I know, I know, I know: every site out there that’s doing their group analyses is using this headline for their selection on the Dutch, sort of. But, come on, look at the name of our blog! I find the concept of total football a personal affection that closely rivals the love of my girlfriend and my infatuation with mongolian beef. Of course, I would be remiss without making a joke towards the Boer Wars, but I’ve got about 600 words before I have to attempt to be witty and make you want more.
2008. It was a simpler time. Only two summers ago we were sitting in front of our newly purchased widescreen TVs and getting excited over watching an entire competition in HD – I’m talking, of course, of Euro 2008. While the World Cup is, without a doubt, THE international competition, The European Championship is acutely more intense, on a much smaller scale. The most notable feature of Euro 2008: an in form Holland. In the 2006 World Cup, the familiar site of the Dutch breakdown occurred. Continually, be it for cultural clashes or overall ego contests, the Dutch have had a notoriously difficult time developing and maintaining a team chemistry that’s vital to succeed in the sport.
Holland was selected for Group C along with Romania, France and Italy – the latter two, of course, being the finalists from the 2006 WC. Romania was written off immediately without a popsicle’s chance in hell. Not far off the pace were the Dutch’s chances in advancing against two sides that had taken the final in 2006 as far as possible to PKs.
What will prove to be the turning point in modern Dutch football, is the game that defined the Dutch style of total football and gave it a long awaited update for the 21st century and re-birthed a style long forgotten in international competition: the Group C clash between France and Holland.
France 1 – Holland 4 Results like this don’t come very often between European sides – let alone against a French side that saw William Gallas start in defense and Frank Ribery and Thierry Henry attempt to connect countless times. The reason for the Dutch victory: unity. Forgive me for stealing away from my North London loyalties, but the crest upon Arsenal reads, “Victoria Concordia Crescit” – Victory through harmony. Needless to say, a clinical header off a corner in the ninth minute form Dirk Kuyt set the tone for the remaining 81 minutes of play. The combination play was brilliant and at one point, the Dutch appreciation for possession saw a combination of over 20 passes with two touches at most, generally one, and over one straight minute of possession. I get a smile, among other things, just thinking about it.
The comprehensive victory seen in Berne that night is one that set the tone for qualification in Europe. The mark had been set and the Dutch were now the team to beat. The only remaining inkling of Dutch football’s personality is that of being choke artists – and some say that the final berths of Euro 2008 showed that’s all they still are.
South Africa 2010 is the chance to prove them all wrong – once and for all – and to establish a European dynasty. Okay, so I don’t have a Boer joke, but how about a Welsh joke? A Welshman walks into the hospital and sees the sign that says, “Admissions”. He walks up to the clerk and says, “I admit it, it was me.”