Marco Van Basten, currently the coach of Holland’s national soccer team, was a magical footballer and perhaps the best striker of his generation. Raymond Domenech, currently the coach of French national soccer team, was a cynical (and many would say dirty) defensive- minded midfielder. Today, the two faced each other in a riveting Euro 2008 match. The Dutch, coming off of a shocking 3-0 victory over defending world champions Italy, were looking for a win that would put them into the quarterfinals after only two games. France, coming off of a disappointing 0-0 draw to Romania, was looking to put itself in contention to advance in the next game.
Both teams started out with similar formations. In particular, both had two defensive midfielders: for France, Makelele and Toulalan; for Holland, Engelaar and De Jong.
Holland jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, which it held through the first half. Thus, to the extent that either team might remove a defensive midfielder in the second half, you would have thought it would be France, the trailing team.
However, it was Van Basten who opted to add attacking flair for the second half. He did so, moreover, in the form of Arjen Robben, the fabulous winger, who came on for Engelaar. Dommench stayed with Makelele and Toulalan.
The results were quite dramatic. Robben promptly set up a second goal for Robbie Van Persie (another attack oriented sub). Then, less than a minute after France had pulled back a goal, Robben made it 3-1 with a stunning strike. At the final whistle, it was 4-1 to Holland. And Makelele and Toulalan were still trudging around for the French.
The title of this post notwithstanding, in soccer the Domenech’s seem to get the better of the Van Basten’s more often than not. That’s why we fans get so excited when it works out as it did today.
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