Category Archives: footie

Dream Unfulfilled

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messi_2970109bAfter a quarter final against Costa Rica, in which the Boys of Orange failed to score during regular time for which  Costa Rica’s very solid defence deserves every credit, taking the match into extra time and penalties. Coach Louis van Gaal made the unusual move to substitute goalie Cillessen for Krul seconds before the end of extra time. It turned out to be a stroke of genius as Krul stopped two of Costa Rica´s penalties and the Boys confidently scored all of theirs taking Holland through to the semi-finals. I felt that the Orange squad should have scored during regular time and that ´we´ were lucky not to suffer a lot- if any- offence action from Costa Rica, but I was relieved that ‘we’ were still in the tournament.

A few days later one semi-final had been played. A freak show, in which a superbly playing German squad absolutely thrashed the Brazilian team, that appeared terribly lost without their star striker Neymar and captain Silva, suffering  a historic defeat of 7 goals to 1. Hopes for another epic semi-final were left unfulfilled as the dream of World Cup gold for the Boys of Orange deflated like a hot air balloon. Had the games in the group stages been exciting and on occasions surprising, this semi-final was a tedious affair, in which both teams played a slow, cagey first half seemingly playing in invisible mud. We were denied a spectacle in the second half up until the 70-somethingth minute when a bit more pace was added to the game, yet, we never got any real fireworks. During extra time Van Gaal made his last substitute taking Van Persie off the field and bringing in Huntelaar, meaning that Cillessen would remain on goal in the case of penalties. Perhaps Van Gaal took the gamble that Huntelaar- or anyone- would score in extra time and there would be no need for penalties. But with no goals and disappointingly little shots on target in 120 minutes, it was up to the individual players taking the shot to score and the respective goalies to keep the ball out.
First up to take the shot was Vlaar, which seemed an odd choice as, as a defender, he doesn’t have a great goal-scoring record and his not terribly confident shot was saved by Argentinian goalie Romero. Also Sneijder’s shot, who was the third to take a penalty, was saved, leaving it up to Cillessen to stop the fourth and deciding penalty. Cillessen did get his hands on the ball but didn’t manage to stop it and Argentina won on penalties 4-2. Penalties are always a naff way to decide a match and Vlaar missing his penalty might have cost the Boys of Orange a place in the final, but if it wasn´t for Vlaar, who played and excellent match neutralising any Argentinian attacks, it might not even have come to penalties.

I can´t really say that Argentina were the better team, but at the same time the Boys of Orange,  just weren’t good and – just as important- not entertaining enough to deserve their place in the final. Argentina might have won all their matches, they didn´t have a terribly exciting run scoring just 6 goals in 6 matches and if they continue to play as they have done, they are most likely going to be defeated by an almost boringly efficient and organised Deutsche Manschaft. As Holland is facing Brazil in the ‘losers’ final’, all I’m hoping for is an entertaining match. Brazil may even win as the team and the country might need a victory much more than we Dutchies do.

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Ozzy Ballsiness and Other Magic

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footie And so the magic continues in the Land of Samba. We are a week into the tournament and I am suffering from a serious case of football fever. All I do is watch matches, previews, analyses, highlights and I read what other word-slingers have to say about it all in the papers. This is, besides truly exciting, highly annoying as I barely sleep or get other shit done. As I do expect to make a full recovery I´m sure to be at serious risk of being affected by some other symptom or condition, like the it-is-summer-on-the-Rock- so-let´s-play-and-party-hard syndrome. While the Dark Fairy system is affected I remain fully entertained by some fit men, who do some groovy stuff with a ball on a piece of green. Yesterday´s Holland-vs.-Australia match was a highly exciting encounter, which resulted in a  3-2 victory for the Boys of Orange. Despite this victory the magic was mainly coming from the Boys from Oz. Considered one of the underdogs of the tournament, Australia turned out to be a most pleasant surprise with their highly dynamic, fresh and playfully aggressive style giving the Dutch squad some significant problems.

