Euro 2012 preview: Holland

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Euro 2012 preview: Holland

Euro 2012 preview: Holland | Zonal Marking

June 5, 2012


Holland's probable starting line-up
After a reputation for playing beautiful football was undermined by Holland’s brutal performance in the 2010 World Cup final, Holland’s strategy in the past two years has been an interesting balancing act – Bert van Marwijk wants to look as if he’s moved on to a more open style of football, but remains reluctant to abandon the structure and functionality that took Holland to the World Cup final in the first place.
Despite retaining roughly the same core of players, Holland are a more attractive side than two years ago. They hold onto the ball for longer periods, and the circulation of the ball is quicker.

van Bommel partner?
But there remains a great debate about the style of play, and discussion about Mark van Bommel’s midfield partner is effectively a microcosm of the wider debate about the overall ideology of the side. Inevitably, Johan Cruyff has been keen to give his view:
“The problem with two holding midfielders is quite simple, but somehow many coaches don’t see it. The build up happens too slow – holding midfielders always need that extra touch, always need to have a look when they have the ball already. That takes time away. The opponent can position themselves to stop the killer pass and the forwards are all marked. Plus, having two holding midfielders means there is one less creative playmaker. It’s a double edged sword…we need one good controller in midfield and two creative players on the wide midfield spots, like Barcelona does…if our build up is slow, the effectiveness of our creative forwards will decrease significantly. Robin van Persie got a lot of criticism last World Cup, and I believe it was because we played to defensively and passively. We became a counter team. Our best players are up front, though. They need the ball, and they need it quick.”
Van Bommel’s place in the team is assured. His partner at the 2010 World Cup was another holder, Nigel de Jong. His karate kick into the chest of Xabi Alonso was the single most memorable example of Holland’s force in the final, and when another strong tackle (although it wasn’t deemed a foul) broke the leg of Hatem Ben Arfa in a Premier League game, van Marwijk dropped him from the Holland squad. ”It was a wild and unnecessary offence. He went in much too hard,” he said.
That strange decision was an attempt to improve Holland’s footballing reputation. The other two options for that role were, happily, much more forward-thinking players. Rafael van der Vaart often played there against weaker sides, and van Marwijk won the World Cup semi-final against Uruguay by gambling and putting van der Vaart on for de Jong at half-time. Van der Vaart would be the choice of his fellow players and probably the Dutch public too, but van Marwijk will find it difficult to field such an anarchic player in a deep position against quality opposition.
The other option is Kevin Strootman, the young PSV midfielder who made his international debut last year. He appears the perfect compromise – he’s not a defensive midfielder like De Jong, nor an attacking midfielder like van der Vaart. He sits deep and sprays the ball across the pitch, keeping the tempo high and providing a quick initial pass into the front four with his left foot. He started the final four qualification games, but also played in the 3-0 friendly defeat to Germany in November, when he and van Bommel were unable to cope with the constant waves of German attack through the centre of the pitch. He was removed after an hour, with de Jong brought on to provide defensive strength.
Strootman’s problem (and also van der Vaart’s) is that Holland have been drawn in such a tough group, with Portugal, Germany and Denmark. As the Dutch football site 11Tegen11 points out, the defensive approach of two holding midfielders is used against strong sides, while van Marwijk prefers to play with a deep-lying playmaker against weaker opposition. In such a tough group, de Jong seems likely to get the nod. He’s started the four friendlies since Strootman’s outing against Germany, and after all this fuss, Holland will play the same central midfield combination that started throughout the World Cup. As a result, their football will be more structured than fluid.


Striker?
That’s not the only debate in the side. Upfront, despite Robin van Persie being the clear first-choice at the World Cup, and being in sensational form over the last 18 months, his position has faced a challenge from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who enjoyed a brilliant Bundesliga campaign with Schalke. Van Persie wouldn’t have been dropped – he could have been moved wider.
But in the recent friendly against Bulgaria, the use of both players resulted in a poor performance and a 2-1 defeat. It would be nice to get Huntelaar into the side, but structurally it doesn’t seem possible without moving van Persie – who remains the superior player – into a role he’s less comfortable in. Therefore, van Persie will start with Huntelaar on the bench.


Left winger?
Here there are three options, who all offer something very different. There is Dirk Kuyt, who offers the most defensive protection (which is important, as Holland lack a reliable left-back, which will be discussed shortly), and his ability to play deep alongside the two holding players in the World Cup final gave Arjen Robben the freedom to effectively become a second striker – which should have won Holland that game, had Robben not squandered two great one-on-one chances. The balance Kuyt provided shouldn’t be underestimated.
Then, there’s van der Vaart. Unlikely to start in the wide role and with Wesley Sneijder a certainty in his favoured number ten position, the possibility of playing van der Vaart on the left is appealing – with Robben more direct on the right, having a player who can move infield and become a ’second number ten’ alongside Sneijder gives Holland another playmaking option. That’s especially important, of course, if they’re playing a static defensive-minded duo deep in midfield. But the problem is that Sneijder himself likes to drift to the left, and Holland would risk having roughly the same type of player doing the same job.
Therefore, it seems that Holland’s left-sided player will instead be a proper winger, Barcelona’s Ibrahim Afellay. He spent most of the campaign injured, and hasn’t played a full game for a year – but looks likely to start, bringing a system of two wingers stretching the play. His performance in the final pre-tournament friendly against Northern Ireland secured his place – two goals and an assist.


