Game in a sentence
Lively Denmark show wasteful Netherlands why Group B is the Group of Death.
- Two teams playing a 4-2-3-1, as expected. Robin van Persie started ahead of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the Netherlands (no, they can’t play together, fools). The protracted question of who would accompany Van Bommel in defensive midfield was answered by Nigel De Jong. The relative newcomer to central defense was Feyenoord’s Ron Vlaar, who replaced the injured Joris Mathijsen.
- Meanwhile for Denmark, there were few surprises. Nicklas Bendtner started up front with Christian Eriksen in the hole, surrounded by Rommedahl and Krohn-Dehli. An experienced defence with Simon Poulsen in left back and Simon Kjaer and Daniel Agger in CB looked decidedly better than Holland’s, at least on paper.
- A word has to be said about the stadium atmosphere in Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv Ukraine. It was as silent as space, and there several empty seats visible. Perhaps some scared corporate parties didn’t make the trip? Moneybags UEFA ftw. I mean, I saw people wearing orange, but I sure as hell didn’t hear them…
- The Netherlands dominated in almost every single category. After the first half, they enjoyed a pass accuracy of 91%, possession 58%, and 23 shots to Denmark’s 6. Crucially though, only 4 of those were on target, and part of that came from the same issue that affected Arjen Robben in the Champions League final with Bayern Munich: a tendency to shoot over the bar after cutting inside from the wing. RvP’s work rate was good, Afellay, as expected, was excellent, and Wesley Sneijder was in control.
- But this wasn’t just a case of the Netherland’s profligacy. Denmark were very compact in defence, with Kvist and Zimling content to pair up in front of the two central defenders, while Poulsen and Jacobsen in full-back came back well to assist. Certainly the fact the Dutch attack worked primarily through the middle via Sneijder (and sometimes Van Bommel) didn’t help either.
- Dear camera feed producer: cutting to shots of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on the bench whenever van Persie missed a shot was a dick move.
- And so, perhaps inevitably, Denmark scored against the run of play in the 24th minute when Krohn-Dehli powered past Heitinga and van Bommel to slot past Stekelenberg. Whoops! The Dutch were then left to chase a game they were completely dominating. EURO 2012!
- Other player notes: Denmark’s Jacobsen was very good in fullback, particularly in the second half and in attack. Highly-touted Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen was anonymous for large chunks of the game, and so came off for Lasse Shoen in the 74th minute, thereby ruining my pool.
- Bert van Marwijk rightly decided to change things up midway through the second, bringing on Huntelaar and Van der Vaart for Afellay and De Jong respectively. Huntelaar had a very good chance within a few minutes of coming against Andersen, who smartly robbed the ball from his feet.
- Despite the Netherlands pushing forward, Denmark remained resolute. Before we write the Dutch off though, Holland lost their opening group stage match 0-1 in 1988 too, the year they won the European Championships. Still, Germany and Portugal must be breathing a little easier this afternoon.
1. Wesley Sneijder
2. Simon Poulsen
3. Michael Krohn-Dehli