The Dutch—2010 World Cup runners-up—go into this tournament as one of the favorites, a list that includes Spain, Germany, Italy and France.
The following 23-man squad is what the Dutch manager, Bert van Marwijk, has pooled from a wealth of talents.
Even a cursory glance at the list reveals the across-the-board giftedness of the Dutch squad. Only Spain and Germany can boast of similarly gifted squads.
Group of Death
The Dutch are in Group B, the group of death. Its opponents are Germany, Portugal and Denmark.
They will play Denmark on Saturday, 9 June, then Germany on Wednesday, 13 June and then Portugal on Sunday, 17 June.
Although the Dutch had an impressive performance in the qualifiers (see below), the challenge here is to survive their challenging group.
Table courtesy of BBC Sport.
To do so, they'd have to beat Denmark in their opening match on Saturday, making sure to do the same in the next against Portugal. That would earn them six points. A draw, then, against Germany would see them through to the knockout stage.
But this is easier said than done.
Since their impressive qualifying campaign, the Dutch have faltered. First, they lost their last qualifying match 3-2 at home to Sweden.
They then drew 0-0 at home to Switzerland in November of 2011 in a friendly match. Four days later, they were trounced 3-0 by Germany in Hamburg in another friendly. They prevailed 3-2 over England in their next friendly match back in February.
Just about a fortnight ago, they lost 3-2 to a weakened Bayern Munich side. The intention here though was to experiment with the preliminary squad for the Euros.
The next friendly against Bulgaria in Amsterdam was a 2-1 loss. The latest of the friendlies, this time against Slovakia, was a victory to the Dutch. But here's Kirsten Schlewitz's reaction to the match, writing for SB Nation.
On Saturday, the Netherlands lost their friendly to Bulgaria 2-1, courtesy of a penalty and a last minute goal. This time around, Holland managed to beat Slovakia, but once again, the weaknesses in the Dutch side were exposed. Considering the repre haven't won a competitive match since last June, against Andorra, and Holland lost just once in Euro qualifying, Oranje supporters likely thought the friendly match in Rotterdam on Wednesday night would be an easy affair. But the 2-0 scoreline is deceptive: the first goal was an own goal by Kornel Salata, and it took until the 75th minute for Rafael Van Der Vaart to score the second....a stronger, or perhaps less experimental, [Slovakia] side could have done some damage to the Dutch. Holland's defensive play left much to be desired, with both Gregory Van Der Wiel and John Heitinga making sloppy mistakes.
The Dutch still have one friendly match to play, against Northern Ireland next Wednesday. Great improvement is requisite here if they are to make any headway at the Euros.
A big problem the Dutch squad faces is its current inability to translate possession into goals.
The major weakness is with the attacking midfield position, currently manned by Wesley Sneijder. This position is responsible for quick transition between defense and attack. This isn't happening quickly enough. The problem, though, isn't with Sneijder alone.
Possible Lineup at the Finals
Bert van Marwijk's preferred formation is 4-2-3-1. I prefer to call it the 4-2-1-3 formation because the wide forwards mostly play in the final third in this formation.
Van Marwijk will face a quandary in deciding who between the duo of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie will start up front as the main striker.
In the loss to Bulgaria, both started with Van Persie deployed wide on the right, but this meant that Arjen Robben had to be relegated to the bench.
The situation, according to the Associated Press, is currently a national obsession in Holland.
The issue—the last major piece to fit into the Dutch jigsaw before Euro 2012 — is becoming something of a national obsession ahead of Saturday’s friendly in Amsterdam.
“Has anybody asked questions in Parliament about it yet?” Van Marwijk asked Friday.
Van Persie is seen as having the edge because of his stand-out Premier League form, but Huntelaar has a formidable scoring record for the Netherlands — 31 goals in 52 internationals to Van Persie’s 26 in 64.
The Arsenal captain scored with a trademark left-foot volley in last Saturday’s humiliating defeat by Bulgaria while Huntelaar netted a few days earlier in a 3-2 defeat to Bayern Munich. Neither scored in the Netherlands’ 2-0 victory over Slovakia, but Van Persie started, possibly an indication that he will get the nod from Van Marwijk
Arjen Robben—though usually selfish in possession—is too good a player to be relegated to the bench, so Van Persie is unlikely to play wide, meaning the decision is likely to come down to this choice between Van Persie and Huntelaar.
One option could be to relegate Dirk Kuyt to the bench, play Robben on the left and Van Persie on the right. Whether this could be the case is left to be seen.
Another interesting choice still exists. And it is about who will partner Mark van Bommel at the foundation of the Dutch midfield, Kevin Strootman or Nigel de Jong.
De Jong was Van Bommel's partner in the 2010 World Cup but ran out of favor due to widespread criticism for his hard, take-no-prisoners manner of playing. This was exemplified in the midriff Kung Fu kick he gave Xavi Alonso in the 2010 Word Cup final.
BBC Sport says this of Strootman:
After winning rave reviews for his punishingly impressive consistency in the heart of midfield, PSV Eindhoven's 22-year-old captain Kevin Strootman is being called 'the new Roy Keane' in some quarters, having quickly established himself as a key player for both club and country.
An argument in De Jong's favor could be that the Premier League not Eredivisie is the stiffer yardstick in determining the mettle of these players.
Eight centers—four in Poland and four in Ukraine—will host group matches.
Photo courtesy of BBC Sport.
The Dutch will play at Kharkiv at the Metallst Stadium where FC Metalist Kharkiv play. BBC Sport provides the following information about the stadium.
Photo courtesy of BBC Sport.
Year built: 1926 (renovated in 2009)
Fun Fact: Locals call the Metalist Stadium the 'Spider Arena' because its external supporting pillars make it look like a giant arachnid. The south stand contains a three-storey shopping mall and office complex.
Centre-back Wilfred Bouma sustained a minor head injury after a collision in the first minute with John John Heitinga in the friendly against Slovakia. He should be alright though.
Wesley Sneijder received a minor ankle knock in the same match and had to be substituted in the 51st minute. He should be okay to be play on Wednesday in the next friendly match against Northern Ireland.
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