Why the Netherlands lost

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I’m to blame. It’s true.

I’ve been a fan of Dutch football since I began playing soccer as an 11-year-old in the 1970s. Back then the U.S. national team was practically non-existent, while the team from the Netherlands, from whence my ancestors departed so long ago no one in my family remembers, was so good I immediately glommed on to Total Football. While I do cheer for the USMNT faithfully, I must admit my heart is with the Dutch boys.

So naturally, last Saturday we had to suspend our vacation and find a pub from which to watch the Netherlands play Costa Rica in the World Cup quarterfinals. Fortunately, Max’s Taphouse in the Fells Point section of Baltimore was happy to oblige.

The stout that helped the Dutch to victory over Costa Rica.
The stout that helped the Dutch to victory over Costa Rica in the World Cup quarterfinals.

A Max’s bartender, seeing me in my oranje KNVB football jersey, recommended that I try the Emelisse espresso stout, a coffee-based beer from the Netherlands. It was just as the extra time was ending, and the game was headed toward a penalty kick shootout.

Now, anyone who follows Dutch football knows the boys from the Netherlands never fare well when it comes to the PKs. I still have nightmares about the semifinal game they managed to give away in the European Championships in 2000 … on home soil. So needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled to see the game go to penalties.

But then I tasted the Emelisse espresso stout. It was delicious. While it’s listed as a coffee-infused beer, it smelled and tasted more like a bourbon-barrel aged style. Its dark color and tan head, while it lasted, made for a nice appearance. It was smooth and easy to drink, despite the liquor flavor slightly overpowering the taste of coffee. More importantly, as I sipped this delicious concoction, the players for the Dutch team slipped perfect penalty kicks past the helpless Costa Rican keeper to win the PK shootout and advance in the WC.

And that leads me to that semifinal game against Argentina. Once again, I was wearing my KNVB jersey. And once again, the game was scoreless after extra time and went into the penalty kick shootout. For once, I was feeling confident. But … I didn’t have an Emelisse espresso stout, nor any beer from the Netherlands, to sip on while the PKs were taken.

Alas, the Dutch boys found a new way to lose in the shootout. One can only conclude, therefore, it was because I didn’t have the right beer in front of me. The lesson here? Choose your beers wisely, because it does affect how your favorite team plays.

— Eric Van Steenburg

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