Dutch out, with zero points, zero style
No wonder they call it ”the Neverlands.”
Dressed in funeral black instead of their trademark orange, the
Netherlands was outplayed for large spells before losing 2-1 to
Portugal in its final European Championship game in Group B on
Sunday. Again, a team with sparkling individual talent leaves a
major tournament without a cup to show for it.
It was the first time in more than a decade that the Dutch
failed to reach the second round at either the World Cup or a
Euros. And the first time since 1984 that the Dutch missed out on a
place in a Euro quarterfinals.
Midfielder Mark van Bommel’s verdict on the 2010 World Cup
finalist was a bleak one.
”We came here to win the cup, but we don’t belong at the top
anymore,” he said.
Captain Rafael van der Vaart was barely more optimistic, saying:
”We simply have to do much better.”
Worst of all, the Oranje’s brand of fluid, classy football is
increasingly being consigned to the history books.
Two years ago, coach Bert van Marwijk let results dominate over
attractive football and he reached the final of the World Cup. This
year, nothing is left. No good play, not a single point in the
”And this is almost the same team as two years ago,” Van
Robin van Persie, with all the class of the Premier League’s top
scorer and the sweet moves of vintage Arsenal, had yet another dud
of a tournament. The Bundesliga’s top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
could not get a starting spot on the team, and when he did on
Sunday, he got neither passes nor crosses.
”We all need to look in the mirror and realize that this should
never happen again. Let it be a hard lesson,” defender Ron Vlaar
With the newfangled lineup after losses to Denmark and Germany,
the Dutch needed to win by two goals to stand a chance of
They made it a one-goal challenge within 11 minutes. Arjen
Robben drew defenders on him, and smartly slipped the ball to
creative midfielder Van der Vaart who rewarded his starting spot
with a great curling left-footer from 20 meters.
If the massive throngs of Dutch fans thought this was the
beginning, they were wrong. It was effectively the end.
The team’s tender heel was its defense and it soon showed.
”There was this insecurity,” Van Marwijk said, and the team
shrank in the face of the challenge ahead.
And there were no better players to expose it than Cristiano
Ronaldo and Nani.
Wingbacks Jetro Willems and Gregory van der Wiel were out of
their depth against both wingers, forcing the whole team back when
it should have been looking for two more goals. And the central
defenders were error-prone too.
At first, Ronaldo clipped the post, and Helder Postiga failed to
exploit a glaring defensive error. It was more than a warning. It
was the start of a deluge of chances that lasted till the 90th
minute when Ronaldo hit the post again. In between he had scored
In the 28th, a bad clearance, gave right back Joao Perreira
space and his superb through ball found an unmarked Ronaldo. It was
a perfect example of how the center of defense didn’t hold and
after a clinical finish the game turned into a no-contest.
In the 74th, the Dutch were caught for pace again, with Nani
sent down the right and a perfect cross finding Ronaldo in the
center. The Dutch defenders were hapless victims of Ronaldo’s
class, as he turned them, picked a spot to score while Van der Wiel
was left on the deck.
Wesley Sneijder had been great as a playmaker in the first two
games, but was out of position playing on the left and Robben could
not get decent crosses in. As a result, Huntelaar was left totally
stranded in the center on a night when little went right for his