Germany beat Holland 2-1 on Wednesday in another classic clash between the arch-rivals in Euro 2012's Group B, the "Group of Death". The Netherlands were hoping for at least a draw against the favourites to advance to the knock-out stages, following Saturday's shock defeat in their opener against Denmark.
The day's blistering heat had turned the Metalist Stadium into a veritable cauldron of humidity. Even at 21:45, when the first whistle blew, the temperature was still high. It made the players hurry to the touchline for the water bottles at every injury.
Buoyed by Denmark's 3-2 defeat against Portugal earlier in the evening, the men in orange took the initiative, with a great chance for Robin van Persie just outside the six-yard box four minutes into the game. But Germany responded in kind with a similar attempt by Mesut Özil, which hit the post. On 10 minutes, Van Persie could have scored again, this time from the edge of the penatly area, but his weak shot went just wide.
Straight through the centre
Then, on 24 minutes - just one minute after the Danish goal on Saturday - German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger ripped open the Dutch defence with a through-ball to Mario Gomez, who deftly turned before striking the ball past the Holland keeper Maarten Stekelenburg from 12 metres. 1-0 to Germany.
Ten minutes later Holland escaped unscathed when a Holger Badstuber header hit the keeper. Mario Gomez showed his teammate on 36 minutes how to find a net with a beautiful kick from the right side of the penalty box.
Both the run and style of play were reminiscent of the late time the two sides met: in November for a friendly at Hamburg. Then as now, Germany opened up the dodgy Dutch defence like a tin can with fast-paced precision passing, scoring three times. Once again, the German juggernaut flashed down the length of the pitch in three or four fast moves to create great opportunities and score wonderful goals.
What followed after the second goal was a bruising "Auf Wiedersehen" from the large German crowd and loud whistles from the equally numerous orange-clad fans right after the half-time signal.
Time for Holland manager Bert van Marwijk to leave captain Mark van Bommel and leftwinger Ibrahim Afellay in the dressing room in favour of Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. After all wasn't "The Hunter" this season's topscorer in Germany and most prolific striker under his stewardship? And wasn't most-capped Dutchman Van der Vaart the one who'd given most assists?
Germany, however, weren't impressed. The men in black and white kept battering the Dutch defence which looked increasingly shaky. Holland, however, still managed to create a flurry of chances and finally, in the 72th minute, Robin van Persie managed to hit the net with a powerful strike from outside the box. This time, Jogi Löw's men were impressed. They indulged in risk limitation and serious time wasting, for which only one yellow card was given (Jerome Boateng). Unnecessary behaviour by a side which had, once again, shown great superiority and consequently should be considered as the favourites for the title.
For Holland all is not lost, but the Dutch will need to improve on their game very quickly and score at least two goals more than their Portuguese opponents in their final game. Even if Holland do, they still won't have their fate in their own hands, because Germany need to beat Denmark to let Holland through. Mind you, that looks far more likely than the first proviso.
Holland starting line-up:
1-Maarten Stekelenburg, 2-Gregory van der Wiel, 3-John Heitinga, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 15-Jetro Willems, 6-Mark van Bommel, 8-Nigel de Jong, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 20-Ibrahim Afellay, 16-Robin van Persie, 11-Arjen Robben
Germany starting line-up:
1-Manuel Neuer, 20-Jerome Boateng, 5-Mats Hummels, 14-Holger Badstuber, 16-Philipp Lahm, 6-Sami Khedira, 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 13-Thomas Müller, 8-Mesut Özil, 10-Lukas Podolski, 23-Mario Gomez