COMMENTARY | Well that was an unexpectedly fun affair.
Nothing, statistically speaking, changed about World Cup Qualifying for Holland following a surprising 2-2 away draw versus Estonia on Friday. The Netherlands are going to go through to the 2014 World Cup, they're going to win their Qualifying group, and they're likely going to have, at the very least, a decent run during next summer's competition. There is something to be said for saving face, and that's exactly what the Dutch did when taking on what was, on paper, an over-matched opponent that punched above its weight throughout the contest after going down a goal in the opening minute.
Estonia 2-2 Holland: The match changed...
when Wesley Sneijder squandered a golden opportunity to put the visitors up 2-0 before the tenth minute of play. Seven minutes after Arjen Robben opened the scoring with a trademark run across the box followed by a precise left-footed curler, Sneijder found himself played free and clear into the penalty area. Sneijder, perhaps celebrating his goal before it made contact with the back of the net, unleashed an uninspired attempt on goal, and Estonia goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko did well enough to make a save that prevented a possible blowout.
It was the beginning of an awful night for Sneijder. He never recovered from the error, as he muffed several strikes and had only one solid through ball, a moment that was immediately erased from memories because of a correct offside call. Sneijder will have better days while wearing an Oranje shirt. He probably won't have much worse, at least he'll hope that he doesn't.
Estonia 2-2 Holland: MOTM
Stat sheets sometimes lie when it comes to determining a game MVP. This isn't one of those times. Konstantin Vassilijev netted the brace that, heading into stoppage time, was going to hand the hosts all of the points, and both tallies were worthy of a victory over one of the best sides in the world. The first, scored 18 minutes into play, was the result of a tremendous solo effort that saw Vassilijev split two defenders before unleashing a quick strike from distance that Dutch goalkeeper Michel Vorm didn't see until it was too late.
The second was even better. A Holland turnover 11 minutes after the halftime break resulted in Joel Lindpere having possession on the left wing, and the former New York Red Bulls star dropped a pass right at the feet of Vassilijev. With Vorm off his line to cut off the shooting angles, Vassilijev coolly unleashed a perfectly placed chip over the 'keeper, and Vorm could do nothing but watch as the ball bounced past his line.
Estonia 2-2 Holland: Two penalty shouts, two correct calls
Robin van Persie was the key man in a couple of penalty shouts, one per half, and the referee in charge of the action got both calls spot on. RvP attempted to split two defenders inside the Estonia penalty area in the first half when he tapped the ball yards out of reach before running into the opposing players who had properly closed the Manchester United man off. Van Persie's complaints while on the floor were halfhearted, at best, and his face told a story of a player who knew that he didn't deserve the call.
Fortune smiled on Van Persie in second half stoppage time, when he did well to turn past defender Raio Piiroja after accepting a pass on the outskirts of the box . With RvP one strike away from leveling the match, Piiroja brought the Dutchman down with a clear tug of the arm, and he was sent off for his crime. Van Persie made no mistake from the spot, sending Pareiko the wrong way and granting the Netherlands with a point that they rightly deserved.
If Holland were going to have one of these nights during Qualification, it's best that they got it out of the way now. Away to Andorra on September 10 should see the Dutch right the ship, and do so before their October Qualifiers against Hungary (home) and away to Turkey. After watching their performance on Friday, I imagine that Holland manager Louis van Gaal will be hoping the injured Rafael van der Vaart is fully fit and ready for action one month from now.
He was missed tonight.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Wesley Sneijder