From the very start both teams put considerable pressure on each other, leading to a slightly messy but not unexciting first 10-15 minutes of the game. The first goal of the match, scored by Robben in the 20th minute, is immediately countered by means of a disgustingly beautiful goal by Ozzy top scorer Cahill 70 seconds later. The game was fairly balanced up until this point, yet, after this beauty of a goal the Ozzy Boys become dominant and put the Dutch defence into some real trouble.

At the beginning of second half both teams are straight at it again and due to some unfortunate refereeing Australia is given a penalty 9 minutes into the second half, which Jedinak is cashing in putting the squad from ´Down Under´ ahead in the game. Not much later Van Persie works his magic yet again and equalises the score. The Boys from Oz are no longer ahead, but they know they´re on a roll and that they can actually win this match so they play on with much gusto by no means easing their pressure on Holland´s defence.

Midway the second half Ozzy goalie Ryan fails to neutralise a long-range shot by Depay, who came on as a substitute in the first half for Martins Indi, who had to be carried off the field after a challenge by Cahill for which he received a yellow card, and Holland is ahead in the game. Australia doesn´t lose hope, however, and keeps on fighting for their place in the tournament. After 90 minutes plus added time the colour of victory is Orange yet again, much to the relief of us Dutchies and to the understandable frustration of the Ozzies as they´ve put on quite show.

From a Dutch perspective this was another brilliant match. The orange victory was a close shave and a highly exciting one. I could display my linguistic and cultural snobbiness by arguing that countries, who call football soccer and understand football to be some rugby-like game, don´t really deserve to go to the knock-out stages of a World Football Tournament. But in Australia´s case, it´s quite a shame that after their match against Spain, who were shockingly denied access to the knock-out stages by a Chilean squad that totally rocked the Casbah with a 2-0 victory, we are to see no more of their Ozzy magic at this tournament.

 

Dark Fairy Snippets of a Week in Footie

Host nation Brazil started the tournament well with help from a rather biased or slightly incompetent referee, by winning their opening match against Croatia and Brazilian star Neymar got his opportunity to shine. The next day we had the highly entertaining shocker that was Holland thrashing the reigning world and European champions with 5 goals to 1. Another delicious stunner was Costa Rica´s victory over 2010 semi-finalist Uruguay. England vs. Italy was a most entertaining match and despite good play from England Italy just scored more goals and although we like to be entertained, it´s the goals that count. Messi delivered against Bosnia-Herzegovina, while the latter put up a good fight and were rather unlucky with an own goal. Portugal vs. Germany was not the exciting match we had hoped for as Portugal was messy, unfocused and  seemed to depend fully and solely on glamour boy Cristiano Rhoonaaldoo to deliver the goods. Germany, being so organised and efficient it was almost boring, wiped their ass with the Portuguese squad scoring 4 goals to nada.

Cote d´Ivoire has been the only African nation to have won their first match. I always find African football, ´discovered´ during my time at the African Med, highly entertaining to watch, so I do hope for some African football action in the knock-out stages.

The biggest shocker of all is without a doubt Spain´s exit from the tournament after having played only two of the three games in the group-stages. I guess it´s just the cycle of football life that heroes rise and fall, but that a squad that had performed so consistently for such a considerable length of time is to suffer its demise in such a dramatic way is quite painful and frankly a real darn shame.

Besides all the football madness Brazilians are still hitting the streets to protest, and reportedly military police show little mercy. With all the football excitement one could forget that not all is happy and well in football-mad Brazil and I hope the protesters’ voices will still be heard despite fabulous performances on the pitch, (therefore) less media attention and fierce crackdowns by the authorities.

While I´m aiming to control the symptoms, I can´t wait for Holland´s match against Chili, which is promising to be another  exciting and entertaining encounter. It seems the Dark Fairy patient is not to recover from football fever just yet.

funny squir

Things That Make You Go Boom

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Well,  well, well, well, well, who on earth saw that coming? A relatively young squad was taking on the titans called the Spanish National team, who won from Holland in a messy World Cup final in 2010 and are European Champions of 2008 and 2012. Del Bosque’s team had been on a winning streak for 6 years. There might have been a few signs on the wall that its superiority might be waning, but this was still Spain. The Dutch team in contrast had played appallingly at Euro 2012 losing all its first round matches and with a fair amount of new faces, the team is just far less experienced than Del Bosque’s Boys. The Dutch media didn’t have an awful lot of faith in this first match. We should be happy with a draw, but Spain was most likely to win, the consensus was.

