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.


HGF said...

Grendel, I watched the second half and aet, and your reporting is spot on. It was a breathtaking game full of attacking football and endless pace (unlike, e.g., the Spain-Italy chess match). Sadly, Holland lacked its earlier flair. How much was it simply Arshavin? He was unbelievable. Astounding at that level of play when one player so thoroughly re-orients the game with every touch. He made the endline run and cross for the second goal, and scored the third. As the announcer on ESPN/ABC said, it looked like the ball was glued to his foot.

Turkey's hard-pressed with suspensions. They're the Cinderella, for sure, but who can they field to beat Germany? (I'm a sucker for the Turkish goalie--out of retirement, bad mistakes lead to the crucial goal, then his free kick leads to the tying goal, then he's the hero in penalty kicks. Here's to Rustu!) If they play open, the Russia-Spain semi should be incredible.

Grendel said...

Glad they're showing these matches over there. Yeah, Spain-Italy was pretty much a yawner. We saw that at home with BBC commentators, and they were just brutally snarky about the lack of action, in typical British style. Wish I could remember quotes but I myself was half asleep.

Turkey is indeed Cinderella, and she's going to need every bird in the neighborhood to help her pick those lentils from the ashes in time.

Most of the Dutch I've talked to are rooting against Turkey -- they say it's because they don't like how they celebrate, i.e. driving around their neighborhoods honking and waving flags after their wins. I guess it's different when the Dutch do it. A little disappointed in that attitude. Something like 1 million out of the 16 million people here are Turkish. Why can't we be happy for their preposterously lucky team?