Left-back?
This is the real problem area. Giovanni van Bronckhorst has retired and is the only player from Holland’s first-choice World Cup XI not to be in the current squad. His natural replacement was PSV’s Erik Pieters, but his foot injury ruled him out of the tournament. Instead, van Marwijk will probably select Jetro Willems, Pieters’ club back-up. He’s an excellent prospect – fast and technical – but is 18, inexperienced and was uncapped until two weeks ago.
The only alternative is Stijn Schaars, ten years older and more combative, but a holding midfielder, although he is left-footed. This creates another, unwanted debate about the more appropriate style of player.


Elsewhere
Aside from these debates, Holland are unchanged from the World Cup. The defence is relatively weak, although critics said that two years ago and they performed admirably. This weakness, however, is another reason for van Marwijk selecting two holders.
The final questions are about the roles of van Persie and Sneijder, who effectively play as a front two. Van Persie didn’t perform particularly well as a goalscorer at the World Cup (partly because he wasn’t 100% fit after a long injury lay-off) and spent much of the time holding the ball up and assisting others. “In the whole World Cup, I was only put [through] in front of the keeper four or five times,” he complains. “Cesc [Fabregas] did it four or five times a match.” The role of Holland’s forward is not about poaching – and van Persie has increasingly become a poacher at club level – but about playing as a team player. He has no problems doing that, it’s just a case of whether he has become accustomed to being a penalty box player.
Equally, the reason Sneijder wasn’t putting him through on goal was because he, with five goals, was Holland’s main goalscoring threat, despite the fact his goalscoring record at Inter was average. Since then, his role at Inter under various coaches has become extremely confused – and although he generally performs well for Holland, it’s still an odd situation.
Finally, Holland have great options from the bench. Huntelaar, Kuyt, van der Vaart and Strootman will be options, as will clever centre-forward Luuk de Jong and explosive winger Luciano Narsingh. It feels like at least one of those ‘different options’ will be needed in each game.


Conclusion
A marginally more attractive footballing side than in 2010, but a less secure, stable starting XI means Holland are arguably a weaker team. In such a tough group, van Marwijk will go for two holding midfielders and is unlikely to change that in the knockout stage, which Holland will expect to qualify for. With each position having two contenders who interpret the role very differently, this is all about finding the right balance between defence and attack.


Quick guide
Coach – Bert van Marwijk
Formation – Basically a 4-2-3-1, though the position of the wingers and Sneijder hint at a 4-2-1-3 at times
Key player – Wesley Sneijder
Strength – A plethora of attacking options
Weakness – A slightly dodgy defence, and a tendency to pass too slowly when two defensive midfielders are used
Key tactical question – Who partners van Bommel?
Key coach quote – “A good team plays within a certain structure. You hear coaches say their team can play four or five different systems but I don’t think that’s realistic. What you can do is vary the details – that way, we can make life difficult for our opponents.”
Betfair odds: 8.0 (7/1)
Recommended bet: van Persie to outscore Huntelaar at 1.45
Further reading: David Winner’s excellent book Brilliant Orange
, the very promising iPad magazine Orange Crush and the Dutch tactics site 11Tegen11
 

Kris

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I have them tipped to get to the semi finals, at least. Very organised unit and still play good football.
 

CJACKO11

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the defence always worries me but they do have the protection from De Jong and Van Bommel. Forward line for me is the best in the tournement.
 

Alcaraz

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Sneijder has not been the same since his 09-10 season and he does not have a good relationship with RVP. Not to mention Hunteelar has publicly voiced his discontent at not starting.

Excellent group of players but I do not think they will win it. Perhaps the Semis
 

RubenV

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I'm afraid Holland won't survive the group stage. The defensive line is to weak (Mathijssen also can't play), certainly for the games against Germany and Portugal.
 

PZW

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I'm afraid Holland won't survive the group stage. The defensive line is to weak (Mathijssen also can't play), certainly for the games against Germany and Portugal.
Are you serious? Germany are favourites, in my opinion, to win the group; since they have such a fantastic group of defenders, midfielders and attackers.

Portugal are a good team on paper, but they always seem to underperform on the pitch; especially Cristiano Ronaldo, who doesn't look anywhere near the Real Madrid Ronaldo.

Denmark are a tough side, with players such as Nicklas Bendtner and Christian Eriksen, but they are not in contention for qualification is such a tough group, in my opinion.

