GROWING up, some of you might have been treated to the heroic deed of the Dutch boy Hans Brinker whose one little pinky saved Holland.
Driven by the greatest heights of imagination, American writer Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge created this literary invention to illustrate tenacity in the call of national duty.
Noticing a trickle of water seeping out from a line of dykes standing in the way of the North Sea, he dutifully plugged the hole, with his finger! Being out in the open alone and unaccompanied, he stuck to his lonely vigil as he was the only thing that stood; between salvation and watery inundation for his Dutch brethren.
It was a long, long time before he was discovered and for adults to take stock of the situation. His deed of derring do wended its way into Dutch folklore. It does not matter that the story is mere fantasy; Brinker saved the Dutch!
Which is something the Dutch team failed to do in the face of some Argentinian argy bargy in the semi-final tie of the World Cup.
After the fest of football that marked the earlier matches – I still have not caught my breath back from the 1 – 7 mauling the Germans inflicted on the hosts in Belo Horizonte 24 hours earlier – the best one can say about this Netherlands – Argentina tie was that it was a dull drab draw.
Just imagine, there was only one attempt at goal from either side by the time the first 45 minutes was up.
Come on you guys, have a thought for us Malaysians – we stayed up all night and this is the best you can do? For me, either team, if this was what they were capable of; does not deserve to lift the Cup.
Both the Dutch and the Argentines share the blame. We harboured high hopes for the team that still revels in the glow of the legacy left by the likes of giants like Cruyff, Neeskens, Gullit and Van Basten.
I for one willed them to win. The Dutch do play a brand of intoxicating football that makes watching 11 marionettes in orange livery pure footballing joy. Perhaps the manner of their victory in their opening match against fellow European giants Spain lulled us into complacency.
Then the manner of the Dutch victory against Costa Rica in the quarter finals cemented their reputation further. This was where they wielded a heavy dose of tactical trickery during the celebrated penalty shootout. Coach van Gaal will forever be credited for switching his men like some sturdy foot soldiers ready to die for their General.
But their journey came to a halt against the cagey Argentines.
The full-time stalemate with the score remaining at nil – nil can be attributed to the familiarity with which all the 22 players on the pitch have with each other. They mostly ply their professional trade in the top leagues in Europe and play against, or with; each other week in week out.
Or, that they were all keeping their powder dry – which they will expend to the full should they make it all the way to the finals.
Back to the Dutch. Their coach has been widely credited for his tactical nous in juggling his men – more precisely; his goalkeeper. The one with longer reach was favoured during the penalty shootout and he duly delivered; and we all called van Gaal the messiah for that decision.
Now, why he did not employ the same tactic in this, the almost-the-mother-of-all penalty shootouts? Did he get his tactics wrong in using up all his three available substitutes by the end of regulation period? Abandoning a tried and tested formula, and losing in the process, must count as a football coaching crime bar none! Van Gaal will have to live with this decision forever more.
Or perhaps they should have called upon the spirit of Brinker, but it would still have required more than just the size of their pinky to save the nation this time.
As a result of the Dutch demise, Argentina will now have a 50% chance of lifting the trophy. It will turn up again at the same venue on Sunday (Monday here in Malaysia) to meet the might of the German Die Mannschaft.
That German machine Die Manschaft, is an altogether sterner way to say The Team (its literal English translation). The use of the definite article showing the pompous intent of the entire nation. Well, the Germans deserved to pump their chest which is now swelling with World Cup pride – daring as they did, to subject their host to such depths of undignified pugilistic pummelling.
We know the capacity of the Germans. They can be guaranteed of delivering the results when it matters. Talk about tactical competency and there’s none better.
Their victory has landed our enfant terrible of an MP – the one who represents Kinabatangan in hot water. His celebrated tweet rousing the spectre of Hitler was crass and callous, even for the common street yob.
We waited for swift admonishment. One did come in rather glacial fashion after the insensible twit (yes, twit) showed not one blind bit of remorse.
The action may be in far away Brazil, but it does appear that some fallout will come our way, here in Malaysia, if we don’t play ball.