Saturday, June 9, 2012


The Netherlands were upset today by Denmark, despite playing well and creating some great chances. Full credit to Denmark, who took their opportunity, defended well and kept the ball when they needed to, threatening on attack throughout the second half as well. Sometimes you play well and still lose. That's football, right?

It always hurts me a little bit to see a team play well and lose, but what was really frustrating this afternoon was the inane but predictable commentary. Throughout the second half, they couldn't stop saying how poorly the Dutch were playing, how they were so uncreative and couldn't create any chances to score. Which was, simply speaking, false. This is a common mistake that people make watching soccer: they always align their opinions about how well the teams are playing with the scoreline. But the thing about soccer is, those two different aspects of a game can diverge pretty dramatically. In this case, if van Persie had brought his shooting boots, Robben or Huntelaar had converted their chances, the commentators would have been singing Dutch praises, talking about how their tactics were brilliant and how they really had the will to win. If someone had watched the game with the 30 second sequence that included the Danish goal cut out, they would have predicted that the Dutch were the ones that had scored, not the reverse.

In the end, soccer is a game not just of two teams and their quality of play on a given day, but of individual players, individual moments, and chance. People will try to construct ad hoc narratives to fit the results of matches, especially in short tournaments where every result is crucial, but these shallow analyses are an annoying disservice to the teams and players involved.

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