No need to go into too much detail about the Netherlands v Denmark game. You saw the game or at least the highlights. The Netherlands had loads of chances and missed all of them. Van Persie looked like a shadow of the player who banged in 30 odd goals for the Gunners and we saw the best and worst of Robben who seemed to be able to beat his man at will and then tried to score from 30 yards, when team mates were in great positions.
The Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk will argue that he got his tactics right, it was just poor finishing that did for the Dutch and up to a point he’d be right. Holland had so much possession and indeed created so many chances, at times it was embarrassing to see undoubtedly world class players miss the target so often. However, the Danes took one of their chances and had other moments when they caused the Dutch problems and defended stoutly with Agger in particular, an outstanding presence at the heart of the Danish defence. As the Dutch monopolised possession, the need for two holding midfielders, became increasingly obsolete and it was late in the game before Van Marwijk brought on leading scorer, Huntelaar to partner Van Persie, but the same pattern kept repeating itself, with the Dutch lacking sharpness in front of goal.
This now leaves the Dutch with the straightforward but difficult task of needing to win the next 2 games to qualify for the knockout stages, which brings us nicely to the must-win clash against Germany. This isn’t the biggest rivalry in Europe. Bosnia v Serbia v Croatia would by some wide margin beat the Dutch-Germanic conflict hands down, but it still matters. However, to beat the Germans, Van Marwijk may have to let the shackles off. Against the Danes, Holland lacked width. Van Der Wiel in particular, barely crossed the half way line and Willems his full-back partner got forward intermittently. Van Marwijk will need to go against his instincts and modify his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. One of Van Bommel or De Jong may need to be sacrificed to accommodate Huntelaar from the start, but on the evidence of Germany’s opener, Ozil and Kroos might have a field day against a pedestrian defence if the Dutch choose to line up with only one holding midfielder. Affelay was anonymous for large parts of the game against Denmark and he may be the one to miss out to Huntelaar. Whatever formation the Dutch employ, they must push their full-backs forward at every opportunity to stretch the German back four. Too often against Denmark, the Netherlands didn’t have enough men forward against a well-organised Danish defence and Van Persie was often isolated in attack and in midfield there was insufficient support for Sneijder.
Against Germany, possession is likely to be more even-handed. The Germans won’t relinquish possession as much as the Danes did, but are capable as they showed against England in the last World Cup, of lightning quick counter-attacking. The Dutch lack pace in central areas and will be frightened of the Germans’ attacking threat. In wide areas, the inexperienced Willems will need to neutralise the directness and energy of Thomas Muller who was outstanding against Portugal. One the other flank, Podolski will fancy his chances against Van Der Wiel who had a poor game against Denmark and will need to improve his concentration and composure.
This should be an absolute cracker, the Netherlands need to win and the Germans would probably be reasonably happy with a point and this game could go any which way such is the talent on show. There is however, cause for Dutch optimism, Sneijder looked a bit like his old self. His range of passing was occasionally outstanding and he looked prepared to run at the defence. Also the Dutch can’t be as wasteful in front of goal as they were against Denmark. I take the Dutch to win 2-1, but it could be anything.
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