Oranje progress reduced to a mathematical equation.
“The Dutch fans are orange in the tops but red in the face.” Those were the words of the BBC commentators at half time of the do-or-die clash with the tournament favourites. That seemingly innocuous one-liner encapsulates the overall feeling of the dutch players. Holland have to hope that they get a miracle in the final round of games in order to qualify for the last eight.
In the wake of the narrow Portugal victory, as things stand if der oranje defeat the Iberians by at least three goals and Germany win against Denmark then there is the distinct possibility that the Dutch will qualify. However it is also likely that Joeleon Lescott will be the top scorer at Euro 2012.
It all went wrong with the intial defeat against the Danes, which in a group such as this is suicidal. Van Marwijk’s tactics are ineffective mainly because we’ve all seen it before. We know that Robben will inevitably cut inside from the right and set himself for one of his famous left footers, we know that Wes Sneijder is going to have games filled with invariably uninventive passes. Not to mention the centre of the Dutch defense is ageing among other overt problems. So coming into the group of death, all Holland had to offer was the same old story up front, an increasingly dire situation at the back and most importanty, a coach that refused to paper over the cracks. Why wasn’t Klaas Jan Huntelaar a starter in the opening match? With Arjen Robben becoming more and more inefficient it was reasonable to assume that two forwards instead of one should have been used against a solid Danish squad. Van Marwijk instead chose to use tactics that worked two years ago in South Africa. Bear in mind that they also leaked a lot of goals for a finalist (five before the final compared to Spain’s two).
Thus when Holland took on the Germans yesterday, it came as no great surprise that Germany were able to take their well-constructed chances in the first half, and resist the expected orange tide in the second half. When Robin Van Persie pulled one back, it just seemed to make things even worse for the Dutch as Germany shut-up-shop with pragmatic possession football, playing down the clock.
Der Oranje’s best hope in the final fixture at a glance is that Van Marwijk needs to change his setup (obviously). The friendlies against Germany (0-3) in Hamburg late last year and earlier in the season against England (3-2) were the signs that Van Marwijk should have been re-evaluating his options on the pitch; particularly in defense. So it seems that the script has already been written for the Dutch. However if Chelsea’s Champions League campaign is any example of the unpredictability of the global game, then expect some fireworks in Sunday’s match. The question is whether the Dutch have the character to defy elimination and reach the last eight.