Jun 13, 2012, 3:13 AM EDT
The most anticipated match of group stage kicks off at 2:45 p.m. Eastern when two of the pre-tournament favorites meet in Kharkiv, though when Germany and the Netherlands were drawn together in December, few thought their Group B meeting could be an elimination match. Both ranked among the top four in the world, most assumed the teams would advance out of Group B, which meant taking care of business against Denmark and Portugal. The Netherlands’ Saturday loss changed all that.
By the time the whistle blows, the Oranje will know if they need a result. If Denmark beats Portugal, a Germany win eliminates the Dutch. Even a draw would handcuff the Netherlands, leaving them hoping an already qualified Denmark will take full points from Germany. Though one point would keep them alive in that scenario, the Netherlands would lose control of their own destiny.
Those are the stakes for the latest iteration of one of world’s great soccer rivalries. Laced with geographic, political, stylistic, and competitive implications, the teams have met 37 teams, including the 1974 World Cup final, won by a West German team that didn’t touch the ball until after the Dutch had scored. While much of the rivalry was defined as Dutch idealism versus Germany pragmatism, the changes implemented by Dutch head coach Bert van Marwijk now make the sides more spitting images than foils.
On Wednesday, the stakes are much higher for one of those images, though after this weekend’s disappointment, the Netherlands may be pulling another facet of their past into focus.
Here’s your Group B B-Side:
Side 2: Netherlands vs. Germany
5. Catch my own fall
The Netherlands have a (perhaps exaggerated) history of internal strife undermining the national team. The most recent example was Euro 2008, when a reported battle of egos between Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder caused fissures. The team rolled through what was thought a tough group (in hindsight, it looks very easy) only to be eliminated by Russia in the quarterfinals.
For the first time since Euro 2008, the Netherlands have hit a mid-tournament pothole. In South Africa, their only setback was in the final. They never had to deal with adversity.
6. Walking through the back door
Right back Gregory Van der Wiel had a tough opening match, and he was supposed to be one of the good ones.
The Dutch defense was a big question mark coming into the tournament, and with one of their World Cup starters performing below expectations, the answers aren’t encouraging. Left-center half Ron Vlaar (starting ahead of Joris Mathijsen) was fine, and 18-year-old Jetro Willems alleviated some fears, but neither had enough opportunities to assuage the skeptics.
Germany gives the defense a chance to convert some doubters. Willems is going to be tested by Thomas Müller, Van der Wiel will have to stop Lukas Podolski, while the entire back six will try to contain Mesüt Özil.
If they do, they’ll not have quieted the critics. They’ll probably have won the game.
Germany won’t get the steady buildup most teams get through group stage. Normally there’s a cautious opening game followed by the match that puts you in position for the final round. In that third game, you’re either already through or have to fight for your life. Regardless, the knockout stages are coming into focus.
Thanks to the Netherlands losing their first match, Germany will get third match intensity in the middle of group stage. They’re emotions Germany will need to match it if they have designs on finishing first.
Though a win will keep them at the top of the group, a draw keeps their first place destiny in their hands. They don’t need to win to have a good day.
8. No Free Rides
Like the Dutch, the Germans came into the tournament with questions surrounding their defense. Those questions were nowhere near as intense as those posed at their opponents, but there were still doubts, particularly surrounding center half Per Mertesacker, who struggled after his move to Arsenal.
Joachim Low made the tough call, benched Mertesacker, and vaulted Mats Hummels into the starting lineup. He and Mario Gomez are the only changes to the team that finished third at the World Cup. In defense, that means Jerome Boateng starts at right back, with Holger Badstuber and captain Philipp Lahm on the left.
Whether injecting Hummels was the right choice is yet to be seen. Portugal didn’t test the defense until late, when they looked quite good while doing so. Overall, there was little to learn from the back line’s first 90 minutes.
Against the Dutch, the back four should be so lucky. The Bayern Munich-heavy defense will be familiar with teammate Arjen Robben as well as Wesley Sneijder, who led the Inter Milan team that downed Bayern in the 2010 Champions League final. Then there’s Robin van Persie, the leading scorer in the English Premier League.
