Dutch football from Ajax to the Zuider Zee
Sigmund Freud, the famed Austrian neurologist, had a famous theory of 'repressed memory'. The hypothesis was that a subject would block out a painful or traumatic time in their life, then be unable to recall that memory.
For the footballers of San Marino, what happened on the night of Friday 2 September 2011 is a memory they will want to forget in a hurry
It was an evening where the record books were torn up. If a picture can speak a thousand words then so can a score-line, and after 90 minutes at the Philips Stadion, it read The Netherlands 11-0 San Marino.
Those blissfully unaware as the goals were flying in could be forgiven for making a quick double take when the score appeared on their television screen, computer monitor or Saturday morning newspaper. In their 106 year history, the Dutch national team had never before reached double figures in a game.
They have twice come close, rattling in nine against Finland in 1912 and against Norway in 1972, with Johan Neeskens famously scoring a hat-trick in the latter rout. There have been a few of 8-0 wins against Malta (1990) and low country rivals Belgium (1936 and 1959).
Of course, the calibre of opposition played a significant part in margin of the defeat. Though San Marino shipped 10 as recently as April 2009 in an away game against Poland, they have ’only’ shipped double-figures on five occasions in their 21years as a FIFA-recognised side, the most famous being the 13-0 hammering at the hands of Germany in September 2006.
Many have called for San Marino and other whipping-boys to play in pre-qualifiers prior to the full World Cup or European Championships qualifying group stages, and this argument may again come to the fore after their latest humiliation.
With respect to San Marino, what exactly will they or the sides thrashing them actually learn from their matches? After Friday’s game De Telegraaf called the match a ‘glorified exhibition’. The image of Wesley Sneijder attempting to walk the ball into the net summed up the mood.
But that’s taking nothing away from the Dutch, who looked to attack from the outset, with Bert van Marwijk promising that his side – the newly crowned No.1 in FIFA’s world rankings – would look to entertain the sell-out crowd. It was, as he put it, obligation.
He recognised San Marino – ranked 203rd in the world, in other words rock bottom – would attempt to stifle his side by adopting a dogged and pragmatic approach and the onus was on the Oranje to find a way to destroy any defensive walls that stood in their way. He got his wish courtesy of first half goals from Robin van Persie, Sneijder and Johnny Heitinga. Given the amount of possession the Dutch had it was a surprise, and indeed a credit to San Marino that the score at the break was so low, relatively speaking.
Johan Cruyff once claimed that "when you’re leading 5-0 it's more fun for the fans to hit the post instead of scoring the sixth. That's just for the statistics."
Many observers felt with the three points in the bag the Dutch may ease off and start to show-boat, perhaps with one eye already on the more testing proposition of Finland away on Tuesday.
But they - and Cruyff - were to be proven wrong in a second period that became something of an orange blitz, as the Dutch started to creep towards their all-time victory record. Dirk Kuyt, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie moved the side closer and closer to the record.
After each goal the rapturous orange crowd chanted ‘we want ten!’ and they got their wish with three minutes from time as Oranje’s No.10 Sneijder found the bottom corner. If there was a roof above the stadium it would have been blown off.
Debutant Georginio Wijnaldum, in his new home stadium after moving to PSV from Feyenoord in the summer, added number eleven in an evening those in attendance will not forget for a very long time.
Coincidentally, Wijnaldum was also present the last time a team reached double figures at the famous stadium, though this was a far happier occasion for him than the 10-0 defeat he suffered with Feyenoord last season.
Skipper Mark van Bommel claimed after the game that it had always been their target from the start to remain focussed and net ten goals, a sentiment echoed by his father-in-law and coach Van Marwijk: “Against weaker opposition like San Marino, concentration is usually less. However, we've now shown that we can play good football against anyone.”
Sneijder, the instrumental playmaker, spoke of the ever-improving bond between the players, explaining that he couldn’t see the side of two or three years ago blast 11 past anybody.
The win also sees Van Marwijk’s record improve. In 22 competitive matches, he has seen his side win 21 and is yet to taste defeat inside ninety minutes. His side, famed for their dynamic, attacking play, have only conceded twelve goals, scoring sixty themselves.
In scoring four in one game, Robin van Persie joined an illustrious list of Dutch internationals to do so, alongside Eddy de Neve, Kees Pijl, Wim Lagendaal, Kick Smit and Faas Wilkes. The Arsenal forward said the last time he managed to score four was in a pre-season friendly with Feyenoord against Go Ahead Eagles “a long time ago”.
He’ll have to go one better if he wants to be alongside Jan Vos, Leen Vente, John Bosman and Marco van Basten - all of whom have scored five goals in a game for the national team. Though he did overtake his former national team boss Van Basten in the all-time Oranje goal scoring charts.
Tougher tests lie ahead for this continually improving Oranje side, but the Dutch ascent hasn’t gone unnoticed by other international managers. Joachim Löw, while putting forward the case for his Germany side, also believes the Dutch are among favourites for Euro 2012
And with the DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) announcing Germany and The Netherlands will meet for the 38th time in Hamburg on November 15, Löw can see first hand exactly how brilliant the Oranje have become.
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