Sportskeeda takes a look at another one of the favourites for Euro 2012: The Netherlands. The Dutch will be looking to erase the memories of the painful defeat at the hands of Spain in the 2010 World Cup, and claim their first international title since the 1988 European Football Championship.
Manager – Bert Van Marwijk
Captain – Mark Van Bommel
The Oranje go into Euro 2012 on the backdrop of their most successful World Cup campaign in 32 years where they reached the final, but were cruelly defeated late in extra-time by the Spanish Armada. The Dutch had a near perfect qualifying campaign, but a marginally under-strength team was defeated by Sweden in Solna. One of the strongest teams in world football today, and ranked No. 4 by FIFA as of May 9th, they are one of the pre-tournament favourites despite being clubbed in the Group of Death with arch-rivals Germany and Portugal.
Netherlands, alongside England are the biggest chokers in football history. Some would argue that they have more reason to be ashamed because, despite producing illustrious players such as Johan Cruyff, Johan Neskeens, Marco Van Basten, and Dennis Bergkamp, they have never won the World Cup. Beaten three times in the final, claiming the runners-up medal is something the Orange Army have gotten used to. Inspired by the Milan trio of Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, and under the guidance of the legendary Rinus Michels (inventor of Total Football), the Netherlands won the 1988 European Championships defeating the Soviet Union in the final; their only appearance in the Euro Cup finals till date. Last time out, they were the hot favourites after crushing France and Italy, only to be outdone by an Andrei Arshavin led-Russia.
A relative novice on the big stage despite his advanced age, Bert Van Marwijk’s biggest job before coaching the national team were two stints at Dutch giants Feyenoord Rotterdam, where he won the UEFA Cup in 2002 and the KNVB Cup in 2008. Van Marwijk has been an excellent manager leading the Dutch to the 2010 World Cup Final. Having managed 46 games so far, he boasts an impressive win rate of 69.5 % (32 games). If he can get his tactics right in the group stages and survive the Group of Death, the Oranje will be heavily favored to go all the way.
A squad brimming with stars and experienced veterans, can the Dutch end twenty-four years of international heartbreak? Van Marwijk will expect star winger Arjen Robben to put the disappointment of finishing second in three competitions for Bayern Munich behind and do his best for the Dutch. Robben was booed by Bayern fans in Germany while playing for Netherlands in a friendly last week. Van Marwijk knows that he will need Robben to fire on all cylinders to beat the likes of Germany and Portugal.
Robin Van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Oranje’s principle strikers had outstanding seasons at Arsenal and Schalke, scoring 37 and 48 goals in all competitions respectively. Since the Oranje are used to playing with only a single striker, who will get the nod? It is likely that Huntelaar will start above Mr. Arsenal as he has a much better record internationally. Expect Van Marwijk to rotate them, as no other team in the competition is blessed with two brilliant natural goal scorers who are in their prime.
Star attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who is coming of a disappointing season for club Inter Milan, will look to provide the major attacking impetus to the Dutch side alongside the likes of Robben, Dirk Kuyt and Rafael Van Der Vaart. Sneijder, whose season was ravaged by injuries which followed a tense summer when he was continually linked to Manchester United, will look to establish himself among the pantheon of Dutch legends after his breathtakingly spectacular form in the 2010 World Cup led the Netherlands to the final.
Left-back Erik Peters was surprisingly left out, with 18-year old PSV left-back Jetro Willems being selected ahead of him. Other than that, there are no key absentees due to injuries or personal indifferences. Van Marwijk will have a full squad available at his disposal.
While the erstwhile Dutch team of the 1970s was famous for ‘Total Football’, the current crop employs a 4-2-3-1 formation. The defense is weak compared to the other tournament favourites, and needs protection through the likes of defensive midfielders, captain Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong, so that teams like Spain and Germany do not run rings around the Dutch. Robben, Sneijder and Kuyt are expected to be the three attacking midfielders, with Robben and Kuyt playing on the wings while Sneijder will play in the hole behind the striker. Their main competition will be from the likes of Van Der Vaart, Ibrahim Afellay and PSV’s Kevin Strootman.
The striker’s spot is a straight out slugfest between Van Persie and Huntelaar, with Luciano Narsingh and Luuk De Jong providing cover. The formation would most probably be adjusted to fit in the two strikers, as they are in red-hot form and Van Marwijk will want to make full use of his explosive options.
With a goalkeeping contingent to match Spain, the Oranje have three world-class goalkeepers in the form of Martin Stekelenburg, Michel Vorm, and Tim Krul. The Roma shot-stopper is expected to be first choice with Vorm and Krul providing ample back-up. As mentioned earlier, the striking department is the Oranje’s biggest weapon and their success in Euro 2012 will depend upon how well Van Marwijk will be able to use both Van Persie and Huntelaar.
Their defense isn’t entirely weak, but it doesn’t match up to the technically superiority of the likes of Germany, Italy and England. They are still searching for a long-time replacement at left-back for the legendary Giovanni van Bronckhorst. 18-year old Jetro Willems is the latest player appointed to fill the great man’s boots. The likes of John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen are good as centre-backs, but could fail against attacking sides like Spain, Germany and Portugal.
I fully expect the Netherlands and Germany to qualify from the group stages, as Portugal have more gaping holes in their squad. The Dutch are certain to reach the semi-finals at least as they have enough firepower to win the tournament. I expect them to reach the semi-final, but I don’t see them going any further.