Bright start, scintillating football; that’s what Slovakia did by trying to ‘mean business’. From the first couple of minutes till the end of the first period, the match didn’t lack of spark and excitement. Weiss was admirable on the left flank just as Robert Vittek was tremendous in his position. But with all the experience that they have acquired individually as well as collectively, the Netherlands wisely found their way out to let the game be evenly balanced.
What let the Slovakians look somehow behind was the fact that the Dutch seemed the most dangerous each time they used the wings to attack. Van Persie was the main man that created danger against Slovakia. His 7th minute header was the first shot on target in the match. A few moments later, the Dutch striker intelligently set up Sneijder who couldn’t do more than just shooting straight into Mucha.
Now who else on the pitch but Arjen Robben – the world’s second fastest footballer – could have been better placed to open the scoring sheet? The play maker, who was just experiencing his first start at the 2010 World Cup, applied his pace to reach Wesley Sneijder’s clever long ball from the midfield. Once he had the ball at his feet, Arjen Robben worked out a miracle. He expertly cut inside Zabavnik and Jan Durica before firing low from outside the D. Excellent effort; 1-0 to the Netherlands after 18 minutes.
But the Slovakians did not seat back from there. They gradually found roads to cruise into their opponents’ half and even won a few free-kicks. At the back, however, open spaces allowed the Oranje – favored by the referee – to respond to Slovakia’s threats in attack. But the underdogs held on tight although they couldn’t hit the Dutch on the back before half time as the score line remained 1-0.
How much power does Arjen Robben have in his feet? Certainly a lot! Just as both teams were trying to settle at the start of the second period, the Bayern Munich star repeated the move which saw him break the deadlock in the 18th minute of the game. It would have been 2-0 if the ball had not been cleared away for a corner. Danger for Slovakia!
Twice, Wesley Sneijder attempted to double Holland’s lead from a free-kick. But you would have to congratulate the efforts of Slovakia’s goalkeeper to keep his side in contention for a place in the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup. With the way the Dutch were controlling the game, it was hard to imagine how the Slovakians would get the vital equalizer they were dreaming about.
But when the chance fell to Vittek at the 68th minute, Slovakian fans surely thought that was it. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t. Vittek lost his nerves and disappointingly fired the ball straight into Stekelenburg. The same player again missed a glorious chance to equalize for the Slovakians with a quarter of the game remaining. What was actually going wrong with Robert Vittek, the man that contributed to Italy’s downfall?
When Kuyt set up Sneijder to make it 2-0 in the 84th minute, it was sure that Slovakia’s 2010 World Cup dream was over. But controversy wasn’t omitted from Holland’s second goal. The Slovkians had all the right in the world to complain about how quick the Dutch had effect their free-kick which led to Sneijder’s goal.
But as referees never change their opinions, the goal stood – meaning that the damage had been done for Slovakia. What could the underdogs manage within three minutes of added time? Nothing more than a penalty kick that Robert Vittek converted to comfort Slovakian fans. It’s the end of the road for this tiny European nation. The Netherlands have made it through to the quarter-finals - controversially though.
|Real Madrid||May 2|
|Celta de Vigo||May 4|
|Bayern München||May 6|