There is a great line at the start of
"Mass-market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed," he writes. "Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight." Replace "politicians" with "coaches," and you have soccer's history: some have more idealism than others, but nobody is immune from expediency.
Some critics have expressed their disappointment at
Whenever the Dutch play well, and achieve notable results, as they did in the group stage at Euro 2008, the tendency is for the media to apply the Total Football tag. This is ludicrous; well as the Dutch played at times in Euro 2008, it was essentially a counter-attacking team. Just because its orange
Where disappointment is more valid is in a comparison between the Netherlands as it has been in the finals and the Netherlands as it was in its final three friendlies before the World Cup, when it beat Mexico, Ghana and Hungary, racking up 12 goals in the process. The injury
There has also, though, been a tactical tweak, the reasons for which became obvious in that final 25 minutes against Uruguay in the semifinal; the Dutch found their flair again, began passing the ball at pace, swept forward, and looking terrifyingly vulnerable at the back. A game that seemed over at 3-1 with 20 minutes remaining suddenly became in the final minutes an edgy siege. Credit, then, to Van Marwijk for recognizing the weakness of his back four and protecting it: you can score three and still not win; concede none and you'll never lose.
The two center backs remain a worry, oddly for a team that has conceded only four goals in six games (three in five with the first-choice pair of
So the back four defend and little else, and so too do the two holding midfielders. Both
Unless, that is, you count the unpunished Van Bommel foul on
Then there is
Nonetheless, Robben's battle with Spanish fullback
Three of the front four, perhaps, live up to the attacking ideals of the past, but the others do not. If the Dutch do win this, it will feel a little like
This, though, is a different age and historians of the future may be as enraptured by Van Bronckhorst's strike against Uruguay, as those of today are by