Danish dynamite, efficient Germans – Euro 2012 match-day 2 analysis

Denmark shocked most people today when they managed to beat the runners up of 2010’s World Cup, Netherlands, in both team’s opening Euro 2012 game. It was largely expected to be a roll over for the Oranje, who boasted the likes of Sneijder, van Persie, and Robben in their starting XI. However, it looked for most of the match that the Dutchmen themselves also subscribed to that belief, that they would beat the Danes easily enough.

Michael Krohn-Dehli celebrates after stunning thousands of Dutch fans with his goal

The game started off very slowly, with Holland never really getting out of first gear. Despite this, they kept the majority of the ball and totally dictated the play. One disappointing aspect of Holland’s play though was that winger Arjen Robben never seemed confident or willing enough to try to take the ball around a defender to create space behind the defensive line. This resulted in many backwards passes to the midfield.

What Robben did do well though, was link up with Robin van Persie. The Arsenal striker was forced to move out wide to help the Bayern Munich star, and the pair did manage to create some decent half chances together. But because RVP had to move out to the wing to accomodate his teammate, there were no natural strikers in the dangerous areas around the goal to pass to.

At the other end of the field, Holland didn’t look all too resolute. Simon Poulsen, the Danish left back, began a rare venture forward on 25 minutes. Normally, Netherlands’ right back Gregory van der Wiel is a solid and reliable player, but Poulsen managed to get the better of him when he attacked his wing and brought his side far up the pitch. His deflected cross made its way to the tricky and lively Michael Krohn-Dehli.

More dodgy Dutch defending was seen when Krohn-Dehli scored the only goal of the game. It was an excellent turn from the winger to make the space for him to approach the goal, but in truth, the Netherlands’ centre back Ron Vlaar was sold far too easily. Mark van Bommel was also nearby, but Vlaar committed himself completely anyway, when he could have let his captain put pressure on the Dane. Krohn-Dehli duly obliged and stunned a lot of people.

In the second half, it was evident the Dutch increased their intensity; they no longer looked like they were playing in a friendly. A few times in both halves, Ibrahim Affelay, just back from injury, tried to make things happen for his side. His spark was entertaining to watch, dribbling past players a couple of times. Ultimately though, he never managed to link up with his teammates well enough to turn his bright sparks into a lit flame, and Netherlands weren’t able to score. If Affelay plays like he did against Denmark again, but links up more often with van Persie and Sneijder in the middle, he’ll be a very effective player for the Dutch.

On to Germany vs Portugal now, where the caginess that we saw in the first game of the day was somewhat replicated in Lviv. Germany have so many fantastic players at their disposal, skillful and creative right across the midfield. Unfortunately for neutrals, these players were unable to display the same flair that they used to create so much buzz about themselves with at the 2010 World Cup. As for their counterparts, world’s best/second best player Cristiano Ronaldo also failed to produce adequately for his side to get some points from their opening game.

Germany vs Portugal was a bit of a chess match. For a long while both sides were trying to decipher the other. Apart from an early header from Mario Gomez, not a whole lot was created, as Portugal defended like stalwarts at times. Pepe in particular had a good game, using pace and power, as well as good positioning, anticipation and intelligence in his game. His Real Madrid teammate at right back, Fabio Coentrao also performed well. This season Pepe has matured more rapidly than any other year in his career, and a lot of that is probably down to the work that Jose Mourinho is putting into his in Madrid.

What the pair were forced to defend for a lot of the night were crosses coming in from Germany’s Thomas Muller. The Bayern Munich winger whipped in a number of excellent crosses all night, begging to be converted. What helped Muller do this role was Jerome Boateng overlapping on his wing from right back. Boateng is normally used as a central defender for his national team, but was deployed today on the right. This move, along with Hummels coming into the team in the centre, raised a few eyebrows initially, but Boateng quickly proved he was comfortable on the right. In fact, the game could have perhaps ended with the complete opposite result had he not made a certain goal-saving tackle on Ronaldo in the 64th minute.

As for Mats Hummels who replaced him in the middle, the 23 year old was solid all night, as he didn’t allow the Portugese strike force much room to breathe. Phillip Lahm was moved to left back for Boateng to play at the right, and was excellent as always.

Mario Gomez brilliantly heads home the only goal of the game vs Portugal

Ronaldo was rather quite tonight as Portugal’s lynchpin. In the second half though, particularly as the game wore on and Portugal went one down, he did liven up. In the dying moments he collected passes well and attacked with speed. He teed up the young Silvestre Varela late in the game to grab the equaliser, but Germany have always been a nation to produce top quality goalkeepers, and Manuel Neuer is no exception. The shot stopper ran out towards Varela with purpose, and the striker’s shot was blocked by Neuer.

Overall, the Netherlands will need to wake up if they are to progress from this group. But all is not lost, and one must remember that on their way to winning the 2010 World Cup, Spain were hampered in their opening game when they lost 1-0 to Switzerland. Shock results happen, but they can come back from it. Denmark have dealt themselves a good hand to play with, but they’ll be hoping they didn’t play their wildcard too early as they try to recreate today’s performance against Germany and Portugal.

For Portugal, their next two games are both must wins, as they cannot let the Netherlands catch them after their slip up, and they can’t let Denmark get too far ahead of them. Lastly, Germany will probably need to up their game somewhat for their remaining Group B fixtures, but they’ve put themselves in a very strong position to qualify to the quarter finals.


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