Also in attendance was my friend and ever patriotic Dutchman Matt Belanda, who enjoyed the Singapore mee and satay, but didn't look quite so amused with Argentina's 6-0 (read it again: SIX - NIL) mauling of Serbia and Montenegro, and was visibly twitching as almost the entire Ivorian team held siege on the Dutch goal for almost the entire 2nd half of that game.
Somebody should have told these dudes where the TV wasMatt guest-blogs this entry with Keropok, in anticipation of that final game which decides the honours for Group C on 21st June (3am, 22nd June in Malaysia):
Keropok predicts 2-0 for Argentina
17 of the 23 players in the squad are graduates from the youth side, helmed by current manager Jose Pekerman. They've played together for a number of years, and all instruments in the orchestra know their exact cue.
Speak nothing yet of the team oozing talent from every pore. Even goalgetters Crespo and Saviola's place in the starting line-up are under threat.
The defence looks rock-solid, and not once did they ever look like conceding a goal. Even goalkeeper Abbondanzieri, touted as a Barthez-like fumbler, looks confident and decisive between the sticks. With names like Ayala, Heinze, Sorin and Burdisso in front of him, which goalkeeper wouldn't?
There is so, so much talent in attack that the likes of Messi and Tevez – blindingly brilliant footballers in their own right – are being used as 'impact players', behind Saviola and Crespo, who by themselves are tearing lesser defenses apart.
Riquelme's performance was impeccable. So many times against the Serbians, and even the Ivorians in game 1, he was able to evade 3 or 4 opposition players without seeming to move more than a few feet. His passes opened up acres of space for his colleagues on so many occasions.
The Serbians threw a number of players to crowd him out, and all it did what free up space for others like Maxi Rodriguez and Cambiasso to channel supply to the forward line. The no-nonsense Mascherano is growing in stature as he thwarted Serbian attack even before they could trouble the defense behind him. He is the pivot in this fully-functional Argentine team, and seems to know the job of a defensive midfielder extremely well.
The Dutch seemed to have a 'hole' in their team play; their defense, attack and the wings looks to be working well, but there is nobody in the centre of the park to win key battles and co-ordinate key attacking moves. It is here that the battle could be lost to the Argentines.
The French team in '86 was perhaps the last time we saw such great passing at this stage. Platini, Tigana, Fernandez and Giresse were perfect passers of the ball, and a number of the French goals from that tournament came from about a dozen moves being strung together before the ball eventually bulged the net.
Cambiasso's goal (the 2nd one against the Serbians) was a throwback to those days. Their other goals were great too, and they're only going to keep getting better and better.
Matt predicts a 1-1 draw
Ever since the '74 and '78 finals with the likes of Cruijff and Neeskens, the Dutch have always faced the biggest enemy in themselves by quarreling during big tournaments and so far no one manager has been able to win the respect of the players.
When you put together big egos from clubs such as Chelsea, ManUtd, Arsenal, PSV, Feyenoord, Ajax and Barcelona only a legend like Cruijff or Marco van Basten would be able to gain the respect of the players, and that's exactly what we got!
The Oranje haven't been extremely convincing in the first two matches against Serbia and Ivory Coast, but did the job. During their last match the Oranje team actually set a new world record of not conceding a goal for over 950 minutes of FIFA world cup match football. Coincidentally, van Basten is the first coach ever to lead the Dutch through World Cup qualification without a single defeat.
For those who claim that the Dutch are the best team never to have won the World Cup, the above seems like a good recipe for success.
The Totaal Voetbal principle lives in all Dutch players, coming from a country with the highest number of registered football players and clubs per capita and four of their coaches leading different nations in this world cup. If you ask me, it's all down to the coach's decisions on who should play and who should stay on the bench.
Dirk Kuyt, Landzaat and Babel are all waiting for action, van Nistelrooij found the net and regained his confidence, Robben and van Persie are on the top of their games and van der Sar has yet to put his stamp on this tournament.
The team has survived the first two matches and has gotten used to each other and there’s plenty of talent on the bench ready for action. My prediction is that they will draw against the Argentines as they're two good teams and are not really playing for survival.
I do however predict this: Holland will beat Argentina in the semis 2-1, as they did in the q-finals in '98!
P/S: STOP PRESS! Upon proper scrutiny and callout from fellow blogger Spiller (thanks dude) it appears that if both Argentina and Holland win their respective elimination games, they would meet in the finals, and not in the semis, as said here.