I'm sure when the Disney Family of Sports Networks were putting together their TV schedule, they were excited by the idea of an ABC Saturday afternoon soccer game that had a couple of big teams in it, that people would recognize as being good. Italy, or France, maybe.
Instead, they get The Netherlands vs. Russia. And I think it is a glorious thing, based on how these teams got to where they are.
The Netherlands, as angry Scottish commentator Andy Gray points out, "Don't know how to play defensive football, and I love it!". They won their first 2 games, against France and Italy by a combined 7-1. But as I said after those games--they were dancing on a knife's edge throughout. They invite attacks, and counter ruthlessly and quickly and awesomefully. Yeah, I said awesomefully. In a game that didn't affect their seeding in any way, they sent out 9 bench players to start, and defeated a Romanian team that actually had something to play for 2-0. In three games, those Hashish smoking, sex show watching Dutchmen outscored their competition 9-1. That's impressive, but the concerns remain, I think.
Russia wasn't as dominant, but that is at least in part because they aren't as good. Also, they weren't at full strength, but with Arshavin back in the fold, they have an extremely talented midfield, and an attacking mindset that may be second only to Holland.
Full disclosure, here: Holland is one my Top 3 squads. As an American, I clearly care about the US team, even when they disappoint, time and time again. As an Irish-American, the Republic of Ireland is right behind the USA, even when they disappoint, time and time again. The Netherlands--I have absolutely no connection to them at all. I wore orange during my college game years at Macalester, but I was in love with the Dutch way before then. Was it the great players I grew up with? It might be--Van Basten and Guillt in my formative youth; Bergkamp and Kluivert and Cocu and Overmars and Jaap during my high school/college years. They've never succeeded at anything in my lifetime; they have always come up a little short.
I will always pick Holland to win a game that they have the smallest chance in, and let's face it--they should be heavily favored here. So I'm picking them. My heart and brain agree on this one. But I do expect to see an incredibly entertaining game, with lots of ups and downs. Let's not forget, last Euro Cup, the single best game of the tournament involved the Dutch against a Czech team that is a lot like this Russian team.
Netherlands 3, Russia 2