For the first 70 minutes the game was the tight, cagey affair that many expected, myself included. To that point it was essentially a 0-0 draw with 2 outlier thunderbolt goals from distance, one each from respective team captains Giovanni Van Bronkhorst (18th min) and Diego Forlan (41st min).
Most of the world media right now are talking about the 2nd Dutch goal where Robin Van Persie appeared to be slightly offsides and was involved in the goal as he swiped at it and tried to redirect it in.
But what most of the world missed, including the referee and his linesman, was the actual key to the game that should be controversial talking point #1, for it proved much larger than the non-offsides call on the 2nd Dutch goal. In the buildup to the opening goal by GVB, Mark Van Bommel, as he is wont to do, slyly got away with an incredibly dangerous and dirty 'tackle' that went unnoticed- he raked his cleats over a Uruguay player's knee, studs up, after the ball was long gone.
At an absolute bare minimum this should have been a yellow card, which would have negated the goal and left the game a cagey 0-0 affair. But if noticed, I'd say 6 of 10 referees in the world, including Graham Poll, would have given Van Bommel a straight red card, which would have turned the entire game in a major, major way, as:
1. GVB's wondergoal would never have happened, and it would still be 0-0.
2. Van Bommel would have been sent off, Holland reduced to 10 men for remaining 72 minutes
3. Holland would have prob had to tactically sub to replace their defensive midfielder, likely removing one of their 4 attacking players in the process, further reducing their chances and taking away 1 of 3 subs for 2nd half
4. Even if Holland went on to win, their key defensive midfielder and shield for their Achilles heel defense Van Bommel would have been suspended for the final.
Instead of that, it was 1-0 to Netherlands in the 18th minute and 11v11, and MVB went completely unpunished. The game then played out as it did and Holland went on to win.
You cannot say on the balance of play that they did not deserve to win. And their precision in all 3 goals was remarkable- all three went in off the post. However, that said, luck must also be acknowledged for the significant part it played for them today- the Van Bommel knee raking going unnoticed, the no call on the crucial 2nd goal, as well as the 2nd goal being a
Other random thoughts:
1. GVB's opening thunderbolt goal from 35 yards out is the goal that Adidas executives were all fantasizing about when they gave birth to this franken-ball. Unfortunately for them it has turned out that 90% of strikes from distance, if not more, have been wildly off target and only a rare few knuckle in the right way to produce jaw-dropping goals.
2. Caceres' goal-saving tackle in the 31st minute in his own box to take an easy goal away from Arjen Robben, 2 minutes after he was given a yellow card for kicking De Zeeuw in the face, was ballsy, perfect, and amazing given the circumstances.
3. Diego Forlan is The Jabulani Tamer. He was the first one to noticeably figure it out, and even though today's dipping power shot from distance looks like it got the slightest of touches from the Dutch defender's head (see replay of goal from angle behind goalkeeper) and the free kick against Ghana was intended to bend into the upper left corner and then instead changed direction and bent the other way into the top right, he is still, given all other evidence from this collection of most talented footballers on the planet, THE JABULANI TAMER.
4. RVP does not lack for confidence, and that 2nd goal today was the least celebrated of his entire career- this can only be because he himself thought that he may very well have been offsides. It was just funny to see him so muted, usually he is jubilant and even boastful after his goals. Of course, maybe he knows he swung & missed, and was trying to convince the referee that he was not "actively involved" in the goal, but I think he may have gotten a tiny little touch that redirected it in off the post. Either way, he has never before and never again will celebrate a goal in such a muted way.
5. Arjen Robben must be given credit for dialing down the playacting, diving, simulation antics that were so over the top against Brasil. Yes he had a few, but I got the feeling that even he must have been embarrassed of his antics when he went back and watched video of the win over Brasil. Whatever the reason, credit to him for dialing it down by about 80%; we can only hope this continues in the final.
6. Europe is now guaranteed to win their 1st ever World Cup on foreign soil. Going into this 2010 World Cup, they were famously 9 for 10 in World Cups held on home soil (with Sweden as runners up to Brasil in 1958), while also going 0 for 8 in World Cups held outside of Europe. No matter what happens from here on out, Europe is now 1 for 9 away from home. And any and all talk as recently as a week & a half ago about how poorly Europe were doing is now laughable. Additionally, for the first time a team from the northern hemisphere will win a world cup held in the southern hemisphere; previously they had been 0 for 4, 0 for 6 if you include the two world cups held in Mexico.
7. At halftime ESPN had sweet crowd reaction shots to the goals from Amsterdam & Montevideo. It would have been even better if they could have shown similar reaction shots in the 2nd half. The reason they didn't is because like every other broadcaster on earth, they are paying for & getting the FIFA feed. They don't control the official game feed, so they couldn't just have their production team in the truck cut to those videos as desired. The only way you'll see such shots tomorrow or in the final is if the official feed sent out to the world by FIFA incorporate it themselves. Not likely.