Upstart Takes on the World (Cup): Day 29

9 July 2010

Written by: Evan Harding

Remember the bravado? It might have been at work, when we didn’t know the real consequences. It might have been in the schoolyard, when we didn’t know any better. It might have been at the pub, when we didn’t know our own names. Whenever it was, we’ve all found ourselves in a stoush with someone bigger and more powerful.

And what was our response? ‘Bring it on, I’m not afraid, do I look afraid?’ we said as we wet ourselves, mentally if not physically.

It was in that spirit that the Netherlands’ Dirk Kuyt came out to assure everyone that the Dutch are definitely, absolutely, 100% not afraid of Spain.

‘We are not afraid at all,’ said Kuyt, before deflecting these accusations of fear onto the next-smallest kid in the yard. ‘You could see the Germans were afraid of Spain. They didn’t try to attack. We are going to attack and then you will see weaknesses coming to the surface.’

What was noticeable, however, was the lack of reference to fear, or any similar emotions, from the Spanish. But then why would they? We wouldn’t go into a game of keepings-off with our nine-month-old niece by stating firmly that we aren’t scared.

To be fair, Andrés Iniesta agreed with his Dutch counterpart. ‘The Germans were scared of giving us space and we hadn’t expected them to be so defensively minded. They allowed us to have the ball.’

But there may have been some kind of fear in the Dutch camp: a fear of vampires. Not the ‘I will suck your blood’ traditional type, or the ‘I will suck the life out of your defence with slick ball movement’ kind of vampire that the Spanish represent. No, a more timid, humble vampire born in an era when ‘Total Football’ reigned supreme (well, except in World Cup finals). We mean none other than Count von Count of Sesame Street Fame.

‘The difference between’74 and ’78 is 32 and 28 years,’ said coach Bert van Marwijk, dismissing any comparisons to the era of Johan Cruyff, who incidentally joined Paul the Octopus by choosing Spain to win.

Perhaps it may be wise to whisper in van Marwijk’s ear that it is not 2006, but in fact 2010.

MUST-SEE: There have been a few ridiculous quotes from this World Cup. And while this column’s favourite, clarifying what a death threat means in Nigeria, is not in this compilation on the Sports Illustrated website, the rest of them are pretty good.

EYEBROW-RAISER: Here’s a stat of which you may not have been aware: If Spain wins the final, New Zealand will be the only team to go through the World Cup undefeated. Take a moment to let that sink in.

Evan Harding is co-producer of The Contenders Daily Bite, a daily World Cup short which can be seen on Tribal Football. A Master of Global Communication student at La Trobe University, he is an upstart editor armed with a month’s supply of coffee and a Spanish chance to still make back the money lost on an ill-conceived bet. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.