Sunday, June 25, 2006

The teams come soaked of sweat out of the tunnel. It is over ninety degrees, and they play to the death. Winner stays, looser leaves. Robben and van Bommel, two Dutch strikers, are in the line-up. Van Nisterlrooy and van der Vaart, two other Dutch strikers are on the bench. Van Basten, the Dutch coach, is shaking things up. I hope it works.
Portugal kicks off in the tradition purple while the Netherlands play in white and blue, despite our traditional bright orange.
Van Bommel, for the Netherlands, releases a shot in the first minute. From twenty meters, he shoots the ball one meter to the left of the target.
"They nearly had an early goal," says the commentator while Van Bommel in the same minute receives a yellow card, for a different play.
In the third minute, Robben, a Dutch striker, shoots from twenty meters the ball one meter wide. The Dutch cannot find the target, but they seem in control. Offside saves a shot from Pauletta, a Portuguese striker. He stands one on one with Van Der Sar, the Dutch goalkeeper, while the linesman raises his flag. I see holes in the Dutch midfield, my nerves tenses.
Twelve minutes into the game, the Dutch goalkeeper, Van Der Sar, neglects a playback ball. Edwin van der Sar is playing with my heart pressure.

Robben, the Dutch striker, runs out from the offside ambush. He is face to face with the keeper. He does not shoot, instead he dribbles back into the Portuguese defense. The Dutch still get a shot, but the actual opportunity is gone.
Minutes later Robben passes the ball through two Portuguese defenders. He cannot follow the ball, and the referee books him for diving. Netherlands slows the pace. Fear of a second yellow for a player must enter the minds. The referee already booked three Dutch players.
Then doom happens, the Dutch shall never forget the twenty third minute. Portugal, in a relapse of glory, outplays the Dutch defense. Netherlands stands still, while the ball beats our keeper, Van Der Sar.


The atmosphere of the match switches, not to mention the atmosphere in my front room. The game becomes a blur, my mind is in disbelieve.
The Dutch dream receives a spark in the thirty-six minute when the ball cracks the crossbar, from a close range shot. Snyder, a Dutch striker, kicks the post out of frustration. I hit my head against the wall.

Four minutes before the end of regular time in the first half, A Portuguese defender raises his foot high into the neck of van Robben, the Dutch striker. The referee sees nothing, and denies the Dutch a penalty.
Netherlands come close to an equalizer, and the Portuguese come close to a second goal. A minute before halftime a Portuguese player receives his second yellow. Portugal will play with ten men. I cannot help to smile.
My smile disappears quickly in the second half, when the eleven Dutch cannot break down ten Portuguese men. Portugal is even inching to score again.
"You got to wonder what a second goal would do for Holland," asks the commentator.
I do not want to know.
My heart rate reaches record heights while the Dutch bombard the Portuguese.
In the sixty-first minute, the advantage is lost when a Dutch player receives a red card, after his second yellow. Now it is ten against ten.
The game turns nasty. The teams turn to exchanging words. Words turn to scuffs. Scuffs turn to head butts. The gloves are off.
"We could see a street fight here," says the commentator, while a Dutch player receiver his second yellow card, and is send off with a red.

He could, not me, I have turned off my television.
When I check back, the game is over. Portugal plays England in the quarterfinal. I unplug the television, the internet connection, and I lay the horn of the hook.
Tonight, I do not want to be bothered.