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Posted by Paul Klomp on 07/01/2010

The time has finally come for the Oranje to prove their worth. After cruising through the first and second round without exciting anyone, Holland faces Brazil tomorrow in what should be a momentous clash between two great football nations. Two nations that have given the world total football and samba football and everything in between. Two nations that arguably form the epitome of 'The Beautiful Game', based on their players' individual skill and their teams' wonderful style of play. Two nations that will face-off in a struggle for life and death, akin to that between David and Goliath.

Because for all the legend and magic that has surrounded the national teams of Holland and Brazil, the battle about to unfold between them is heavily stacked in Brazil’s favor. Just consider the numbers. Holland, one of the smallest countries in the world and with only 16 million inhabitants, will have to take the field against massive Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world and with a population exceeding 193 million souls. What's more, Brazil has already won the Cup a whopping 5 times. Holland, I must admit with infinite sadness, has won none, although we came within 2 centimeters of winning the grand price during stoppage time of the 1978 final, with Rob Rensenbrink hitting the post.

The 5 stars on the Brazilian jersey serve as a reminder to the greatness of Brazil as a football nation and the ability of their many star players to dazzle at the right moments. Players such as Pele, Garrincha, Rivelino, Tostao, Didi, Jairzinho, Socrates, Zico, Falcao, Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho are all you need to think off if you truly want to grasp the greatness of Brazil. Winning the Cup on 5 different occasions between 1958 and 2002 serves to confirm the sustained ability of the Brazilian nation to produce world-class players, and teams, at an amazing rate. And this is an ability that goes beyond mere measures of size and population alone. Otherwise China, Russia or the US would have been able to compete with Brazil without any difficulty. They can't. They can't, because Brazil’s football greatness stems not from numbers or statistics, but from culture, passion and god-given talent. In that respect, 'Christ the Redeemer', overlooking Rio de Janeiro atop Corcovado, has been a very generous man when it comes to Brazilian football players.

Not that the Dutch have anything to complain about. After all, when it comes to the numbers, we shouldn't even be here, well on our way in the World Cup and respected as a grand football nation by friend and foe alike. If ever a country can be considered an anomaly in terms of resources vs. expected output, Holland is that country. To be able to recruit so many magnificent players from such a small pool of prospects over the course of the last 40 years is quite the achievement. But players such as Johan Cruijff, Willem van Hanegem, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Dennis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert don't come along accidentally in such a small country. They come along because that small country arguably has the best youth academy structure in the world, employs some of the most skilled coaches around and has developed a unique playing style of its own. It is this mixture of concept, structure and expertise that enables Holland to far outperform its seemingly limited potential and to compete with the big guns.

These conflicting sources of excellence, or talent if you will, are what separate Holland and Brazil most clearly. Because, although both countries are respected for their attractive style of play, their mutual football philosophies don't compare well. Brazil’s samba football is mainly based on individual excellence, agility and the ability to convert unlimited technical potential into results. Holland's total football is more tactic based and focuses on a picture-perfect passing game, player movement and all-out attack.

Surprisingly, so far both countries have displayed none of these characteristics in this World Cup. All of a sudden they even seem quite similar in their play. Both Holland and Brazil employ a 'let's wait and see' approach and play modern counterattacking football, with the emphasis on a strong defense, controlling the flow of play and awaiting the right moment to strike. Classic Dutch attacking brilliance and legendary Brazilian fanfare and beauty are both missing in action. So, with this sudden similarity of play in mind, how do these teams, both stemming from classic but distinct football ideas, compare for tomorrow's match?

Well, for one, it won’t be the ultimate battle between samba football and total football. This is not 1974, this is 2010 and a whole different ballgame. Modern football focuses on physical strength, tactical brilliance, speed and agility and the extra 1% of class provided by the world’s most talented few. Tomorrow’s match will therefore most likely be a tactical struggle for control of possession, highlighted by sparks of genius by the likes of Kaka and Robben. This struggle will not be decided in midfield, nor in attack or defense. This struggle will be decided based on those sparse moments of utter class, on who’s more lucky and on who plays the best passing game. In general Brazil’s defensive line, including goalie, is stronger than Holland’s. In midfield, both teams more or less cancel each other out, although I consider De Jong-Van Bommel-Sneijder to have a slight advantage over Gilberto Silva-Felipe Melo-Dani Alves. Up front it is Kuyt-Van Persie-Robben vs. Robinho-Luis Fabiano-Kaka. Take your pick and good luck with that.

Holland-Brazil thus offers the perfect ingredients for a titanic battle of class as much as for a crippling stalemate. From a Dutch perspective, much will depend on whether Van Persie will finally shine, as many had expected him to do from match 1. If Van Persie plays well, and Robben and Sneijder are able to project their creativity onto Holland’s play, then I believe in our chances to progress. If not, it will be very hard to withstand Brazil’s drive.

Comments

Posted by jayant on 07/02/2010


Hello Sir/Madam,
My name is jayant and I am from india.My INNER INSTINCT tells me that netherlands is the world cup WINNER this time.
thanks
JAYANT

Posted by Umang on 07/02/2010

Hi,

I can understand the drive to win, but I can never understand the foul-play played by the stars just to win. I was fan of the way the Dutch play up until today, but after watching the game today, I saw them being fouled unnecessary (though they can justify the end result of the fouls as they got the goals out of them and slowed the tempo of the game to suit them) which has costed the game to the better team of the match today.

Definitely Brazil was the team that played better up until the negative Dutches equalised and even went ahead. And of course, being the fans you will be celebrating the results - but where is fair play??? I guess today Robben and Snijder won the game not for what they do for their clubs but just falling to ground and the stupid ref really bought all of their craps. I am of the point that they should get an oscar for that.

Of course, Brazileans also went for the same acts, but were not bought at the same rate and got frustrated which costed them the game.

Posted by Iqbal on 07/04/2010

I sense it's destiny that this year is finally the Oranje's. After the Brazil game, I seems that it's written in the heavens somewhere that our name is on the Cup.

Posted by dennis on 07/04/2010

I have to agree with Jayant!

Posted by Karthik on 07/04/2010

The future is bright....the future is ORAAAANJE !!!

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