Euro 2012 Preview: The Netherlands
2010 World Cup finalists, the Dutch go into Euro 2012 no longer as a “good team with outside chance” but instead listed alongside Germany and Spain as the straight up favourites. Without a major tournament triumph since 1988′s European victory, the Oranje are arguably looking better than they have in a long time.
How did they qualify?
The simple answer is easily. Drawn into a far from easy Group D alongside Sweden, Hungary, Finland, Moldova and San Marino, Netherlands would win all but one of their ten fixtures. Their sole defeat came in their last game with a 3-2 loss to Sweden.
Goals were easy to come by as the Dutch scored more goals than any other nation in qualifying with an astonishing 37. Though, this was no doubt helped by the 11-0 victory over San Marino
Bert van Marwijk was appointed national team manager in 2008, replacing Marco van Basten. Coming in on the back of a KNVB Cup win, van Marwijk had grown a reputation of a cup manager. Failing to win the league in his two spells at Feyenoord (2000-2004, 2007-2008, sandwiching his time at Borussia Dortmund) van Marwijk instead led the Rotterdammers to UEFA Cup success.
Since van Marwijk’s appointment, the Dutch have become a real formidable force, built with a solid defence containing individuals who are wholly unremarkable on a club level, but form a strong unit on the pitch. The anchoring of the midfield with Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel has allowed the marquee players like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie to have free reign.
Robin van Persie – 28 – Striker
What needs to be said? Robin van Persie is in the absolute form of his life. Finally shrugging off the injury problems that have blighted his career previously, Arsenal’s captain has grabbed an astonishing 37 goals in 47 games this season.
Yet, surprisingly, the talk amongst Dutch fans is not about how their tactic should be “Get the ball to Robin”. Instead, many are hoping that van Persie plays out of position to accommodate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, top scorer from qualifying. It’s an interesting prospect and if van Marwijk does get the two working together, they could be phenomenal.
Maarten Stekelenburg – 29 – Goalkeeper
Currently playing for Roma after a move from Dutch champions Ajax, Stekelenburg hasn’t exactly set the world alight in Serie A. However, he is such a key player for the Dutch national side.
Consistent, intelligent and an excellent shot-stopper, Stekelenburg was one of the most essential elements of the World Cup run in 2010. His heroics often kept the Dutch in games and it’s a testament to him that two of the Premier League’s most in-form goalkeepers, Tim Krul and Michel Vorm, don’t really stand a chance of displacing him any time soon.
Arjen Robben – 28 – Winger
Champions League finalist Arjen Robben continues to cement himself as one of the best footballers in the world. A star man for Bayern Munich, Robben (when fit) is full of pace, technical ability and a left foot that can turn any situation into a goalscoring opportunity.
For the above reasons it’s obvious why Robben is key to this side. He is a man capable of that moment of brilliance, that moment that separates two even teams. If he can perhaps be more generous than he was in the World Cup, with regards to passing to strikers, he may even win player of the tournament.
Mark van Bommel – 35 – Defensive Midfielder
That’s not Wesley Sneijder!
Van Bommel is the rock that every team needs. The calm head, the loud voice and the dressing room leader that turns a “good technical side” into a team that can fight for a win as well. He’s not the type of player that fans particularly enjoy watching, arguably most famous for his magical ability of avoiding yellow cards but to deny van Bommel is essential to this Dutch side would be silly. He’s captain for a reason.
What We’re likely to see:
van der Wiel Heitinga Mathijsen Anita
van Bommel de Jong
Kuyt Sneijder Robben
What the fans want to see:
van der Wiel Heitinga Mathijsen Anita
Sneijder de Jong
van Persie Robben
How far can they go?
The first problem is that group. Portugal, Germany and Denmark stand in the way of progression for the Dutch side and they could find themselves falling at the first hurdle. However, they are favourites to go through, albeit in second place to Germany.
After that, it’s partially down to luck. The only two teams the Dutch will really want to avoid are Germany, who they’ll have faced in the group, and Spain. If they can brush aside those two then they are the clear frontrunners but doubts arise over whether they can. Of the three main contenders, you’d certainly argue that the Dutch are currently the weakest.
Hup Holland Hup!