Jeezo peezo. If that farce was a World Cup 1/8th final match, I wonder how we managed to avoid death by narcolepsy during the group rounds. Certainly the Netherlands deserved its 2-1 victory over Slovakia, but only because it lost what for the most part looked like a sleepwalk competition: the Dutch couldn’t quite manage to be as boring and bad as its rivals of the day.
No knock on its first goal—a perfectly fine shot by Arjen Robben that broke up what even by the 17th minute felt like seriously uninspired play. (And why should any of these guys be pumped? They’re only three matches short of a World Cup final!) But the second goal by Wesley Sneijder was the direct result of horrid Slovak goalkeeping—a screw up so bad it recalled memories of Mexico’s keeper sprinting far beyond his are during his nation’s final group match, then “clearing” a ball into Spanish possession so it could be promptly chipped in to a monumentally abandoned cage from 30 meters out. Sure, the goalie brain seizure notwithstanding, Dirk Kuyt had to make the pass that Sneijder put into the net—never a 100% certainty, especially in a waste of a match like this one—but it was a Slovak gift all the same.
Between times, the Slovaks had two enormous face-offs with the Dutch keeper that they failed to knock in—due in large part to Slovakia being really crappy, at least today. Slovakia finally got on the board in the last second of the match on a (totally undeserved) penalty most of us were (by then) expecting to be Panenka-ed into the parking lot or beyond. It was that kind of game. Indeed, if North Korea-Brazil in the group stage ranked a six on the excitement scale of 10—and this weekend’s knockout between Ghana and the U.S. a 7.5—this match was about a two. On the vegetable scale, that’s a Brussels sprout, maybe even an unsalted branch of celery. That’s not the kind of amuse-gueule you’re hankering for on a World Cup menu.
Okay, because I know Tony will take me to task for this one, I’ll try to be a little fair (kill joy…). The plain, low-fat yogurt Dutch were clearly much farther off their potential creamy game than the non-dairy substitute Slovaks were atypically more like, uh, substandard non-dairy substitute. Which, doubtless, is why the Dutch level of dismalness was enough to best Slovakia’s footballing drudgery. Meanwhile, we’re getting a bit used to this from the Netherlands this Cup: the side’s habit thus far has been to play at only a tad higher the level of its competition in order to win—something that may mean the Dutch will really start shining once they start encountering the powerhouses (with all due respect to Japan, Denmark, and Cameroon).
The option if they don’t is that the men in Orange won’t be around much longer to bore us any more.