When two of the most skilled and exciting sides in the world, the Netherlands and Colombia, meet in a friendly, you might expect a fluid, high-scoring game to break out.
Maybe next time. Tuesday's friendly between the two sides was a surprisingly drab affair highlighted by a first-half red card and little else, as the two teams played out a scoreless draw.
Just three shots (all from Colombia) were on target the entire game, with Colombia not surprisingly controlling possession (56 percent) after the Netherlands went down a man in the first half.
The game started promisingly for the Netherlands, as Rafael van der Vaart provided the first scoring chance for either side, curling an outrageous, curling shot that struck the post in the seventh minute. Siem de Jong nearly sent the rebound into the net but couldn't quite put the ball on target and Colombia escaped the early scare.
The Netherlands mostly controlled possession in the early minutes, though their keeper Jasper Cillessen had to rush out intelligently and intercept dangerous Colombian through balls—a theme for much of the first half—including one that nearly found world-class striker Radamel Falcao as he bore down on goal in the 14th minute.
Van der Vaart had a golden opportunity in the 15th minute, but his strike inside of the box sailed well wide, while a minute later Jeremain Lens pounced on a poor back pass, nearly deflecting the ball with an outstretched foot, though Colombia escaped the sloppy play unscathed.
But things really heated up in the 33th minute as the Netherlands gave away the ball away deep in their own territory and Santiago Arias promptly turned the turnover into a goal. The play was ruled offside, however, and the game remained scoreless.
Two minutes later, Lens was given a straight red card after grabbing the throat of a Colombia defender after an attempted header. Four minutes later defender Arias struck Daley Blind with an elbow, earning himself a yellow card as the match became a bit chippy.
The Colombians finished the half in a rather aggressive fashion, as both De Jong and Van der Vaart had to leave the match, the latter being hacked from behind on a completely unnecessary challenge from Abel Aguilar that earned the Colombian midfielder a yellow.
Falcao wasted little time getting involved in the second half, ripping a shot in the 47th minute from a difficult angle down the right side that Cillessen had to deflect wide of goal, though no Colombian players were in a position to take advantage of the healthy rebound.
Second-half sub Macnelly Torres had a go in the 60th minute, ripping a shot that struck the woodwork, but the rebound bounced harmlessly into the arms of Cillessen and the home side escaped another dangerous moment.
There would be a series of half chances and close calls down the stretch, but neither side was able truly to pose a dangerous threat as the second half drew to a close. All in all, the game ended as a rather boring, unmemorable contest.
Men of the Match: Netherlands' Defense and Keeper
The defensive grouping of Daley Blind, Ron Vlaar, Joel Veltman and Gregory Van der Wiel had a difficult enough task facing a dangerous Colombian side featuring Falcao, James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado, but then they had to do it for nearly 55 minutes down a man.
And they passed that test with flying colors, keeping Colombia at bay.
Meanwhile, 'keeper Cillessen was absolutely brilliant coming off his line all night, as Colombia continued to challenge the Dutch's high line and drop balls over the top or through the defense, only to see Cillessen scoop up the ball just before a Colombian player could get on the other end.
This game may have been boring, but it would have been much more exciting for Colombia if the Netherlands didn't receive such strong play from their defense and keeper.
Both of these teams will eagerly await their World Cup placement on December 6 in Bahia, with Colombia earning one of the tournament's coveted top eight seeds. Despite this rather poor draw, both clubs will be considered serious contenders at this summer's tournament in Brazil.
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