Holland 2-1 Ivory Coast

Well, we’ve enjoyed them being here, but the Ivory Coast’s elimination is, on balance, just about justified. Not because they haven’t played well. They’ve been technically excellent. However, Holland have played better, taken their chances and just about deserve it. The comments made about Didier Drogba needing seven chances to score once have turned out to be correct. He only had about six chances today.

Holland, on the other hand, were almost infuriatingly European. They were tight across the back, passed the ball around and crisply, and took their chances. Even Van Nistelrooy, who scored the second goal, looked as if he was interested in what was going on. Marco Van Basten should get special commendation for getting Van Nistelrooy involved. Old Horse Face hasn’t appeared terribly interested in football for the last eight months or so. Van Basten appears to have woken up that has been laying dormant for this period of time. Van Persie looked sharp, and took his free-kick for the first goal well, although I hold the Ivory Coast’s goalkeeper Tizie somewhat responsible as well. Bad positioning.

Kone pulled one back with an outstanding strike, Ivory Coast hit the post, Van Der Saar made a couple of terrific saves and Van Persie had to clear a shot off the line… the list goes on. It’s reasonable to argue that the Ivory Coast were unfortunate, but, ultimately, they paid for their finishing. Holland, now comfortable in Argentina’s shade, can progress to the second round knowing that, in an age when football is as much about cynicism as romance, their pragmatism might just help them see off better opposition than this later in the tournament. Holland are still, for me, dark horses to go a long way in this tournament.