Life in bright orange:
Today is the day I finally saw glimpses of a team that could go all the way in this tournament.
For the first all-European encounter of the World Cup between Netherlands and Denmark, I went down to 47th Street to hit up Tonic, a 3-floor establishment in Times Square that may very well hold the record for number of TV’s installed for the occasion.
Being the kind of kid who used to wear orange bathrobes for Holland games back in the day, I was expecting this to be a colorful set-up. Tonic outdid itself though. To give you an idea about the crowd, picture a couple hundred perfectly dressed, sharp looking Wall Street executives in their mid-30s. Now imagine them sitting jovially at long tables together with their wives and children. Finally, shine some bright orange light on them, let some Heineken flow and hang a bunch of giant footballs from the ceiling. You’ll get Tonic during this morning’s game.
Despite that for most of the first half, Oranje encountered some stiff resistance from the Danish team, the atmosphere was perfectly relaxed. The Clockwork Orange worked fine if not spectacularly well, delivering some beautiful plays and only missing the finishing touch from Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie, who seemed to have a beef with one of the video cameras installed behind Sorensen’s goal. But despite a strong start, Oranje found itself under pressure towards the end of the first half, with Dennis Rommedahl sending some serious warning signals on the left wing of the Dutch defense.
The Danish were on track for at least threatening Netherlands’ long undefeated run, when Simon Poulsen added to the series of unfortunate events haunting individual players at this World Cup and sunk an own goal 55 seconds into the second half. Isolated Danish fans at a side table I had just noticed bent their heads. They knew from there on, things could only go downhill. Wonder kid Eljero Elia replaced Van der Vaart in the 67th minute, in a move from coach van Marwijk that switched Oranje into top gear.
You know how they say this World Cup is the World Cup of Rooney, and Drogba, and Cristiano Ronaldo? That may be so when it comes to Nike ads, but watch this guy Elia play, and you will see some truly delightful football. He tore the precise Danish defense to shreds on three separate occasions, being denied a goal of his own when Sorensen tipped his shot onto the post, handing Dirk Kuyt an easy 85th minute strike. At this point, the orange people around me were doing a weird victory dance. And for good reason. After an uninspiring performance from Italy against Paraguay today, Netherlands looks yet again like the team to beat on this World Cup.
In other news, on my lone day off yesterday Ghana managed an impressive feat and beat Serbia thanks to a late penalty by Asamoah Gyan, becoming the first African nation to win a World Cup match on African soil. And Germany predictably trounced an Australian side that had little choice against die Mannschaft. The Germans looked sharp as usual, but they should be manageable by a team that can show a little more imagination.
Game on! En route to Harlem for Ivory Coast vs. Portugal tomorrow.