There was a time, oh 10-15 years ago, that a matchup of the Czech Republic and the Netherlands would be highly anticipated for its entertaining, high quality football and never-ending excitement. (Exhibit #1, and arguably my favorite international match of all time: the 3-2 from Euro 2004. Sadly, the long highlights video seems to no longer exist on YouTube -- thanks, UEFA! -- and all I can find is this short highlights package. Though if you're looking for an exceptional way to spend 20 minutes, here's a video about the Czech journey at those fateful Euros.)
Alas, those days are long gone. The Czechs especially are a shadow of their former selves and had failed to score a goal, let alone get a win against the Dutch since that day in Portugal. The Netherlands meanwhile somehow magicked a third place at the World Cup, but that aura seems to have dissipated quite quickly for both the outgoing coach and the rest of the team. New man (and Chelsea hero) Guus Hiddink isn't one to lose often, yet he's got a winless record staring him in the face at the start of his second Netherlands career after the Czechs ran out shock 2-1 winners in Prague. The winning goal, set up gracefully by Newcastle's Daryl Janmaat (note: he's not Czech) is a thing of hilarious beauty. Sweet redemption for Václav Pilar -- a breakout talent for the Czechs at Euro 2012 but who has spent more time injured than healthy since (including an ACL tear right after he earned the move to Wolfsburg) -- to slide home the rebound.
Oopsies, Daryl. Double facepalm indeed.
At the other end, Petr Čech and his defense mates weren't exactly stellar either -- so much indecision and tentative play! -- but at least they didn't contrive to gift such easy goals as that one. Čech's best save of the day came early in the second half against young Memphis Depay, who was probably the best player in a fairly disappointing Dutch side.
Elsewhere, Mario Pašalić watched from the bench as Croatia took care of Malta 2-0 and all four of Chelsea's Brazilians started as Dunga's men continued their series of friendlies with a 1-0 win over plucky Ecuador. In an entertaining though much lower octane match than against Colombia last Friday, it was Willian's third ever goal for the Selecão that was the difference. Lovely finish by the Chelsea man (with Oscar getting the secondary assist), though it was Neymar's gorgeous one-time pass that was really the highlight. Neymar later contributed a spectacular miss as well.
Both Chelsea men involved in the goal were withdrawn at half time while Ramires and Filipe Luis completed 70 and 90 minutes, respectively. The left back found time for a goal line clearance as well.
In even better news, after Wednesday's Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, we'll finally be done with all the national team duties for this break and we'll get to get back to proper football! Hurray!