Typical Dutch? Touted among the tournament favourites before Euro 2012 got underway, the Oranje once again did little to shake off a tag of underachievers as they suffered a shock defeat by Denmark in their opening game. Here, we look at all the reasons for a major upset.
Michael Krohn-Dehli’s 24th-minute goal gave Denmark a famous 1-0 win over Holland.
The Dutch, 2010 World Cup finalists and considered by many to be among the favourites for glory in Poland and Ukraine, now face a tough task to even qualify for the knockout stages ahead of remaining games against Germany and Portugal in this summer’s Group of Death. What went wrong for Bert van Marwijk’s side? What did Denmark do so well? Here, we examine the major talking points.
Rule number one of football is you cannot win games if you do not score, and Holland showed that. They paid the price for a leisurely start. The Dutch looked composed on the ball, almost majestic. But, like Arsenal, they cannot rely on Robin van Persie. Holland failed to convert any of their 29 shots, six of which were on target.
When they work the openings, the Dutch attacking threat of Wesley Sneijder and Ibrahim Afellay have to net in this tournament. As both Barcelona and Bayern Munich found out in the Champions League against Chelsea, a raft of chances does not always equal a result.
The Denmark backline produced a sterling display to subdue the Dutch, proving resilient throughout, and ensuring the shock count did not reach ridiculous highs. Daniel Agger was their star performer.
However, Simon Kjaer looked almost as tenacious, contributing with vital challenges to keep things relatively tight. William Kvist and Niki Zimling also played their part to placate the Dutch in midfield, while Simon Poulsen did his bit at the back while also providing some attractive attacking play.
PSV Eindhoven’s 18-year-old Jetro Willems became the youngest player to appear in the European Championship finals, beating a record set in 1984 by Belgium’s Enzo Scifo.
The youngster looked good early on, hitting one rasping shot over the Danish crossbar and generally looking like the kind of attacking left-back often seen in the modern game.
But equally typical for many of these kinds of players, he looked shaky at times in his defensive duties, with Afellay sparing his blushes early in the second half as he was dragged away from his station.
De Jong goes about his business
The Manchester City defensive midfielder did what he is very good at from the word go, mopping up in front of the back four and moving the ball on.
But a criticism of De Jong at City is his style can hold his side back, and this was the case at times against Denmark. The Dutch had the Danes at their mercy early on, but a reluctance to go for the jugular could be seen to stem from building their approach around De Jong’s methods. No surprise he was replaced by Rafael van der Vaart as his side chased the game.
Holland pay the penalty?
There was a first-half penalty claim for handball against Daniel Agger. But the Dutch will rightly feel very aggrieved by the clear handball by Lars Jacobsen late in the match that referee Damir Skomina did not penalise.
The Slovenian official did not have a bad game apart from that. But a penalty may have presented the only way the Dutch were going to score against the well-organised Danes.
Huntelaar the answer?
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – a 71st-minute substitute for Afellay – will need to provide the attacking edge Holland’s flowing football is crying out for.
With a weak-looking defence, you feel the Dutch will need to net often to overturn defensive frailties. Huntelaar will have to show more if he gets a chance in Holland’s remaining two games, or he will be back on the plane before he has time to shine.
Dutch fans do not disappoint
There are some sure things in life, and Dutch fans turning up in their thousands daubed in orange at major tournaments is one of them. They did not disappoint in Kharkiv and while dismayed by their side’s display, they were as noisy as ever.
However, there were plenty of empty seats in the Metalist Stadium. Will this set a pattern for the rest of the tournament when either host nation is not involved? UEFA will have also let out a huge sigh of relief, as there was no sign of the racist chanting that plagued the Dutch pre-tournament training session – but this could have been because the crowd was dominated by Dutch supporters.