Wednesday is crunch day for the Netherlands in Euro 2012 as another make-or-break encounter awaits against archrivals Germany in Group B, the “Group of Death”.
The pressure will be on the Dutch who lost their first match against Denmark. “Egoland 0 – Legoland 1”, headlined a Belgian newspaper the next day. And, indeed, the opening match left a few egos dented. Others had already been bruised or otherwise hurt, as this inventory shows:
Maarten Stekelenburg: just back from a shoulder injury, let the ball go through his legs against Denmark
Gregory van der Wiel: played a “disastrous” match against the Danes after a see-saw season with Ajax
John Heitinga: got tricked like a rank beginner by Danish goalscorer Michael Krohn-Dehli
Ron Vlaar: tall guy, average ego, defused plenty of Danish dynamite
Jetro Willems: budding ego, youngest player at Euro 2012, did very well in the opening match
Nigel de Jong: frequently benched this season at Manchester City, was substituted against the Danes and wasn’t amused
Mark van Bommel: came in for most flak from home press, who feel he’s past his prime
Wesley Sneijder: ego too big to be affected by defeat, performed well on the night
Ibrahim Afellay: just back from injury, lacks rhythm, not yet hit form, but great potential
Robin van Persie: huge ego with as many dents as missed chances
Arjen Robben: still traumatised by missed penalties, but performed very well against Denmark
And on the bench:
Klaas Jan Huntelaar: another match on the bench and one can blow away his ego
Dirk Kuyt: will find his ego again when he’s allowed to play
After Saturday’s shock defeat against Denmark, the Dutch media were more scathing in their criticism of the men in orange and particularly of their manager Bert van Marwijk. At a press conference in a scorchingly hot Metalist Stadium on the eve of the Germany match, the Holland boss retorted by saying that:
“this is what you get after defeat and particularly when a key match against the top favourites is on the cards. But, he said, we’re ignoring these media reports and commentaries. We’re pressing ahead with our preparations for the match. The atmosphere in the group is fine and I have every confidence in a good result.”
Next to him sat playmaker Wesley Sneijder with a big grin on his face.
“Yes, it’s time to put our egos aside and focus on an exciting match against one of the world’s top teams. And I’m looking forward to it. I’ve also heard that I’m at loggerheads with the manager so I suggest we fight it out now downstairs.”
That final remark earned him a broad smile and a fatherly tap on the shoulder from Van Marwijk. Smiles at last from the Dutch squad after a week of sheer tension.