Oranje thrash ‘Les Bleus’ 4-1

Oranje Elftal v. Frankrijk

 

 

The Oranje were predicted to face a severe fight on their hands to even make it out of Group C in the Euro 2008 tournament but the team has just beaten the 2 World Cup 2006 finalists – not just by a mere goal but by a clear deficit of 3 goal-advantage in both of them. If that’s not class, I don’t know what is.

 

Overview:

The Dutch has just beaten Italy 3-0 in the opening day fixture on 9th June 2008. Much has been said of the match and of the controversial van Nistelrooy goal but no one has bothered to pay tribute to the other two goals – one by Wesley Sneijder and the other by Gio van Bronckhorst. If the World champions were beaten by 1-0, then the controversy would not have been easily laid to rest but the team went one up by soundly returning the favour to the Italians by the 3-0 scoreline. Some voices of dissent still raised obviously but nothing more like a watergun getting clogged up.

France, on the other hand, were surprised by the dour but effective Romanians. Being held 0-0 was not quite the opening they have sought – the likes of Franck Ribéry; Florent Malouda; Sidney Govou; Thierry Henry and talented forward Karim Benzema boast too much quality for the Romanians to even hope to match – but the result would not lie and France would have to dig deeper into their own talent pool to come up with an answer against the Dutch. The squad could also call upon many seasoned players like Lilian Thuram; William Gallas; Claude Makelele; Willy Sagnol; and also other young talents such as the Arsenal target Samir Nasri and Bafetimbi Gomis. This lineup certainly oozes class, on paper at least. Surprise package Steve Mandanda should not be expecting a first team place though, despite him being handed the goalkeeper’s prize of the no. 1 jersey. 

 

The Match Summary:

Early display of no love lost between the teams was probably down to the prize at stake – for the Dutch, qualification is all but certain with a victory as Romania and Italy drew 1-1. The French needed a win. No questions asked. Makelele set the spirit with the typical elbow to the face of Dirk Kuyt in as early as the 3rd minute.

kuyt euro 2008

Kuyt replied in the best way he knew how. In the 9th minute of the match, a resulting corner kick sees Kuyt rises and nods the ball into the net with France defenders failing to anticipate his movement towards that goal. Holland goes 1-0 up and French players really had their work cut out for them.

And respond they did.

I thought that Ribéry’s role in the French team should not be underestimated – this guy,while not singlehandedly raising the game of the French, was instrumental in the maneuvers which caused problems for the Dutch defence. If not for Andre Ooijer who stopped him in his tracks not long after the Dutch took the lead, the French would be right back in the game and even more.

If van der Sar is really revelling in his role as the saviour of the team, he couldn’t have shown it better than to save a Sidney Govou shot from close range after the French forward received a cross from Willy Sagnol. Govou had to swivel to charge that shot but the angle was unmistakably perfect and the Dutch goalkeeper’s rescue was timely.

The Dutch were looking increasingly likely to concede a goal then. It can happen at any moment, or so you think. Khalid Boulahrouz does well to advance down the right channel and unleash a shot wide of Grégory Coupet’s goalmouth. Not long after, Makelele was flashed the yellow card by German referee Herbert Fandel for a slam to Rafael van der Vaart’s face. One suspects that the injury would be superficial if at all, but I’ve seen bleeding cuts from seemingly lesser blows. Better to err on the side of caution.

France renewed their attacks on the Dutch goalmouth in the 30+ minutes and again looked the more likely to get a goal for their efforts just as it looked like the Dutch had stagnated somewhere in midfield again. Sidney Govou again had an effort saved by van der Sar; Franck Ribéry had another stinger from the left which was met by the same pair of hands in goal. After a few exchanges of possession and a lucky break for Jérémy Toulalan who hacked down van der Vaart in the dying seconds of the first half and escaped without a booking.

 

HALF TIME

 

Marco van Basten decides to replace Orlando Engelaar for Arjen Robben. I think that it was down to the fact that the Dutch were unable to nail down enough midfield possession to feed the strikers and probably thought that some fresh legs down the flanks would do the French a lot more wear and tear in that department, particularly since Patrice Evra and Willy Sagnol have the tendencies to move forward and support the French attack down their respective wings.

The French came out after halftime looking forward to draw Dutch blood and they probably got their chance in the 48th minute when a series of ping pong in the Dutch penalty area finally saw Andre Ooijer clearing a goal-bound Thierry Henry effort. The Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry who was relatively quiet during the first half kept  pointing out the Herr Fandel that the ball had hit Ooijer in the hand and claimed a penalty but the referee was in no mood to entertain French protests. Yes, it was a correct call by the French players but nothing doing. Ooijer did get out of jail that time.

That said, Ooijer was booked not long after for holding back Thierry Henry. Correct decision in my opinion. Too much humping and shirt-pulling in 21st century football for my liking so far.

Still not the end of Thierry Henry’s involvement in the early part of the second half – he was set free from a Florent Malouda delivery which left the Dutch defence completely beaten. In typical Arsenal mode, he’d be scoring a goal but no. Amazingly, van der Sar, who opted to run out slightly from his goal had the better luck just as Henry made a poor decision by choosing to lob the ball over the Dutch keeper and ended up with the French fans who were sitting behind the net. Many people would get on Henry’s back after this but it would be unfair in face of the many French players who simply did not turn up for the match.

Another baffling change to the Dutch side – Robin van Persie was sent on for Dirk Kuyt who looked to have faded as the game wore on since his goal. Robben worked out a fine cross for Wesley Sneijder who headed the ball safely into Coupet’s hands.

