TOULOUSE, France -- Edgar Davids, the man Holland knows tenderly as the "Pit Bull," is back, lifting the Dutch side to a 2-1 victory over Yugoslavia yesterday with a magnificent last-minute goal.
In Davids' elation after his 20-yard, left-footed shot found the corner of the net, there was more than the average happiness of a goal scorer. There was the heady feeling of vindication. And in his joyous post-match embrace with coach Guus Hiddink, there was reconciliation.
In a country that produces talented soccer players with the same regularity as it grows tulips, Davids stands out as an unusually gifted midfielder. Mobile, tireless and aggressive, he was such a force for Ajax Amsterdam that Louis Van Gaal, the club's coach, dubbed him the "Pit Bull."
The name stuck. But Davids' aggressive nature was not confined to the field. Born in Surinam, raised on the wrong side of the tracks in Amsterdam, black in a predominantly white country, he was riled easily. When Hiddink dropped him from the Dutch team during the European Cup in 1996, Davids accused him of racism. Hiddink told him to go home.
Davids' international career seemed over. Moving to AC Milan, he was dropped. Last year, he broke his leg. But then, six months ago, came redemption. Signed by Juventus, Davids clicked back into form, lifting the Italian club to the title this year. Hiddink simply could not ignore him.
The coach put the 25-year-old player back into the Dutch midfield, where it is now hard to imagine the team without him.
With seconds remaining yesterday and the score 1-1, Davids collected a corner kick on the left edge of the penalty box. He pushed the ball forward and blasted a shot into the lower left corner of the goal.
Holland, which twice reached the final of the World Cup, in 1974 and 1978, with one of the greatest teams never to win soccer's supreme tournament, was through to the quarterfinals, where it will meet the winner of today's England-Argentina game.
After the match, Hiddink said he had thought of taking Davids out with 10 minutes to go because the midfielder had strained a muscle. "It was a happy non-decision that I left him on the pitch," he said.
Netherlands 1 1 -- 2
Yugoslavia 0 1 -- 1
First half--1, Netherlands, Bergkamp 2, 38th minute.
Second half--2, Yugoslavia, Komljenovic 2, 48th. 3, Netherlands, Davids 1, 92nd.
Yellow cards--Yugoslavia, Stojkovic, 38th; Mirkovic, 53rd; Djorovic, 73rd. Shots at goal--Netherlands 17. Yugoslavia 6. Shots on goal--Netherlands 13. Yugoslavia 3. Offsides--Netherlands 3, Yugoslavia 3. Fouls--Netherlands 19, Yugoslavia 12.
Pub Date: 6/30/98