It was on a fateful day while I was in class… Two people were discussing just next to me. They were talking about the Euros. Though I didn’t plan to join in but I heard something that annoyed me! One of the guys was like “did u watch the Netherlands vs. Portugal game” and his colleague replied “yea... That Dutch team is useless. They have the quality players but don’t have a good coach”. Initially I wanted to keep shut but I couldn't just help but ask him a simple question. “Was it not the same manager that took this same thing to the final of the world cup at South Africa 2 years ago? Well that’s how life is, one little mistake you make will wipe out every good thing you’ve done.
Heading into the Euros, the Netherlands were tipped to be one of the favorites to win the tournament. Judging on their performance at the South Africa and the euros qualifiers were the won all their games, it seems perplexing that such a talented collective could be dumped out of Euro 2012 with not a point to show for their endeavors.
It's the first time for over two decades that the Oranje have lost three games running. They looked so flat footed. So how did it go so wrong? How did Bert Van Marwijk's men fail to make it through to the quarter-finals? Here are some reasons.
Lack of Cohesion
Funny enough the Netherlands are one of the few teams where each individual in the lineup plays in a different team. From the goal-keeper who plays for Roma to Sneijder for Inter and RVP for Arsenal, no of them are colleagues at club level. Look at Spain for example, where Real Madrid- and Barcelona-players dominate. The Holland squad had no club-teammates in their starting line-up against Denmark, Germany and Portugal. You might want to say this is an invalid argument/point. But it actually helps. Managing a team like this takes a lot of difficulty. Here, then, you had a bunch of stars who did not cohere as a unit.
It was even reported that Van der Wiel, the Ajax right back was always seen with his headphones.
“He's running his own fashion line, working on his music and getting his hair done every day. The players did not see him without headphones on” that was a report on the right back.
Robben meanwhile was said to have isolated himself, maybe still causing himself for the penalty miss against Chelsea in the champions league final. While Van Persie reportedly acted as the star man in a team full of fine footballers and exaggerated egos. Not leaving out Klaas Jan Huntelaar who was jealous of van Persie for playing ahead of him Players that were also on the bench despite being in top form didn’t hide their disappointment. Van der vaart had this to say,
I have the right to speak out with 97 caps behind my name. If Holland wants to win, the coach has to play me in the starting line-up. I am no longer prepared to deny I am finding this role really tough. Do you know how frustrated I feel?
Now, if your squad is as divided as was reported before the Germany game, how could the Dutch have expected to succeed?
To achieve success, you compete as a team. You fight for each other and not your own agenda.
Sadly, the Dutch team that I saw during Euro 2012 was more a collection of individuals than a team unit, and that's a sad, sad thing
2 Team Selection based on sentiment
Midfielder, Van Bommel who is the son-in-law to the coach looked to have passed his prime and should have been dropped after the first game but seems to be playing because of the family tie. Van der vaart should have been a better option and he showed them what they were missing when he came on against Portugal.
Like I said in my previous article on the Dutch team, the 60 year old tactician speaks his team based on sentiment. Quite alright Van Persie was fantastic for Arsenal last season but he is not just the right man for Oranje; reasons best known to him. He looked tired, leggy and hesitant. Hunterlaar who was impressive in the qualifiers had to settle for the bench. With a freer role, van Persie would have been able to affect the game more and create more opportunities for the deadly Huntelaar.
If he'd have started the game against Denmark, Huntelaar could have been the key to Dutch success at Euro 2012.
A goal scorer is the most difficult thing in the world to find.
The Netherlands had one in their ranks, but only chose to play him when it was too late.
Jettro Williems became the youngest player ever to star in the euros when he played against Denmark. His inexperience coupled with bad defending from his defense partners caused Holland. Both goals the Germans scored came in through the left flank.
