Just lending Miss Slovakia a hand

By CHRIS ZIEMER

(Editor’s note: Chris Ziemer, Sonoma Academy athletic director and head girls soccer coach, is blogging for The Press Democrat at the World Cup in South Africa).

June 28, 2010

DURBAN, South Africa

Paging Miss Slovakia…

I learned yesterday that my tickets to the Holland vs. Slovakia Round-of-16 game were being delivered to the airport by Miss Slovakia. After waiting for the guys who she met on the plane to disperse, she did indeed have my tickets, but I learned she didn’t have a ticket for herself. Apparently, she and all of the other “Miss” winners were given tickets to two games but beyond that they were on their own.

She did have transportation waiting for her, so I suggested we head to the Slovakian team hotel, which was conveniently close to my hotel, and ask if they had extra tickets. It only seemed fair that Miss Slovakia was in the stadium, and although all of my tickets were spoken for, I was willing to help.
We arrived at the team hotel and I navigated her through a few levels of security. On our way to the front desk, I noticed a group of six players sitting in the hotel lounge. Keep in mind this was approximately three hours before kickoff.

I introduced Miss Slovakia (apparently, they knew who she was), and explained that she didn’t have tickets to the game (although I learned later, she did but needed more for a few friends). All of the players immediately picked up their cell phones and started making calls. Within about 10 minutes, she left with a handful of tickets (at least 7), a few photos with the players (both the players and she were equally excited) and a few phone numbers (not mine as I am happily married and we actually already had exchanged numbers to coordinate the exchange).

So, if the Slovakian players (including their captain) seemed a bit distracted it could be because approximately three hours before kickoff they were in their hotel posing for photos with us.
It all worked out in the end as I got my Dutch win and Miss Slovakia watched the game and also probably had a few thousand extra dollars as I’m assuming she didn’t give the tickets away.

Dutch businesslike in 2-1 win…

The atmosphere was great, with plenty of Orange fans in the mix. Holland scored relatively early and managed the game the rest of the way. Slovakia actually had some great chances and if it weren’t for a few great saves, they could have found themselves tied 1-1.

In the end, the Dutch deserved to win the game but will need to play better to beat Brazil. It was good to see Robben in action as he is dangerous every time he touches the ball. He wants the ball and isn’t afraid to work to get it either. His movement off the ball was fantastic as he pulled his marks in and out of the space he wanted to exploit.

The only crack in the cohesive Dutch camp was when van Persie came off he didn’t react well to being subbed. Hopefully, he will put the team ahead as past tournaments have been marred by selfish behavior. If Holland wants to beat Brazil, it will be a collective effort.

My next game in Durban is the semifinal and I can’t wait! To think I will be watching a World Cup semifinal live in South Africa is beyond my wildest dreams.