes across the midfield. The notoriously defensive Takeshi Okada had his side set out to stifle the Dutch as his side successfully managed against Cameroon last week. It is difficult to quantify whether it was the lack of incision from Holland or Okada’s tactics which gave rise to the drab first period.

Nevertheless, there was a surprisingly physical edge to the first half. Yuichi Komano suffering an injury to his jaw after he was caught by the boot of Robin van Persie as the Arsenal striker tumbled to the ground. This instance was just one of a variety of clumsy challenges, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst on the receiving end of a particularly painful looking tackle.


There were no clear chances to report, although strangely Samurai Blue looked the more likely to score before the break. Yoshito Okubo shooting on sight from outside the penalty area, none of his efforts were legitimately threatening however.

It was a frustrating first half for Holland who still seemed to be suffering without the creative intuition of Arjen Robben. The Van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder axis had once again failed to impress and was very much a case of failing to amount to the some of two very talented components.

Holland benefited from a bizarre own-goal to take the lead against Denmark and were similarly fortuitous to take the lead against Japan. A poor defensive header from Tulio fell to the feet of the hitherto terrible Robin van Persie. The Arsenal striker rolled a bobbling pass back to Wesley Sneijder who fired a forceful effort towards the right of Eiji Kawashima’s goal. The Japanese goalkeeper flew across goal to attempt a diving save but unfortunately for the Kawasaki Frontale ‘keeper the by now infamous Jabulani football appeared to veer onto his wrists from where it rebounded into the opposite side of the net. Takeshi Okada was visibly irked in the technical area.

Holland failed to threaten to add to their advantage, while Japan’s best hope seemed to be set pieces. Asian footballer of the year Yasuhito Endo fired successive corners into the Dutch penalty area but these crosses were dealt with emphatically by Mathijsen, Heitinga and Van der Wiel.

Okada appeared to recognise that a good delivery could bring Samurai Blue back into contention and sent noted dead-ball specialist Shunsuke Nakamura on as a substitute in search of improved deliveries.

Holland improved marginally in the final ten minutes as substitute Ibrahim Afellay may feel unlucky not to have converted at least one of his two late chances.

With the game approaching stoppage time Japan’s best chance arrived. A looping, high pass was flicked forward to Okazaki who, with only Maarten Stekelenburg to beat, cleared the crossbar with his effort.

The Dutch hung on to secure a second victory in the group stage and move closer to advancement to the Round of 16. Understandably, questions will be levelled at Bert van Marwijk as to why his side have been unable to replicate their scintillating form in the run up to the tournament in South Africa. For many Arjen Robben is paramount. His vitality, inventiveness and dependability should go some way towards improving what has been an insipid tournament from the Oranje so far.

Own goal gets Holland off the mark

It was not a vintage Oranje performance but Holland marked their entry into the 2010 FIFA World Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Denmark. Bert Van Marwijk’s side endured a difficult first half in which they failed to create many opportunities but were gifted the lead less than a minute into the second half courtesy of a Daniel Agger own goal. The Netherlands doubled their advantage in the 84th minute with Dirk Kuyt converting a rebound from Eleandro Elia’s effort.

The Dutch, characteristically, enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half but seemed unable to break down a rugged Danish outfit. Opta’s statistics showed that they were only able to have control of the ball in the Danish penalty area three times before the interval.

The tedious nature of the game was emphasised by several rounds of Mexican waves that circled the pitch at Soccer City. The fans seeking some enjoyment in the beautiful weather in Johannesburg.

The best chance of the half fell to Denmark’s Nikklas Bendtner. The Arsenal striker faded off the shoulders of Mathijsen and Heitinga as he attempted to head goalwards. Denis Rommedahl’s cross reached him at an awkward height and the Arsenal striker’s attempt bounced harmlessly wide.

If Holland were to live up to their exciting reputation they would need to improve in the second half. The breakthrough came almost immediately. Van Persie whipped a cross in towards Dirk Kuyt but it was met by Simon Poulsen’s attempted clearance. The defender, who plays his football in the Dutch Eredivisie for AZ Alkmaar, turned his head too soon before meeting the ball. The ball rebounded off the back of his compatriot Daniel Agger and into the goal.

The goal did little to open up the game as chances remained scarce at either end and the game appeared to be petering out until Eljero Elia was brought on to replace Rafael Van der Vaart.

The twenty-three year old instantly lit up an otherwise dull encounter. He sprang an expertly performed turn to elude two encircling Danes before setting up Robin van Persie who failed to capitalise.

Elia was once again involved with yet more craftiness on the left-wing. The Hamburg winger sending in a challenging cross which eventually found its way to Mark van Bommel who crashed a shot towards Thomas Sørensen. The Danish goalkeeper equal to the effort.

Holland began to attack with more conviction in the latter stages. Wesley Sneijder’s long range attempt ricocheted off Agger and onto the crossbar.

In the 84th minute the Dutch finally claimed the second goal. Wesley Sneijder played an excellent pass through the Danish defence where Eljero Elia was poised to cap his cameo with a goal. He opened up expertly but his shot was denied by the post. Fortuitously it rolled into the path of Kuyt who applied the easiest of finishes.

