Russia 3, Netherlands 1
It sure was a heartbreaker. No score in the first half, but Russia was clearly outhustling Holland. In the second half, the Russkies struck first, and there followed some truly agonizing dozens of minutes until with a mere 4 minutes left, van Nistelrooy nodded in a goal that brought sweet relief and ushered in an overtime situation. It was nice to be able to breathe again, and to hear screaming.
Then Russia just plain kicked Holland's ass, including a goal that sailed right between Van der Sar's knees. ("He didn't deserve that," someone said.) Watch that kid Andrei Arshavin in the Russia-Spain match on Thursday. Holy God what a rosy-cheeked scrapper! He was everywhere. The only consolation for the Dutch seemed to be pride in the legendary Guus Hiddink, the Dutch mastermind coach who is now coaching for Russia. Hiddink took a nobody South Korean team to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, and then Australia to the knock-out round in 2006. "He is smiling because of the ten million euros in his bank account," said a bystander. "After Russia, if Uganda says 'we will pay you 10 million euros,' then he will take Uganda to the 2014 World Cup Final."
Not sure whom to root for now. I was way impressed by Russia, by their tenacity and spirit (it's better to be beaten than to lose, if you know what I mean), and they have that Dutch coach... I'd love to see Turkey go all the way, as they've been the most exciting, and incredibly lucky, pulling from behind in every match so far, and there are so many Turks here struggling for money and respect, and they serve me so many kebabs, it would be fun to see them on top of anything for once. Spain... I guess I speak a little Spanish. Germany... I really like their beer. I suppose I'm rooting for Russia and Turkey to make it to the finals. And then I'll root for both.