‘Dossiers from Europe’ – A blog that takes a comprehensive view of European football – going beyond the starry lights of the European giants, it takes a detour into the cafes of Vienna, the alleyways of Eastern Europe to the sunny Iberian peninsula and much more. Immerse yourself into the latest footballing happenings and trends of the continent that is shaping the present and future of football; both tactically and commercially. So, if the Eredivisie/ Ligue 1/ Jupiler Pro League etc. is your cup of tea, we will serve you the perfect brew!
This has to be the best Euro since new millennium. Hell yes, it is!
It is full of surprises. Although it is sad to see top teams like Russia, Sweden and Netherlands packing up their bags so early. That’s how the game is.
Predictions went out of the window after what we witnessed till the second round of group matches. Greece performed miserably yet knocked Russia out of the tournament. Surprisingly the Russians earned the tag of ‘new dark horse’ from the football lovers and media brigade after displaying a virtuoso performance in their opening match against the Czech. Also the free-flowing attacking approach of the Polish was equally pleasing to the eyes and plenty (especially the home fans) expected them to advance further. Their heroics didn’t last long too as Czech Republic (tipped them to reach the knock-out round) found their way to the quarters.
The Group of Death provided tremendous excitement for us. In the second round of group matches, Portugal nearly paid the price of being profligate in front of goal mouth against the Danes. Arsenal outcast (sort of) Niklas Bendtner nearly killed Portugal’s ambitions until an unknown talent called Valera came to the rescue act.
Germany displayed a stunning performance against the Dutch and registered their second consecutive win. Apart from few nervy moments against the Danes in their final group match, Lowe’s side didn’t look like the one to go home early.
The Oranje had only mathematics to rely on. They had to beat Portugal, hoping Germany does them some favour by beating Denmark. Their high hopes prevailed only to be crushed by their own wrong doings. This has been Holland’s worst ever campaign in Euro Championships. Their coach Bert Van Marjwick was out of his wit’s end – his team was a fragmented piece of individuals that lacked the very definitions of hunger.
So, what went wrong for the Dutch?
They were one of the favourites to lift the trophy after their fantastic show in their last World Cup where they narrowly lost to Spain in the finals. Everyone expected them to encore such form here.
Defence was Holland’s major concern. Throughout the tournament their jittery back four was exposed. The two full backs were simply not good enough. A phalanx of obdurate central defensive partnership – Mathijsen and Vlaar – gave Holland all the tremors and snafus at the back. Jetro Willems might turn into a good defender in future but unleashing the youngest ever whelp to play at this level was a gamble. And gamble was the last thing they need to take while playing in such a major competition, the tag of ‘favourites’ hovering on their shoulders. Van der Wiel had a good season with Ajax but he looked fish out of water at times. Tasked with lulling Cristiano Ronaldo he ended up providing false sense of security to his team.
Marjwick’s team selections have come under scrutiny from day one.
First, why throughout the tournament he deployed two central defensive midfielders when avalanche of attackers warmed the bench? It was only against Portugal he introduced Van der Vaart in the starting lineup and he repaid the faith with scoring.
Secondly, why Afellay started in the first two games and featured again in the third as a sub? What has he done to justify his place? Played only five matches for his club this season, handful of good pre Euro games and he gets the chance straightaway! I leave it to the coterie of sycophants to analyze his inclusion.
Back to walls, with victory the only option left, the Dutch coach fielded an attacking battalion. They took the early lead and looked like a team on a mission. But of all a sudden they lost the plot when they needed to tighten the grip. The players looked at the coach confused how to tackle Portugal’s two wingers. And with a look of a gaunt, grappling to tap the unknown depths of resolve and way to tackle Ronaldo’s menacing pace, his troops were dismantled without even forging a proper fight. That mission looked mission impossible when the Madrid man scored the second of the night for his team.
Likewise, individual performers are equally culpable. Robben and Van Persie typified their torpor, while their performances were as bad as anemic.
Sneijder was the only brave guy who tried to engineer something out of nothing, hollering at his fellow pals to attack more. Time was ticking away – heads down, steam evaporated and the dream was gone. The Dutch team lacked the typical vim and vigor, the doughty refusal to bow down, with which we are associated all these years. Post mortem can go on but now there is a distinctly sour whiff about their whole campaign.
Surprises sometimes can leave a bitter pockmarks on our soft heart. This exit is one of such. By the time this group phase ends we might see the exodus of other top teams as well. But, Holland holds a special place in a neutral’s heart. They really are.
Adios, amidst the cascade of catcalls.
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