Virtuoso Elia helps stuttering Dutch find their sense of rhythm

It is an understanding that sometimes important victories do not automatically accumulate once it has been established which team has superior gifts

You wouldn't have known from the mind-numbing drone of the vuvuzela horns – its tone presumably wouldn't have changed if an oversized Rembrandt had appeared in the cold blue sky – but the Netherlands may have found an authentic Young Master.

Well, youngish. Three years ago, at the age of 20, Eljero Elia was languishing in the margins of the Dutch league. Now a star in Hamburg he may just be an authentic link with some of the more dazzling creativity of his nation's football past.

Johan Cruyff, by some distance the best player in the history of the Dutch game, raised his eyebrows when Elia turned an unusually dour Denmark into a near rabble when he came on as a 67th-minute substitute. In the league table of encouragement that may ultimately rank a lot higher than the trophy that he still shines from time to time with some ferocity ... The Johan Cruyff Young Dutch Footballer of the Year.

The late arrival of Elia, especially in the absence through lingering injury of Arjen Robben, was something of a mystery in view of his immediate impact. The Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk may not have wanted to draw too much early attention to a player who plainly has a chance of making a considerable name for himself at this World Cup.

Operating along the left, which was just one of Cruyff's launching areas for the most brilliant dismemberment of rival teams, Elia ran with beautiful poise and penetration. It was a sharp lesson for the watching Ryan Babel, another young Dutchman of superb natural ability whose own best achievements for Liverpool have tended to come in moments of isolated virtuosity. Elia, by comparison, looks like a player who knows how to apply consistent hurt to a vulnerable defence.

The one of Denmark was already in some difficulties before Elia arrived, having conceded a comic own goal when an otherwise impressive Daniel Agger could not but help Simon Poulsen's attempted clearance into his own net. Elia though demanded surrender on his own unforgiving terms. He raced beyond the Danish cover to send a superb shot against the post. Dirk Kuyt, he of the relentless spirit and unstopping legs, was there to knock in the loose ball.

The Dutch hierarchy presented it all as the kind of measured march into action you expect of a team of great talent who are being given something of a shout for a place in the shake up. "It was a good start to our campaign," said the coach, and no doubt it was as far as it went. Fabio Capello might have exchanged one of his art treasures – well, perhaps not – for such a stride into the tournament, but there was still something nagging about hints that some Dutch players believe that victory is not so much a goal as a right whenever they run on the field.

Elia shattered that impression in a mere 23 minutes and if it is a little premature – if not completely barking – to shoot him vaguely into the category of his most distinguished admirer yesterday, there was no doubt that he might just bring to a chronically under-achieving team something rather than mere exceptional ability.

It is an understanding that sometimes important victories do not automatically accumulate once it has been established which team has the more superior gifts.

Another spectator, Robben, has always shown an impressive understanding that authentic achievement tends to accompany heightened effort. In his pomp at Chelsea, Robben was asked if he was the new Cruyff. No, he said, he wouldn't attain that status if he played for another 100 years.

Cruyff was unique in Dutch football and it is a status unlikely to be threatened by any number of heirs apparent. However, also without serious comparison is the nation's ability to squander an astonishing yield of talent from a population of just 16 million.

There were times yesterday when that bleak distinction was hovering once again. However, Elia dispelled it with an urgency and a skill that suggested that the Netherlands' next opponents, Japan and Cameroon, might be in for a more perilous ride than Denmark experienced for most of yesterday's match.

Robben is expected to return against the Japanese and it's hard to imagine that Elia will not be asked to provide the other half of a wide threat of formidable proportions. Wesley Sneijder can also be relied upon to maintain the tempo of a game which did so much to deliver the Champions League to Internazionale. He was almost invariably the most relevant Dutch presence when his team lifted their game, which was not that often until the arrival of Eljero Elia.

Eljero claims to be named for the jazz singer Al Jarreau. It certainly seemed entirely appropriate yesterday. This was a footballer operating in perfect rhythm. Who knows, he might just put the Netherlands in the mood.

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
books The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?