The 23 names of the final Euro 2012 Holland squad are set to be announced this Saturday, before a scheduled friendly against Bulgaria. “I definitely won’t do it after the match,” manager Bert van Marwijk told reporters earlier this week.
“It’s either before or a few days afterwards, because I’m not just going to quickly tell players after a match that it’s over for them. You need to take the time. That’s what I did before the 2010 World Cup too. I spoke to every player who wasn’t included in the final squad for a quarter of an hour. I explained why I didn’t take him along. Besides, it makes no sense to take a 27-man squad to a friendly against Bulgaria.”
So who’ll make the cut? And who are the unfortunate four who’ll have to say goodbye to the Oranje after two weeks of preparation?
As the final announcement draws nearer, speculation has heated up among Dutch pundits, punters and players. All agree that form will be a key element in Van Marwijk’s ultimate choice. He’ll also consider injury problems, tactical dilemmas and formation issues. These affect all lines of play.
The keepers won’t give Van Marwijk a major headache, even though first choice Maarten Stekelenburg hasn’t fully recovered from a shoulder injury and number two Michel Vorm didn’t put up a strong performance in Tuesday’s friendly against Bayern Munich. But the choice has been made. All three goalkeepers in the preliminary squad will fly to the final tournament the weekend after next, with Holland’s first match scheduled against Denmark on 9 June.
The defence is traditionally the weakest line in the Holland outfit. Who could have thought that young PSV Eindhoven Jetro Willems (just turned 18) would emerge as a potential - yet inexperienced - candidate to replace injured club-mate Erik Pieters for the left-back spot? Willems played the full 90 minutes against Bayern and performed admirably.
Other left-back options are Vurnon Anita, Stijn Schaars or Wilfred Bouma, but the general consensus is that at least one of that trio is likely to miss the euros.
John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen look certain to appear as centre-backs, even though the former was rested early this week and the latter has just returned from an upper muscle injury. Their most obvious possible replacements are Ron Vlaar, Khalid Boulahrouz and Wilfred Bouma. Vlaar “did quite well” in Munich (Van Marwijk’s words), Boulahrouz is a sociable character and a team player, so it’s Bouma who could well face an early farewell.
In the Holland boss’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, the names of all shortlisted defensive midfielders are widely expected to re-emerge on the final list. Among the attacking midfielders, Siem de Jong looks doubtful and so does even the exceptionally gifted youngster Adam Maher (18). The Moroccan-born AZ Alkmaar playmaker “started well, but then fell back a bit against Bayern”, in the words of Van Marwijk.
When it comes to Holland’s formidable forward line, trouble looms for Siem de Jong’s younger brother Luuk and for the elusive Jeremain Lens. Both strikers had a steady showing during this week’s training sessions in Lausanne but slightly underperformed against Bayern.
Newcomer Luciano Narsingh impressed Bert van Marwijk with his technical skills, defensive potential and a subtle first-half equalizer during Tuesday’s match. Narsingh looks set to stay.
Club commitments precluded Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona) and Stijn Schaars (Sporting Lisbon) from joining the pre-Euro 2012 campaign two weeks ago. Schaars only arrived in Lausanne on Thursday and Afellay will star in the Copa del Rei final on Friday night.
Both are likely to be included in the definitive selection. If so, they’ll certainly be given playing time during the final two friendlies against Slovakia (30 May) and Northern Ireland (2 June) before travelling to their tournament base in Krakow on 4 June.
UEFA expects to receive the final squad’s names no later than 29 May.
Doubtful: Luuk de Jong, Siem de Jong, Jeremain Lens, Wilfred Bouma
Less doubtful: Adam Maher, Vurnon Anita