Holland's other full back, Gregory van der Wiel, was almost as bad defensively. Several lapses in concentration gave chances to his opponents and Premier League clubs interested in him should re-assess whether they still want to splash the cash. In the center of defence, it didn’t all go well either. You (as in Mathijsen) simply can’t give Mario Gomez, a top class striker, such opportunities. The gap between the six defending players and the four players up front became the same length as the distance between the north and South Pole so the whole squad lost control.
It was even worse against Portugal. It was so clear that they could not match the eccentric pace of Portugal’s Ronaldo and Nani and the midfield didn’t help out as Nigel De Jong was left all alone in midfield. (Van Der Vaart and Sneijder pushed up to assist the strikers)
The Group of Death
It was dubbed the group of death and as expected, someone had to die. Holland were the unlikely team. Look at GROUP A for example where we had the Czech Republic, Russia, Poland and Greece. The eventual winners of the group which is Czech lost their first game in an emphatic manner to Russia but they still topped the group. After losing their first game against Denmark, they were stunned in the second game by two moments of brilliance from Mario Gomez and then in form Ronaldo put the final game to the coffin in the last game.
Arjen Robben, arguably the worst player in the team was quoted to have said this, "It's very difficult for us in this group, because there just too many big egos. After the World Cup they may have become even bigger. That makes it hard for us," the attacker said. Don't get me wrong here, I’m not disputing the fact that the whole team played poorly, no. I’m just saying that the group’s difficulty has contributed.
The Dutch came into the tournament, if not among the leading favorites, then certainly highly fancied.
They won their first nine qualifiers to reach the finals with ease and in Van Persie and fellow striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had two players who had enjoyed exceptional seasons with their club sides in England and Germany respectively.
Van Persie was top scorer in the Premier League last season and netted 37 goals for Arsenal in all competitions, while Huntelaar was overall top scorer in Euro qualifying with 12 and led the Bundesliga with 29 goals for Schalke 04. Not to mention others players like Sneijder, Van Der Vaart and Robben who could create and score goals.
With this star studded team, everyone would have expected the Dutch team bot to have any issues with goal scoring but ironically, it became their biggest problem. Against Denmark, 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 seems like the strikers left their scoring boots at their clubs before coming. Van Persie started all the game and failed to more than a goal. Huntelaar was unused until the very last game when it was already too late and robben who kept on doing the same thing even though it wasn’t working
Starting Van Bommel and Van Der Vaart, two defensive minded midfielders with little or nothing to offer up front was a little bit baffling. You might say it worked for him at the world cup but it didn’t this time. After losing both games to Germany and Denmark, ben marwijk decided to take a risk against Portugal. Knowing that a 2-0 goal win over Portugal will see them scale through as long as Denmark was defeated, he started about four attackers at the same time leaving the midfield exposed.
Sneijder wasn’t really effective on the left flank, Van persie started dropping too deep to win the ball and Huntelaar had little or nothing. His tactics seemed to have been working when van der vaart scored in the first 10mins. But it backfired when Portugal started finding those little spaces behind the defensive line and this allowed Portugal to exert pressure on the ball very high on the pitch, in other words, on the Dutch defense, a pressure that was enhanced and sustained by the directness of the Portuguese, who, when they won the ball, ran at the Dutch defense and caused all kinds of problem. "We knew we had to win by a two-goal margin so we had to take that risk and go forward," said Van Marwijk.
"Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I think we started quite well today and we scored after about 10 minutes. The Portuguese were tactically efficient; the Dutch were not.
The disappointed Ben Marwijk even went further to say this after his disappointing team display, “I knew all along that it would be very hard to go to the quarter-final. I had the hope that we could bring another performance like two years ago at the World Cup”, he concluded.
He even went on to say that "If you want to accomplish something together, you have to put egos aside. You have to fight as a team to regain that sense of invincibility. It won't come by itself. Netherlands’ poor showings in the European Championship has placed a question mark over the Dutch mentor’s future at the Oranje. However, it would be an unwise choice to remove the 60-year-old from the managerial post.