That was just a brilliant game. As many have noted, Holland had the air of a successful, confident young man who suddenly runs into his more successful, more confident Doppelganger on the street: they didn’t quite know what to do. And in retrospect, maybe the Dutch had it too easy in the so-called Group of Death, feasting on an Italy that obviously sent out the wrong XI, a France in steep decline and an all-too-Romanian Romania. But let’s not take anything away from Russia, a team transformed in the last two games by the reappearance of this…this…this…this Arshavin kid. He looks like a 12-year-old who decided to go as the Fifth Beatle for Halloween, but the way he plays makes it seem like the last five or ten years of ball-flicking Brazilian mononyms and Portugese step-over artists never happened. Could the best player in the world be a wicked fast, clever, attack-specialist Slav? Not saying, just asking.
Anyway, hyperbole aside, that second Russian goal keeps playing in my head. You’ve seen it a million times: a player rushes down to the endline like he has something Important in mind…and then the ball spins out of bounds, or dribbles to the keeper, or flies off into row Z on the other side of the park. But when was the last time you saw a player pull the rock back, loop a parabola all the way over the goal, and hit the exact six-square-inch spot at the far post occupied by the lashing ankle of a teammate who started his run 30 yards out? Good night, Irene. Man.