Netherlands: 'ugly' football
Referee Howard Webb shows the red card to John Heitinga. (AP)
Johannesburg - The Dutch were bent on showing that they could win ugly for their first World Cup title, but they only got the ugly part right.
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With eight yellow cards, one red and endless arguing that even spilled over beyond the final whistle, the Netherlands lost much more than 1-0 to Spain in the final, they lost a lot of their credibility as creative masters as well.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk changed the 'Total Football' of flair and spontaneity of the 1970s into 'Result football', using cynical plotting for victory. The outcome was the same -- the Netherlands is still waiting for its first World Cup.
Van Marwijk took his silver medal off as soon as he walked off the podium, with a look of disgust on his face.
"Our fouls may be a sad thing for a final, but it is not our style," Van Marwijk said.
Four years after Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the final, it was John Heitinga's turn for collecting his second yellow card in the 109th minute. At that time, six Dutch players had already been booked and two more were to follow.
"I would have loved to win it with football that is not so beautiful," Van Marwijk said.
With a team flush with talent, only Arjen Robben shone on Sunday and almost gave the Dutch a breakthrough goal twice on darting runs through the center. Each time, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was perfect in blocking his attempts.
"You felt that the team that would score first would win," Van Marwijk said. "We had two great chances through Arjen. We made a real game out of it."
Two years ago, the coach picked victories over beauty, a sacrilege at a time when Dutch football prided itself on producing the most Brazilian-style football in Europe. But while Brazil has five titles to show for it, the Netherlands carries the disappointing tag of being the best team never to have won the World Cup.
Van Marwijk has taught his team to win ugly when it needed, and they started doing so. And as long as they won in South Africa, six victories in a row, all was well.
Millions in the Netherlands painted every village and town orange and thousands traveled to Johannesburg happy that such football brought them within one game of winning the World Cup.
When it counted, though, their creativity was stifled and the nastiness came out.
Reflecting his intimidating and cynical play all through the tournament, midfielder Mark van Bommel went straight over to referee Howard Webb in the Spanish half to remonstrate and was soon joined by Wesley Sneijder, Robben and a gesticulating Joris Mathijsen.
"We are angry that we lost because we came so close," Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt said. "I know you cannot blame others, but the ref was more favorable to Spain."