Jun 9, 2012, 2:28 PM EDT
Man of the Match: While his contribution on the goal was mostly luck, it was amazing how many times left back Simon Poulsen both had the energy to get forward and was able to get back to be the man trying to push Arjen Robben outside. Dutch right back Gregory Van der Wiel is going to be thinking about Poulsen’s performance for a little while, and not only because he was the man often tasked with containing Poulsen’s ventures into attack. Poulsen played the way Van der Wiel’s supposed to.
Packaged for takeaway:
- There are two ways to look at this match, already being billed as one of the biggest upsets in recent history:
- The first is partially told by the numbers. The Netherlands outshot Denmark 28-8, and they had almost all of the good chances. They out-possessed the Danes (53-47) and had two legitimate penalty shouts. This view sees the game as a one-off. The Netherlands dominated and the Danes got a bit lucky,
- The second notes how casually the Dutch approached the first quarter of this game, possessing without purpose. If Robin van Persie doesn’t drop back into midfield as often as he did in the first half – collecting passes and opening up the Danish defense, promoting some movement – what do the Dutch have? Anything? After an initial second half push, the Dutch resumed their stoic, stagnant play. We all knew the Dutch had moved away from total football. We didn’t know Spain’d assumed a monopoly on it. You can dominate the numbers all you want, but if you’re not putting the effort toward creating actual chances, it doesn’t matter.
- That last statement is a bit deceiving because the Dutch did create chances. They just didn’t create enough. Ibrahim Afellay, who had a good game, had a couple of cracks at goal. Klass-Jan Huntelaar had a golden chance in the second half. Van Persie had three chances that he approached with the spirit of Kerzhakov. Arjen Robben nailed the post off a Danish turnover, and John Heitenga had a chance to convert a second half header.
- With all those chances, the Danes needed a strong match from their `keeper. Stephen Andersen stepped up, particularly on a second half chance that ended with Huntelaar and van Persie stabbing at him as he held onto a ball 13 yards out. Stepping in for Thomas Sørenson, Andersen played like a number one.
- Interesting that Denmark had eight shots and put all of them on frame. The one that mattered, though, was a combination of great execution and a Dutch defensive breakdown. Poulsen was allowed to carry the ball into attack, and while his cross luckily deflected to Michael Krohn-Dehli (pictured), the Denmark winger needing just a couple of touches to turn John Heitenga, get in on Maarten Stekelenburg, and provide an early winner.
- It was almost a prototype smash and grab, and Morten Olsen is going to get a lot of credit for the result. Don’t be so easy with your praise. The Dutch had a lot of chances, more than any coach could have willingly permitted. Their central defense (Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer) alternated between dominant and shaky, hence all the chances.
- The conservative approach left Christian Eriksen (Denamrks’ best player) a non-factor. Nicklas Bendtner was equally useless. It wasn’t their fault. It’s just the way Denmark played.
- Only some timely interventions from midfielders Niki Zimling and William Kvist prevented a full siege. Denmark got the result, but this wasn’t a comprehensive lie in wait performance (ala Switzerland vs. Spain at World Cup 2010).
- Credit to Wesley Sneijder, easily the Netherlands’ best player. He was forced slightly deeper from his starting position in order to find room away from the numbers deep in Denmark’s defense. Even from 40 yards out, he was able to consistently hit van Persie and Huntelaar. Sneijder deserved a couple of assists.
- Looking forward, the Netherlands are in trouble. With Denmark having gotten three and Germany still on the schedule, there are a lot of ways the Netherlands go home, even if they don’t lose another game. Consider this: If Denmark beats Portugal, they’re through to the second round (not really, see comments, below). That means the Netherlands and Germany would fight for one spot.
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