Last night’s-Holland-vs-Spain match was the final we should’ve had 4 years ago; exciting, entertaining and most certainly dramatic. Although the Boys of Orange – playing in blue- had some chances Spain was absolutely dominant in the first 44 minutes of the match having most ball possesion and utilising a penalty given by means of De Vrij’s too solid defending. Xabi Alonso aims and although goalkeeper Cillissen is in the right corner he just isn’t quick enough and in the 27th minute Spain sets the tone; it’s 1-0. Just before half time, Van Persie manages to break free from the Spanish defence and a beautiful pass from Blind is transformed in some seal-like action in the form of a most delicious header-volley, which Van Persie hits over Spanish goalie Casillas, who can only stare at it in horror, making it 1-1 at a crucial stage of the game.

We don’t know what coach Louis van Gaal has said to the Boys during half time, but when returning to the pitch, the team played like they had kryptonite in their boots, willing and able to defeat the titans. Eight minutes into the second half with another solid pass from Blind, Robben outwits defenders Ramos – who looks so much better since he ditch the hair- and Piqué and veteran goalie Casillas to score 2-1. At that point Spain seem to have lost it and there is no stopping the Boys of Orange. A bit more than 10 minutes later Sneijder’s free kick misses Van Persie but bounces some how between the right goalpost  and De Vrij’s shin and into the net making it 3-1 .

As you can imagine we Dutchies go absolutely mental not knowing that there would be even more in store. The height of Spain’s despair is perfectly ilustrated when Casillas -of all goalies- is not quick and determined enough clearing a pass. Van Persies squeezes in and makes optimum use of Casillas’ mistake scoring 4-1. Just when one thought the thrashing couldn’t get more painful for Spain, Robben gave a most buttery icing to an already über-lush cake by taking a pass from just outside the Dutch pentaly area running with it as if truly possessed by the spirit of football, outrunning the Spanish defence and with some skilful twists and turns outwitting Casillas, who has come out of his goal, smashing it into the right corner. Boom. 5-1

Was this a freak show? Or just the result of Van Gaal unleashing his magical genius? Time will tell. Spain might just have had a REALLY bad night and I’m not writing them off just yet. But the Boys of Orange have demonstrated what they are capable of if their magic is unleashed. They might not have the experience yet, but De Vrij and Vlaar have proved to be solid defenders. Blind has been a master with his passes and controling the flow of the game and when Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder are on a roll, there just ain’t stopping them. So if you’re asking the Dark Fairy, she”ll say: Keep up the magic and the entertainment! Booya!

How to Kick a Super Power Out of the World Cup

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As a nervous wreck I had set myself on front row again in my ‘second living room’ in Kafr Abdu. I had done some packing in the morning and was hoping to spectate the match of matches; the quarter final Holland- Brazil. I knew the sentiments back in Lowlands Country were upbeat but I myself wasn’t completely sure if the Boys of Orange were able to beat a throughout the tournament superb playing Brazil. From the very first minute both teams played with an eagerness and determination that was very pleasing to the eye. After 10 minutes a combination of a Dutch defence mistake and Brazilian virtuosity resulted in Robinho scoring a superb goal making it 1 to nil for the Samba Boys. The Boys of Orange played well during the first half with some excellent defending by goalie Stekelenburg and although no more goals were scored Brazil was clearly superior. After half time the Boys came back on the field with renewed spirit and Sneijder scored via the back of a Brazilian defender making it 1 all and we were back in the game. I abandoned my pessimistic view point and started believing that we could actually win this match. In the 68th minute a corner kick landed on Sneijder’s deliciously gifted forehead and his header made it 2-1. At that moment I, the stadium and probably the whole nation went absolutely mental. There were still a good 20 minutes to go and Brazil was fuelled with fighting spirit and displayed some dangerous actions but after 90 minutes and 3 minutes of additional time the score remained 2-1 and the Boys have shown that they are truly champion’s material. A few hours later I was due to board a taxi to Cairo airport to be leaving on a jet plane to -in my eyes- more civilized lands. The Orange victory has been the best leaving present I could wish for. We are the champions, my friend.

