Euro 2012: Day 2

All The Pieces In The Wrong Places. Holland 0 – 1 Denmark

A day that promised so much totally failed to deliver. As rabbitty sing-song Bright Eyes put it, “How can the light that burned so brightly suddenly burn so pale”. I have no idea. Imagine, you have the Dutch playing the Danes and the Germans playing the Portugeezers. Football magic innit? Well, not this time.

More than any other international tournament, this one is going to be about stoic defending putting an end to articulate football. About the revival of the Mourinho Doctrine over the world dominating tiki-taka pass n play. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter how good your passing is if you can’t provide a serious threat. Holland may have had the bulk of possession and a grand total of some thirty dozen shots, but overall they offered very little to really threaten the Danes.  Indeed, with Van Persie, Robben, Schneider, Van Der Vaart and others all misfiring, Van Persie in particular looked like he’d never had a shot, let alone scored a goal before in his life, Holland were very much less than the sum of their parts.

It emphasises one of the key lessons of tournament football, it’s all about the team stupid. Holland play with plenty of individual star appeal, but they look like they’ve never played with one another before. In contrast the Danes never looked like playing sparkling football, but were well organised, broke effectively and most importantly took their one chance when they had it. Normally you’d think that the Dutch could recover from a defeat (Spain, after all, lost their first World Cup 2010 match to Switzerland and still won the competition), but with Germany up next and a defeat sending them home, they’ve not got a lot of room for manoeuvre. The Danes, in contrast, only need to avoid losing to Portugal to have a genuine chance of progressing.

All That Hope Misplaced. Germany 1 – 0 Portugal

If we were disappointed with yesterday’s opening match, the first half of this game more than matched our levels of ennui. And while the Greeks and Poles may have every excuse for playing badly, the Germans, with Ozil, Schweinstiger and Gomez up front, and the Portuguese, with Ronnie dominating the side, had no such excuses.

So the tedium of the first half was both unexpected and unwelcome. Portugal seemed to be playing for a draw, hoping for a point while believing they could beat the Danes later, but it was a plan that backfired. They were forced to spring into life after the Germans finally scored, but never found the cutting edge they needed. Germany, meanwhile, seemed to suffer from the same ailment as the Dutch, never seeming to live up to the sum of their parts. Still you feel that they will grow into the tournament, while it’s hard to see where the Portuguese are going to get their goals from, striker Helder Postiga making goal drought Nicklas Bendtner look like a golden boot winner.

If there’s a moral from today’s matches, it’s that you might not confirm qualification, but you can lose it in the opening match. Germany and Denmark are in the driving seats and Portugal and Holland have it all to do.


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