End of anther era for Oranje

holland euro 2012 kit (nice shirts but for a forgettable occasion)

Unusually for a major tournament, I’m quite laidback and relaxed about the Oranje and their failure to deliver on the pitch for the entire group stage. I’d normally be very crazy for the Oranje and write tons of stuff in anticipation of the team getting very close to the trophy but not winning it. That’s what being a Holland fan is mostly about.

But this time, things have panned out very differently. From being one of the favourites to win the title, the Dutch finished dead last in their Group B without a single point. Of course most fans would want to examine where went wrong but I think that’s for Bert van Marwijk and the KNVB to decide. For months since the release of the new Nike kit for the tournament, most fans have been saying how beautiful the new jerseys are but no one guessed that the Elftal would bow out so early, rendering (at least in my view) a negative memory of these kits. I won’t buy them now, though the black one looks evil (and I meant that in a good way). Same like how I refused to buy Arsenal’s 2011/2012 kits because of their severe capitulation to Man Ure 8-2.

Yesterday’s performance against Portugal irresistibly reminded me of their Euro 2004 meeting at the semi-finals stage and not just because of the same scoreline of 2-1 but because of the manner of their capitulation to their new arch-rivals.

I don’t believe that it is a simple matter of history between the sides and so on. On a fine day, the Dutch could beat anybody in this world – they humbled Italy and France in Euro 2008 and defeated Brazil (somewhat fortuitously) as recent as World Cup 2010.

It’s about not starting at the right momentum. This is where the manager is at fault for the team’s preparation and so on – the Oranje approached this tournament awash in media predictions as hot favourites and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, the team started rather well against Denmark and could have so easily scored at least three goals early on but somehow their minds are not really in the tournament itself. It may be okay to miss a shot during training and that’s the impression that I got from the Denmark match – lots of chances but poor goal conversion.

The match against Germany came at a wrong time. To suddenly ramp up their efforts meant that the team is not relaxed: knives suddenly appeared and major players made themselves heard that they are not happy with certain things in the team. Neutrals soon suspected the infamous Dutch infighting have derailed them. In short – it was a recipe for disaster and the ruthless Germans were only too happy to capitalize on it.

Now, after two defeats, the Dutch still had qualification to the quarter-finals partially in their own hands. They hoped that their perennial rivals Germany would do them a favour by defeating Denmark. At the end though, it’s no use if the Dutch don’t help themselves. Simply put, the team hadn’t peaked at all.

Throughout, the only player I could see who cared more for the team than others was Wesley Sneijder. During the closing phases of the match against Denmark, he fought hard for fifty-fifty chances where Robin van Persie, Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong had faded. Sneijder also spoke up of winning something with this team rather than Van der Vaart and Klaas Jan Huntelaar voicing their own personal grievances about not being selected. Team captain Van Bommel spoke to the press about the racial abuse the team received during training but otherwise failed to rally his soldiers on the pitch.  

I think that we could see a major shake-up of the entire Oranje team from now on. To start with, our defence was not good enough. I’m not longing for the good old days of Frank de Boer, Jaap Stam, Michael Reiziger and Arthur Numan but to even scrape together something the likes of current squad reeks of desperation. On paper, we had a fine attack – with young, exciting talents like Luciano Narsingh and Luuk de Jong whereas Robben and Co would be thirty by the time of World Cup 2014. So, we’d likely see an amalgamation of both sides of the coin when the next tournament comes. Our midfield is probably our strongest asset but let down again and again by a failure to fuse the defense and attack effectively. van Marwijk also failed to see that his ‘key man’ Robin van Persie scored only once in South Africa and should have reshuffled his squad early on to benefit from the Arsenal captain’s erratic form. And I’m not saying necessarily in favour of Huntelaar who is not quite near Holland’s best. 

No, I’m not disappointed with the current team’s debacle. To a third party football spectator, that may be the case but you have to realize that van Marwijk’s teams usually do not have personal egos and vanities rearing its respective heads into the side and have played far more effectively than this even without the flowing total football of old. For now, I’m more curious as to how this suddenly became an issue during this tournament and why the manager was unable to keep a tight rein of this team.

Euro 1996 was one case in point where the Guus Hiddink nearly lost control of the squad for whatever that have transpired. Edgar Davids was sent home and the Oranje barely sneaked into the knockout stage but before losing heavily to England 4-1. Leftback Numan commented then that “When the atmosphere is not good in the camp you see it on the park. It’s no surprise, when you’re not a unit anymore.”

Last World Cup, everyone in the team rooted for each other probably because they were underdogs but here in Poland / Ukraine, they felt that they could win it. Perhaps being classed as favourites rather than the perpetual dark horses was their undoing.         


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