Fans of the Oranje (pronounced “Oran-ye), the nickname of the Holland national football team, can be described in two words;
On just my first full day in Amsterdam, I set off to the Amsterdam ArenA to see a match-up between two of the worlds best footballing nations. It was my first ticket purchased for this trip, and I was beyond excited!
Despite the rash amount of withdrawals from the match on both sides (no Mesul Ozil, Sami Khedira, Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos, or Mario Gomez for Germany, and no Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, or Gregory van der Wiel for Holland), there was still plenty of talent on display.
I headed down to the stadium via the Amsterdam Metro, at around 6:00pm, with over two and a half hours till the scheduled 8:30pm kickoff.
Upon arrival, the sights and sounds of the party were impossible to ignore. Fans dressed head-to-toe in orange colored gear walked past and chatted to one another in a language I didn’t understand. Music was blaring from a field next to the stadium, where a stage had been erected and a local radio station DJ was playing some hits mixed with the endless amount of music dedicated to the Oranje.
Carts outside of the stadium were selling food or memorabilia, including jerseys, scarves, hats, gloves, and just about anything else you could think of. I bought myself a scarf, and went into the grassy plain to enjoy the Oranjefest that was going on.
After a pint of Heineken, and an hour spent chilling with the wonderful Oranje fans, it was time to enter the stadium. After seeing it on television numerous times, and playing in it for years in FIFA games, entering the stadium was just as exciting to me as the game itself.
One of the interesting features of the ArenA is that depending on if you are sitting in the upper or lower tier, there is a certain gate you enter through, and it takes you through a series of escalators within tubes directly to your level. There didn’t seem to be a connection between levels, though I suspect in case of an emergency, many exits out of the stadium would open up.
Despite the fact that I was in row (rij, in Nederland) 21, I still had a fantastic view of the pitch, thanks to it being elevated off the ground. Like the Emirates Stadium, the 52,000 seat stadium in the Bijmer neighborhood of Amsterdam has no track around the pitch, and the seats rise up at a high angle. From my seat, I had no view of the seats under me, but a wonderful view of the field.
The best part of the pre-game atmosphere once inside the stadium was the Oranje songs booming across the ground, and the fans dancing in their seats.
Oh, one more thing. There was a BAND at the game. Yes, a band at a football game. Sounds so fitting.
Following the national anthems of both sides (luckily the Dutch anthem was subtitled on the big screen) it was time for kickoff. Four Oranje legends were honored on the field (Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Michael Reisinger, and Ruud Van Nistelrooy), and the game begun with the shrill whistle from the Portuguese referee.
From the get go, it was easy to see the difference in class between the two sides, even with Germany considerably weaker. The Mannschaft were able to control the ball for at least 60% of the game, forcing the home Dutch to play a counter-attacking style. Even without Ozil in the midfield, the Germans still were very dangerous in the attack, with youngsters Marco Reus and and Mario Goetze leading the charge.
The best chance of the match for Holland came after a dynamic run through midfield by former Barca midfielder Ibrahim Affelay, who’s beautiful lay-off pass to teammate Arjen Robben caught the German keeper, Manuel Neuer, off his line and in no-mans land. Robben superbly rounded the keeper, but then just to show how out of form he is, Robben snuffed his shot on a wide open goal off his own leg, and out for a goal kick.
Speaking of Robben, he is as far from “team player” as they come. He constantly wandered away from his position as left winger, leaving Jetro Willems, the marauding young left back for PSV and the Oranje on his own in attack and defense. Meanwhile, Robben would just attract lot’s of defenders around him, and never got a pass when he asked for it (because he wasn’t open). It wasn’t a surprise that Holland played better after he was substituted at the half.
Germany had a few chances throughout the match, though last ditch defending from defender Ron Vlaar and John Heitinga, two current English Premier League players, helped save chances from the aforementioned Gotze and midfielder Lewis Holtby in the first half.
As per the usual, in the second half of a friendly the pace slows, and the mass amount of substitutions destroys nearly any rhythm the game had. The Oranje continued to attack on the counter, but always missed that final pass to the striker, or following player. Both teams seemed more content on not losing, rather than winning.
For me, the best player of the match was Holland’s Ruben Schaken, who played on the right wing. He was absolutely a dangerman on the ball, rounding his defender (Phillip Lahm, Germany captain) on at least three occasions, and using his incredible pace to get by him on a few others. I hope for the Oranje’s sake they continue to call him up. Great energy and talent.
At the end of the night, though the Oranje had failed to score, the mood wasn’t as disappointing as it had felt (and I had felt) after Arsenal’s 3-3 draw with Fulham last Saturday.
On my way home, I ended up with a nice surprise. About an hour and a half after the game finished, I had finally made it back to my neighborhood in Amsterdam, near the Leisdseplein. As I stepped off my tram and crossed a street, I looked up to see Per Mertesacker, Arsenal FC defender and starting center back for Die Mannschaft, looking me in the face. Turns out I inadvertently stumbled on the German squad leaving their team bus, and getting into their hotel, which I was walking right next to. I was so stunned I couldn’t think of anything to say! But it was still ridiculously hilarious and awesome.
Final thoughts: Loved the experience. Every football fan should make the pilgrimage to Amsterdam to watch the Oranje play. Tickets aren’t too hard to get, especially for friendlies, and the partying atmosphere is great fun, and worth any money spent a few times over.
Up next, Ajax Amsterdam vs. VVV-Venlo on Saturday night. Check your local listings.
Follow Dan Karell on Twitter: @DanKarell15
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