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"The intellectualisation
of football has
always foundered
on a simple problem-
-the players. Doing
all your most
rewarding thinking
with your feet seems
to dull the philo-
sophical impulse.
Unless, of course,
you are Dutch.
According to legend,
Europeans played
a moronic, muscular
version of the world's
game, until Holland
proclaimed its vision
of total football in the
1974 World Cup,
and enlightenment

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football

Holland keep a cool head

Maarten Wijffels
Wednesday 10 September 2008

A game that seemed decided at 0-2 got tight in the end.

After the final whistle the new manager could be relieved and celebrate the victory with a big hug for his assistants Phillip Cocu, Frank de Boer and ‘Cooky’ Voorn.

"It was a warm night, especially after they pulled one back," captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst said.

"We deservedly went 2-0 up and I think we deserve a big compliment as we went the distance. The first step towards the World Cup has been successful. Now we must continue on this path."

It was interesting to see how Oranje stood their ground after the Macedonian goal by Goran Pandev, 15 minutes from time. The forward converted a spot kick after a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar foul was penalized harshly.

For the silenced crowd in the City Stadium in Skopje it was the signal to loudly support their team again.

In the past it would happen that Holland lost their heads, the team now remained cool and survived.

Holland were hanging by their fingernails a few times, but four days after they upset Scotland Macedonia were unable to again surprise a bigger team.

Holland's victory was deserved, though the performance was never brilliant, except for one stretch of the game.

Holland's second goal by Rafael van der Vaart symbolized what Bert van Marwijk expects of his team.

The goal was created by a collective effort.

A few players put pressure on the Macedonian defense, and repossessed the ball that was played deep by Van Bommel immediately into the feet of Van der Vaart on the edge of the box, who finished it clinically.

It was a series of quick handling that seem to decide international football more and more often these days.

It was also a sequence Holland were unable to repeat throughout the rest of the game.

After a broiling hot day the game started in a comfortable evening temperature in the lineup that had been expected, with Robben replacing Babel as the only change to the lost game against Australia.

The plan was clear: keep the field wide when in possession and try to get through over the wings.

A second option was to get offensive midfielder Van der Vaart into play, who played in-between the lines.

But it rarely happened.

That was partially due to the condition of the pitch, visibly by the extra touches all players needed when controlling the ball.

But it was also due to the decisions of the players, who often didn't see the opportunities that were there.

The home team allowed Holland possession and sat back on a wall of five defenders hoping for a quick counter attack through the only two players with a bit of international class: forwards Naumoski en Pandev.

The duo tried to stir up the fire from the start, diving a lot and being theatrical.

They succeeded only by getting Robin van Persie the first yellow card of the game when the Arsenal striker roughly brought down Lazio Roma striker Pandev.

After 35 minutes the star of Macedonian football thought he had opened the score, but his goal was disallowed for offside.

After the break a second goal also did not get the consent of the Polish referee Gilewski.

The opener on the other side did.

After a quickly taken freekick Heitinga reacted well on a deflected Robben cross and headed home.

It was the Atletico Madrid player's sixth international goal and the start of Holland's best phase.

With Dirk Kuyt and Ibrahim Afellay replacing Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben Holland managed to secure the three points, despite Pandevs penalty.

On the other side Holland squandered two good chances to score a third goal.

Watch the highlights


Robben: "Hard to grasp"
Van Bommel after defeat: "I'm a little speechless"
Van Marwijk: "In no mood to get negative"
Flat Dutch don't know what to do with 20+ chances
Netherlands-Denmark: lineup
Joris Mathijsen recovering well
Cruyff: "Kuyt at right back"
Mathijsen still uncertain - could miss entire tournament
Holland and Denkmark: head-to-head
Van Persie seems worth the confidence
Van Marwijk again opts for Van Persie instead of Huntelaar
Huntelaar: "Upset is not the right the word"
Ron Vlaar: "I know what I am capable of"
Van Marwijk: "We remained disciplined"
Ibi and Rafa show manager he has options
Ibrahim Afellay Oranje's Zidane?
Van Marwijk looking for certainties
Cruijff: "Not enough depth in your game is asking for trouble"
Bouma: "I've gone through the desert"
Van Persie: "Defeat at this point not a problem"
Euro 2012 finals squad
Mathijsen strains muscle
Bulgarians surprise Oranje
Ola Toivonen's goal sees Sweden beat Holland and qualify
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar sinks Moldova
Oranje maintain perfection, beat Finland
Netherlands thrash San Marino in Euro 2012 qualifier
Kuyt kills off brave Hungary for Netherlands
Oranje trash Hungary
Sweden no match for Oranje
Van Marwijk: "We left them without chance"
Dirk Kuyt out for months
"We are prepared for all scenarios"
Minimal but easy win for Holland in Moldavia
Van Marwijk: "We played very well"
Holland want result after tumultuous week
Van der Vaart to replace De Jong
"This case only has losers"
Van Marwijk drops Nigel de Jong
Holland & Moldavia: head-to-head
Holland & Sweden: head-to-head
Wisgerhof replaces Maduro
Bouma back on the radar
Netherlands - Finland 2-1
Van Marwijk: "We were late all over the pitch"
Van Bommel: "There wasn't anymore in it"
Heitinga: "That can not happen"
Van der Vaart unhappy with role on the side
Kuyt and Boulahrouz out with injury
"It all revolves around Jari Litmanen"
Sneijder: "Don't tinker with it"
Alonso: "No hard feelings"
Van Marwijk: "Second half was better"
San Marino-Netherlands 0-5
Oranje: a new mission