Hundreds of football fans congegrated at Goiânia airport on Friday to greet the Dutch national team as they arrived ahead of their friendly against Brazil the next day. Oranje came from Rio de Janeiro where the temparature had been ten degrees cooler.
After giving a few handshakes and signatures, the Dutch stars were quickly bussed to their hotel under a police escort. There, manager Bert van Marwijk met representatives of the Dutch media in an informal, improvised and rather intimate setting.
Reporters learned that Van Marwijk sees the Brazil friendly as an excellent opportunity to test young players - one hour later it was announced that 23-year-old Newcastle goalie Tim Krul will make his debut, replacing injured Maarten Stekelenburg.
The Holland manager added that there were new, but minor injuries to add to the long catalogue of misfortunes. Ibrahim Afellay (knee) and Robin van Persie (groin) will be able to play though. Unlike skipper Mark van Bommel and playmakers Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart, who didn’t even board the trip to Latin America.
There’s tummy trouble too for a few players and for the coach himself, but little to worry about. More serious is the news that Brazil will play at full strength, including their new superstar Neymar and, expects the Dutch coach, with Robinho and Leandro in the attacking line.
Asked whether the hot and close temparatures in Goiânia were a disadvantage for Holland, Van Marwijk looked up to heaven and said: “My influence is considerable, but there a few things I can’t change and one of them is the climate. We simply have to make the best of it.”
There was a warm welcome for Brazil too at their final pre-match training session in the Serra Dourada Stadium, with loud cheers from an estimated 15,000 fans. They were given free access, provided they donated a kilo of foodstuffs, to be handed to the poor and needy. Big piles of rice, nuts and paste emerged in the bowels of the stadium.
On the stands, the shrill, high-pitched shrieks indicated a sizeable female presence. Of course, Brazil plays artistic and elegant football, always putting on a show. Fun to watch, with players constantly showing off, trying to outdo each other, behaving like little boys, touching, pushing or bumping into each other, always with a smile.
When they strolled off the pitch, the Seleção received a thunderous applause lasting many minutes. Not much later, the first Dutch players claimed their hour on the pitch. By the time Van Marwijk appeared, the stadium had all but emptied. The din and the shrieks were gone, leaving a light buzz and murmur. The Holland manager knows he can expect a hotter reception on Saturday night.