I think Germany will top the group with 7 points, the Dutch with 5 points; with Portugal on 4 and Denmark on 0. We'll see, though.

- PZW
 

Djocker

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Denmark are a tough side, with players such as Nicklas Bendtner and Christian Eriksen, but they are not in contention for qualification is such a tough group, in my opinion.
As an Arsenal fan, I can't help but laugh when I hear good thinks about Bendtner.
 

RubenV

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Are you serious? Germany are favourites, in my opinion, to win the group; since they have such a fantastic group of defenders, midfielders and attackers.

Portugal are a good team on paper, but they always seem to underperform on the pitch; especially Cristiano Ronaldo, who doesn't look anywhere near the Real Madrid Ronaldo.

Denmark are a tough side, with players such as Nicklas Bendtner and Christian Eriksen, but they are not in contention for qualification is such a tough group, in my opinion.

I think Germany will top the group with 7 points, the Dutch with 5 points; with Portugal on 4 and Denmark on 0. We'll see, though.

- PZW
Germany 1st and Denmark 4th, I agree with that. I think it is going to be decided in the last game between Holland and Portugal.
 

GodCubed

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As an Arsenal fan, I can't help but laugh when I hear good thinks about Bendtner.
He's a beast for Denmark though, weirdly.

In unrelated news, black Dutch players subjected to monkey chants during a training session. Good start...
 

zzeezzy

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He's a beast for Denmark though, weirdly.

In unrelated news, black Dutch players subjected to monkey chants during a training session. Good start...
Are they training in Poland or Ukraine? Sad to hear, hopefully they will be outnumbered and it is just a minority.
 

GodCubed

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Are they training in Poland or Ukraine? Sad to hear, hopefully they will be outnumbered and it is just a minority.
Not sure. UEFA deny it, but Mark Van Bommel is apparently livid with them for trying to cover it up.
 

Lol_101

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Is it just me, or is this the Last of Holland Golden generation, once again . they were so close in the WC 2010 final, but i hope they win this to put a silver lining to this golden generation. and yes, the defense really worries me, but DM's are there to help.
 

RubenV

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Euro 2012: Dutch threaten to walk off pitch over racist abuse after black players are targeted during training - Telegraph

Oddly it claims here that the Dutch FA have played it down as well, so not too sure what happened.
I've seen the training, there certainly were monkey chants. They reacted by moving to the other side of the field. I agree with GodCubed, disappointig that they are playing it down. They were training in Poland by the way, in the stadium of Wisla Krakow.
 

lufc4ever

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I have a niggling feeling that Holland won't get out of their group. I don't think Mathijsen and Heitinga could be considered international-class defenders anymore, especially considering they both rarely start for their clubs. A lot of their passing football in 2010 relied on Wesley Schnijder's brilliance during the tournament but he has been terribly off-form since then. Van Persie will either have to be played out of position on the wing if Huntelaar plays, if van Persie is moved to the centre forward position the inferior Afellay who very rarely plays for his club, Barcelona (is he behind Tello and Isaac Cuenca in the pecking order now?). He was also injured for much of the last season.

Also, the holding midfield unit of de Jong and van Bommel (assuming that is the partnership) is far too pedestrian too succeed, certainly against top teams such as Germany. De Jong seems to specialise in poorly timed tackles and while I do believe van Bommel should be kept in the team to provide leadership and be the ball winner, the other holder should be Strootman who can pass the ball much better than de Jong, link the defensive 6 with the attacking 4 and dictate the tempo like Schweinsteiger or Pirlo do in the deeper lying roles.

I honestly cannot see Holland getting particularly far in this tournament and I see them as much weaker than the 2010 team. I even think they may struggle to get out of their group as I could see a productive Danish team led by Christian Eriksen shocking them and then they will get beat by Die Nationalmannschaft. I could be proven wrong however!
 

Timmehhh

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Well you were right m8. Yesterday's match was a **** disgrace.
But the team didn't let us down, it was purely the scared and conservative coach that did it all.

A short recap of everything wrong at the moment:

1a: Van Bommel is way too slow, HUGE gaps appeared because the center midfield could't keep up.
1b: Nice fact -> Van Bommels is the coach's son in law....
1c: Lack of pace from controlling midfield means no pressure on other team, Sneijder runs his *** off
2: De Jong needs someone creative next to him (vd Vaart / Sneijder) for better synergy
3: Robben cutting inside isn't effective as it once was, everyone know his trick -> right flank impotent in this way
4: Affelay has potential but is missing WAY too much match experience because of his injury
5a: RvP drops deep to get the ball -> no presence up top
5b: Bundesliga topscorer is sitting on the bench fuming with frustration...

The whole nation screams that he needs to play with KJH and RvP but the coach is very conservative.

The result was clearly seen last night.

Simple solution (too scary for Van Marwijk)

Switch Robben to left and Affelay/Narsingh to right
Huntelaar as striker
RvP in a free role behind him
Sneijder as creative CM next to De Jong

THE END
 
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