Good evening, sports fans! I guess the first quiestion that I have to ask is this: have you recovered from last night? I certainly haven’t, and will return to the subject once last time in order to briefly mention that we will most likely remember where we were yesterday evening for the rest of our lives. The past, however, is the past and this evening is all about the immediate future again as the Netherlands play Argentina in the second of the semi-final matches at this summer’s World Cup finals. Having brilliantly predicted that last night’s match would be a tight one – for God’s sake don’t ever bet on the basis of anything that I say – I’m going to steer clear of saying anything that might cause me to look stupid in a few hours’ time. You can insert your own jokes here, of course.
The theme of this evening’s match might well turn out to be catharsis. It’s been twenty-four years since Argentina last reached a World Cup final and four years more than that since they last won it and, whilst Lionel Messi has been predictably outstanding so far, Argentina have occasionally seemed a little out of sorts so far. Still, getting to a World Cup final would a release for both Argentina and Messi, both of whom have flattered to deceive at recent tournaments, though they would, of course, have the consolation prize of a third/fourth place play-off match against a demoralised Brazil should they fail to get through this evening.
The Netherlands, meanwhile, have been here before. Runners-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010, the Dutch have made the final of the competition before but haven’t yet won it, and that might well be an itch that needs to be scratched. To add to this, there is the small matter of the identity of the opponents should they win this evening. The Netherlands and Germany is one of international football’s great grudge matches, from the 1974 World Cup final in Munich to the bitter match played in Milan in 1990 when Frank Rijkaard spat at Rudi Voller, and beyond. This would be a grudge match in the purest possible terms, and the Dutch team are surely desperate for it to happen again.
So, no predictions from me this evening, but you can join us just before 9pm (BST) this evening for the whole match, plus whatever else happens to pass through our tiny minds over the course of the evening. Should Ed Carter turn up, expect a spectacular eulogy to the Dutch food chain Febo. Meanwhile, sit back and enjoy some highlights from the 1978 World Cup final. If we come anywhere close to that excitement again, we won’t have had a bad evening at all.
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