Euro 2012: Netherlands preview
The European Championships begin in just a few days with the Netherlands amongst the favourites once again. The Dutch are currently ranked as the fourth best team in the world according to the latest Fifa rankings. Only two European sides are ranked higher – Spain and Germany – which draws a parallel with the predictions for Euro 2012. Spain and Germany are favourites but the Dutch FA believe that a semi-final place is the minimum target for Oranje.
Here I take a look at Bert van Marwijk’s team ahead of their first game against Denmark on Saturday.
The Dutch national team have only won one major international tournament, at the 1988 European Championship. The final against the Soviet Union is fondly remembered for Marco van Basten’s wonderful volley. Oranje have not gone beyond the semi-finals since. Recent records indicate a strong showing this summer with semi-final appearances in 2000, 2004 and a quarter-final defeat in 2008 with the majority of the current squad also selected four years ago.
This will be the last European Championships to consist of 16 teams with the tournament expanded to 24 teams from Euro 2016 onwards. The Netherlands will compete in Group B with Germany, Portugal and Denmark. Oranje begin with Denmark, before facing rivals Germany on the 13th June and finally Portugal on the 17th June.
Bert van Marwijk succeeded Marco van Basten as coach of the national team after Euro 2008. Van Marwijk has done a remarkable job as Oranje manager. He guided the Dutch to the 2010 World Cup final, although the playing style was too defensive for some back home, and has managed to stop the squad disharmony issues that have plagued previous Dutch international teams. Van Marwijk has proved to be resolute in his vision for the national team, insisting on only using players that fit into his system and has managed to defy his critics throughout his reign.
Van Marwijk is usually described as pragmatic due to his more sensible brand of football which critics describe as defensive, although the stats prove otherwise. He has led Oranje to 23 wins in their last 25 competitive games. His team had the highest goal average ( 3.7 per game) during qualifying for the finals, whilst the 11-0 defeat of San Marino was the Oranje’s biggest ever international victory. The Dutch side also boasted the topscorer in qualifying with Huntelaar’s 12-goal haul just one short of the record, set by Northern Ireland’s David Healy during Euro 2008 qualifying. The Netherlands managed 9 wins in 10 games during qualifying for Euro 2012. In fact the Netherlands only lost their 100 per cent record on the final day, after losing 3-2 in Sweden having already qualified for the finals. Van Marwijk’s side did manage to qualify for the 2010 World Cup with a 100 per cent record after winning all seven games in their group.
Van Marwijk, who led Feyenoord to Uefa Cup triumph in 2002, has been given an extended contract to 2016.
Van Marwijk will once again rely on his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Ibrahim Afellay seems to have played his way into the starting line-up recently after proving his fitness and ability following a long injury lay-off last season. He is set to start on the left-wing with Arjen Robben operating on the right-wing. Robin van Persie will once again be preferred as the lone striker ahead of Huntelaar. The prolific Schalke hitman is unlucky to be amongst the substitutes again at a major international tournament after scoring 44 goals for the German side this season. Huntelaar’s international record is also impressive, scoring 31 goals in just 51 appearances. The former Ajax striker is just nine goals behind Patrick Kluivert, who is the all-time leading goalscorer for the national team. There is one problem still to solve with 18-year-old PSV defender Jetro Willems vying for the left-back slot with Sporting midfielder Stijn Schaars. First-choice left-back Erik Pieters was ruled out of the tournament after failing to recover from a foot injury. Willems is set to become the youngest player ever to represent the Dutch team in a major championship. Van Marwijk is expected to ignore calls to start Rafael van der Vaart in a deep-lying playmaker and instead rely on the defensive stability that Nigel de Jong can provide. Luciano Narsingh, who is only the second Surinamese player of Indian origin to represent the Netherlands after Aron Winter, forced his way into the squad after an excellent season with Heerenveen and could make an impact as a substitute.
A more detailed tactical preview can be found at 11tegen11
Squad (in numbers)
1. Maarten Stekelenburg (Roma), 2. Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), 3. John Heitinga (Everton), 4. Joris Mathijsen (Malaga), 5. Wilfred Bouma (PSV Eindhoven), 6. Mark van Bommel (PSV Eindhoven), 7. Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), 8. Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), 9. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), 10. Wesley Sneijder (Internazionale), 11. Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), 12. Michel Vorm (Swansea City), 13. Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord), 14. Stijn Schaars (Sporting Lisbon), 15. Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven), 16. Robin van Persie (Arsenal), 17. Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven), 18. Luuk de Jong (Twente), 19. Luciano Narsingh (Heerenveen), 20. Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona), 21. Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart), 22. Tim Krul (Newcastle United), 23. Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham).
(4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van der Wiel, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Jetro Willems; Nigel de Jong, Mark van Bommel; Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Ibrahim Afellay; Robin van Persie.
UPDATE: Centre-back Joris Mathijsen will not feature in the opening game against Denmark after suffering a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury. The Malaga defender’s fitness will be assessed by the medical staff over the next few days. There is a possibility that he may miss the entire tournament and force Van Marwijk to call up a replacement. Feyenoord captain Ron Vlaar or former Aston Villa defender Wilfred Bouma will start alongside John Heitinga.
You can follow the writer throughout the tournament on Twitter: @Majid_Mohamed
Picture:Getty ImagesTagged in: Dutch, Eredivisie, euro 2012, european championships, football, Netherlands, Oranje
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