 

Wesley saves the day

 


And So It Continues

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And there I was in my ‘second living’ room in the nicest cafe in Kafr Abdu with the best sheesha in town, planted in front of the telly hoping for some top entertainment and another victory for the Boys of Orange. I got rather disappointed. Yes we won, and Sneijder’s goal was pretty awesome, but I am not sure if we were the best team. In the first half Holland had far more ball possession but Japan made far better use of the ball possession it had. It had a very strong defence and displayed some pretty dangerous attacking spirit as well. Holland didn’t seem to know what it wanted by playing the ball around on own half and not able to find holes in the Japanese defence, never putting the Japanese goalie in any real danger. Frustrating, probably for both teams and for me and probably anyone else who was watching. I guess both teams got a proper beating during the break as the start of the second half looked a lot more exciting and we got what we came for: 1-0 for us lot. This excitement was not maintained and Holland failed to score a second goal despite several chances. Luckily Japan didn’t score either. If I’m allowed to fall back on the Dutch habit of whining I would like to say, we won, elhamdulilah. Well done boys. But if they’re really to come home with that cup and send the whole nation into ecstasy, the Boys REALLY need to step up their game. Two down, five matches to go, insha allah.

image:guardian.co.uk

Orange Fever; Only in My World

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No Orange Fever in Alex

For weeks – if not months- there has been a lot of excitement about the World Cup in South Africa. On foreign television (news) channels and among foreigners that is. Although it is a big deal that the World Cup is held on African soil, Egypt is not competing and seems therefore not too fussed about the tournament and Masr does not consider itself to be African anyway. Only when they win the Africa Cup, which they did early this year, then the national team is the pride of the nation and the continent. Another thing is that you can’t watch the matches in the comfort of your own home if you’re not subscribed to certain channels. The broadcasting rights are expensive and the government is not willing to pay if no one is interested. Even in our mansion, which we vacated Monday night and Tuesday morning respectively, with 400 + channels the matches were not available, which kind of pissed me off. I watched England versus the US in a bar/ restaurant with the boys while enjoying some Egyptian rose – I am very grateful it’s available, but pretty sure I’m not gonna miss that once I’m back in Europe- and both the match as well as the atmosphere in the bar were a very tame affair. The first performance of the the Boys of Orange was due on Monday afternoon against Denmark and I was horribly excited. Jameela knew an ‘ahwa in an area called khamsa wa arbaeen, which just means 45, where we could watch the match. Jameela’s ‘adopted brother’ Osman, who grew up in Denmark and also studies at Marleybone uni and Tobias, a knowledgeable and entertaining journalist who used to be in our class at the centre, joined us. Tobias being Austrian supported Holland for the reason that the enemy (Holland) of your enemy (Germany) is your (his) friend. The ‘ahwa is called Arabian Nights and is right on the Corniche. It is big, kitsch looking and supposed to look like a cave. I guess it has to remind you of Alibaba and the 40 thieves. It would have been cute if it were the set for a school musical. The sheesha is very average and they are sneaky enough to change the head when you’re not watching,  which contains the tobacco and will be charged as a second sheesha. It was not busy and our company seemed the only one remotely interested in the match. But there was a big fat tellie and we were in good company, so I wasn’t complaining.

 

As we know now the match had some exciting moments, attacking game from our Boys and a very strong defence from the Danes. We obviously want our team to win, but the own goal was rather naff. I felt for Poulsen, poor bugger. As I never really followed the Dutch league and very much missed out on European football the last year I completely missed out on Elia. But I quickly discovered that he is eager and well dangerous and I expect him to cause much more excitement in the course of the tournament. After 90 minutes I felt entertained and well pleased with the Boys’s victory. Straight after the match, people and god himself (Johan Cruijff) started whining, that despite the 2-0 win the Boys could have done a lot better. Maybe so. But it was the very first match and we won. Let’s kick some ass on Saturday and hopefully my favourite Orange Boy Boulahrouz will be allowed to get into action. And although I seem the only Dutchie in the whole of Alex it’s my party and I cheer if I want to.

image: missmix.wordpress.com