They were the 2010 World Cup finalists; had superflous attacking options within their ranks such as Robin van Persie, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. Nevertheless the Netherlands made an early exit from the European Championships. They lost all the three league matches. No one expected a team that was on the rise, especially after their efforts in the World Cup in South Africa two years ago, would leave Euro so embarrassingly. The reasons could be many, Bert van Marwijk’s stubbornness, ego clash between the players, complacency. We have listed some of them…
Group of Death
Pitted against mighty Germans, the tournament’s favourites, a relatively stronger Portugal and surprise party Denmark, in a group dubbed as the Group of Death, Netherlands floundered in the first hurdle. The Dutch are not known for their opening losses but against the Danes they did just that. The going got a lot tougher in their next fixture against Germany. The result: a 1-2 loss to put themselves on the brink of an early exit.
Attack has always been their main strength, but an overcautious Bert van Marwijck decided to field two defensive mid-fielders Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong. With a two-line defense and a front four left a yawning gap in the Dutch midfield, which allowed the opponents to exploit the space to strengthen their attack. The move to start with Rafael van der Vaart in the final group game paid dividends at the start as they nosed ahead early but old problems resurfaced only to lose to an organised Portuguese side. Defensively they were vulnerable as the inexperienced Gregory van der Wiel and Jetro Willems were caught out of position on numerous occasions.
Arjen Robben’s form
Arjen Robben carried the spectre of his poor show at the club level to his national team. Considering his reputation as one of the most talented footballers of his generation, he did very little for his team. A crucial figure in the Dutch attack, he was invisible upfront in the major part of the tournament. He has had near misses at critical stages in big matches in the recent past. Two years ago, in the World Cup final in South Africa he missed an opportunity to score from a one-on-one Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas. In the recent Champions League final against Chelsea, he missed an opportunity to score from the spot for Bayern Munich. They went on to lose the match after being outdone by Borussia Dortmund for the Bundesliga title.
Ego a go go
The Dutch were often blamed for being a group of individual players rather than a team. The lack of unity and reports of clashes within the squad echoed from the camp throughout the tournament this time around. There were reports of Rafael van der Vaart leading a mutiny against boss Bert van Marwijk for his preference of Mark van Bommel over the former. One saw strong statements from a player like Weslley Sneijder mid-way through the tournament who said: "It is time we let these pathetic egos go. If somebody is creating a mess, I will stand up against them now.” These in-fighting eventually led to the downfall of the Dutch team.
First Published: Monday, June 18, 2012, 16:44