Saturday, June 9, 2012

Euro 2012 Special: Matchday One- The Netherlands vs Denmark

Netherlands vs Denmark
June 9 2012
Metalist Stadium

The World Cup finalists started off the game the better with a star-studded squad including the likes of PFA Footballer of the Year Van Persie, Champions League finalist Robben and Barcelona winger Ibrahim Afellay. The latter looked bright and very much in the mood as he created space with two quickfire stepovers and curled a shot slightly above the bar. Van Persie then curled a testing ball into the box which Sneijder failed to control and direct an attempt on goal. The growing pressure soon told as Denmark's defence looked nervy and unsettled at times.

Robben was an constant threat, cutting in from the right flank and then combined well with van Persie to trouble the Danish defence. The pair then continued to prove to be a lethal combination time and time again. Sneijder too, despite a low-key performance, displayed intelligent positioning to hold the Dutch offensive together. Despite all the pressure from the Dutch it was Krohn-Delhi who netted to put the Danes one-up against the run of play with a piece of sublime skill both to deceive the defender and nutmeg the keeper, albeit with an undeniable pinch of fortune. Van Bommel failed to close him down well enough  The Netherlands then proceeded to reclaim possession and ping the ball about in search of loopholes in the Danish backline.

The 30th minute then saw a good attacking spell from the Danes, but a disastrous pass from Anderson handed the ball right back to Arjen Robben, who jinked about and rattled the post with a shot. Afellay then took on Agger and left him for dead, firing a shot above the target. Denmark, however, continued to grow in stature.

Van Persie was then let down by a first touch which afforded Anderson the chance to recover and Sneijder's follow up was wide of the mark. While the Dutch enjoyed a lion's share of possession and shooting chances, they simply couldn't finish them off and Denmark capitalised with a single goal to head into the dressing room one goal to the good.

The Dutch upped their tempo at the restart and nearly found a way through, with Robben then yet again coming on on his left to aim a shot narrowly above the crossbar. Van Persie then yet again fluffed his lines, but later producing a decent effort on goal. A thunderous volley from van Bommel was palmed away and Sneijder proved on many occasions to be the scourge of the Danes. Afellay then dragged a shot inches wide while Robben opted to attack from the opposite wing in a Oranje onslaught, which ended in a Heitinga header which beat both keeper and goal.

The Danes proceeded to expose their defensive deficiencies, only to provoke a Sneijder-led storm on their goal. Afellay was then stymied by some resolute Danish defending, while they continued to press on on the other end with the goalscorer prompting a brilliant reaction save from Stekelenburg. 

The ineffectual Christian Eriksen was replaced and Sneijder, imperious as he was tonight channelled a gorgeous through ball to put Klass Jan-Huntelaar on goal, only for Anderson to stand strong against him and later van Persie. A few more chances were fluffed by the Netherlands and while Sneijder continued to thread a variety of good, intelligent passes through the back four, they were unable to make full use of them. 

Denmark then shored up their defence and convincingly kept the Dutch, for all their neat passing and gusto, at bay. An enraged shout for handball in the 89th minute was waved away by the referee as the Dutch tried to salvage a draw from the match. The frustration was beginning to show on the faces of Sneijder and Robben as they registered their 28th attempt on goal, all of which with no end-product.

The Danes then held on to their single goal to ensure one of the biggest upsets of the competition was to be, with the Dutch only left to rue profligate finishing which did their control over the flow of the game absolutely no justice at all.