World Cup Heroes – Mario Kempes

Mario ‘El Matador’ Kempes

When you think of Argentine heroes at the FIFA World Cup it is difficult not to automatically reminisce about Diego Maradona and his escapades in 1986, which have entered into legend as being the only example of a player single-handedly carrying a team to World Cup glory. If 1986 belonged to ‘El Diego’, 1978 belonged to ‘El Matador’. Mario Kempes, a lanky striker with scintillating pace and wonderful composure captured both the Golden Boot and the Player of the Tournament awards en route to Argentina’s first victorious World Cup campaign. Kempes, 24 at the time, scored six goals in the four games of the Second Round, including a brace in the final against the Netherlands. However, Kempes did not enjoy a prolific First Round.

Argentina itself was the venue for the 1978 tournament, a controversial decision by FIFA in light of the militaristic dictatorship that governed Argentina at the time. Doubt shrouded the tournament, with stars such as Johan Cruyff and Paul Breitner deciding against joining their national squads in Argentina. The Argentine public had no time for such doubts. It had its own hero in Kempes, the sole member of the national side to be based outside the domestic league. The Valencia striker and the Biancocelesti failed to impress in the first Group Stage, however. Kempes looked awkward and gangling and failed to score in the opening Group Stage as Argentina finished as runners-up to Italy. The failure to top the group was seen as a failure by the autocratic government, who were discontentedly forced to follow César Luis Menotti’s side to Rosario for the Second Round.

Rosario was a familiar setting for Kempes, who had thrived at local club Central Rosario in his youth. It was fitting that this was the venue for him to finally ascend to the lofty expectations placed upon him. The first match of the Second Group Stage was against Poland. The Poles, led by the talismanic Zbigniew Boniek, had surprised many by topping their group ahead of West Germany. Their buoyant confidence evaporated quickly, Mario Kempes heading in superbly from six yards with less than twenty minutes gone. Kempes then sealed victory in the second half, a mesmerizing run from Osvaldo Ardiles setting up ‘El Matador’, who shifted the ball delicately to his left foot before finishing low to the right.

A tense 0-0 draw with neighbours Brazil left Argentina needing to beat Peru by four clear goals to progress to the World Cup Final. The events of the 21st June 1978 have been analysed rigorously ever since. Argentina were fortunate to lead Peru 2-0 at the interval, Kempes opening the scoring with some neat control and a typically precise finish. The second-half collapse of the Peruvian side has long been attributed to bribes, threats by the Videla regime and suspicion of Peru’s Argentinia-born goalkeeper. The game finished 6-0 with Argentina and Kempes progressing to the final at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.

There they would meet the Netherlands. Another controversial match ensued, Argentina making a prolonged entrance to the pitch and arguing with the referee that Dutch winger René van de Kerkhof remove the bandage that he had adorned without problem throughout the competition. Italian referee, Sergio Gonella, relented to the Argentine squad and ordered the bandage be removed. This incident catalysed a hostile atmosphere at the Monumental.

Argentina took the lead in the 38th minute, with Kempes sliding the ball under Jan Jongbloed to the thunderous adulation of the Buenos Aries crowd. Torrents of confetti rained down on the pitch as the Netherlands searched for an equaliser. Their persistence was rewarded as substitute Dick Nanninga stunned the Biancocelesti with a thumping header into an empty net. With neither side capable of finding the decisive goal, the Final proceeded to extra-time.

It was to be Kempes’ moment. Taking the ball just outside the penalty area, Kempes powered through the Dutch defence where his initial effort was saved by Jongbloed. Fortuitously, the ball bounced over the Dutch goalkeeper where Kempes managed to bundle the ball into the net despite the best efforts of two Dutch defenders. Victory was sealed ten minutes later, when Daniel Bertoni made it 3-1 to the hosts.

The Videla regime and the Argentine public was enamoured by the efforts of Mario Kempes. So too were FIFA who awarded him with the Player of the Tournament award to go with the Golden Boot earned by his six goals. It was a remarkable World Cup for ‘El Matador’.
Kempes enjoyed a successful club career with Valencia where he won two two Spanish Cups, European Cup Winners’ Cups and one European Super Cup. He also finished as the top scorer in the Primera Liga on two occassions. Following his retirement he launched a coaching career and has often appeared as a pundit and commentator on Argentine and Spanish television.

The 1978 FIFA World Cup was the high water-mark for the career of Mario Kempes. In 1982, a much fancied Argentina side failed to impress and Kempes was unable to register a goal. He soon handed over the number 10 shirt to the prodigious Diego Maradona.

Before 1978 Argentina had floundered in World Cups, never reaching the obvious potential that their sides frequently exhibited in the Copa América. Some may point to the 1978 team spearheaded by ‘El Matador’ as the turning point for the fortunes of the Biancocelesti. None more vocal than Diego Maradona, who proclaimed Kempes as ‘the man who put Argentinean football on the map.’