World Cup blog

Will Dutch face the music against Argentina?


After their "total football" win over Brazil, the Netherlands may face Argentina's Lionel Messi  in Mozart mode in the final, if we follow one journalist's analogy with the film Amadeus (you've all seen that, haven't you?).


Lionel Messi is on show later on as Argentina take on Germany in the quarter-final in Cape Town. 

The Barcelona forward scored 47 times for his club as they won the Spanish title for a second consecutive season and reached the latter stages of the Uefa Champions League. 

One of the surprises of this World Cup has been that Messi hasn’t scored.

Gonzalo Higuain has found the back of the net four times and Carlos Tevez twice.

 But Messi? Nada.

I was out the other night with a couple of journalists. One of them, who lives in Barcelona, was talking about the last 16 game between Spain and Portugal in Cape Town.

How disappointing was Cristiano Ronaldo? he asked .

And then he came up with his Amadeus gambit.

I said I’d cite him if I used his theory in the blog.

So, according to John Carlin, the film Amadeus can be used as a symbol for Cristiano Ronaldo.

When he was at Manchester United in England, they won the league title three times on the trot, a Uefa champions league and a few other baubles.

He was a prince. The Portuguese flyer was often the difference between a victory and a draw or a draw instead of defeat. It really was Mozart United.

But when he arrived in Spain, there was the boy wonder Messi at Barcelona. No matter how decisively Cristiano Ronaldo played, Barcelona and Messi just kept excelling.

Real finished runners-up with a massive number of points but it was still a few digits behind Barcelona.

Now that he’s at Real Madrid he’s been shown up as a second fiddle - like the Italian composer Salieri in the film. Messi is the Mozart.

Carlin will probably deploy more detail when he expounds his theory in one of his columns.

It’s been said that Messi doesn’t play as well for Argentina as he does for Barcelona – so he just plays brilliantly and essentially spreads fear.

While chatting to the Nigeria midfielder Dickson Etuhu after the Nigeria Argentina group B game, I asked him what it was like being in midfield and watching him.

He rolled his eyes and said it was frightening what he could do even if you got near him..

Before they captured Ronaldo, Real had Arjen Robben. He’s a fragile lad and is often injured but when he’s up and running, the Dutchman is a bit tricky.

Many Spanish football commentators referred to him as Real’s Messi but he wasn’t as glamorous as Ronaldo so he was dispatched and, lo and behold, Robben worked his magic at Bayern Munich to help them to a German league and cup double and the final of the Uefa Champions League.

Real discarded another Dutchman. Wesley Schnyder didn’t want to leave but it was made clear he had to make way for sexier players. 

José Mourinho took him to Inter Milan and the rest, as they say, is Italian league and cup double and Uefa Champions League medal. 

Both Robben and Schnyder are into the semis with the Netherlands, part of the most successful Dutch team for a generation. 

They were instrumental as the Netherlands came from behind to beat Brazil 2-1.

Schnyder got the winner from a corner taken by Robben who was fouled eight times during the match as the Brazilians unravelled.

That’s not what we usually associate with the Brazilians. But the Dutch did not lose their cool despite the provocation.

They just wore the Brazilians down. I spoke to the former Dutch captain Rudy Krol who told me that he was impressed with the spirit and attitude within the Dutch camp.

They’re usually renowned for imploding as advocates of "total football" battle with pragmatists.

This World Cup campaign has been notable for the singular lack of prettiness about their work. It’s effective and methodical. Almost German (while die Mannschaft have oft been a white whirlwind across the field). 

The Netherlands were outclassed by the Brazilians in the first half. But they didn’t lose belief and they got their rewards. 

By the end of the game the Brazilians were reduced to brutality – Felipe Melo was given a straight red for stamping on Robbens’s thigh. 

That’s not what we normally expect from Brazil. But then resolve and resilience aren’t epithets usually associated with the Dutch. 

And they might meet Mozart and co in the final.


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