German joy and Oranje juice is the taste of South Africa 2010
Suddenly South Africa finds itself thrust back into the colonial age. The bright flags of Latin America and Africa are flying mournfully at half-mast, the orange of Holland is back in vogue after a hundred-year absence.
The first World Cup semi-final between the Netherlands and Uruguay in Cape Town on Tuesday will be held within a Jabulani free-kick of the castle the Dutch built in this country nearly four hundred years ago.
A cheeky bloke called Jan van Riebeeck turned up there in 1652 and dubbed it the Cape of Good Hope. Then, as you would expect from a European manager holding wary of an African strike force, he built a five-cornered castle in 1679. It still stands today and they still call one of the turrets Oranje. And that’s the colour the nation will turn this week as Africa’s most southerly outpost goes back to its European roots.
Sadly Ghana, the last African nation, fell to Uruguay in controversial circumstances in Friday’s quarter-final at Soccer City. Luis Suarez’s handball and Gyan Asamoah’s subsequent last-second penalty miss saw the South Americans through on a shoot-out. Ironically, the fifth-best CONMEBOL nation are the last survivors after a tense penalty shoot-out. As a response to that annoying win over the Blacks Stars rather than any true affection for their former colonial masters, South Africa will turn a lurid shade of orange on Tuesday.
Many here still speak Afrikaans – also known as Kitchen Dutch – and as Cape Town-bound jets filled with Dutch supporters blaze a trail across the skies over Africa, a joyful reunion of sorts can be expected. Uruguay, with the dastardly Suarez (he also helped put Bafana Bafana out in Group A) suspended, Bert van Marwijk’s side are expected to glide comfortably into the final at Soccer City on July 12.
Ironically, in a nation where the Afrikaners generally prefer to play rugby, German footballers have captured the imagination too. Lutherans from Bavaria flocked here with the Dutch 300 years ago, contributing plenty to the early culture of the Afrikaner interlopers.
Yesterday’s emphatic 4-0 win over Argentina was predicted by this writer – but that scoreline was unimaginable. I said Diego Maradona was their weak link all along, and the bearded one’s abject failure to respond to the German Blitzkrieg proved the point with some relish.
German boss Joachim Loew oozed: “We talked about many things, and my team did so many of them to perfection, it was terrific.”
Spain, who will oppose the Germans in the Durban semi-final next Wednesday, looked far less impressive in their 1-0 win over Paraguay, a dull affair at Ellis Park which was brightened only be two penalty misses in the space of a minute. With Liverpool’s Fernando Torres looking distinctly unsettled, David Villa was the 83rd minute match-winner once more. He is their only hope of an upset at the Moses Mabhida Stadium – though Iker Casillas, the ageless Real Madrid goalkeeper, may prove hard to beat.
Coach Vincente del Bosque confessed: “We didn’t play well and we never looked comfortable. We are not scared of Germany but I think they are playing better than anyone right now. We are strong, though, and we can take on anyone, including the Germans.”
The top scorers in the tournament, Germany have scored four goals three times in this tournament. Apart from their upset 1-0 defeat against Serbia in Group D, they have barely put a foot wrong.
So the great Latin American powers, so dominant in the early stages of this World Cup, are gone. It’s got to be a Germany v Netherlands final. And I’ll pick the oranges once more.
Neal Collins is in South Africa to mourn for England and promote his first novel A GAME APART. Seewww.nealcollins.co.uk.