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.

Finally in his Stride

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.

After Thought

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.

The First Blood

Match Facts

Group B: Holland vs Denmark

Friday, 09 June 2012

1800(local time); 1200(EST); 2130(IST)

Stadion Metalist , Kharkiv

The first game in the “Group of Death” of the most recent edition of the European Championship will be on its way today at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv. The two teams that will be battling out today are both ranked among the top 10 in the world according to the latest FIFA rankings. A high adrenaline game is definitely to be expected between the 1988 Euro Cup Champions, the Dutch and the 1992 Euro Cup Champions, the Danes. Netherlands are definitely one of the favorites to win this year’s championship, while Denmark will try to bring on an upset in order to enhance their chances of progression from the group stage. The last time these two faced was in 2010 World Cup, when goals by Daniel Agger (own goal) and Dirk Kuyt helped the Dutch to get obtain a 2-0 victory over their Scandinavian opponents.

Dutch lynchpin

The Dutch will be banking on their fantastic forward line up starring Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben with Ibrahim Affelay, Wesley Sneijder, Mark Van Bommel and Nigel de Jong providing an excellent support in the midfield. However, the biggest concern for the Oranje remains their defensive line up. They will be missing out Joris Mathijsen, the experienced center back due to a hamstring injury he faced against a friendly with Bulgaria few days back. Erik Pieters, the regular starting left-back was also ruled out from the tournament due to injury. It will be interesting to see how they can handle the Dane attack in absence of these regular players.

Denmark, on the other hand, will have their full team at hand, except regular goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, who received an injury during a friendly with Brazil. Denmark will definitely be banking on Christian Eriksen, Dennis Rommedahl and of course, Niklas Bendtner for strengthening their attack. The key point to note is how these three can utilize the absence of regular players in the Dutch defense and score. Daniel Agger, who had probably his best season with Liverpool this year, will be looking to block Van Persie from scoring.

Form Guide

Denmark came into the tournament on a high note, with winning 6 of the 8 games in the qualifying round. Although they lost to both Russia and Brazil recently, the last game played by them was against Australia, when they brought home a clear 2-0 victory. Denmark topped Group H at the qualifying round, even ahead of their current group-mates Portugal.

Last 5 games: WWLLW

Netherlands qualified for the European Championship by making it to the top of Group E with 9 victories out of the 10 games. Their recent losses against Bayern Munich and Bulgaria (at their home ground) might be shocking, but their glorious victories over the last two games before coming for this tournament against Slovakia and Northern Ireland will surely regain their confidence.

Last 5 games: WLLWW

Teams and Formations

Netherlands: (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems, De Jong, Van Bommel, Robben, Sneijder, Afellay, Van Persie

Manager: Bert van Marwijk

Denmark: (4-2-3-1): Anderson, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, S. Poulsen, C. Poulsen, Kvist, Rommedahl, Eriksen, Krondelhi, Bendtner

Manager: Morten Olson

Match Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

Assistant Referees: Primoz Arhar (Slovenia) and Matej Zunic (Slovenia)


“They say they’re going to be underdogs and I think so as well, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for us.”          

Bert van Marwijk doesnt think it will be easy.

“I’m actually quite jealous of the Dutch as we’re not in their shoes. The Dutch say that if they don’t win the title then that will be a tremendous disappointment; we can’t say that. What we can say is that if we get through this group then we’ve already won.”

Morten Olsen the Danish manager outlines the difference in targets.