The supremely rated Dutch team, dubbed the favourites for the EURO 2012 glory, had the worst record in the EURO tournament. They were not able to win or even draw any match. A lot of sports and football enthusiasts thought the Dutch would optimise the use of the Euro 2012 opportunity to end their 24-year EURO trophy drought. But the reverse was the case, as they were not only unceremoniously eliminated but could not secure a point. KINGSLEY OPURUM takes a look at how they fared.
The highly rated Dutch national team suffered the ignominy of leaving a major tournament without securing a single point. Despite losing their first two matches to Denmark and Germany, the Dutch still had the chance to progress to the quarterfinals of the Euros provided they beat Portugal by a margin of two goals while the Germans beat the Danes.
The Dutch couldn’t even draw with Portugal. As a matter of fact, Portugal outplayed them and beat them 2-1, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a brace. The changes Dutch fans did clamour for, the benching of Mark van Bommel and the inclusion of Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, were wrong, and although the Dutch scored an early goal through Van der Vaart, it seemed as though this was the signal for them to fall apart.
Fall apart they did, proceeding to play second fiddle to Portugal throughout. A lot of people have opined that the name, Netherlands is synonymous with Neverland and should be changed for the latter in as much as they will only fly as high as possible but can never land. Meanwhile, reactions have continued to trail the unceremonious elimination of the mighty Netherlands, who were really the people’s favourite for the EURO Championship glory.
According to a Dutch sports analyst, Alex Warnaar they were unlucky from the start of the tourney. “It was a bad omen from the start when we started more or less the same team as we did two years ago in the World Cup.
And we failed to work together as a team, played and started with two defensive midfielders, played the wrong players in the wrong positions, and had egos on the bench. I’m sorry, but as far as I’m concerned, Van der Vaart and Sneijder were mutually exclusive, unless when we were in the late stages desperately needing a goal, one or the other should play, but not both.
The same can be said for Huntelaar and Van Persie. And if that means Huntelaar and VdV had spent most of the time on the bench, it would have been much better.”
The midfield problem was not solved by moving Sneidjer out to the wing, RVP deeper and VdV into the middle. It would have been solved by keeping Sneijder and RVP where they were along with fielding a proper box-to-box central midfielder.”
It was the first time in more than a decade that the Dutch failed to reach the second round at either the World Cup or EURO tournaments. And the first time since 1984 that the Dutch missed out on a place in a Euro quarterfinals.
Two years ago, coach Bert van Marwijk let results dominate over attractive football and he reached the final of the World Cup.
This year, nothing is left. No good play, not a single point in the first round. “And this is almost the same team as two years ago,” Van Marwijk said.
Robin van Persie, with all the class of the Premier League’s top scorer and the sweet moves of vintage Arsenal, had yet another unimpressive tournament. The Bundesliga’s top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar could not get a starting spot on the team, and when he did on Sunday, he got neither passes nor crosses. “We all need to look in the mirror and realise that this should never happen again. Let it be a hard lesson,” defender Ron Vlaar said.
They made it a one-goal challenge within 11 minutes. Arjen Robben drew defenders on him, and smartly slipped the ball to creative midfielder Van der Vaart who rewarded his starting spot with a great curling left-footer from 20 meters. If the massive throngs of Dutch fans thought this was the beginning, they were wrong. It was effectively the end. The team’s tender heel was its defence and it soon showed.
Wingbacks Jetro Willems and Gregory van der Wiel were out of their depth against both wingers, forcing the whole team back when it should have been looking for two more goals.
And the central defenders were error-prone too. At first, Ronaldo clipped the post, and Helder Postiga failed to exploit a glaring defensive error. It was more than a warning. It was the start of a deluge of chances that lasted till the 90th minute when Ronaldo hit the post again. In between he had scored twice.
Wesley Sneijder had been great as a playmaker in the first two games, but was out of position playing on the left and Robben could not get decent crosses in. As a result, Huntelaar was left totally stranded in the centre on a night when little went right for his team.
Cristiano Ronaldo at his thrilling best scored a spectacular brace for Portugal as they reached the last eight with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands, eliminating the Dutch which ended a miserable Euro 2012 campaign without a point. Man of the match, Ronaldo delivered the tournament’s best individual display so far with goals in each half, after Rafael van der Vaart had raised Dutch hopes with a wonderful strike in the 11th minute, as they finished runners-up to Germany.
There was no complaint about the outcome from a Netherlands team that two years ago were World Cup runners-up but this time around deserved their place among those that participated in the tournament. “I am responsible and therefore failed in this tournament but at this moment I am not thinking about my future,” said Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk as the inquest began.
Like the Dutch, Ronaldo had come in for criticism but the winger’s classy touches, electrifying pace and composed finishing proved to be the difference between the two teams. For the Netherlands, their first exit from a tournament in the group stage since winning the European title in 1988 was all they deserved after three straight defeats.
While the Netherlands, among the pre-tournament favourites, will search for solutions to their massive under-achievement, Portugal have little time for reflection. “The win was entirely deserved as was the qualification.
The players had quality, hard work, belief and confidence,” said Portugal coach Paulo Bento as they seek to advance in the tournament. “They showed this over the whole course. We proved that you can lose the first game and still qualify,” he added.
Finishing second in the toughest group is testament to the impressive progress of Bento’s team which significantly has been unchanged throughout the tournament.
The Dutch, in contrast, made three changes as Van Marwijk again searched in vain for the right formula. His side had to deliver a two-goal victory to have a chance of squeezing into the last eight and Bundesliga top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar got his first start of the tournament.
Soon after, Ronaldo gave an early reminder of his threat on the counter, powering through before hitting the outside of the post with a low effort – a sign of things to come.
The Netherlands were surprisingly loose with possession and it was from a poor give-away by left-back Jetro Willems that Portugal equalised in the 28th minute.
Joao Pereira threaded a ball to Ronaldo who finished in characteristic style to send the teams in level at the break. The Dutch tried to get back in front after the interval but it was Portugal which got the reward for their positive approach.
Ronaldo created chances for Fabio Coentrao and Nani but in the 74th minute he decided the outcome in impressive fashion.
Deep in his own half, the winger swung the ball out wide to Nani on the right where he raced goalwards before looking up and finding Ronaldo in the area where he steadied himself before firing past Maarten Stekelenburg.
As matters soon meandered from bad to worse, luck was also against the Dutch when Van der Vaart hit the post from 25 metres yard distance but the sight of Robin Van Persie and Huntelaar shooting wide in the final minutes was more symbolic of a poor lethal Dutch side.
Ronaldo was determined to complete his riposte to hasty critics with a hat-trick and nearly got his wish when in the final minute he sprinted down the right, screaming for the ball, collected and struck the post with a left-foot shot.
A third goal would have been just a pleasant reward for an outstanding display but cruel on the thousands of travelling Dutch fans who kindly applauded their team at the conclusion.
Whether many back home believe they deserved that generosity or not it is likely to be fiercely debated in the days and weeks to come.