On of the most headache inducing ‘what if?’ scenario groups ended last night with nul points for the dreadful Dutch. A night that could have seen them leapfrog their German rivals and progress to the quarters could hardly have gone worse as they were embarrassed by a quality Portugal side.
Bert van Marwijk, a name soon to be coupled with ‘sacked’ or resigns’, went for broke last night. Hack and slash man Mark van Bommel got a lovely father’s day gift of being dropped from his father in law, and Rafa van der Vaart moved in next to the once again elite Nigel de Jong.
Now, for fifteen minutes this offensive move seemed to be the right idea, Robben passed (apparently he does, who knew?) to the Spurs man and he did what top players do when the opposition get caught ball watching. Up to that point the Portuguese hadn’t had a touch of the ball really.
But then the self destructiveness of the Oranje begun like the first falling domino of a tedious world record attempt on YouTube. Almost like watching a Fifa pro clubs match of strangers on the Xbox, Holland were as disjointed as you’ll ever see a team. Time again, you would see a player take a man on, be forced into a pass and look for the return, only to see he teammate run off with the ball to do his own thing.
I spoke before about how Willems seems to be ignored and nothing changed there, as a countless amount of throws went over his head when we was free.
The one player who didn’t seem overly selfish was vdV, who nearly mirrored his goal with a right foot effort onto the post. But he comes with another problem. With him on the right of midfield in van Bommel territory, and him being about as effective as a paper umbrella without the ball, Ronaldo was given too much time and space – especially up against young Gregory van der Wiel.
We all presume there has been some disturbance in the orange dressing room, and perhaps I was too harsh on van Marwijk earlier, because the players have really let everyone down. Lethal scorers Huntelaar and van Persie have underperformed dismally, while star men Robben and Sneijder both seemed to lack the mental strength to perform well on the pitch, showing more drama than skill.
Take nothing away from the Portuguese though. Knowing the Dutch needed to score some goals, their pacey counter attack was always going to prove useful. Perhaps it was something to do with the players involved but the game reminded me immensely of this seasons Champions League tie between Ajax and Real Madrid, with similar results.
For a moment it seemed like CR9 was going to do a van Persie this Euros, but it soon became clear that he was in the mood to romance the football. Unfortunately for most, it takes a defensive player at his best and a bit of luck to stop him in that situation and the Dutch were all outta both.
He is at the peak of his danger when he comes in from wide left and bears down on the fullback into the box and that happened far too much for Holland to have a hope.
The Iberians only grew stronger when Willems was taken off only to be replaced at the back by no one, leaving Nani open (which lead to him fluffing one) and leaving Holland with an attacking threat the back three would never be able to deal with.
In the other decider, Germany managed to not lose their composure after only being a goal or two away from expulsion against a tricky Denmark side and eventually see the win out fairly comfortably and efficiently. And we are all very surprised.
I bet the sum total of shock when Krohn-Delhi (who fancies himself the giant killer) scored the equaliser was that in a pub somewhere in Deutschland, one guy raised his eyebrow before calmly lowering it again and sipping his Lowenbrau.
“On a night of riddles, it would always be a simple equation to Germany” Jonathan Pearce put it, before being annoying again. Lars Bender coming on at right back was probably how they all saw the goal coming, ‘why do people think we left it late? There was ten minutes left!’ the German press are no doubt saying.
I feel sorry for the Danish team, they have done very well this tournament and are perhaps going to be the most admirable team leaving at this stage. Had Jakob Poulsen’s post hit followed this blog’s name Germany could have flapped, and the Danes could well have won the game. Probably not though.