A few short weeks ago 32 national teams embarked on a World Cup odyssey that has seen all but eight of them fall by the wayside. Of the eight remaining teams, a handful are the arch-rivals of one another. Depending on the results of the quarter finals we could be seeing one of several alternate pairings of these rivals meeting up in the semis. The most notable match ups we could witness in the final rounds of this summers tournament are, Holland versus Germany, and Brazil versus Argentina.
The Dutch and the Germans have an old rivalry that could quite easily be cast as the Mac vs. PC of European soccer.
Their most celebrated clash was the final of the 1974 World Cup when Germany, the host nation, defeated the heavily favored Dutch 2-1. The Dutch, who at that point hadn't forgiven the Germans for the war, added this defeat to their long list of slights and a bitter rivalry has ensued ever since. It is a rivalry that historically has pitted the creative, inventive Dutch up against the pragmatic, practical Germans. The results have often been spectacular, although the matches have often been contentious to say the least.
In the past it's been very easy to see the Netherlands as the Apple Mac of the European game. With their brilliant orange uniforms, creative passing and artistic players, they play a connoisseur's brand of soccer. In 1974 they were as unique and innovative as anything the world had ever seen. Lead by the brilliant Johan Cruyff, the Dutch dazzled their way past Argentina and Brazil to meet the Germans in the final.
The Germans, the PC of this parable, play much as you'd expect Germans would. They have an organized defense, they tackle hard, launch lightning quick counterattacks and have a ruthless determination to keep fighting until the final whistle blows. It may not be stylish or cool like the Dutch, but like a PC, it's effective when it comes to getting the job done.
But whether or not the Dutch really still play like a Mac and the Germans game really still resembles a PC is highly debatable. The Germans have branched out into a more adventurous, attacking, free-flowing mode. You could almost consider the present German team the Windows XP of German soccer.
The current Dutch side on the other hand are perhaps like a Mac that has been retooled and marketed for business purposes. They have advanced by playing a fairly pragmatic game that has many of their own fans criticizing them, despite their being undefeated in the tournament. But while they may play practically and sensibly, beneath the surface you can sense they are still as eccentric and esoteric as they ever were
Of course, whether or not we will get to see a rematch of these two great stylistic rivals remains to be seen. Both sides face formidable obstacles on their way to the next round. The Netherlands face Brazil on Friday while Germany take on Brazil's great rivals, Argentina the very next day.
Having all these giants of the game knocking each other out could open up a path for Spain to breeze through to the final. The current Spain side are in possession of an attractive, flowing, passing, attacking game that would bring a tear to Johan Cruyff's eye. They also have a highly organized defense and a fair dose of pragmatism and practicality spread throughout their team.
Now if only someone would market a computer that had all the qualities of the current Spanish team! A computer like that could potentially leave Mac and PC both in the dust.