I understand that not all matches can be gems. Wednesday’s Holland vs. Germany game wasn’t just your standard stinker. It was an abomination, a complete waste of time for everybody on the pitch and in the stadium. While Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke English hearts and scored literally the greatest goal I’ve ever seen over in Sweden, Holland and Germany played roughly 15 to 20 minutes of real football, producing a game that was so poor that ESPN2 didn’t even air highlights after the final whistle.
There were no highlights to feature.
Perhaps most disappointing about the contest was that both teams teased fans during the latter stages of the first half. A period of solid and entertaining back-and-forth play saw Holland nearly produce goals on two occasions, and Germany came close to opening the scoring just seconds before the break. It was as if the two sides came together in the tunnel at halftime and agreed to enjoy a walkabout for the final 45 minutes of play, however, as the second half was a training session for both teams; and a boring one, at that. Many of the fans who stuck out the torturous affair to the very end made their displeasure known as players exchanged shirts, and I apologized to my Creator for wasting two hours of the life He had given me all those years ago.
Holland 0-0 Germany: Why?
Robin van Persie was unavailable on Wednesday evening because of a thigh injury, and Dutch boss Louis van Gaal chose Dirk Kuyt and not Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to start up top. Kuyt, as one who has watched the player over the past few years might have expected, struggled to keep up with the pace of the match whenever things threatened to get exciting, and Huntelaar never had a reason to leave his chair after the halftime break. Huntelaar not playing isn’t what bothered me, as you’ll often see star players sit out these November international friendlies.
My question to Van Gaal is this: Why even bother calling Huntelaar into the team if you’re not going to play him? Give a younger forward an opportunity to get a little playing time against one of the best teams in the world, and let Huntelaar have a week off. It’s possible, of course, that we could learn that Huntelaar did something to get into his manager’s doghouse, or that the player was not at full fitness. If neither of those are true, though, Huntelaar not being utilized as even a second half substitute is, in the eyes of this Dutch supporter, unacceptable.
Holland 0-0 Germany: Solid start
Kenneth Vermeer somewhat surprisingly got the start over Tim Krul, and the Ajax goalkeeper who had been capped by the Netherlands U-21 team was impressive in his national team debut. Vermeer was confident in coming off his lines several times in order to thwart Germany attacks, and he was only ever caught out of position after making an initial save. In those instances when rebound attempts could have landed the visitors ahead, teammates such as John Heitinga and Nigel de Jong did well to clear the ball from danger. On a night when nobody wearing Orange came close to earning MOTM honors, the Dutch goalkeeper (who was sporting a blue kit) did what was necessary to ensure that the Netherlands wouldn’t lose to Germany for the second time in five months.
Holland 0-0 Germany: Annoyed
Both Holland and Germany were forced to utilize makeshift lineups due to missing multiple injured players, but that fact doesn’t excuse what I saw from the Dutch on Wednesday. Germany dominated the Netherlands in a friendly that was played last November, and Holland were bossed around by their bitter rivals in a Euro 2012 game that wasn’t as close as the 2-1 scoreline would indicate. This was a chance for the Netherlands to avenge those defeats and to also give their supporters a chance to celebrate the end of a calendar year that brought with it only disappointment at the international level. Holland instead put together the type of heartless and gutless performance that cost Bert van Marwijk his job this past summer, happily settling for a draw at home.
It’s unfortunate that this game was shown live on ESPN2. One would think that choosing to feature a match that involved two world class teams who also don’t like each other on national television would be only a good thing. What those who tuned into the station at 2:25 pm ET got, however, was, as my buddy Travis said to me, “a perfect example of why some people think soccer is boring.”
I hope those people weren’t watching.