"One of the unfortunate consequences of the media in a fairly insular country such as the United Kingdom is the members of the pundit-ocracy, who fail to appreciate the game beyond British shores, continually bombard the viewing public with lazy stereotypes that are as commonplace and as irritating as the cacophony of vuvuzelas on show in South Africa.
The English play with passion, the French with flair, Germany are efficient who win despite being devoid of creativity and the Dutch, well they fall out with each other and try to play Totaalvoetbal." opines one Gary Niblock.
Perhaps Mr. Niblock has been smoking some of the exotic cigarettes enjoyed by the patrons of some of Amsterdam's ahem! racier nightspots (WHOOPS ! there goes another one of those lazy stereotypes to which he refers!) and he has forgotten that most stereotypes have at least a modicum of truth.
Germany is renowned for the ruthless efficiency that sees them usually progress further than the "flair" teams. That is because it is undeniable, the fact that Germany 2010 are experimenting with a more expansive style does not make this stereotype any more crude or any less valid. Before this years tournament, the only German teams that could be said to have been easy on the eye were the 1990 winners that had a midfield of Matthaus, Moller Hassler et al and strikers of the calibre of Klinsmann , Voller and Riedle and the 1974 champions who, although overshadowed by Cruyff and his Totaalvoetbal playing Dutch (sorry Mr.Niblick , but again it is true) could still boast players such as Beckenbauer, Overath , Muller , Schwarzenbeck, Netzer(although he spent much of it on the bench)Breitner, Heynckes etc. The other German squads have been physical, athletic and uninspiring.
Ah , the Dutch ! the team whose star man, Johan Cruyff, walked out on the eve of the 1978 tournament following arguments with the coaching staff. Holland, who in 1990 saw Thijs Libgrets ousted as coach by senior players on the eve of the tournament and whose star striker Marco van Basten sulked throughout the competition because his choice for Libgrets' replacement, none other than his mentor Johan Cruyff, was overlooked in favour of Leo Beenhakker, Holland ,who had to send Edgar Davids home from the European Championships in England in 1996 after he had clashed with coach Guus Hiddink over alleged favouritism shown to the white players in the squad.
I am sorry , dear reader, if the remainder of the this article is dripping with "lazy stereotypes" but your correspondent hails from "insular Britain", surely a lazy stereotype in itself? but I digress .
Holland have been a disappointment at the tournament so far, their performances are usually as colourful as their orange shirts and excitable supporters and their bust ups are usually highly enjoyable . Thank heavens for the French, who appear to have been fighting like ferrets in a sack have expelled a player and managed a mutiny that would have made Fletcher Christian swell with pride, for providing the entertainment that has been sadly lacking on the pitch.
One of the culprits is Holland.
The Dutch, who can be usually be relied on to provide such thrills and spills have been positively boring. So much so, that one is tempted to shout at the television "Are you Germany in disguise?!" when the tedium becomes unbearable.
Indeed there appears to be some footballing cross dressing going on as the Germans appear to be trying their own take on total football.
Bert Van Marwijck ,the Dutch coach wants his teams to "run and run and run"; instructions that would have had some of the legendary "Oranje" of yesteryear running for a taxi to take them from their training camp to the airport and the first flight home, away from this nonsense. Has years of under performing at international competitions taken their toll on the Dutch psyche ? especially as their hated rivals Germany often emerge victorious . Have they decided that as they can no longer beat them they must copy them? Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but it does seem a waste given that the Dutch squad has technically excellent players in abundance: Sneijder, van der Vaart, Elia, van Persie, and Affellay are hardly prosaic .
Perhaps the Dutch have decided that they did not need to exert themselves too much to graduate from their group and are saving themselves for the latter stages. It is to be hoped that this is the case, as the competition badly needs a team to explode into life and take the competition by storm . Argentina look capable of doing such a thing but apart from them there are few other candidates.
Brazil , twice the Dutch nemesis in the World Cup in the 1990's, loom large in the quarter finals but they too have lost their nerve and no longer seek to win and entertain simultaneously .
Or perhaps van Marwijck hopes to bore his players and exhaust them so that they have neither the energy nor the enthusiasm to derail this years bid by questioning his authority.
Whatever the reason, it makes for a duller World Cup all round and is a worrying precedent for the future of the sport.
For the neutral, looking for a footballing thrill before the onset of the predictable and uninspiring Scottish league season the future used to bright and orange, if even the Dutch have turned to pragmatism the game may be up.