Netherlands 3-2 Uruguay (Cape Town)
Voting Wesley Sneijder man of the match for his performance against Uruguay last night gave me a good idea of how the nation thinks when it comes to football. Scoring a goal – suspect to be going wide – was enough for those logging onto ITV’s website to give him the award. They were probably the same people who speculate on transfer talk: Tottenham should sign Diego Forlan, Chelsea need Sebastian Schweinsteiger, West Ham should bid for Thierry Henry. It was so simple to give Sneijder the award and they had overlooked the quality of Robin van Persie’s second half concert.
Every RVP lay-off or first time ball seemed to bring the Netherlands to life. Give the ball into his feet and good things would happen. While RVP was showing off his detail to the game, like passing in front of a team-mate to keep the move flowing, or putting the perfect weight on a pass to make life easy for others, Dirk Kuyt was fumbling around with is head down and getting the Dutch nowhere fast.
Wesley Sniejder has had a great tournament, but the energy of the Uruguay midfield last night was a pressure he found difficult to deal with. His anxiety was clear each time he came short to meet his defence and take the ball off them from two yards away. All the while, RVP explored a mature patience for a forward playing up front on his own, working spaces and remaining alert despite long spells of tediously flicking on headers.
At the moment I’m narrowly leading my World Cup fantasy league, which has money riding on it. I had RVP as captain and was eager for him to score, but he was more interested in creating chances for his team who couldn’t finish off his work. A slender first time flick sent Arjen Robben one-on-one, but whose weak attempt to chip the ball fell into the keeper’s arms. RVP also showed why managers have the confidence to play him in a central role, when he effortlessly took a ball out of the air, held off two players and found a pass inside to Rafael van der Vart who too couldn’t apply the finish.
I might easily have chosen one of the Uruguayan midfielders as man of the match, like Diego Perez who was a tank in the centre and showed an appetite for good passing. I get the impression Marc van Bommel enjoys the rough and tumble of the middle of the pitch, but even he was a little dismayed at the boisterousness of the South Americans. It had been the reason for their good defensive record in the tournament up until the semis.
For the Netherlands, it could easily have been RVP. The commentators had failed to pick up on his class, as had the rest of the nation in thinking Sneijder had another of his best games. If he had got a touch to Sneijder’s goal and had been credited with the Dutch’s second, maybe he would have. If the rest of the Dutch team show off the kind of radar RVP has, and pick him out more accurately, just as he does, then the final could be the Arsenal man’s crowning glory. He deserves the goals and the recognition. Veel succes, Robin.