The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

Shades of Oranje

June 24, 2014 | by

The Netherlands and its flexible formations.

Louis_van_Gaal_(1988)

Louis van Gaal, team manager for the Netherlands, in 1988, as interim manager with Ajax.

France ’98 remains the standard for World Cups in my lifetime. The number of great players in their prime, the quality of the games in the knockout rounds, the last-second drama of the now (thankfully) abolished Golden Goal—a rule by which the first team to score a goal in extra time won—it all proved irresistible. France as a nation had turned to embrace the right, and up had risen the National Front; nevertheless, people traveled in happy droves to spend days, if not weeks, in their dream of Romantic France. During those June days, football flourished under what should have been a crushing paradox of love and hate, more felt than fully understood.

Brazil ’14 is not France ’98, but it’s getting close. Its group stage has been unquestionably better. Both tournaments have been played in times of terrible turbulence, providing a welcome distraction for some and annoying others—as in 1998, regardless of the result, it will be a national triumph and a national disgrace.

Yesterday, a friend asked me how I feel about it all. But do we feel about anything as an “all” or a whole? Aren’t there portions we consciously or unconsciously admire, see, unsee, or detest? At times, the games in this World Cup have been so good that I’ve had to close my eyes and put my head back in order to clear my mind, to review what I’ve just seen, a team’s movement, or the sounds of the match, the commentators chasing the game, the mazy motion of New York City midday summer noise sidewinding through my open windows.

Yesterday, I found myself closing my eyes in dismay. The Netherlands, a.k.a. the Oranje—in homage to their royal color, inherited from Willem van Oranje–played Chile for the top spot in Group B. Both teams were undefeated, having trounced the defending champ, Spain, and discarded Australia. Because of goal difference, Chile needed to win this final game in order to top the group; Holland needed only a draw. At a time when some teams were already being eliminated, these two were comfortable in knowing that they would both move on—still, there was much at stake in a seemingly inconsequential game. Assuming Brazil were to beat Cameroon in the later game—as they ended up doing—the runner-up of Group B would play Brazil in the next game, and afterward the loser would have to go home. Brazil has hardly been sharp thus far, but if you can avoid playing Brazil in Brazil, especially in an all-or-nothing game, you’d better do it. But what if Brazil hadn’t won? Or what if Mexico—for my money the best team of the tournament thus far—had absolutely routed Croatia, overtaking Brazil in Group A on goal difference? (This nearly happened.) Then the team that won Group B, rather than the runner-up, would’ve had the distinct nonpleasure of playing Brazil. In other words: everything was in the air. It was time to be flexible. Read More »

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Tulipomania!

February 3, 2014 | by

On Holland’s legendary tulip bubble, which burst today in 1637.

Jan_Brueghel_the_Younger,_Satire_on_Tulip_Mania,_c._1640

Detail from Jan Brueghel the Younger’s Satire on Tulip Mania, 1640

When economists need to summon an age of unchecked speculation and financial fecklessness—usually as an analog to our own—the Dutch tulip mania is at the top of the list. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s an early and especially hysterical example of the vagaries of the stock market: In the mid-1630s, the Dutch fell rapturously in love with tulips, whose vivid petals made them the envy of every Hendrik and Veerle in the neighborhood. The flower became a status symbol, and the Dutch were all but tripping over one another’s clogs in a race to conspicuously consume. To satisfy burgeoning demand, speculators began to trade in what were essentially tulip futures; these grew outlandishly complicated and expensive, and on the third of February, 1637, the tulip market collapsed.

The Scottish journalist Charles Mackay gave currency to the incident. He offers a trenchant, if dubious, account of the whole debacle in his 1841 book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which takes, as its title suggests, a pretty dim view of group dynamics. In his chapter on “the tulipomania,” Mackay presents a cautionary tale rife with tulip jobbers, tulip marts, tulip notaries, and tulip parties:

The demand for tulips of a rare species increased so much in the year 1636, that regular marts for their sale were established on the Stock Exchange of Amsterdam, in Rotterdam, Harlaem, Leyden, Alkmar, Hoorn, and other towns … The tulip-jobbers speculated in the rise and fall of the tulip stocks, and made large profits by buying when prices fell, and selling out when they rose. Many individuals grew suddenly rich. A golden bait hung temptingly out before the people, and one after the other, they rushed to the tulip-marts, like flies around a honey-pot … Nobles, citizens, farmers, mechanics, sea-men, footmen, maid-servants, even chimney-sweeps and old clothes-women, dabbled in tulips. People of all grades converted their property into cash, and invested it in flowers. Houses and lands were offered for sale at ruinously low prices, or assigned in payment of bargains made at the tulip-mart … In the smaller towns, where there was no exchange, the principal tavern was usually selected as the “show-place,” where high and low traded in tulips, and confirmed their bargains over sumptuous entertainments. These dinners were sometimes attended by two or three hundred persons, and large vases of tulips, in full bloom, were placed at regular intervals upon the tables and sideboards for their gratification during the repast. Read More »

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Zero Hour in South Africa

July 9, 2010 | by

There are two games left. The third place playoff takes place on Saturday, Uruguay against Germany in a game often described as one nobody wants to play in. It can be well worth watching though—teams have been known to forget about tactics and play with something approximating wild abandon, which in this World Cup will come as some relief.

Then on Sunday, it’s Spain against Holland; one of two favorites going into the tournament against the perennially-highly-fancied World Cup bridesmaids. Neither team has won it before, so whichever way it goes, there will be a new name on the list. It will be the first time a European team has won in another continent, a particular triumph for Old Europe, after the continent as a whole was dismissed following the group round, the commentators agreeing that the new champion would inevitably come from Latin America.

Both teams play the same formation, the 4-2-3-1 that uses the holding midfielders to prevent the other team from attacking. But oh, they do it so differently. Holland plays with two thugs there, Mark Van Bommel and Nigel de Jong to break up the attack and to do so by any means necessary or at least invisible. Once they have won possession, their only job — one they do very well — is to give the ball to Wesley Sneidjer, the conductor of the Dutch attack.

The leader of the pair is Van Bommel, who has managed to somehow commit 14 fouls, some of them proper horrors, whilst only getting one yellow card for dissent. Over the course of the tournament, Van Bommel’s star has risen in exact relationship to the amount of opprobrium heaped on him by fans. He is nasty, sly, always the first to complain to the ref about some perceived injury done to him—quite often when he was the one dishing out the punishment rather than the other way around. There is something reptilian about him; nasty eyes and an absolutely massive jaw. Without him the Dutch would never have gotten this far; he is a beast. Read More »

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