As with the Dutch defense, we’re likely to answers after Wednesday’s game. Given few would argue Mats Hummels is a worse player than Per Mertsesacker, this defense may be an improvement on the one that took Germany to third in South Africa.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.
May 22, 2013, 2:40 PM EDT
Looks like a mixed bag for the American trio:
May 22, 2013, 2:05 PM EDT
As the towering English forward weighs up his options, should he return to Liverpool, sign for West Ham or go elsewhere?
May 22, 2013, 1:40 PM EDT
With Dortmund’s main attacker threat out injured, can Dortmund still lift the Champions League trophy?
May 22, 2013, 1:15 PM EDT
Can the Yankees provide a viable option for New York City FC to play in? Of course they can. Maybe.
May 22, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
They have owners and an employee, but now comes the hardest part for MLS expansion club NYCFC. The challenges ahead are daunting:
May 22, 2013, 12:21 PM EDT
The one accolade no EPL player wants on their soccer resume…
May 22, 2013, 11:05 AM EDT
New York City FC announces Reyna as first employee, a good first move, right?
May 22, 2013, 10:06 AM EDT
Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Red Bull Arena… which venue could work best as a temporary home for New York City FC?
May 22, 2013, 8:54 AM EDT
The magic of the Cup lives on, as four PDL sides now face trips to MLS teams in the third-round. Is this the stuff dreams are made of?
May 22, 2013, 8:19 AM EDT
Pulis joins long list of EPL managers departing… is English soccer becoming more ruthless?
May 21, 2013, 8:02 PM EDT
Wait a minute … didn’t MLS commissioner Don Garber say there “is no Plan B …” beyond the Queens location?
May 21, 2013, 6:40 PM EDT
Well, phooey! Didn’t Dempsey just go through a summer of transfer instability?
May 21, 2013, 4:50 PM EDT
This and that as the U.S. contingent preps to gather in Cleveland ahead of five matches over the next few weeks:
May 21, 2013, 4:10 PM EDT
The updated ordering in ProSoccerTalk’s ranking of Major League Soccer teams following 12 rounds of play:
Officials from MLS, Yankees, Manchester City and NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg to speak tomorrow on expansion news
May 21, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT
How very convenient that Manchester City just happens to be in the States for a brief two-game tour.
May 21, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
It’s really about two things, and not much else:
May 21, 2013, 2:05 PM EDT
By forming NYC FC, City and the Yankees have created a ‘sister-club’ relationship – an innovative bond between a Premiership and MLS club.
May 21, 2013, 1:23 PM EDT
Early thoughts on the facility and the ripples of today’s big announcement on the 20th MLS franchise:
May 21, 2013, 11:45 AM EDT
By swapping Dzeko for Cavani, City can hamstring Manchester United and Chelsea, as both are rumored to be seeking a world-class striker.
- Bigger impact on U.S. soccer growth: David Beckham or Pele? (35)
- It’s official: Manchester City and the Yankees will own and operate Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team. (34)
- Why MLS was so focused on New York as the 20th market (15)
- Notes from today’s big announcement on MLS, NYCFC the Yankees and the rest (14)
- Portland ball kid correct to deny Mario de Luna (12)
- Tiger calls Sergio's comments inappropriate, hurtful
- Bears great Urlacher announces retirement
- Posnanski on Golf: Sergio shows disdain for Tiger
- OlyTalk: Coach K will lead Team USA in Rio Games
- PFT: Crabtree reportedly tears achilles, out for year
- HBT: Soriano calls out Harper after blown save
- PHT: Sharks take Game 4, pull even with Kings
- Play Video: Premier League drama set to thrill
- Play Video: Premier League: Real English drama
- Play Video: Highlights: Union outlast Fire
- Play Video: Sir Alex says goodbye
- Play Video: Morgan committed to growth of new women's league
- Play Video: Boy with cancer, 8, scores against major league soccer team