I've just landed in Munich, after a furious round of packing, flying and birthday celebrations, and I've had a chance to mull over our not-quite emphatic 1-2 victory over the Oranje. I only say "not quite" because I'll admit to being a little worried the last 20 minutes or so of the match- when Robin van Persie moved to the wing, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was brought on. But I use the word "emphatic" because, while it was only a one-goal win, the difference in class between the two sides was marked.
Bert van Marwijk only made one change to the line-up that went down against Denmark- a defensive one- as Joris Mathijsen was fit to start. Many had expected the Holland skipper to replace van Persie with Huntelaar from the opening whistle. Perhaps his reasoning to keep the Hunter on the bench was due to the knowledge his ex-teammate, Manuel Neuer, has on him?
Meanwhile, Jogi Loew ran out the same starting XI that defeated Portugal on Saturday. Despite Mario Gomez being roundly criticized- after scoring the match winner against the Selaccao, for Pete's sake- Loew gave the Bayern Munich striker another starting chance. And it paid off in spades. Two goals in the first half ought to silence all the detractors, don't you think?
What went right?
I could make this paragraph short and say the first 70 minutes, but there are a few special mentions. Jerome Boateng and Philipp Lahm did a number on Afellay and Robben, respectively. Mats Hummels has been a revelation in these first two German matches, getting a piece of everything thrown his way. But, this battle was won in the midfield by the wonderful play of Mesut Oezil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira. Basti's only two passes to Mario Gomez in the first half resulted in goals.
What went wrong?
Lukas Podolski continues to be a non-entity. When I think about the match, I can not recall anything positive in his play. It makes we wonder how long Herr Loew will continue to give him respect, as for me, he hasn't done anything in the first two games. Andre Schuerrle is knocking at the door.
When Bert van Marwijk switched up Robin van Persie, making him a ten, things started to go wrong for Germany. But, the Dutch lacked cohesion, despite several good scoring opportunities, and the DFB was able to hang on for a win.
I would have liked to see Jogi make substitutions earlier, and was perplexed by team's evident exhaustion towards the end of the match. Fitness, in the strange Ukrainian weather, continues to be an issue.
Holland is not out. Germany is not in. One of my Dutch friends told me that they have a 12% chance of progressing to the next round. I think the math comes down to Denmark would have to beat us by more than one, and Portugal would have to lose by two. I think.
Although we were a bit shaky defensively towards the end, this was a complete performance by a complete team. And the Oranje seem to have gone back to being, well... Dutch. Gone is their camaraderie that brought them to the World Cup Final in 2010. And, as a German (American), I'm happy to see it go.
But, for now... WE BEAT HOLLAND! And that is (almost) enough for me. The chanting starts directly after the Denmark match.