While disposing of Cup upstarts Uruguay 3-2 Tuesday, Holland put on an entertaining show of solo artistry that will doom them to a second-place finish should they face Germany in Sunday's final.
The three goals that spurred "Oranje" to victory in the semifinal are perfect examples of the type of chances they won't get against Deutschland's well-drilled defense.
Their first, captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst's stupendous strike from long range, was a once-in-a-tournament occurrence and should be both celebrated and compartmentalized as such. In other words, don't expect that lightning to strike twice.
Wesley Sneijder's 68th-minute grounder, redirected by the leg of a defender and helped by the threat of Robin van Persie challenging from an offside position, is more exemplary of the Netherlands' vice.
In the build-up to his fifth tally in South Africa, Sneijder clamored for the ball in the midst of the Uruguayan defense before practically swiping it off the foot of a teammate, his head down the whole time, and firing. Sans a fortuitous bounce and a distracted keeper, he'd have looked like a total fool.
Less than five minutes later, winger Arjen Robben tucked a well-placed header into the goal's bottom-left corner. Amusing as headed scores from unusual sources have been for Holland—Sneijder (5'7") struck one in their quarterfinal defeat of Brazil—they can't expect Germany's pair of Per Mertesacker (6'6") and Arne Friedrich to open so easily.
Oranje fans will be quick to counter that it's precisely this diversity in attack that gives their team the advantage against either Germany or Spain.
In answer, I'd point to the rest of the match. Aside from Dirk Kuyt, who didn't see nearly enough of the ball and seemed isolated from the Dutch offense on the wing, Holland's most "creative" attackers consistently turned down open teammates in favor of extra dribbles and slim chances on goal.
Robben, Sneijder, and (to a lesser extent) van Persie had their fun against Uruguay's stripped-down starting lineup. Injured captain Diego Lugano, in particular, might have had something to say in the confusion leading up to Sneijder's goal, and suspended forward Luis Suarez could have made them pay for getting dispossessed.
Against Spain, too, the Netherlands' sheer talent might have some success probing an opposing back line with a few iffy spots, especially on the counter-attack behind aggressive wing back Sergio Ramos.
But against Germany? Forget about it. Philipp Lahm covers his wing too effectively in moving forward and back with the flow of play, and the Germans' defensive midfielders made a meal of solo artists like Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, and England's "golden generation" in their run this far into the knockout stage.
When they sit down to watch Wednesday's other semifinal, Holland's brightest stars will cross their fingers for a Spanish victory if they want to shine in Soccer City with World Cup glory in the balance.
(An Deutschen die dieser Artikel lesen sind: Ja, ich verstehe schoen, dass "Deutsche" bedeutet ihren Sprach und "Deutschen" ihre Volk, aber es besser in meinem Titel klingt.)