Uber Alles Deutschland and the Disappointing Dutch


Before affairs had begun in Group B, Die Mannschaft only needed a point to cement their quarter-final date with Greece in Gdansk. The Danes on the other hand knew that a win was necessary if they were to hold any hopes of reliving their glories of 1992. Germany, as suspected were hot favourites for this one and had shown that they were ready to live up the hype surrounding them by seeing off Holland and Portugal already.

Podolski opens the scoring

In the opening stages of the game unsurprisingly it was Germany who dominated, and their impetus nearly paid dividends when Thomas Mueller blew an opening which Anderson gathered up from just eight yards. The scene was set for what was to come for the Danes for lengthy periods of the first half. Lahm, Ozil and Podolski were exposing Denmark relentlessly from wide positions combined with Bastian Schweinsteiger ‘s clever in-to-feet passing of which Mueller and Gomez took advantage of, creating several half-chances with some quick link-up passes on the edge of the box, only to be halted by an inspired Daniel Agger on the evening.

Heavy dominance from the Germans paid off on 19 minutes when a throw-in from a rather innocuous position made its way to the feet off Lukas Podolski who duly swivelled to take the ball on his left foot and buried his chance across to the far side of the goal. A tidy finish and a deserved goal but there’s no doubt that the Danes will be kicking themselves for getting their basic defending on par and lapsing.

The goal was a wake-up call for Denmark who then entered a spell of good play and began to move the ball smartly around the midfield. Eventually they earned themselves a corner which fell to Nick Bendtner 20 yards out from goal who was being marked by a substantially smaller statured Schweinsteiger in a zonal-marking system. Krohn-Dehli was the man in the right place and the right time who flicked on Bendtner’s initial thunderous goalward header past the floundering Neuer. After the equaliser the Germans regained control of the game and dominated possession until the half-time whistle rang out.

Krohn-Dehli equalises with from a corner

When the two teams came back out after their breather, it was Denmark who took the game into their court as they fashioned some openings with some set-plays with Nick Bendtner always looking dangerous. Germany had looked rather vulnerable when the ball was in the air, acting rather indecisive under the pressure of Bendtner. Down the other end of the pitch for Denmark, they certainly tightened up as the Germans did not have as much joy turning opposition defenders as they had done, with Agger enjoying a really solid display.

On 70 minutes news had arrived that Portugal had taken the lead against Holland meaning that the Danes had to win, and if so, would also mean that the Germans would be going home in what could have been the shock of the tournament.  They began to commit more bodies forward in search of a winner and they should have been rewarded when Badstuber looked to have tugged ever-present Bendtner back in the area to stop him gathering a through-ball, leaving him with only Neuer to beat. However, much to the Danes’ and many neutrals dismay, nothing given.

Inevitably with Denmark pressing harder and harder for a winner, they were leaving themselves exposed at the rear and Germany were more than willing to kill them off on the 80 minute mark when Lars Bender was slid in after a sharp counter. The goal took any all of the sting out of the game and quashed and impetus and momentum that Denmark has built and the game fizzled out with a very uneventful final 10 minutes.

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The last post-match analysis of Group B that featured on Balls Out In Public criticized Cristiano Ronaldo for his lack of performance vs Denmark, even though his team managed to get by despite his misses. It seems as though the Real Madrid star read our critiques of his play from that day, and learned how to improve his game. As a result, he has fired Portugal into the quarter finals of Euro 2012, on a day where almost anything could have happened.

In the early stages of the game, it was an end-to-end affair; some of the most exciting stuff of the tournament so far. However this wasn’t as much down to the great attacking talent on the pitch on both sides, but more down to poor defending from both teams. The Netherlands took the lead after only eleven minutes, when Robben elected to pass rather than shoot. His short square pass to Rafael van der Vaart outside the box gave the Dutch captain for the day the opportunity to finish into the far post, an opportunity he graciously grabbed.

Against Germany or Denmark, Arjen Robben would have shot in that circumstance. He’s seemingly learned from his poor decision-making, and chose to play in a more selfless way today. The Oranje reaped the rewards of this early on in the game with the Tottenham midfielder’s great goal.

From this goal, Portugal put a lot more effort into going forward, and the Netherlands fought fire with fire and upped their intensity too. Both teams left big gaps in defence from this, and it’s only a wonder how we didn’t see more goals in the ten to fifteen minute period after van der Vaart’s goal.

Van der Vaart effort breaks the deadlock

Perhaps one reason why there weren’t more goals at that time was the lack of confidence and conviction shown by Helder Postiga. The Zaragoza striker looked very unsure of himself a number of times he was through on goal, as he spurned two great opportunities to equalise at 1-0.

At half time, the Netherlands were doing well and holding their own, level at 1-1. They did this despite the anonymity of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Schalke 04 striker brought into the starting lineup to shake things up after two poor performances from Holland already in the tournament. The Bundesliga top scorer last season was expected to give his side a much more potent goal-threat, however the former Milan and Real Madrid striker just looked off the pace for the entire game.

Another change that the Dutch made going into the game was Mark van Bommel coming out for van der Vaart. While van der Vaart did do pretty decently in giving some sturdier attacking stability to the Oranje, van Bommel’s absence was felt painfully in the second half. Without him, Portugal were able to make some great passing moves as they went in search of their winner. While two holding midfielders may have been a bit much for the Dutch, van Bommel may not have been the right man to take out of the team.

The great attacking passing and fluency that Portugal displayed in the second half was something that we missed from Euro 2012 up to now. On their day, with players like Ronaldo and Nani, they can of course be breathtaking, but too often are they dull and flat. Against the Netherlands – they were under the “must-win” pressure.

Portugal as an attacking force passed the ball and made off-the-ball runs excellently, and were easily able to dispose of the far from fantastic Dutch defence. With better finishing, Portugal could have won this game by a lot more. In the end, it was a glorious pass from Nani out on the wing to Ronaldo in the box that killed Holland off.

A cheerful post-game Ronaldo

If Portugal are to pose any serious threats in the knockout stage of the competition, they’ll have to consistently attack the way they did tonight, and defend a lot stronger too.

By Sam Henderson and Cillian Shields.

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