Netherlands v. Demark
By: Jacob Singer
The Netherlands unconvincingly beat the Danes in their first match of the competition. Despite being geographical neighbors, this was the first time the two teams have met in the World Cup. The Dutch can thank Danish defender Simon Poulsen for scoring an own goal, a play which will join Robert Green’s fumble in the 2010 blooper reel. The second goal will be credited to Dirk Kuyt but belongs to substitute Eljero Elia.
The first half of the match consisted of the Danes holding their position while the Dutch controlled the midfield. While there were opportunities and a handful of entertaining plays, the match lacked pace. There were many short passes in the midfield among
Photo from fOTOGLIF
players standing around waiting for something to happen. The Dutch weren’t playing Total Football. Now and again the match would come to life with a spurt of one-touch passes, but they always resulted in missed opportunities. Van Persie and Van der Vaart looked rusty. Neither had their killer instincts, nor were unable to leave a mark on the match. The best action came from right winger Dirk Kuyt, who as per usual, feverishly worked the right side of the field. But the Danes were well organized in the back and took advantage of counterattacking opportunities, which really came to life in the last ten minutes of the first half. Nicklas Bendtner missed a header, his best opportunity of the night, and a few minutes later Thomas Kahlenberg missed his chance to score. At the forty-five minute mark, the Dutch looked slow while the Danes seemed to be finding their form.
The second half of the match began with follies as Simon Poulsen scored an own goal while trying to clear a cross. He headed the ball into teammate Daniel Agger’s back, which deflected the ball into the goal. Where Robert Green looked distraught at his error against the United States, Poulsen looked flabbergasted. It was one of those moments—so quick, so instinctual of a move—that he could only assume that the soccer gods are against him, that the hand of god was cruelly toying with him. Technically, it bounced off Agger and he should’ve been credited with the own goal, but the referees awarded it to Poulsen—at least there is a bit of justice in this world.
In the 67th minute, Elia was subbed in for Van der Vaart. While an unknown on the international stage, he has been recognized as the Netherlands’ 2009 “Young Player of the Year.” He played the left side of the pitch, had great pace, and exquisite dribbling abilities. The second goal started with a great pass from Sneijder, in the midfield, to Elia at the top of the box; with a one-touch move, he chipped it to far corner where it bounced off the post. Luckily Dirk Kuyt had positioned himself to tap it in for the second goal. Keep an eye out for Elia, who deserves to be a regular substitute in the tournament. In the closing moments of the match, the Netherlands were on their way to having a third goal, when at the last possible moment Poulsen cleared the ball off the goal line and redeemed his previous error.
For the world class Dutch, the goals weren’t convincing and the pace was lacking. Most of this stemmed from their slow, controlled style of play. Meanwhile, the Danes took advantage of a number of good opportunities but lacked composure. On Sunday, Germany presented a master class lesson in world football. If the Dutch are going to compete with their rivals, they are going to need to increase the pace of the game and attack with more ferocity.