The big game was an event that dominated public life in both The Netherlands and Spain. Spain had never been in a World Championship soccer final, while The Netherlands had only been there twice: in 1974 and 1978. The final in 1974 has cemented an everlasting burning hatred for the German team, scoring in the last minutes of the game, while the 1978 final against Argentine was apparently a bit scary, because it was hosted in Argentine as well, which at the time was a bit of a scary and intimidating place. Being born in 1975 I have of course no recollection of these events, but they have traumatised a generation, so I've been told.
I did not get to experience the last few days running up to the final, because I was in Flagstaff. However, the Dutch news (long live the internet) described a nation making ready for one of the biggest days in their existance - and making a bit of a party out of it in the mean time. Unexpectedly, the final also got some attention in Flagstaff, Arizona, being mentioned by the DJ on the radio for one thing, and being shown on a big screen in a theater called "The Orpheum". Naturally, Beedoo! and I oranged up and went to the Orpheum to watch, while her parents watched back home. Even her mom put on her most orange clothes.
The final itself was grueling for several reasons. For one thing there was the tension; while I'm not much of a sports person myself, I knew quite well that nearly every person in The Netherlands was watching this with me, wishing and hoping. The tension was made worse by the Spanish team, which showed excelent play throughout the championships, and looked unwilling to change anything at this state. To be fair, I never got the feeling that the Dutch team had the upper hand for more than a few minutes.
It was also grueling because not everyone in the room was a Dutch supporter. There is something very odd about watching a really important game with people who are not necessarily at your side. It makes you all that much more involved somehow. Combine this with the intense heat at the balcony where we were sitting, and you may understand why I went to get some water late in the game just to keep from falling over!
The game was also grueling on the field. As the score remained 0-0, the game extended into the first and the second 15 minutes of extra time. The referee seemed swamped, made a number of bad calls and handed out a record-shattering number of yellow cards for penalties. Not all of these were deserved, I think, particularly a game-changing one in the last few minutes of the game which cost the Dutch team a player on the field. However, I shouldn't complain too hard, because the Dutch team played disgracefully rough! For the worst offense, check out this lovely karate kick to the chest, which went entirely unpunished. These sorts of things left me feeling somewhat ashamed of 'my' team's performance...
Still, there is no denying that the Dutch players set down a tremendous achievement, so it's not surprising that, despite their own disappointment, they received a heroes' welcome upon their return. (That link is worth clicking if only for the footage of partying Dutchmen. Seriously!)
Beedoo! and I went home a bit demurely, obviously, but at least we have the experience to remember. Next World Cup: 2014!
Oh, And take note: the Dutch dream ended with a goal in the last few minutes... A trauma for a new generation?
Seriously. The ball took me twice as long to draw as the dragons.
I don't have much to add here. The Dutch team really didn't impress me very much in the finals... I cheered them on fervently, but then they embarrassed me in front of the people cheering for Spain with their unnecessary roughness. Compared to the other matches I'd watched in the Netherlands, the final was terrible. I get the impression that the team decided to throw all they had at the Spanish team, because it was the last game and they figured there was no way to get themselves kicked out. But how dumb do you have to be to hassle the ref about a call IN THE FINAL?! I don't blame the ref for several of the yellow cards he awarded, because the players wouldn't leave him alone! You know you've taken too many headers when...
Also, this was a terrible ref. Not that I could do better, but he was missing calls and misjudging others. This is a definite reason for FIFA to start using instant playbacks to review calls... or at least have more than one ref on the field to spot things! No ref is an island.
So yeah, basically the whole game was a downer. Four more years before we get a redo.