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Holland – are they any good or is it all luck?

After Holland defeated a capable Denmark team 2-0 in the group stages of the competition the Denmark coach, Morten Olsen, remarked that he fancied the Dutch team might win the Jules Rimet trophy. Most analysts saw the comment as trivial, a typical most match quip expected from a losing coach. Whatever truth there was in the remark there was also an obvious intent on Olsen’s part to convince his players that they were still capable of achieving something in the tournament, that they had just competed against potential champions. Protecting his players, this was a damage limitation exercise. As it happens, whether he actually believed it or not, Morten Olsen was right.

This Dutch team which had laboured to an unconvincing two goal victory against the Danish are now in the World Cup final. Daniel Agger of Denmark scored the teams first goal of the tournament after Nicolas Bendtner had missed a presentable opportunity in the first half. In the second match the team huffed and puffed their way to a horrible 1-0 victory against Japan. the Japanese goalkeeper made a horrendous mistake for the goal, Holland were far from spectacular. Against Cameroon, after already qualifying for the next round, the team somehow stumbled to a 2-1 victory against already eliminated Cameroon. The team acknowledged they were playing poorly and promised to improve.

Football purists everywhere were lamenting the football the Dutch were offering. Far from the bright, attractive and skilful football Holland were associated with this was dull, unadventurous and fortunate. In the second round, against Slovakia, Holland scraped through 2-1. Robert Vittek of Slovakia spurned a couple of glorious opportunities. Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk accepted the team were fortunate and needed to improve before they faced Brazil in the next round. Only in the next round Holland did not improve. Bert van Marwijk didn’t care, his team defeated Brazil 2-1 and were through. Holland equalised courtesy of Brazil’s Felipe Melo heading into his own net. Another huge piece of luck.

Against Uruguay in the semi-final the team won 3-2, surviving a late scare. Uruguay played without their defensive rock Diego Lugano, the best right back in the tournament so far, Jorge Fucile, and the all important Luis Suarez. Three of Uruguay’s best and most important players were out. Holland stuttered over the line courtesy of an opening goal that was stupendously well struck but illegal in the build up (check Mark van Bommel’s horrendous challenge before the ball reached Giovanni van Bronckhurst) and a second goal that should have been called offside (never mind the huge slice of luck involved with the deflection). To acerbate matters, Diego Forlan, Uruguay’s single most important player, played one half of the second half of the match injured and the other half of it on the bench.Everything is going Holland’s way.

Holland have won 6 matches in this World Cup, all of them in normal time and all of them with a huge slice of fortune. Whoever plays against Holland in the final will secretly wonder how they can counter the fortune which is currently favouring them. The Dutch will argue they have reached the final and Robin van Persie has yet to fire, Rafael van der Vaart has been kept silent and Dirk Kuyt has yet to score. Ok, they might not argue the last one as everybody expected as much. Just today Dutch legend Johan Cruyff claimed Dirk Kuyt is ”worth his weight in gold” to the national team. Whatever that might amount to it will not be worth a penny next to the fortune currently shining on the Dutch. A decent side with luck will beat a very good side without it almost every time.

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