Cape Town: Giovanni van Bronckhorst has only
one better way to say goodbye for good. That is to score in
his last competitive game as well, and finally give the
Netherlands the World Cup.
"I hope it will be the most beautiful game of my life,"
said Van Bronckhorst, who is retiring from football after the
tournament but made sure he will go out in style by scoring
the first goal in a 3-2 win over Uruguay in the semifinals
His name has already been scrapped from the teamsheet of
his last club, Feyenoord Rotterdam - but the Dutch team though
will keep him on until Sunday, and for good reason.
The captain gave the Dutch the lead with a blistering
35-meter left-foot drive that sailed past Fernando Muslera and
went in off the post to break open the game against Uruguay.
Van Bronckhorst then claimed the biggest defensive play
of the semifinal too, when he rushed back to head a dangerous
high ball out of the goalmouth in the 49th minute, with the
score at 1-1.
At 35, Van Bronckhorst was more than two years older than
anyone else on the pitch, yet celebrated like a teenager with
the rest of the team, almost an hour after the match.
"There were no tears, just joy," he said. "The last game
in my career and it`s a World Cup final, what can you say? It
could not be more beautiful."
Wherever he has gone, Van Bronckhorst has reaped success,
whether with Rangers, Arsenal or Barcelona. He has won league
titles in three countries - Scotland, England and Spain - and
the Champions League with Barcelona.
And made friends along the way too. With his success at
the World Cup, he already received messages of support from a
wide cast of characters, including Thierry Henry and Sol
Campbell. Lionel Messi once even picked him as the best left
back in the world.
As a defender, he is known for his dashes upfield on the
left, clean marking and his tight organizational instincts to
read and neutralize opposing plays as they develop. And as
understated as he is as a person and defender, as spectacular
his goals can be.
"It was super, and great for him," forward Arjen Robben
said. "He was playing the last two matches of his career and
now the very last one is the final of the World Cup. It`s
He was given the captain`s armband only two years ago,
when goalie Edwin van der Sar retired from international play.
He was seen as a transitional figure at best, not a standout
leader thriving on bluster and brawn.
Yet now, he has taken the team as far as Johan Cruyff did
in 1974. The Dutch will either play Spain or Germany, who meet
in Durban on Wednesday.
"For everyone, it will be the game of their life," Van
For himself, the last game of his life.
He began his international playing career against Brazil
on Aug. 31, 1996, and played his 105th match for Oranje
Tuesday, scoring his sixth goal overall.
Only Van der Sar with 130 international caps and Frank de
Boer with 112 have made more appearances for the Netherlands.
"It was incredibly beautiful. It was really a perfect
shot," said De Boer, now the assistant coach of the Dutch,
when describing the opening goal. "It will almost certainly
never happen again to strike a ball like that."
Considering Van Bronckhorst only has one game left, De
Boer`s prediction stands a good chance to hold true.