Ok, game plan change. I will attempt to race through the next 6 teams before the play. I'll get Holland and France done, then I'll move on to Greece, hopefully before their first match. However, I might just screw them over (they play boring, defensive football. There, done.) If that is the case, I'll move straight to Portugal and try to come back and pretend like I never forgot the Greeks. Ok, got it? Here comes HOLLAND. Disclaimer: Holland will win the Euros.
Welcome to Group B, the Group of Death. The death still represents Germany
(You can click on the nation to see the previous posts)
Defenders: Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart), John Heitinga (Everton), Joris Mathijsen (Malaga), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord), Wilfred Bouma (PSV Eindhoven), Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax), Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven).
Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona), Mark van Bommel (AC Milan /PSV), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Stijn Schaars (Sporting Lisbon), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan), Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven), Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur ).
Firstly, let's get some definitions sorted out. Netherlands is the country. Holland generally refers to the country. Dutch refers to the people/culture. Holland actually refers to an area formerly in the northern part of the country but now in the western area. It is a pars pro toto, which means that, though it is a place inside the country, it can refer to the whole country. Dutch stems from a word that means country. Thus, the Germans have Deutschland. The Dutch ended up referring to the people of the Netherlands. This brings us to the Low Countries. This refers to Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg because they have low elevation. Now, let's get to the orange jerseys. These are a direct reference to the royal family. If you know your Dutch or English history (yes, I did just say England, look it up), you will know that the royal house when the Dutch gained independence from the Hapsburg Empire (Spain+ other stuff) was called the House of Orange. So, even though there is no orange on their national flag (just blue, red, and white stripes; believe me, I own one), the national team wears orange. This also provides their most famous nickname- Oranje, which is pronounced something like Oranye because the J in Dutch makes a y or an ai sound.
That brings us to Hollands second most famous nickname: The Best Team to Never Win the World Cup. The Dutch have more appearances in the final than England, Uruguay, France, and Spain. England and Spain combined have reached as many semifinals as Holland. The first finals appearances came from the Dutch Total Football Dreamteams of the 80's. Led by Johan Cruyff, the team just barely missed out on the trophy in 1974 thanks to a German side that was intent on holding back Oranje. In 1978, the team literally missed out on winning the match in the very last second when a shot that would have won the game went off the post. Argentina would win 3-1 in overtime (though it should be noted that they bribed their way into the final and cheated in the actual game). In 2010, Holland made it to the final after taking out Brazil and a surprising Uruguay. They unleashed a barrage of heavy play on the Spanish, who replied in turn with heavy tackles and diving. Spain would win 1-0 in overtime. However, Arjen Robben of Holland had the best 2 chances of the night, missing out on both. The Netherlands were derided for their negative play and their general lack of Dutch style (fluid play). The 2010 final made a record for most cards given out in a World Cup Final, though it should be noted that one of the yellow cards for the player who was sent off was due to a dive.
It seems like the Dutch Curse only faintly affects the Euros. They won in 1988. Since then, they've made it to every quarterfinal but never got past the semi's.
The Dutch are traditionally glossy on ball and are usually one of the favorites to reach the finals (though rarely to win it). They are also famous for their infighting.
They also would have been perfect in both World Cup qualifying and the World Cup if they had won the final. Holland won all their qualifying matches except for the last one against Sweden. In qualifying, Holland scored 37 goals. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had the most goals with 12. This may be a drastic change from the 2010 side, despite being mostly the same personal. It looks like a more attacking side. However, as demonstrated in the recent loss against Bulgaria, their defense may be a problem. This is compensated with 2 defensive midfielders. The attack is probably the most stacked in the tournament. You have to have a lot of talent to have Rafael van der Vaart on the bench. There just is no space in the 4-2-3-1 that the Dutch play. However, this formation may be altered to allow space for Huntelaar who is streaking almost as well as RvP. Bert van Marwijk has been with the side since 2008 and guided the team to the world cup final. This year, along with the usual orange home jersey, the Dutch will be sporting a black away jersey. I think they look rather awesome.
Players of Mention
Robin van Persie
Oh, Captain, My Captain
Don't leave us. We needed you so much. With out you, we would have been nothing. 37 goals, 30 in league. We stuck by you because we know, behind your glass ankles was the best striker in the world. Don't leave us.
Man, there is depth in goalkeeping here. Vorm was one of the best keepers in the English Premier League with Swansea. Krul had some great moments and was pivotal in New Castle's early success and their eventual finish in 5th. But Stekelenburg is still the clear starter. He moved to Roma from Ajax this past year, but missed some time after getting a boot to the face. Stekelenburg was instrumental in the World Cup run; his save against Brazil was one of the saves of the tournament. He has 40 caps for his nation and is still just 29, young for a goalkeeper.
Mark van Bommel
Like most of the team, van Bommel is a veteran from the 2010 World Cup final. This time, he's the captain. van Bommel is moving from AC Milan, where he had 39 appearances in just one year, to PSV in the Eredivisie. He will join fellow national team dmid, Strootman. van Bommel is 35 and this is expected to be his last go on the international stage. With a weak defense, van Marwijk will expect his midfielders to protect his back four. He certainly has the personal to do that, assuming that they can stay on the field the whole time.
This is a bit of a gamble for a key player. Either Nigel de Jong or Strootman will start in the second Center Defensive Midfield. Because de Jong can get, ... let's say "chippy"... van Marwijk might want to start the 22 year old from PSV. Strootman looks a bit promising. There is also the fact that he has ties with fellow PSV teammate and defensive midfielder, Mark van Bommel.
Sneijder is instrumental in the Dutch attack. In the World Cup, he tied for most goals with 5. He also collected a number of assists. He can be a bit selfish with the ball, but he can be gorgeous off a dead ball. He is also quite capable with both feet. Inter Milan did not really have the best season, finishing 6th. However, without Sneijder, they would have been a lot worse. He has 84 caps with 24 goals. He is also just 27 years old.
Robin van Persie
I'm going to try and tell you things that you might not know about the most in-form striker in the world*. Bert van Marwijk and RvP have a history. van Marwijk was the coach of Feyenoord while Robin was there. They didn't get along. RvP was a bit hotheaded and was left on the bench despite his talent. And then we got him! RvP also has a running feud with Wesley Sneijder. A bad tackle in a practice in the last Euros has led them to have problems getting along. This could lead to selfish play from either of these players. Oh, and RvP likely does not get along well with Tim Krul, one of the back-up keepers, judging from the last New Castle match.
*Depends if you neglect Messi and Ronaldo due to the fact that they play in La Liga against weak opponents, which I do.
This bald Bayern Munich man strikes fear into the hearts of most defenders. His tricky dribbles with his left boot are just scintillating. Expect goals and crosses from Robben from the right. That is, unless a hangover from the Champions League Final loss negatively effects Robben. van Persie will have to compensate in that case (see what I did there?). Robben has 55 caps with 17 goals at the national level.
Euro 2012 Chances
I'd say pretty good. They do have one of the toughest groups in history. They have to find a way to beat past Germany, Denmark and Portugal. After that, it gets a bit easier with Russia or the Czech Republic the expected opponents, though Poland and Greece have a shot. Russia would be the most challenging prospect. Russia did knock the Dutch out of Euro 2008.
Matches to Watch
Holland vs. Germany
Because this is the group of Death, all the matches will be interesting, but this one really sticks out. As stated earlier, Germany and Holland have quite the rivalry and they pretty much hate each other. That equals fun matches.
I've already said it, Holland will win the whole thing.
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