First of all, I want to apologise for my late and final blog. I needed some time to grieve after the big deception. Jack Daniels must be so happy with me. Although we all saw it coming, it was hard to face reality. The worst moment was walking through Amsterdam several hours after the game. There was orange everywhere, but not in the enthusiastic way. It was raining; the flags and decorations lost their shine and empty beer cups made the asphalt disappear.
Now, a couple of days after the debacle, we can put it in perspective. The Netherlands are one of the few teams where each individual in the line up plays in a different team. Look at Spain for example, where Real Madrid and Barcelona-players dominate. The Holland squad had no club team-mates in their starting line-up against Denmark, Germany and Portugal.
‘It worked during the World Cup 2010’, is a valid argument. But still, if you look at the performance two years ago: the group stage had three wins, but the games were really bad.
2-0 against Denmark with Agger scoring an own goal, 1-0 against Japan with a huge mistake by the goalkeeper and finally the win against Cameroon, 2-1. Then, there was the game against Slovakia: 2-1. Not quite an astonishing performance. The only time the team played marvellous was against Brazil, with a 2-1 win. During the semi-final, Uruguay missed Suarez, and Holland won 3-2. Finally, Spain were too strong in the final battle. The euphoria didn’t allow any criticism.
So actually it does make sense that John Heitinga and co are relaxing in Ibiza instead of playing the Czech Republic in the semi-finals. The egos of the Big Five (Robben, Van Persie, Sneijder, Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel – you can even consider to add Rafael van der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay) were too big to fit in the style of the squad.
Even Ireland were more efficient than the Netherlands. I’m not kidding. Trapattoni’s men had 25 goal attempts, scoring one goal (4.00% efficiency). The Netherlands scored the shameful stat of 3.70%. 54 (!) attempts, two goals. We can’t even compose a list of the top three goals during the Euros 2012.
What’s next? A very talented generation, but the World Cup in Brazil is too soon for them and maybe too late for the big stars that are leading now. But that’s all far away, after this dreadful tournament. The worst ever. 1980 was the last and only time that Holland got kicked out of the group stage. But at least they did it with a win. What’s the similarity between a broken pencil and the Netherlands during the Euros 2012? They’re both pointless.
17 October 1990. The Netherlands faced Portugal for the first time ever. The Portuguese Rui Aguas was the only player who scored, so Holland lost 1-0. It wouldn’t be the last time they ended a game without a win against Portugal. Even worse, over the next nine games the Dutch only managed to win one. One year later, October 1991, the squad took revenge with a 1-0 win, the last victory against Portugal.
The worst defeat was during the World Cup in Germany, in 2006. Referee Valentin Ivanov showed sixteen yellow cards, including four double yellows. (Costinha, Deco, Boulahrouz and Van Bronckhorst all saw red). The grim ambiance during the game caused a trauma for Holland. Two years before the infamous 2006 game, Portugal kicked Holland out of the European tournament. They became a true Angstgegner (bogey team) for the Netherlands.
Rumours have it that coach Bert van Marwijk will finally change the starting line up with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as the striker. He is forced to do that, but in my opinion it’s already too late. Statistically the chance for Holland to reach the quarterfinal is 1 in 190. To compare: there is more of a chance that Polish and Russian supporters will have a good beer together; Cristiano Ronaldo takes to the pitch without looking into the mirror or Nicklas Bendtner shows his underwear sans sponsor.
It may work if Germany beat Denmark 2-0 and the Netherlands beat Portugal with a minimum of two goals in difference. Let’s hope for the best.
‘Ich hoffe das du fukkin’ sterbst’, Frank Rijkaard’s spit on Rudi Völler’s neck, Ronald Koeman wiping his bottom with a Germany-shirt. Holland-Germany has had its historical moments, with hostility and passion guaranteed.
Wednesday’s game was the complete opposite of the examples I just gave. The Netherlands played without courage, without organisation and without the well-known Holland-Germany spirit. The first fifteen minutes started off furiously, with Robin van Persie wasting a huge opportunity.
As I pointed out in my previous blog, he’s not the right striker for the Dutch squad. Coach Bert van Marwijk still placed him up front, had to face the consequences, and I have to write this exact same sentence again. Despite of the loss against Denmark, he started with almost the exact same XI, with only the recovered Joris Mathijsen taking Ron Vlaar’s place.
At the back, it didn’t all go well either. You (as in Mathijsen) simply can’t give Mario Gomez, a top class striker, such opportunities. Twice. The gap between the six defending players and the four players up front became the same length as the distance between Amsterdam and Charkov, so the whole squad lost control.
Van Marwijk seemed to realise it after the break, when Van der Vaart made his appearance for Mark van Bommel. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came into the squad, a big relief for the whole country, but didn’t gave us where we all hoped for. Van Persie on the other hand, proved his value with a great shot. For a minute it worked again, with Huntelaar as the striker and Van Persie behind him, but as expected, Germany didn’t give it away.
In the days before this game, there were a lot of questions about the starting formation. Each and everyone wished for Huntelaar up front, Van Persie behind him, Arjen Robben on the left side and Ibrahim Afellay on the right. Robben on the right isn’t working, especially not against the Germans. His famous, fast dribble – which always ends up after he comes inside – isn’t fresh anymore.
There was a pinch-hitter missing as well. Luciano Narsingh, who gave twenty assists last season, was perfect for the second half. Instead of him, Van Marwijk brought on Dirk Kuijt. Never change a losing team, I guess.
Therefore, the tournament of the 2010 World Cup-finalists could be over by Sunday. Only if Denmark don’t gather any points and Holland win against Portugal with more than two goals difference, there’s a quarterfinal for the squad.
The worst-case scenario happened. The players of the Dutch squad pointed it out in three O’s. ‘Ongelooflijk, Oneerlijk, Onterecht’. Or in English: Unbelievable, unfair and no justice at all. The remarkable thing about those statements is that there’s no self-reflection whatsoever. Holland had 29 (!) shots, but only six of them were on target. No goal. Meanwhile, the Danish took eight shots with four of them on target. One goal.
It immediately became clear that Robin van Persie isn’t the right striker for the Dutch squad. He was eager, but not in the familiar Arsenal way. He wanted to prove, too much. It turned out wrong, and he wasted a lot of opportunities. Again, there were a lot of tv-shots of Huntelaar, who was desperately waiting on the bench. He made his appearance in the 71th minute, but by that time it was already too late. Bert van Marwijk didn’t take any risks, played it safe and had to face the consequences.
Those consequences are bigger than the people think. There are some optimistic supporters saying that Holland lost their first game in 1988 as well (when they eventually won the Euros), but with games against Portugal and Germany in view, the quarterfinal is far, far away.
The goal Holland conceded was typical for the game. Michael Krohn-Dehli played for Ajax, RKC Waalwijk and Sparta Rotterdam, but was never considered as one of the best players in the team. That’s not a big surprise, since he played with a couple of guys who were on the pitch too, yesterday. Here they are: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, John Heitinga, Gregory van der Wiel, Maarten Stekelenburg and Wesley Sneijder played with Krohn-Dehli at Ajax. But the international stars could not make a difference against their old teammate (which also includes Dennis Rommedahl).
So for now, there are two things that can happen. One: it’s only going downhill from here. Remember the friendly against Germany (3-0 defeat). Or the defeat created a certain spirit ,which gives us the style and pugnacity that gives Holland the unbeatable form. We’ll find out on Wednesday, during the physical and emotional game against the Germans.