Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 11th 2014 Contents A52
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, June 11, 2014
SAO PAULO---Together, they are
called the Low Countries---the
Netherlands and Belgium united by
the flatness of their lands. At the
World Cup though, it has been all
ups and downs.
It seemed that whenever one
neighbour was sinking, another
soared. By the looks of it this year,
they may be passing by each other
again, with the Dutch going down,
craning their necks as the Belgians
Even before the World Cup kicks
off, Belgium has already won one
thing from its northern neighbour:
Ruud Gullit, captain of the Dutch
team which won the 1988 European
Championship, says that in the
Netherlands "people feel good that
the Belgians are finally able to show"
In one of the oldest football rival-
ries in the world---there has been
123 matches between the two sides
dating all the way back to 1905---it
has mostly been the Netherlands
that charmed the world. That s in
part because the Dutch often played
the way Belgium could only dream
And the Dutch had two World
Cup final appearances in 1974 and
1978 to show for it, plus the tag "the
best team never to win the World
They had players like Johan Cruyff,
Marco van Basten and Dennis
Bergkamp, and the Total Football
tactical innovation to thrill fans
around the world in their signature
brilliant orange shirts.
The Belgians during most of those
days? Masters at negative play, more
suitable for their all-black away shirt
than their usual crimson red.
The Dutch were back in the final
of the 2010 World Cup at a time
when Belgium was languishing in
59th place. Last September, however,
Belgium overtook the Netherlands
for the first time in the history of
the FIFA ranking and now stands at
11 compared to 15 for the Dutch.
It is why many believe the 2014
World Cup could be so important
in the balance of power between the
For once, the Dutch seem like a
spent force compared to the Belgians.
Youth used to spring eternal from
the Dutch programmes with the
young pushing out the veterans at
will. In Brazil, the Dutch fans are
counting again on veterans Robin
van Persie and Arjen Robben to
shine, like they did in 2006 and
It even forced them to rethink the
mantra that seemed to be used by
any Dutch team: winning isn t every-
thing, winning beautifully is just as
Over the past decades, Dutch
players spread over the top leagues
in the world, sometimes already as
teenagers. Some flopped but those
who succeeded built splendid careers
matching skills with poise bordering
Now, its Belgium s players who
are playing abroad with the biggest
clubs and are brimming with the
kind of confidence that so often was
MORE WORLD CUP ON
PAGES A54, A56 & A70.
Belgium, Netherlands---like yoyos
MIAMI---In its final exhibition before facing the
United States in the World Cup, Ghana practiced
Captain Asamoah Gyan scored a breakaway goal
against South Korea and then launched into the azon-
to, a two-step dance popular in Ghana. Soon he was
joined in the corner of the field by a cluster of team-
mates, their hands, hips and feet moving in impressive
Past World Cup matches against the United States
have given Ghana plenty to celebrate. The rivalry will
be renewed Monday in Brazil, and the Black Stars
want to be ready.
The Ghanaians have every reason to be optimistic,
because they eliminated the US from the past two
World Cups. So they ll have the azonto cued up, and
other dances ready as well.
Ghana defeated the US in group play in 2006, and
in the round of 16 in 2010. A 4--0 victory against
South Korea in Miami on Monday suggested Ghana
will again be a handful.
FIFA rankings suggest Ghana is the underdog in
talent-laden Group G, which also includes the No
13-ranked US, No 2 Germany and No 4 Portugal.
But no one is likely to take the Black Stars lightly.
Only six starters from the game against the Amer-
icans in 2010 are on this year s squad, which includes
16 World Cup newcomers. Ghana may be without
striker Majeed Waris, who hurt his left thigh early
in Monday s friendly. An MRI exam revealed a tear.
The squad will include Gyan and midfielder Sulley
Muntari, both playing in their third World Cup, and
star midfielder Michael Essien of AC Milan. Defender
Jonathan Mensah and forward Kevin-Prince Boateng
are also World Cup veterans.
Rising stars include 22-year-old Jordan Ayew,
whose father, Abedi Pele, is considered Ghana s great-
est player. Ayew scored three times Monday against
When asked to select two players likely to emerge
as stars in Brazil, Appiah demurred.
"It s really difficult to pick two of my players who
I think can make an impact in the World Cup," he
said. "I ll choose 11 for you."
11 stars from
Netherlands soccer player Wesley Sneijder,
right, reacts after he was tackled by a team-
mate during a training session in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil, Sunday. The Netherlands play in group B
of the 2014 soccer World Cup. AP PHOTO
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