Saturday, June 12, 2010
Not-so total football proving successful
There is nothing breathless, swashbuckling or 'Total' about the football of the Dutch, but they might well be the first nation to reach the knock-out phase of this World Cup. A draw or a win for Denmark against Cameroon is enough for Bert van Marwijk's side to qualify from Group E after grinding out a one-goal victory over Japan in Durban.
• Van Marjwik happy to win ugly
• Photo gallery
• Japan Blog: Not a bad result
Still without Arjen Robben, the Dutch have a hard time bringing their creative men into action. Robin van Persie now experiences what so many Oranje strikers have suffered before, as he was mostly ignored by the midfield. He also found it difficult to create space for himself between the troupes of defenders that have cluttered around him in these two group games.
As a result Van Persie began to drop back, hindering Sneijder and Van der Vaart in the process. With the lack of depth on both wings it is difficult for any striker to make a mark in the Dutch team. Behind him, the midfielders were unable to make their moves either as they were well marshalled by the Japanese opposition; the build-up could hardly reach the creative players.
On a positive note, they kept possession by passing around neatly. Many other teams in South Africa use the long ball when they run out of ideas, which makes so many games hard to watch as passes go astray. At least the Dutch tried to pass their way through the Japanese defence, which stood firm. It may have been a snooze-a-thon for most of the 90 minutes, but it never reached the standard of irritation caused by the plethora of fouls, misunderstandings and miskicks we have seen in recent days.
Afterwards, the players again complained about the difficult circumstances of the dry surface and the unusual climate, which apparently does not suit teams who prefer to play at a high tempo. And Mark van Bommel almost lost his voice, trying to communicate instructions above the incessant noise of the vuvuzelas. But with one game to go in the group stage the Dutch are the only European team with a clear eye on the next round; their style so far may not have been pretty, but it is effective.
Meanwhile, the nation is anxiously waiting for news of Arjen Robben's hamstring, with the winger thought to be making great strides in his recovery. He might be fit for the second round game and should add an extra dimension to the Dutch game. As the Oranje's football is all going through the middle of the park, his pace on the wings might open several attacking doors.
Beer we go
Robben's fitness has been the focus of many headlines this week, but it has been matched by the story of the Bavaria Babes. They are not Bayern Munich's female following, but a group of 36 models who were expelled from the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg during the game between Holland and Denmark for wearing tight orange dresses. The dresses are free gifts in Dutch supermarkets for buyers of a crate of Bavaria beer and provided an eye-catching episode in the ambush marketing campaigns of brewers at recent tournaments.
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Dutch fans with Bavaria Lederhosen were turned away at the turnstiles, while in 2008 the enormous orange hats of Heineken were banned by UEFA. This year, Heineken supplied the public with their brand name on a vuvuzela, while the Bavaria brewery introduced its orange dresses. Rival brewery InBev pays annually between $10 - $25 million to be an official sponsors and supplier of the World Cup with their brand Budweiser. It makes them the exclusive rights holder for alcohol beverages within a one-mile radius of any World Cup stadium.
FIFA has granted them brand exclusivity for this zone. Competing breweries are well aware of this agreement, which was specially implemented in South-African law for the duration of the tournament. Yet they are looking for stunts to ambush the exclusivity, using the public as their instrument. In Germany, ticket holders wearing the branded Lederhosen were asked to take them off, forcing supporters to walk around in their boxer shorts in the stands.
Unconfirmed rumour has it that the Bavaria Brewery has sent two female representatives with a box of orange dresses to Johannesburg. There they hired a group of models to wear the skirts during the game and make quite a show. They got their tickets from a South African marketing agency which bought them from former Jamaica international Robbie Earle, who works as a pundit for English channel ITV.
Earle was the first victim of the stunt as he was fired on the spot. The models were arrested but subsequently released by the police, but the two Dutch women who set up the campaign are due in court next week. Bavaria Brewery has decided to refrain from any more marketing activities during the World Cup as the arrests have given their brand name enough attention. Meanwhile in Holland, politicians have stated that the government will not change the law to accommodate the FIFA rules. These developments may serve to dent the 2018 World Cup bid of Holland and Belgium.