The group of death instantly lived up to its expectation when the favored Dutch were ousted by Denmark on Saturday. The Danes, considered the weakest in the group with that includes Portugal and Germany, won their opening match against Netherlands 1–0 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Before the game, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, criticized the grass. It was too long and played rough and slow, which would be to the disadvantage of the Dutch, who thrive with a quick pitch for attacking football.
Experienced Danish coach, Morton Olsen, who knows the Dutch game and psyche in-and-out, kept his usual cool and downplayed the chances of the Danes.
Both countries have a lot in common and a strong connection when it comes to football. Many Danish talents are trained in the Netherlands. The best example thereof currently is the talented midfielder Christian Eriksen.
Both teams appeared nervous at the start. The Dutch slowly started to cast off their nerves and take the initiative in the midfield, creating danger in front of the Danish goal. Meanwhile, the Danes pitched in a goal at the very first chance.
Danish attacker, Michael Krohn-Dehli, received a rebounding ball near the penalty area. He swiftly turned away from Mark van Bommel and shot the ball underneath the Dutch goalie.
“This was one of my best games ever. I saw that space and managed to score,” Krohn-Dehli told the Dutch press.
The Dutch feverishly attempted to regain ball possession and take advantage of their surplus of skills in the midfield and attack. Arsenal striker Robin van Persie developed play with flair but failed as a target man, wasting several big chances.
Dutch wingers Arjen Robben and Ibrahim Affelay, as usual, turned inside to shoot on the goal, but missed precision in the execution. Robben hit the post in 36th minute after a horrific giveaway by the Danish goalkeeper.
The Dutch continued to press and hunt for the ball, using a lot of energy, playing into the game of the hardworking Danes, who coolly waited for a counterattack.
“We know the Dutch players and they are especially good when they see their opponent is scared. We trusted we wouldn’t [be scared],” Danish coach Olsen said.
The second half did not bring about the desired change for the Dutch.
Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder played a terrific game, creating chance upon chance for the Dutch forwards, with skilful and subtle passing, but to no avail.
The way van Persie managed to fall over the ball completely, looking up bewildered after spinning out on his back, illustrated that it wasn’t going to be his day. This evening, the top scorer of the English Premier League did not evoke awe, terror, admiration, or fright—only empathy.
Even the German Bundesliga’s top scorer, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who entered the pitch in the 70th minute was not able to turn the tide for the Dutch.
“It was not a disgrace, but a disappointment and a miracle. I can’t comprehend it. It was like a bad movie,” Robben told the Dutch press after the game.
Near the end of the game, the Danes kept cool and were in control. Solid technical skills and great team defense was sufficient to beat the underachieving Dutch.
Denmark now faces Portugal on Wednesday while the Dutch take on the Germans. The Dutch did win Euro 1988 after losing their first match in group play, so all is not lost yet.
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