The Boys from Brazil met the Heren van Holland in the quarterfinals this past Friday, and the result was simply one of the defining moments of Dutch soccer.
I started the search well-before kickoff for a suitable spot and somehow turned into Goldilocks:
- Too hot: Museumplein - standing in the direct sun for 2-3 hours, likely behind some very tall people? There must be better options.
- Too cold: Cafe Quinto, a small neighbourhood pub that looks fun as it is jammed inside and out for games. Brutal service before even sitting down. Did not feel like giving them money for the next 3 hours.
- Just right: the venerable Barca once again, with loads of screens, a great seat and even better scenery.
- 32 - forecast high temperature in Amsterdam that day
- 24 - forecast high temperature in Rio that day
- 56 - coincidentally, the sum of the two above numbers and the approximate temperature inside Barca at kickoff time
- 30,000 - estimated number of fans on Museumplein, watching on the big screen. Watch the reaction here as the final whistle sounded, filmed by someone who clearly went to the Blair Witch Project school of film. Still awesome, however.
- 3:59 - the players line up at midfield behind a banner saying "Say No to Racism"
- 4:11 - how about saying "no" to Dutch defensive lapses? Brazil scores an easy one and things are not looking good as the favoured South Americans dominate the play early on.
- 4:30 - a third pitcher arrives at the table, clearly in an effort to stave off dehydration as the temperature inside is insane.
- 5:10 - Dooeeeelllllpunnnntt! Ok, so it has nowhere the same cachet as "Goaaaalllllll", but still. 1-1 tie.
- 5:24 - the Dutch are really owning the Brazilians in the second half, and Kuyt's brilliant header pass is sent on to Sneijder's bald dome, and he knocks it home. Two heads are indeed better than one. The sound is deafening and joyous and I am typing this with goosebumps at the recollection. 2-1 Netherlands.
- 5:29 - red card for Brazil's Melo, who is anything but as he angrily stomps on Robben. Enjoy the Red Card District, Felipe.
- 5:30 and on - large, booming cheers of "HOLL-AND" clap-clap-clap, "HOLL-AND" clap-clap-clap ring through the entire bar as the excitement builds towards the fantastic finish.
When the final whistle blows after a few more nail-biting moments, the place erupts. (*Note - the quality of the video-making might be due to an impaired operator or poor camera - you decide).
We poured outside right after and grinning, slurring, joyous conversations were had for a few hours, before an exceedingly well-timed pizza and quiet at a friend's apartment nearby. Wow.
Tuesday could be another memorable night, as the Netherlands face a weaker but still dangerous Uruguay. Stay tuned.
And for the more involved football fans, some thoughts below on the team itself:
- Robin van Persie may yet redeem himself, but he is choking quite badly. And with his jittery insecurity/arrogance and lack of smarts, I wouldn't be surprised if he puts Holland in a very bad position before this tournament is over.
- Keeper Maarten Stekelenburg looks rock-solid and should give the Dutch added confidence.
- Wesley Sneijder is in top form - he and Arjen Robben are reasons alone to think that the Oranje could win it all.
- Those who really know the game here say that midfielder Mark van Bommel is the best player on the squad so far.
- Dirk Kuyt is the everyman's hero, well-loved in Holland for his work ethic and unassuming nature - a big contrast to the many outsized egos that make up much of the rest of the crew. And he is playing some fantastic football.
An ingenious red and yellow card system, helpful for those times when the challenge comes from speaking
Note the superior Dutch sock in contrast to the measly Brazilian flip-flop
Post-post game carnage