The Group of Death is going to have step up to match the Greece vs Poland tournament opener that provided more drama than most Champions League second legs with two red cards, a penalty saved by the substitute goalkeeper and a disallowed goals. Everyone is eagerly awaiting Match 4 between Germany and Portugal; however, the prior game between Netherlands and Denmark will probably have more bearing on the outcome of the group as the loser is going to face an incredibly difficult time qualifying for the next stage given that the loser will have to probably beat both Germany and Portugal to move on.
Why Denmark will win
- This is a cohesive team that isn’t under pressure as the expectations are not high for the lowest ranked team in the group. However, Denmark is ranked #10 in the FIFA World Rankings and so has quality in the side to beat any side on any given day – as evidenced by the fact that they finished above Portugal in qualifying.
- Denmark has highly skilled players at the key positions: Nicklas Bendtner is a tall striker who is good in the air and supremely confident in his own abilities; Christian Eriksen is a brilliant creative midfielder and the favorite to win the Young Player of Euro 2012 award after having debuted as the youngest player in World Cup 2010; Daniel Agger is an experienced central defender with a wicked left foot.
- The Netherlands’ Mathijsen is out with a hamstring injury and left back is a potential problem with 18 year old Jetro Willems slated to start.
- Netherlands might be a bit distracted by the furor surrounding the racist treatment of some of their players earlier this week during practice.
Why Netherlands will win
- Wesley Sneijder, Robben and Robin van Persie are in good form. If any of the three have an off day, they can be replaced by van der Vaart, Afellay, Kuyt and Huntelaar. That level of skilled offensive depth is unique.
- Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong are tough and positionally sound holding midfielders who can protect some of the defensive frailties of the Dutch back line. They will corral young Eriksen and cut off Bendtner’s supply.
- This is an experienced team that reached the quarterfinals of Euro 2008 and almost won World Cup 2010.
Pre-match prediction: Netherlands 2 Denmark 1
The Dutch offense will be too much for Agger, Kjaer and Stephan Andersen (Thomas Sorenson’s replacement in goal). Alternately, while veteran Dennis Rommedahl is still fast, Denmark is collectively not quick enough to take advantage of the Dutch lack of speed in the middle of the park. Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder to score for the Netherlands and Rommedahl to pull one back for the Netherlands.