No Dutch Treat for Netherland’s opponents


The European Cup – too much roar to ignore

By Terrance Gavan – March 8 – 2012

This Year’s EURO 2012 began today, but it’s Saturday’s Netherlands match that we’re waiting on.

World Cup winner Spain is on the distaff side of their three year run, but they’re still listed as favorites along with the Dutch and the Germans.

We watched Greece and Poland play to a 1-1 draw this afternoon, and in the second match the Russians kicked the beejeezuz out of the Czechs dominating all facets of the game to post their 4-1 victory.

My dark horse remains the Russians, who are skilled, quick and potent.

But really. Can we deny Van Persie this year? The Netherlands have been so close to trophy and their exciting style of play is exuberant and bloody gorgeous. And of course those orange unis are too cool to swish on. Our pick this year? The Dutch. And we’re not tilting windmills here peanut pickers.

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Never mind that he's vaguely handsome and carries a motherlode of talent? Look at that beautiful Goddam Shirt! Photo courtesy of Dutch Soccer.

“The Premier League’s Golden Boot, the PFA Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year and, at least for this summer transfer window, the most sought after club striker in Europe,” writes Jeremy Wilson. “It is fair to say that 2012 has represented something of an annus mirabilis for Robin van Persie, yet speak to people in Holland and they will point at one gaping hole in his CV.
“Just as Van Persie, until last season, had never quite fulfilled his potential for Arsenal, there is the lingering accusation that he is still yet to fully deliver on an international stage.

“Even in starting every match as Holland reached the 2010 World Cup final, Van Persie’s return of just one goal throughout the tournament was clearly disappointing.

“His overall record of 28 goals in 65 international is rather more impressive but, given his exceptional recent form, there is the clear sense that Euro 2012 could represent a career-defining moment.

V”an Persie also has the added pressure of his contract stand-off at Arsenal but he has appeared relaxed and focused this week ahead of Holland’s opening match tonight against Denmark.”

“I am very calm and am in the form of my life,” said Van Persie. “This Euro is my fourth major finals. I am now mature, a lot more capable of handling the pressure. I have not had serious physical problems this season. I played at a high level for 38 matches with my club. It has been my best campaign.”

Van Persie is just one piece of this puzzle. With Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, they have another striker in the form of his life. Huntelaar completed this Bundelisga season with 48 goals – surpassing even Van Persie’s record at Arsenal – and also has a better international strike-rate, having scored 32 times in 53 games.

Holland, though, are committed to a 4-2-3-1 system that will accommodate only one striker, with Van Persie’s superior link-up play almost certain to ensure that he starts on Saturday. The Arsenal captain’s gesture in allowing Huntelaar to keep the No 9 shirt also suggests a certain team harmony that has not always been Holland’s strong suit.

“I’ll let Huntelaar keep the No 9 shirt as he is very attached to it,” said Van Persie. “The objective is to win the Euros and this match will set the tone for our tournament.”

Holland coach Bert van Marwijk, who confirmed that centre-back Joris Mathijsen is out with a hamstring injury , said: “I expect Denmark to be defensive and await the chance to counter-attack,”

Denmark also suffered a significant injury blow on Friday when midfielder Niki Zimling was taken away in an ambulance after an incident during training at Kharkiv’s Metalist Stadium. His midfield place is likely to be taken by Christian Poulsen.

Thanks to Jeremy Wilson in Kiev.

Get gav at @terrancegavan on Twitter.