Euro 2012 focus on Netherlands: Can Oranje go one better after narrowly missing out in South Africa?
In our continuing coverage of Euro 2012, we preview the Netherlands’ chances. They find themselves in Group B, which has been dubbed the ‘group of death’.
The Dutch have a fantastic appetite for football when an international major tournament comes around, but after their defeat in the World Cup final in 2010, can Oranje go one step further and win the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine?
This current crop of Dutch talent is an interesting one indeed. In an attacking sense, there are not many sides that can live with their raw pace and talent; the fact that Marwijk has two world class centre forwards in Robin Van Persie and Klass-Jan Huntelaar to choose from, just shows their strength in depth in this department.
It is up the other end where the Netherlands will come unstuck due to their weak backline. Marwijk has called up former Aston Villa defender Wilfred Bouma and the 34-year-old didn’t exactly pull up trees in his spell in England. John Heitinga of Everton will also play at the back and once again he can show signs of inconsistency.
In all, the Dutch have a strong look to their side, especially in the attacking department, so Marwijk will be looking to defend from the front and keep possession for long periods in the game.
Star Player: Wesley Sneijder
When Wesley Sneijder performs in an orange shirt, the Dutch usually win. After a magical 2010 World Cup, where he scored five goals and caused havoc for the opposition defences, Sneijder will be looking to put a disappointing domestic campaign behind him and drive his side to success in the Euros.
He will operate just behind either Robin Van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, providing them with the bullets to fire at the opposing goal. At the same time, he should provide a huge goal threat himself as he has this Frank Lampard-like knack of arriving at the edge of the box at the precise moment to score a goal – something that is priceless in top-class football.
If Wesley Sneijder can act as the glue in the Dutch attacks, then we could be looking at the most deadly force in this European Championship with a host of stars such as Robin Van Persie, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben making up the rest of the attacking line up.
Rising Star: Kevin Strootman
Kevin Strootman will be a key figure for the Netherlands if they are going to taste success at the Euros and the PSV central midfielder, 22, has all the attributes to make himself a household name at these Championships.
He is a physically impressive, dominant force in the middle, but his size does not have any limitation on his skill. Strootman has very quick feet and his vision is as good as anyone’s in the Dutch squad. His international manager, van Marwijk, even praised his vision in the media and the Netherlands manager is reportedly a big fan of Strootman. He could turn out to be one of the revelations of these Championships and if he performs on the biggest stage, he could be looking at a big money move in the summer.
The Boss: Bert Van Marwijk
The man trying to make up for the disappointment in 2010 is Bert Van Marwijk. Going into the tournament, he will know there are sky-high expectations of his side to not only perform, but also to revert back to the typical Dutch style of football.
Marwijk adopted a defensive approach in the World Cup and it was met with negative reception from the Dutch fans back home after they lost in the final 1-0 to Spain.
The Spanish outplayed them on the night and the Dutch players reverted to rough house tactics to try and stop them which changed some people’s perception on how the Dutch generally go about their business on a football field. The fans have made it clear that they expect Marwijk to pile the emphasis on an attacking style of football that will make them more dynamic as a force.
Bert Van Marwijk is a disciplinarian and there’s no doubt that this Dutch side will be a well drilled unit by the time they kick off their tournament. There is a lot of pressure on Marwijk to succeed at these Championships due to the fact that they came so close in South Africa; this could be a disadvantage to Oranje because if they fail to lift the trophy, Bert Van Marwijk could be looking for a new job.
This Netherlands side will no doubt be a tough proposition for any side in Europe, but they will have to perform to their maximum potential from the first whistle due to the fact that they have been drawn in the ‘group of death’.
They face Denmark, Portugal and Germany in the first three games and this should give a strong indication on how far this Dutch side can go.
They certainly have the attacking flair to upset any side in world football, but it is at the back where the concerns lie and in top-class football a strong defensive outfit is vital for any winning side.