Monday, December 27, 2010

Football is hopelessly irrational – predictions, analyses, expectations, high opinions, reason… all is dust and empty words. Only traditions count, but this is against reason too. Semifinal Group 1 was to be a Russian roulette – one faulty or unlucky move and somebody else may go to the final. Except East Germany, which was to be just a possible troublemaker. And surely Brazil and may be Argentina will finally reveal their true nature. They did… by continuing to play badly.
East Germany opened against Brazil and it was clear that the lesser Germans already played their best match. It was not that they did not fight, but fighting was no longer enough: East Germany lacked imagination and technical skills. It was physical, straight forward team, and very predictable because of that. Brazil struggled and suffered, just like in the first round, but the opposition was simply unable to take advantage. At the end Brazil won 1-0 – and their goal was the best moment of the match:
It was a set peace of a free kick: Jairzinho placed himself in the German wall and strangely was not pushed away by the defenders. Rivelino with fantastic precision kicked the ball exactly where his teammate was staying. Jairzinho dropped on the ground and ball moved through the opening to rest in the net of the unmoving Croy.
This goal was the only difference between artistry and dullness and it settled the match.
Meantime Argentina was annihilated by Holland – 0-4. The Dutch were flying; the Gauchos were entirely off their horses. And it was not like the Tulips were just flying effortlessly: when they had to tackle, they did without mercy. Some romantics…
Suurbier teaches Perfumo how to kill – reason told the opposite, but the Oranje cared not for reason. As for their overall superiority, the final result is the best argument.
The next victim of Holland was East Germany. The physically fit, constantly running Germans were more uncomfortable opponents, but versatile Holland won 2-0 without much difficulty.
Neeskens scores for Holland. This is the most ‘ economical’ performance by the Dutch: they did not really shine.
Argentina and Brazil played slow game, trying to outsmart each other – since the Brazilians were slightly better, they won with a slight margin – 2-1. And it was Holland and Brazil to decide the finalist.
Argentina and East Germany, already out and disinterested, ended in a 1-1 tie.
The battle of the giants… there was no battle: Holland ruled with confidence. 2-0.
Both teams with their reserve kits, thanks to FIFA’s requirements in 1974. At moments, the match was ugly, although it is hard to say who was guiltier by the picture alone – is it a Brazilian trying ti kick a Dutch or is it a Dutch crashing a Brazilian?
Both teams were good at kicking opponents: here is Rijsbergen in action.
Yet, Oranje scored and Brazil did not not. The second goal in the net of the three times World Champions.
1. Holland 3 0 0 8-0 6 points
2. Brazil 2 0 1 3-3 4
3. DDR 0 1 2 1-4 1
4. Argentina 0 1 2 2-7 1
So far, Holland was the supreme team at the tournament. Their performance at the semi-final group was exceptional – not for a second there was a doubt who was in command of the game. The Dutch scored plenty and their improvised defense was… perfect. Holland did not receive a single goal! True, the opposition was clearly outplayed, but the South Americans are devious no matter their momentary form. Holland ended with perfect record and perfect team – Michels did not change his first eleven and used substitutes – at least from fan perspective – largely in jest: to give a few more players a chance to try the grass. However, de Jong played more than well when coming on the pitch.
Brazil reached second place and was to play for the bronze medals, but the team was a disappointment. No magic came out of the magical Brazilians, except for the brilliant goal against East Germany. And their record revealed the sad truth – Brazil was not able even to produce positive goal difference. Yet, they were still considered favourites for the bronze.
The last two played worse than they did in the preliminary groups. DDR was expected to be outsider, but Argentina was a dissapointemnt, steadily going downhill from one match to the next. The East Germans at least exited happy, cherishing sweet memories from the winning match against West Germany. The Argentines… they continued the exodus, although their performance did not make hot property – Carlos Babington, for instance, went to play for Saarbrucken, hardly a big West German club. But forget the losers – Holland was the deservingly big thing, promising exiting final and very likely World Champions wearing orange shirts.