Dutch players and fans enjoy
nothing better than arguing among themselves over the national
team and they have plenty to get their teeth into after their
swift removal from Euro 2012.
Defeats by Denmark, Germany and Portugal mean Netherlands
wound up bottom of Group B and head home without a point.
For years the Dutch were every neutral's favourites with
their orange shirts, Total Football, Johan Cruyff's brilliance,
Ruud Gullit's dreadlocks and for winning Euro 88 when Marco van
Basten scored one of the greatest goals of all time.
But they lost the sympathy vote after their rugged and
cynical display in the World Cup final against Spain two years
ago and few outside their homeland will now be shedding many
tears as the Dutch depart after flattering to deceive.
Arjen Robben, who has endured a miserable month following
Bayern Munich's defeat by Chelsea in the Champions League final
when he missed a penalty, and now this exit after three largely
ineffective games here, was among the chief culprits.
The flying winger believes it is time the Dutch looked
closely at what went wrong, saying after the game: "We all
failed - the players, the technical staff, everyone.
"Just like everyone was responsible when we got to the World
Cup final in South Africa, now we are all to blame for this
defeat," he said.
There will certainly be a nation full of people ready and
willing to help him and his team mates do that.
Primarily, key players, like striker Robin van Persie,
despite a superb goal against Germany, and Robben himself, did
not produce their best form.
Playmaker Wesley Sneijder, featuring in one position and
then another, was also below his best and injuries to defenders
Joris Mathijsen and Ron Vlaar did not help either.
Rafael van der Vaart, one of their most creative players,
was only a substitute in the first two matches but showed what
the team were missing with his sublime opener against Portugal.
The Dutch came into the tournament, if not among the leading
favourites, then certainly highly fancied.
They won their first nine qualifiers to reach the finals
with ease and in Van Persie and fellow striker Klaas-Jan
Huntelaar had two players who had enjoyed exceptional seasons
with their club sides in England and Germany respectively.
Van Persie was top scorer in the Premier League last season
and netted 37 goals for Arsenal in all competitions, while
Huntelaar was overall top scorer in Euro qualifying with 12 and
led the Bundesliga with 29 goals for Schalke 04.
But although the Dutch dominated their opening match against
Denmark, they fluffed one attempt after another, lost 1-0 and
were always in trouble after that.
Until he started against Portugal, Huntelaar appeared as a
substitute against Denmark and Germany, and despite starting the
final game he lacked any notable input against Portugal.
Coach Bert van Marwijk accepted full responsibility for his
team's failure, but said he had a contract to remain as coach
until 2016 and would not be discussing his future now.
"We're just disappointed. It wasn't a good game at all
today. I'm responsible for that and I'm disappointed. It's the
same team as two years ago, except for two positions. But it
just didn't work."
Despite being a team littered with talent and touted as
potentially one of the best at the Euros, the Dutch must now be
regarded as a team in transition.
Van Marwijk said as much on Sunday, adding: "We tried to
make the team faster and a little bit younger, and make it
better in terms of strength in depth.
"I knew it wouldn't be easy to do what we did two years ago.
It didn't work from the first game onwards."
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