Do-or-die for golden generation of Dutch football

Euro 2012

Violence marred the Group A clash between Poland and Russia on Tuesday night, as 100 supporters were arrested in the build-up to the first game in the second round of fixtures. A fantastic equaliser ensured the home team got a point from the game, whilst Czech Republic gave their campaign a shot of life with a 2-1 win over Greece.

The Group of Death is back today as Denmark look to keep up their recent heroics against under-pressure Portugal. However, the game of the day sees early tournament favourites and perennial heavyweights Netherlands and Germany play, with the Dutch needing a result. Here is the news that Soccerlens had been reading today.

Dutch golden generation facing early exit

With the likes of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben in their ranks, much was expected of a talented and experienced Netherlands squad ahead of Euro 2012, but 90 minutes into their campaign the Oranje are facing elimination. A shock 1-0 defeat to Denmark in their first game means that Bert van Marwijk’s men must get a positive result against rivals Germany tonight and Portugal in their last game, and hope that other games go their way.

A football-mad nation demands success, and after close-run defeats at the latter stages of Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010, there is a train of thought that there may be a transition in the squad after this tournament. Younger players such as Jetro Willems, Luciano Narsingh and Luuk De Jong are stating their claim to become the incumbents of the Oranje starting jerseys, with some of the current seasoned campaigners potentially on their way out.

Given the attacking talent of the afore-mentioned players and with Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ibrahim Afellay and Dirk Kuyt also in Van Marwijk’s contingent, the nature of their defeat to the Danes was surprising. Although a suspect and ageing defence is liable to let in a goal here or there, as Michael Krohn-Delhi proved, drawing a blank at the other end will be a cause for concern.

Against Morten Olsen’s men Holland had the bulk of the possession and territory, and as such created a number of clear-cut scoring opportunities that the Dutch travelling support have become accustomed to being converted after a free-scoring qualification campaign. 2011-12 Premier League top goalscorer and PFA Player of the Year Van Persie was the main culprit in wasting opportunities, as the Arsenal man was not his usual clinical self. There is a debate in Holland whether the Gunners man should play alone in attack, or should be partnered by 2011-12 Bundesliga top goalscorer Huntelaar.

Wesley Sneijder was at his mercurial best against Denmark, and created chances for the attacking players to get the side back in the game. Against Germany the Dutch will not have the same level of territorial dominance that they saw against the Scandinavians in the opener, but chances will still present themselves. It is crucial that these are taken, and as such there is a train of thought that Huntelaar and Van Persie should both play.

With the Dutch defence the side’s potential weak point, Netherlands should look to attack Joachim Low’s men to pin the Germans back, and as such two strikers would keep the opposition rearguard occupied. It is unthinkable that Netherlands would be eliminated in the group with the quality at their disposal, but if Van Persie and rest of the experienced Dutch attacking repertoire don’t have their shooting boots on the golden generation may well fall at the first hurdle.

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100 arrested in violent scenes

Given the history between Russia and Poland, there was always going to be bite when the sides met on Tuesday. However, with visiting fans marching to the stadium to celebrate ‘Russia Day’, clashes between supporters saw ten people taken to hospital.

Cassano in hot water

Italy look to have another scandal on their hands, as Antonio Cassano has come under criticism after comments about gay footballers. When asked if there were any homosexual players in the Azzurri set-up, he made an attempt at a joke that has caused offence in the nation.

Rooney to sharpen England’s attack

Roy Hodgson has admitted that although he was happy with his side’s 1-1 opener against France, he wants his team to sharpen up in the final third. The new Three Lions boss has stated that Rooney, who will return in the final Group D game against Ukraine, is the side’s ‘ace in the hole’.

Group A tight after round 2

Poland recorded another 1-1 draw in their clash with Russia, as Alan Dzagoev was on target once more for Dick Advocaat’s men. However, a cracking Jakub Blaszczykowski goal equalled things up and ensured spoils were shared. In the other game Czech Republic beat Greece 2-1 to ensure that all four teams can qualify going into the last game.

The groups are starting to take shape, and Netherlands and/or Portugal could be the first big-name casualty of a competitive tournament. Tune in tomorrow to hear the fallout of the Group B clashes, preview two interesting Group C fixtures and hear the latest news from Ukraine and Poland.

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