A Dutch-American friend writes:
What was once an ideological empire tempering the market fundamentalist tendencies of the West has itself become the very caricature of capitalist excess. It is a national morality tale, like 1920s America. Today's Russia is the Great Gatsby writ large.
And that only highlights what a great duel could await us in today's Holland v. Russia, um, fixture. It's not quite Good Against Evil, Cold War-style, but the political science of the thing intrigues. Everyone's favorite sexy, 420-friendly, progressive little social democracy—a country that enjoys an entire export industry in groovy architects—against the sinister Bear, the ever-murky petro-imperialist kleptocratic appointive monarchy skulking on the edge of Europe in a knock-off Adidas track suit. These aren't just two football teams, they're two bloody sides of the Janus-faced Western World! Should be good times.
I would love to come off all right-thinking and say that 100 percent of my being is behind Holland—easily the most cohesive and attractive national team in years, bar a few moments of brilliance from Argentina here and there—but my Russophile tendencies mean that I, like Raskolnikov on one of his more perplexing days, suffer from a divided consciousness. Certainly, the Netherlands should be rewarded for its rockin'-good football and for not having creepazoid ex-KGB men in charge. On the other hand, to see the Orangje undone by the Empire, under the crafty tutelage of a mercenary Dutch coach, would make for one hell of a plot twist. Davai, Rossiya! Hup Holland!