Bergkamp's Touch Makes the Dutch Go
By Anne Swardson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 5, 1998; Page D1
In the brilliant golden light of Mediterranean France, the Dutch national soccer team beat Argentina, 2-1, in a World Cup quarterfinal on forward Dennis Bergkamp's masterpiece of a goal in the 90th minute off a 60-yard pass from defender Frank de Boer.
The Netherlands which never has won the championship will make its first World Cup semifinal appearance in 20 years here Tuesday against four-time champion Brazil, which eliminated the Netherlands in a 1994 quarterfinal.
Argentina goes home chastened and tired, four days after it defeated England on penalty kicks after a grueling, 120-minute overtime match. Coach Daniel Passarella blamed today's loss on fatigue.
Perhaps, but it was worsened and hastened by an act of pure temper by one of the team's offensive stars, midfielder Ariel Ortega. It occurred in the 88th minute, with the score tied at 1 and the Dutch down to 10 players because of defender Arthur Numan's ejection in the 72nd minute. Ortega head-butted Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, after van der Sar had left his goal, apparently to taunt Ortega for taking a dive in an attempt to draw a foul in the Dutch penalty area. Ortega was ejected, and two minutes later Bergkamp scored the winning goal.
He used the top of his right foot to cradle de Boer's long pass to the ground with seemingly impossible deftness, outmaneuvered Argentine defender Roberto Ayala with a sharp cutback and powered home his Dutch national team-record 36th career goal.
"I was very tired at the end of the match and I would have liked to have come off," Bergkamp said. "When Ortega was sent off, I told myself that I could continue a bit longer. . . . You can't imagine a goal like that. It just happens."
Dutch players said after the game they had felt fit and relatively confident throughout.
"Even with 11 players, Argentina was not really coming and trying to attack and that gave us confidence," said midfielder Philip Cocu.
(Numan's ejection, for receiving two yellow cards in the game, means he will miss at least the semifinal against Brazil, which will be without starting defender Cafu. Cafu received his second yellow card of the elimination rounds Friday.)
"Before Numan's red card we thought we were going to win" said de Boer, the team captain whose identical twin, Ronald, starts at midfield. "But when Ortega got his red card, I knew we were going to win."
If any team had been witness to the risks of on-field temper tantrums, it was Argentina. In its round-of-16 game, England midfielder David Beckham was ejected early in the second half for a much less egregious act of gratuitous violence one that may well have cost England the victory.
The Dutch victory featured the dribbling talents of midfielder Edgar Davids and some powerful attacking runs by forward Patrick Kluivert who scored the first goal but it especially highlighted team coordination, fitness and the ability to run hard in hot weather.
"We know we are physically very strong," said Coach Guus Hiddink. "We made good preparations in Switzerland."
The team's success also was inspired by stomping, shrieking Dutch fans who outdid their Argentine counterparts in numbers, and in visual and aural intensity. Their bright T-shirts in orange, the national color, probably relieve the monotony in Amsterdam and The Hague; here in the sun they glowed iridescently. The Dutch are all bilingual; their fight songs in English included "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" and "Oh Holland, We Love You."
During the postgame celebration, the Dutch players trotted across the field toward the stadium's largest section of orange shirts and hats as if they were moths drawn to a flame. Leaping the field's barrier, van der Sar saluted the crowd and was tossed a cascade of orange caps; he and other players put them on as they did a tour of the field.
But even in the afterglow, the Dutch were looking ahead to their rematch with Brazil.
"We are looking forward to that game because we know Brazil and Brazil knows us," Hiddink said.
The Netherlands, however, displayed some weaknesses today. Kluivert gave the Dutch a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute, but six minutes later van der Sar failed to save a shot by Argentine forward Claudio Lopez by leaning awkwardly and allowing the ball to pass between his legs. In the 26th minute, the Dutch goalie was saved from another major error: He moved out too far to the right and nearly allowed Lopez to score again, but a headed clearance by a defender saved the day.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company