Euro 2012: Day 6


The First Genuine Disappointment: Denmark 2 – 3 Portugal

After five days of pretty exhilarating, if not necessarily quality, football, today was the day things came down to earth with a bump. Amazingly it wasn’t the superficially tedious Group A (Poland, Russia, Greece, Czech Republic) that brought our first glimpse of football tedium, but Group B, the Group of Death, which hasn’t been so much the Group of Death as the Dearth of Interest. Thrown a lifeline by the Danes’ unlikely win over the Dutch, this group has stagnated, with the Danes unable to build on their victory, while the utterly tedious Portuguese were able to move on from their unlucky defeat to the Germans.

The Danes, like the Irish, are a classic North European team. Good enough to get through the qualifiers, but (their win against the profligate Dutch aside) fundamentally unable to compete at this level. I increasingly wonder what the point of enlarging the competition from 16 to 24 teams is, if the additional teams are simply going to be as dull as the Danes. Then I realise that UEFA is more interested in the increase in TV revenue from the additional games than any genuine improvement in footballing quality.

And while the Danes may be hampered by an abject lack of genuine quality (are there any players other than Ajax’s Eriksen who you think even might improve your team in any way whatsoever?), the Portuguese are simply annoying. While there is definitively no ‘I’ in ‘team’, there is an ‘I’ in Selecção das Quinas, the nickname given to the Portuguese side. And it’s a big ‘I’ – Ron-I to be exact. And it’s abundantly clear that while Real Madrid might have been set up to accommodate the various needs, desires and fripperies of Ron-I, the Portuguese team hasn’t quite got the same coherence of mission. So while Ron-I is still surrounded by his chou-chou pets Pepé and Coentrao, the rest of the team isn’t quite as keen to actively indulge his every whim and caprice. And that’s what riles about the side.

It’s not that they aren’t good. When he can be arsed Pepé is a great defender, but too often he’s a niggle-fouling, card taking arse. It’s not that Ron-I isn’t talented, it’s just that too often he’s a petulant, spoilt child diva. And with the rest of the team having the skill level of Helder Postiga (who? Exactly), they make for a side that really gets my back up. They haven’t really dominated matches, they haven’t played particularly interesting, let alone good football and they’re not going home yet. Here’s hoping the Dutch can teach them a lesson and book their plane tickets fast.

Not Quite What It Was Cracked Up To Be: Holland 1 – 2 Germany

The Dutch, discuss. World Cup finalists only two years ago, this Dutch side is so much less than the sum of its parts. You would have thought that a side that contained the combined skills of Robben, Van Persie, Schneider, Afellay, Huntelaar and Van Der Vaart should have enough attacking threat to put any opponents to bed. But apparently not. What is clear more than anything is that while the loss of Van Der Saar may have been tough for Man U, it’s been a disaster for the Dutch. They say a good keeper is worth 10 points a season, but they’re the kind of points that you don’t notice ’til they’re gone and boy are the Dutch noticing them now. It’s not that his replacement Stekelenburg is a liability, rather that Van Der Saar’s departure has caused the entire Dutch defence to collapse. Even so, if the big name heavy attack could have made more of the six shots they had on target (or actually had more shots on target), maybe the failings of the Dutch defence wouldn’t be so significant.Oh and if Robben had actually passed the ball to one of his teammates just the once, that might have helped too.

And maybe if they’d been playing a side that was less complete than the Germans (like say the Portuguese) they would have come through OK. And yet it’s not as if the Germans were anything special. Just calm, effective and methodical. This was no blitzkreig, rather a deadly slow press against the wall that squeezed the life out of the Dutch. Gomez gave everyone a lesson in finishing. His first, set up by a beautiful Schweinstiger pass, involved a fabulous turn just inside the area before he slammed the ball into the net, while his second, also from a Schweiny pass, was a great strike from the corner of the box. And while Van Persie’s consolation strike was good, it was very much too little too late. The Germans are beginning to get into gear, the Dutch are beginning to pack.

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