The Netherlands took to Euro 2012 with plenty of gusto, but the men in orange failed to hit the high notes and will head home from Poland and Ukraine empty handed. Ryan Gordon asks: Why?
Drawn in the 'Group of Death', Group B, along with Germany, Portugal and Denmark, it was maybe the latter who were expected to find themselves glued to the foot of the standings come the end of the first-round of fixtures.
However, the Dutch produced some sensationally flat performances throughout the competition, scoring just two goals as they lost all three of their group games to finish the campaign with zero points and a goal difference of minus-three.
Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben were headlined as the lead singers in Holland's rock-star line-up, but the quartet played mere back-up vocals in an otherwise out-of-tune orchestra, led by conductor Bert van Marwijk.
Prior to the final group stage defeat the Dutch Football Association had announced that, win or lose, the national team coach's job would be safe, but following such a lackluster showing on Europe's biggest stage, a U-turn in sentiments at the top might soon follow.
So where to now for the Oranje? They have the talent in spades (Van Persie & Co's stumbling efforts in Poland and Ukraine aside), suggesting it is indeed the leadership of the man in charge that needs to be questioned.
Van Marwijk had opted to start Van Persie as a lone striker in their opening two matches, and to be honest that role worked wonders for the striker with Arsenal last season, the skipper smashing home a sensational 37 goals in 48 appearances for the Gunners.
However, it proved ineffective in the Dutch set-up as the 2011/12 Premier League Golden Boot winner looked well off his game, spurning several guilt-edge chances, and only managing one tournament goal.
The coach finally decided to play both Van Persie and Huntelaar in attack in the third and most vital of their group stage clashes, against the Portuguese, and they quickly found their rhythm, taking the lead at the Metalist Stadium,
However, it proved too little, too late as defeats to Denmark and then Germany previously left the Dutch with little hope of progressing, while a Cristiano Ronaldo Sunday double on Sunday all but ended their title aspirations.
The national side don't have too much time to feel sorry for themselves though, as their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign begins in September, and with the team drawn against the likes of Turkey, Hungary and Romania in UEFA Group D, a quick turn-around in fortunes will be critical if Holland will be taking the flight to Brazil in two years' time.
By Ryan Gordon
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