Van Persie 2008 2 

Arjen Robben finally got his Euro 2008 break. Spinning away from a brilliant Ruud van Nistelrooy play, the winger drew the ball closer to the edge of the French penalty area and had probably intended for Wesley Sneijder to be his recipient of the pass he was about to execute but the winger looked further and saw Robin van Persie in the box. Van Persie struck a strong shot into the corner of the goalmouth and Coupet appeared to have palmed it away brilliantly but the ball seemed intent on crossing the goalmouth and the result reads 2-0!

France did not lose heart. Franck Ribéry who was France’s attacking dynamo throughout, unleashed a rocket of a shot not long after which van der Sar felt necessary to punch away rather than to clutch it.

They did not have to wait long for a glimmer of hope to at least get back in the match. In the 71st minute of the amazing match, Ruud van Nistelrooy, who was the silent performer had a rare slip-up which allowed Willy Sagnol to cut into the Dutch half and release a tempting lob for Thierry Henry who just poised his instep for the ball to divert the ball into the Dutch net for the first time in this tournament. Typical goal he’d have scored for the Arsenal and Van der Sar looked stunned after that goal.

Robben Euro 2008   

Then immediately in the next minute, straight from the kickoff, van der Vaart released Robben down the left again. This time, the winger winded out Lilian Thuram before scoring a marvellous goal which had Coupet well beaten from an acute angle. This is how a good team scores goals: from all forms and angles, not just bombarding enemy territory stubbornly only to lose the initiative and succumb to a quick counterattack – take that lesson down, Arsène Wenger.

Some substitutions for both teams – Nicolas Anelka replaced the also down-performing Sidney Govou while minutes later, Van der Vaart trod off the pitch for Wilfred Bouma to take the leftback spot. Claude Makelele gained position in the Dutch penalty area not long after Bouma came on but slipped on the pitch just as he was about to take that crucial shot towards goal.

The Oranje weren’t done yet. Ruud van Nistelrooy speculatively nodded a midfield possession towards the French goal in the 82nd minute. Coupet got a hand to it and looked mighty sheepish for almost thinking that it was heading out.

The dying minutes of the half saw the French win a delicious freekick on the edge of the box but nothing came of it. That’s the story of the French team in the tournament so far; gaining good chances for goal but not making the best of it.

Arjen Robben had another Dutch counterattack organized down the centre. He, somewhat selfishly, took the shot himself and missed. There were other players around, but you never know if they could have done a better goalscoring effort than himself.

With the match’s fourth official showing only 2 minutes of extra time on the board, the French looked dispirited and the Dutch capitalized on some awful French defending. Sneijder claimed possession from somewhere outside the D-area, swiveled around and buried the ball well past Coupet who might have saved it if he was as tall as Edwin van der Sar. 180 cms is not good for a goalkeeper, Domenech.

 

  Sneijder Euro 2008   

 

Player ratings:

 

Goalkeeper:

1. Edwin van der Sar – 8/10 – brilliant goalkeeper who kept his recent Champions League victory in check and performed superbly in goal so far. Couldn’t be faulted for the Henry goal but did well to stave off 90% French attacks. If not for him keeping goal and is Stekelenburg or Henk Timmer old fart, well….

 

Defenders:

21. Khalid Bouhlarouz – 6.5/10 – good going forward but I don’t think that he’s a really good defender. He showed his dribbling skills which wowed the crowd and even had the audacity to try for goal in the first half. One wonders as to why Van Basten originally left him out only to bring him in after Ryan Babel got injured. Probably John Heitinga has struggled to impress during training.

2. Andre Ooijer – 6.5/10 – I can’t rate him higher than this. He had some rather poor lapses in concentration but was actually quite solid at the back when the situation calls for it.

4. Joris Mathijsen – 7/10 – Actually, I was surprised at how well he can play sometimes. He made Ooijer look more of a reflection of himself when he first started out in the Oranje setup today and hope that he can perform better than that. Good work, George!

5. Gio van Bronckhorst – 6/10 – Average performance. Nothing fantastic to rate.

 

Midfielders:

17. Nigel de Jong – 6/10 – Caught flat-footed by Ribery and Malouda on occasion and was bettered by Makelele on some periods in the match. He did link up well with Engelaar in midfield but had fewer possession as the French switched tactics midway through the 1st half.

8. Orlando Engelaar – 6/10 – Average performance. Was probably taken out to throw the French off balance with less midfield-heavy reliance.

23. Rafael van der Vaart – 7/10 – Passed well and seldom lost the ball when in possession.

10. Wesley Sneijder – 8/10 – Another sublime show by the Real Madrid midfielder. Had a tough closing first half period but when the Dutch brought on Arjen Robben, he seemed to revel in the attacking midfield role and scored the last goal.

 

Forwards:

9. Ruud van Nistelrooy – 7/10 – Man, I really loved that great trick he did to release Arjen Robben for the Robin van Persie goal. He may not have scored but I think that Oranje fans appreciated what he has done so far.

18. Dirk Kuijt – 6.5/10 – Good opening goal …but faded as time wore on. Still, great work by the Liverpool man.

 

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Substitutions:

11. Arjen Robben (on for Orlando Engelaar 46th minute) 7.5/10 – What a goal! I thought that it would end up behind the net – anything but a goal. Has looked somewhat selfish with his goalbound shot later on but not wrong to try in such circumstances.

7. Robin van Persie (on for Dirk Kuijt 55th minute) 7/10 – Good so far. The Arsenal star added a new dimension when Kuyt (or Kuijt, if you like) was brought off. He had some pretty decent movements only to deliver the final result to a French player but that was the only startling thing in the match. Not necessarily a bad thing.

14. Wilfred Bouma (on for Rafael van der Vaart 78th minute) 6.5/10 – Hard to rate his as he saw very little of the ball but I suppose that he did no wrong when he came on either. His entry allowed van Bronckhorst to move up to left midfield.  

  

 

       

 

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