Had Germany been triumphant in today's semifinal match, all the talk would have been about the Dutch seeking revenge for World War II. Instead, Spain scored the one and only goal, proving once again that Paul the Octopus is all-knowing. (He is now taking bets for the Super Bowl.)

Nevertheless, being Europe with its long history of cross-border conflict and bloodshed, a grudge match it will be come Sunday—at least if you are Dutch and are familiar with the War of the Spanish Succession as well as Schiller's Don Carlos, Infant of Spain (not to mention Verdi's opera of the same name).

But more to the point, the reign of the Duke of Alba over the Netherlands during the 16th century should not be forgotten. Known as "The Iron Duke," Fernando Alvarez de Toledo did not take lightly to Dutch Protestants revolting against their distant king, Philip II of Spain. Described as "a merciless hunter of heretics" by Dutch historian Geert Mak, the duke convened a Council of Troubles, which locally became known as the Blood Council, and executed innumerable inhabitants by beheading and drowning, among other means.

In the fortress town of Naarden is a place known as the Spanish House. According to the town's website, "In 1572 400 citizens were slaughtered in this building by the Spanish army. The Spanish soldiers—'drunk of blood and not of wine'—continued their massacre in the streets and murdered another 400 citizens, mostly men." The duke's son is said to have ordered the death of every man, woman, and child living in Naarden.

And so it begins.