MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 22: Wesley Sneijder of Inter Milan reacts during the UEFA Champions League Final match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Inter Milan at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 22, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Wesley Sneijder
FIFA RANK: 4
They say misery loves company and no one likes to hang out in the "Heartbreak Club" more than The Dutch. I'll throw my cards on the table. I'm a huge Minnesota Vikings fan, and I see many comparisons between the Netherlands and my beloved Vikes, and believe me that's not a good thing. Both these teams love to give you hope, then rip your heart out right when you think...hey maybe, just this one time, it may work out. In a sad way, I almost expect the collapse now. I wasn't surprised when Favre threw the pick that ended the Vikes hopes last year against New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game. Why? Because in sports, you just have those storied teams that can't get it done no matter what and the Netherlands unfortunately are VIP members of this club.
Those are some of the similarities, but there is one big difference. The NFL plays every year, so I will once again hitch my hopes on the Vikes ship come September. The World Cup is every four years, so the losses are more magnified and difficult to swallow and The Netherlands have had their share. The Dutch lost back to back finals in the 70's and were dealt tough losses in the knockout rounds in '94 and '98. Four years ago, they fell to Portugal in one of the more bizzare matches in World Cup history where 16 yellow cards were handed out and a number of players were sent off the field. So why is it many, including myself, have high hopes for this team?
First, there is the team unity. The Orange Crush have always had the talent to compete with the world's best, they've just fallen apart at some of the worst times. This Dutch squad is a different because well, they actually like one another. The Dutch are notorious for allowing their egos to take over a soccer match, but this squad has been together since a successful run at Euro Cup '08 and went undefeated throughout qualifying, the only European nation to do so.
Second, I mentioned the talent on the roster, but this may be the best Dutch squad since those unlucky teams from the 70's. Skill and speed up and down the pitch led by central mid-fielder Wesley Sneijder. Wesley (I'll go with his first name again because the last name is hard to spell) is one of the premier free kick specialist in the world. If there were a sequel to "Bend It Like Beckham," it would be "Whirl It Like Wesley!" Ok, I'll stop there, but the point is the Inter Milan mid-fielder is finally living up to the expectations that were placed upon him early in his career. Wesley will be the main force supplying striker Dirk Kuyt and speedy wingers Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie. Rafa Van der Vaart is another quality attacking mid-fielder and Nigel De Jong is a defensive rock. (I have to say by the way, these are some cool names, I can rattle them off all day except Wesley's)
So will this be the year The Dutch finally get it done? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say yes. I pick The Netherlands to win their first World Cup, not because I think they are similar to my beloved Vikes, but because the pieces are in place and maybe...just maybe The Netherlands can finally do it for us suffering fans out there. Get ready for the Orange Crush to hand in their VIP Heartbreak Club card.
June 14 vs. Denmark - 6:30 a.m. CT (Expect a physical match, but Dutch are too talented)
June 19 vs. Japan - 6:30 a.m. CT (Shoudn't be close, Dutch will likely be done by halftime)
June 24 vs. Cameroon - 1:30 p.m. CT (Best match of group spoiled because Dutch should be through, Cameroon will likely need the points)
NEXT ON THE PITCH: PORTUGAL