Sunday, June 11, 2006

Holland 1 Serbia & Montenegro 0

It's no surprise, but Holland plays some damn pretty soccer, and when a stadium is packed with their orange-clad fans and those fans are singing and the joint is rocking, well, it doesn't get much better than that. And they had plenty to sing about today. The Dutch eased their way to a 1-0 here in a game they controlled from start to finish. Yeah, S&M had some sustained offensive surges in the second half, but the Dutch goal was pretty much off limits. Scariest of all, Ruud Van Nistelrooy was largely invisible. You have to figure he'll get going at some point, right?

Arjen Robben was the hero for the oranje, scoring the lone goal after being sprung on a fast break from a great ball from Robin Van Persie and looking ready to terrorize the S&M defense down the left flank all day. Perhap only Brazil's Roberto Carlos has a more lethal left foot. Coach Marco Van Basten has said that he thinks Robben could become the best player in the world, and as crazy as that may have seemed at the time, perhaps he had a point. Argentina coach Jose Pekerman is sizing up a headhunter to hound Robben as we speak. My guess is Robben spends plenty of time on his ass from here on out.

Someone should tell the Dutch trainers to keep goalkeeper Edwin Van de Sar well hydrated. It was hard to tell if he was wasting time or legitimately in pain, but he was going down with cramps more often than a woman in labor.

As it stands, group favorites and perennial heavyweights Holland and Argentina have both held serve and will meet in the group finale on June 21. That said, you'd almost like to see Ivory Coast and S&M get results in the second round of games to make that final game truly meaningful. At this point, the Argentina-Holland clash could be meaningless if both win again before they meet. The world wouldn't want that.

S&M offered pretty much what was expected of them. They played solid defense and hoped for a counter attack strike. The plan almost worked as Robben's goal was the only time the S&M defense was soundly broken down. Unfortunately for the Balkan gang, the team's two most recognizable faces, strikers Meteja Kezman and Savo Milosevic, were barely heard from and both were eventually subbed out. At this rate, I can see a couple more 1-0 losses in the S&M future, at which point, the most they'll be able to do is hope for an equally dismal performance from their bitter rivals, Croatia. Oh, how 1998 must have pained the Serbs.

On the plus side for S&M, defender Goran Gavrancic is an early candidate for the ugliest dude in the World Cup. It's one thing to be Eastern European, which often puts you behind the eight ball on the good-looks scale to begin with. But adding a mullet and then dying only the back of the mullet blonde? Well, that's just going above and beyond. That deserves applause.

"In my country my blonde mullet is - how you say? - sexy. Away from Serbia, women run. This confuse Goran."


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