Van Bronckhorst living the dream
A veteran of hundreds of matches, Giovanni van Bronckhorst wants to live the boyhood dream of tens of millions of kids.
The captain would lift the World Cup if the Netherlands beats Spain on Sunday.
''As a kid, you follow the World Cups. And when the cup is lifted, it is a very special moment,'' he said.
Once the final whistle blows, there is still much ceremony and celebration for the winners. Until the captain walks up, the last member of the winning team to get his medal and finally receive the cup, the party doesn't start for real in the winning nation.
It was Fabio Cannavaro four years ago for Italy who held the trophy, but the tradition goes back 80 years.
In his 35 years, left back Van Bronckhorst has his own favorites: Argentina's Diego Maradona in Mexico 1986, Brazil's Dunga in 1994 and Cafu in 2002. No surprise that Dunga was a defensive midfielder and Cafu a right back.
Van Bronckhorst fits right in that line.
''Only a precious few players can do that,'' he said. ''So it is a dream for me to lift that cup.''
And if a man is allowed to dream, Van Bronckhorst goes one better.
In his ideal world, he would receive the prize from Nelson Mandela.
''That would make it very special,'' he said. ''It would be so beautiful if I could lift the cup if he is around.''
Well, how much can a man ask for in his last competitive game? Van Bronckhorst already retired from club soccer and will make his 106th international match, spread over 14 years, his finale.
He really should not get too greedy. The semifinal already produced more than most defenders can hope for.
He helped get the Netherlands into the final for the first time in 32 years by scoring the first goal in a 3-2 win over Uruguay. It was with one of the best goals of the tournament.
Van Bronckhorst gave the Dutch the lead with a blistering 35-yard left-footed drive that sailed past Fernando Muslera and went in off the post, a goal which is a replay hit in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
In the same game, Van Bronckhorst made the biggest defensive play when he rushed back to head a dangerous ball out of the goalmouth with goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg out of position.
He has a knack for picking winning teams and has won league titles in Scotland, England and Spain. Van Bronckhorst also won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2006.
He earned the captain's armband only two years ago after Euros 2008 when goalie Edwin van der Sar retired from international play. He has made the most of it.