Last Chance Saloon for the Dutch
Group B: Portugal vs. Holland
Friday, 17 June 2012
2045 (local time); 1445(EST); 0015(IST)
National Stadium, Warsaw
It didn’t have to be like this for the Dutch. One of the favourites for the tournament, and widely tipped to get into the next round with Germany from the Group of Death, they opened with a shock defeat to Denmark. There has been no return from that horror start. They are one of the 3 teams to lose both their first matches. But unlike the other two teams (Ireland and Sweden), they are not yet knocked out of the tournament and that is a start. Their misery in that opening match stemmed from 27 futile shots at the Danish goal of which 21 were off target. In an international match, that is recipe for disaster. Stars of clubs have not been able to reprise their form. Others have not been given a chance. Topmost on the list of failures would be Arjen Robben who has been unable to finish or create enough for his teammates. Robin van Persie has looked a pale shadow of the striker at Arsenal. For the crunch match, manager van Martwijk wants to use an overtly attacking team and would drop his son-in-law and the captain for a more creative Rafa van der Vaart. He would also sacrifice Ibrahim Afellay, drop van Persie behind and start with Klaas Jan Huntelaar up front. The Dutch require at least a 2 goal victory while also hoping that Germany does them a favour by beating Denmark.
The Portuguese have been plucky and had a late goal from Sebastian Varela against Denmark to thank for their 3-2 win. That goal was more than priceless for the Portuguese captain – Cristiano Ronaldo, as it masked the glaring misses he had earlier in the match. For a player of his calibre to have scored only three goals for his country in major tournaments is a shocking figure. He was also lackadaisical in his defensive duties in both matches and a bad example to set for a captain. One can even say, that Portugal’s win was despite Ronaldo. Portugal needs the Ronaldo who struts out on a regular basis for Real Madrid. To qualify for the next round, Portugal need to better the result that Denmark gets in Germany’s match. Each of the 4 teams can qualify for the next round – justifying the group of death coinage, and one expects both teams would play for win, instead of the cagey football that has been on display in this group.
The Dutch came to the tournament undefeated in all qualifying and had last lost in the world cup final in a tournament. However with 2 losses, the familiar cracks have appeared and one that only a vintage display can erase. The problem is quite a common one. They are not scoring much. Wesley Sneijder has been at the forefront of creating chances and there has been a lot of them, but they have wasted them all. Probably a start of Huntelaar will ease that problem.
Portugal haven’t looked very convincing in either of their matches and Denmark probably deserved a draw. One would expect them to play on the Dutch need to win at any cost and so sit back and then hit on the counter. Helder Postiga has been effective in holding on to the ball and Raul Meireles has been instrumental in creating the openings for Nani and Ronaldo to run into. Set pieces is another option which the Portuguese use very well and against the Dutch, they would mostly depend on that.
Teams & Formations
Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao; Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho; Nani, Hélder Postiga, Cristiano Ronaldo
Manager: Paolo Bento
Russia(4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van der Wiel, Johnny Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Jetro Willems; Nigel de Jong, Rafael van der Vaart; Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder; Klaas Jan Huntelaar
Manager: Dick Advocaat
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
“If I didn’t believe in the possibility of succeeding then I wouldn’t be here.”
Paolo Bento, Portugal manager.
“It’s about one game and we know we have to go for it. We know from the start we have to win by a two-goal difference if Germany win.”
Bert van Marwijk, Holland manager