Ronaldo Squeezes Life out of Oranje
Portugal 2 Holland 1
R van der Vaart (0-1), C Ronaldo (1-1), C Ronaldo (2-1)
Cristiano Ronaldo finally put his mark at the Euro 2012, scoring twice to confine a set of talented Dutch footballers, to their first ever major tournament, where they lost all their matches. A multi-talented Dutch team, boasting some of the best footballers across European leagues, can’t shed their underachiever tag once more as reports of internal dissent started coming out. The Portuguese, who many thought, would be a one man team and hence unlikely to progress, has actually displayed that there is more to them than Cristiano and now may turn out to be the dark-horses of the tournament.
The match started with Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk, taking some bold decisions in midfield and attack. Out went captain and son-in-law Mark van Bommel and in came Tottenham man Rafael van der Vaart. Ron Vlaar partnered Joris Mathijsen in defense instead of Johnny Heitinga. And most significantly, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was put as the focal point of attack, and taking Robin van Persie as a free roving attacking midfielder. The Dutch started brilliantly, with purpose. Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were working the wings and van der Vaart was advancing to partner van Persie as the attacking threat from middle. The goal came from one such early move as Robben cut in to pass to van der Vaart, who unleased a left footed shot that settled into the net. Surprisingly, there was no closing down at the top of the Portugal box.
But unfortunately, none of the Dutch wide men are true wingers, and they relied more on their wing backs to push through to create width as both Robben and Sneijder were content to cut in. As the sidebacks pushed forward, to provide width, so the Dutch defense became open to sweeping Portuguese counter attacks. Nani & Ronaldo against the Vlaar-Mathijsen pairing seemed like 4G network competing with a dial-up modem. Ronaldo kept vrooming past Vlaar on numerous occasions. Coupled with this was that the front 4 of Holland, showed least inclination to track back and add men in the defense. It was reminiscent of Leonardo’s reign at AC Milan, when he played a 4-2-Fantasia formation. Milan scored goals but also shipped many. Today the Dutch couldn’t create enough chances and Ronaldo alone outshot the entire Dutch team.
Cristiano Ronaldo had missed the easiest of chances against Denmark, putting the win in jeopardy, but today he got opportunities on platter and scored once in either half, hit the post, had shots saved and just wide of the post, created chances on platter for his teammates and really should have had a hattrick. It was a complete tour de force from the best European player of the time and he was assisted by the shocking defending from the Dutch. From the moment, Ronaldo had that first chance, it was clear that this Dutch defence was not equipped to handle his speed. It seemed a matter of time before he scores and his first goal was from a peach of a pass from Joao Pereira and Ronaldo had timed his run behind the defense perfectly to place past the keeper. The second goal came in the second half from a sweeping Nani ball and Ronaldo had the time to compose himself and then shoot leaving the backtracking Dutch defense behind.
Holland did get a few more opportunities and a couple of van Persie efforts were close. But with a mandate that they win this match by a margin of 2 goals, it was far too much a bridge to cross.
The Dutch manager was adventurous to begin with. But probably he should also have tempered his aggression. Arjen Robben has been one of the major flops of the tournament and today of all days; he needed someone like Dirk Kuyt to do the workhorse duties, someone who would track back and help with the defense. The defence was too slow and there was no obvious connect between defence and attack. Many a time the defenders would not have a release ball, being hounded by the Portuguese attackers and would concede an easy ball for the Portuguese.
Portugal started cagily but once they conceded, and news filtered in that Denmark were drawing Germany, which meant Portugal were going out, they opened up. They have a strong team right through. The midfield is more functional than creative but they have Nani and Ronaldo to create havoc in most defences. This team can actually surprise a lot if they keep their spirit intact.
“I am proud of what we did as a team and satisfied that we have succeeded in reaching our aim.”
Portugal manager Paolo Bento
“Had we won that first game when we had so many chances we might have had a different team.”
Bert van Marwijk, Holland manager wonders.