Monday, June 18, 2012

Pointless Dutch buried by rampant Ronaldo

By Eurosport

They came dressed for a funeral, and that is exactly what they got. Though for a fleeting, frantic few minutes it appeared some life remained in Netherlands' Euro 2012 campaign, ultimately the demise of the team wearing their black change strip was confirmed at the hands of Portugal and a deadly Cristiano Ronaldo in a breathless contest in Kharkiv.

Netherlands supporters conducted another Oranje pilgrimage when snaking through town from the fan zone to the Metalist Stadium prior to kick-off in hope of a miracle, but a city the Dutch have made their home over the past week instead hosted a wake. The sober shade of shirt ultimately proved appropriate as Netherlands fans began to mournfully drift away from Ukraine's second biggest city, their dreams dashed. Comprehensively so.

No points, no shape, no idea. This was not a good night to be a Netherlands fan. Not when they finished bottom of a group for the first time in a major tournament and without so much as a point to show from their trip to eastern Ukraine.

The third favourites are out of the competition, the opening 1-0 defeat to Denmark setting the tone for a wasteful, frustrating campaign that will probably end in widespread recrimination. Early Doors can only imagine the scowls on the faces of the players when they fly home, debating who deserves the aisle seat or the last remaining packet of pretzels.

At least coach Bert van Marwijk was willing to admit culpability for a disastrous tournament.

"We had to win with a two-goal difference so we had to take a risk and go forward, it started well but then it didn't go to plan," the Dutch coach said, having sacrificed son-in-law Mark van Bommel to bring in Rafael van der Vaart, who scored a beauty and hit the post with another effort, yet unbalanced the side. "We are disappointed we did not play well today, I am disappointed, I am responsible.

"We started every match well and today the scenario was right when we opened the scoring but then you have to keep that advantage to force your opponent to take more risks. But again we proved not able to do that and then we gave the goals away too easy. I am responsible and therefore failed at this tournament but at this moment I am not thinking about my future."

For ED, the failure of the Dutch to muster so much as a point, and fail to translate ability into achievement, ranks as perhaps the biggest sporting disappointment at Euro 2012. Well, that and Alexander Kerzhakov of course.

As Robin van Persie wasted yet more chances - his domestic form having clearly swapped with Nicklas Bendtner's in some kind of Freaky Friday scenario - and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar drifted aimlessly through the 90 minutes despite having been brought into the side to provide a predatory instinct in the penalty box, two players who had scored 80 goals between them in all competitions this season failed to make a mark.

Instead it was Ronaldo, a man who scored 60 by himself, who brought down a reign of terror on the game. Criticised for his two performances against Germany and Denmark, the Real Madrid forward was at his scintillating best, scoring twice and hitting the post twice as he showed the Dutch how to destroy an opposing team. This was C-Ron bursting through the doors of a party that had been all aquiver awaiting his late arrival, nailing a few pints and taking the three best-looking girls home for the night while flicking the V-sign as he left.

That famous strut was in full effect, and with ED sat in Kharkiv's Metalist Stadium it was truly a wonderful sight to behold: one of the world's great athletes performing at his absolute peak.

While Paulo Bento maintained that "the individual effort of players is not important", Ronaldo's certainly was. The Madrid man has spent a bizarre amount of this tournament being goaded by supporters chanting the name of Messi, or making snide references to his Barcelona rival's Copa America campaign last summer, but this was the night when Ronaldo made it all about himself, again. When he attracted the spotlight in the way that only he really can.

His second goal, scored on the counter when Netherlands in desperation had moved to a virtual 3-2-5 formation as they overcompensated for earlier failures, was his 11th shot of the game — the highest total by any player in a match at the European Championship since records began in 1980. The supreme ego was in full flight; the disorganised Dutch defence in thrall to the world's second-best player.

But while the rest of the Portugal team is happy to be subservient to a player of Ronaldo's extreme ability, fresh concerns will be raised about a Dutch side of whom Wesley Sneijder said earlier in the tournament: "It is time we let go of these pathetic egos."

The Dutch have done a lot of talking in this tournament, but their relevance at Euro 2012 has now expired. As Gregory van der Wiel said in the mixed zone after their elimination:  "We didn't speak after. Everybody was very, very disappointed and everything was quiet."

It was almost funereal.
- - -
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We're good enough to win it. I know obviously everyone doesn't want us to build up expectations but I firmly believe that we've got the players to do it. You need a bit of luck as well but we've got a good opportunity. We've always believed. A country like ours needs to be in there with a shout of winning major tournaments and I firmly believe that." - Oh, Wayne Rooney.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Denmark played with a stoic calmness and it seemed like they could not care less. I never had the feeling that Denmark were playing to win it. Maybe had we played Holland or Portugal (in the final group game), they would have done more for a win than Denmark did." Joachim Low was never worried that his Germany side would be eliminated.

COMING UP: Tonight it is the turn of Group C to serve up some final-match thrills. Follow Italy v Republic of Ireland and Croatia v Spain at 7:45pm this evening.


Post a Comment