Netherlands – Doomed to fail

I don’t know what it is by the Oranje but when international tournaments come around, I always find myself willing the Dutch to go all the way. For some reason I feel a special excitement attached to Dutch players that other nations fail to replicate. After an exciting qualifying campaign where the free scoring Dutch dominated their group thanks to flair and a devastating brutality in front of goal I was ready for Euro 2012. So it was with renewed excitement that I sat down to watch Netherlands vs Denmark expecting a Danish scalp to be the first casualty of the unstoppable Dutch machine.

I don’t know why I was surprised by the result. The only certainty from enjoying the Netherlands was that inevitably they would self destruct. Tonight they play the Germans in a make or break match which could leave them the first fatality of the tournament. That was a quicker self destruct than even this seasoned fan could have expected. Why is a team so overflowing with talent have 90 mins to save their Tournament??

1. History

The Netherlands have managed to win only one international competition: the 1988 European Championships. For a team that can boast some of the greatest footballing icons in the history of the sport that is a poor record. One could make the argument that the Netherlands had the best squad at the 1976, 1992 and 2000 European Championships to go along with the 1974, 1978, 1990 and 1998 World Cup squads.

And yet, 1988 remains the lone success.

If you’re going by history, there’s really no reason to expect the Dutch to win anything.

Last year saw their Team produced their best showing in a tournament for quite a while. Unfortunately despite keeping largely the same personnel this year the system is completely unrecognizable. Gone is pragmatic defensive approach which was very publically derided by Dutch Legends like Cruff. He wrote in his Newspaper coloumn

Regrettably, sadly, they played very dirty. So much so that they should have been down to nine immediately, they made two ugly and hard tackles that even I felt the damage.

This ugly, vulgar, hard, hardly eye-catching, lack of football style served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing.

Some practiced anti-football considering that it was the only way to survive. It finished 0-0 [after 90 minutes] because they [Spain] could not play as they wanted.

In its place is a more fluid attacking system which I argue highlights their obvious weakness in the defensive side of their game. Their play going forward is more expressive but the gaps the Danish were able to exploit will be pulled apart by the bigger boys. The idealism of former hero’s has been allowed to overshadow a successful and potentially dangerous footballing system

2. Trouble in the camp.

Much Like the Euro 96 team managed by Gus Hiddink there is unrest in the Dutch ranks. In 96 Racial tensions were raised to boiling point as the new guard of Davids, Kluivert and Seedorf put pressure to be selected. The famous photograph of Holland’s black contingent  all sitting on the one table looked for all the world like a 1950’s American High School.

The Modern Dutch team’s problems seem to stem from the Van Marwijk -Van Bommel Axis. Coach Bert van Marwijk is Mark van Bommel’s step dad and his loyalty to his aging son in law has caused division in the camp. The most vocal of which has been Rafael van der Vaart who considers this favoritism the main reason behind his exclusion from the first team. He is quoted today

“The coach has made up his mind. He has certain preferences and I’m not one of the players he prefers. I don’t feel like I can do anything to make him change his mind,” Van der Vaart complained in a thinly-veiled criticism. “I have to admit that it’s not an easy situation for me. Some days I feel better than others, but I’m obviously disappointed.”

Van Marwijk has courted controversy in the past were players are concerned. Urby Emanuelson stated that Van Marwijk has lost his credibility after omitting him from Oranje’s Euro 2012 squad. There will be others over the next few weeks which will kill any chance of Bert taking this team to Brazilin 2014

3. A house built on Sand

The Dutch have never been known for their stout defense.

Sure the likes of Ronald Koeman, the de Boer twins and Jaap Stam have all donned the orange shirt, but the back line has always been a weak link despite these legends

At centre-back, there are serious questions. John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen don’t set my heart on fire. They are both vulnerable to pace and power from an attacking team.

Gregory van der Wiel could be the lone bright spot. He’s avoided a move abroad over the last couple of years, but this Euro is a real opportunity for van der Wiel to put himself in the shop window. With Chelsea a likely suitor for the talented right back.

Left back has been a problem area since the retirement of Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Bert chose to field Jethro Willems who became the fourth youngest player to play for theNetherlands and the youngest ever player to play at the Euros, at 18 years and 71 days of age. He played well in his first game without really excelling, but I think his inclusion in the squad highlights the lack of depth and strength they possess in Defense.

With the old 2010 formation these weakness were limited by a compact team with a mind on defense. The obvious limitations of the side are there for all to see and I fear the Germans will find a way to exploit this with their tricky, pacy attacking line.

I hope Im wrong, I hope the pessimism of previous tournaments is unfounded and they overcome their problems to produce more ‘Total Football’. Any tournament is richer thanks to the Dutch Involvement. When I look back to brilliant moment’s in international football, Van Basten’s impossible goal, Zenden’s Screamer in France 98 etc most are with the Dutch in mind.

A win tonight changes everything. A win tonight is Imperative

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