Tuesday, December 28, 2010

World Cup Diary - Part 7

I'm wearing a Oranje jacket. It's cut like a vintage MJ jacket. We take our seats and all around us are Brazilians, chanting songs in Portuguese and downing beers. As we look around the stadium, the drone of the vuvuzuelas is intense and the stadium is fill. I'd say it is the support is equally divided between Brazil and Holland.

It's great to see Robben and the Dutch team so close. The ground looks immaculate.

The anthems are sung, I put my hand to my heart as always when the anthem of my team is played. As the Brazilian anthem is sung, all around us the Brazilians sing along, hands to hearts. A cheer goes up when it finishes. The Brazilian fan closest to me rips off his shirt and starts dancing up and down, screaming at the top of his lungs. I wonder what he'll be like if they score a goal.

I don't have to wait too long as the Dutch defence is split apart and Robinho coolly sidefoots a goal through. The Brazilians around me erupt and I start to wonder if this will be a mauling... the Holland defence is makeshift as Ooijer has come in for this game. The cheers turn to outbursts of rage as the goal is disallowed because of offside. Later replays will show that it was a clear offside, but at the time it seemed like a harsh call.

It doesn't matter too much as minutes later, Melo puts a perfectly weighted through ball into the obliging gap between the center backs and Robinho cuts across the defender's blind side from the left and finishes calmly. Robinho is amazing to watch live. He's small in comparison to most of the players but even from the first whistle he just exudes so much confidence. He controls the ball so well and is able to hold onto it under immense pressure, his awareness is fantastic. Throughout the tournament, the skill of Robinho, Kaka, and Luis Fabiano has meant that Dunga has been able to play a very defensive team and get away with it, because teams cannot contain all three for an entire match.

As time goes by, the Dutch get a grasp on the game. My Brazilian friend has gone from ecstasy to the more usual location of a football fanatic - anxiety bordering on anguish bordering on frustration. He is constantly yellling, most of it in Portuguese but every now and then his friends have to apologise for him. I don't speak much Portuguese but it is quite clear that he is not saying very nice things. He's calling the referee a Japanese filhio de puta. When the ball gets near Robben, his yelling reaches another level. He cheers each time that Robben is clattered into, screaming at him to get up and I guess saying that he has nothing.

This Dutch team is getting back into it though. The keeper makes a great save from Kaka after a beautiful move which involves Robinho twisting and turning past three defenders in the tightest of spaces. Kuyt puts pressure and steals the ball from Maicon and tries to set up van Persie for a shot on goal. A foul on Robben leads to a free kick for the Netherlands. The free kick is taken, Julio Cesar come out to punch but the ball sails into the net. I notice a Dutch fan in front of me, a young kid with Dutch flags pinned to his hat. He has the tiniest celebration in the world at this goal.

From a corner kick, Kuyt flicks it on and Sneijder heads it in. He can't believe he has scored with his head. Now, Dutch fans seem to materialise from several places around me and have found their voice to celebrate.

Dunga and every Brazilian gets progressively more frustrated as the game goes on. There are challenges and dives flying in all the time, it feels like the Dutch are baiting Brazil or it could be the other way around. The difference is that this is the best game of football I have ever seen live, the control and movement of the players is amazing. They always seem to do the right thing with the ball and know that even the slightest mistake will get punished.

Van Bommel of course is the chief instigator and enforcer. Where he excels, Melo fails... as he commits a terrible challenge on Robben .... the difference is that van Bommel always gets away with it, but Melo is sent off. My Brazilian neighbour is incensed and leaps out of his seat and tries to jump the hoardings.... he is held back by security guards but thrashes at the fence in frustration. He returns to his seat, chastened but still raging.

Brazil have to change their tactics and Dunga brings on Nilmar. They push and push for the equaliser and do go close from several corners at the end of the game. The best chance probably falls to Huntelaar but he fails to put it away... it doesn't matter though as Holland hold on and win the game.

The joy on the faces of the Dutch is amazing, paired with the deep sorrow felt by the Brazilians. The Brazilian fans around me are disconsolate and trudge away.

For the Dutch, they can put behind them their terrible record against the Brazilians and have confidence that they can actually achieve it... they have beaten the best or second best team in the World.

As we leave Port Elizabeth and head back to Australia, I feel blessed to have had a great adventure following the team and World Cup in South Africa.

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