Now that was a fun game to watch. The 2008 Dutch model reminds me a lot of the 2000 model – exciting to watch, with fantastic technique and movement going forward. I still have questions about the middle of the defense and the holding midfielder, Engelaar, didn’t really stem the flow of the French down the middle of the park.
However, they are through as the winner of Group C, which means they will probably play either Russia or Sweden in the quarter finals. They can beat both those teams, which means they will either play Italy or France or Spain in the semi finals. They have beaten the first two handily and I have doubts that Spain’s central duo can keep this squad from scoring. I don’t know that Ooijer and Mathijsen can keep Torres and Villa off the scoreboard either, but based on current form, I am a believer in the Dutch. So it’s looking good for the Dutch to get to the finals. Normally, you would be concerned with the Dutch in knockout matches given their poor record in penalties. However, this team has great penalty takers – Ruud, Van Persie, Gio Van Bronckhorst, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart – and Van Der Sar is one goalkeeper I would have all the confidence in the world in, given his recent winning save in the Champions League Final in Moscow.
France outplayed Holland – yes, I will refer to them as Holland till they lose (and the dead match against Romania doesn’t count since they will probably rest some of their starters and players on yellow cards) – for the first 60 minutes and had the bulk of possession during that period. However, as so often happens, the Dutch had two real chances and put in two goals while the French couldn’t put away their chances much like Italy couldn’t against Romania. Henry, in particular, was wasteful. I don’t understand why the strikers at Euro 2008 aren’t rounding the keeper on breakaways. With his speed, he should have gone around Van der Sar. He chose to try to lob it instead. Why, Thierry, would you lob with the top of the boot instead of sidefooting the lob given that you had enough time and space? One has so much more control when one does that. Instead, he put it over the crossbar. Yes, Ooijer should have been penalized for his handball off Henry’s blast, but c’est la vie. There is no way France should have given up goal #3 to Robben within a minute of cutting it to 2-1… and the angle he scored from was hard to swallow. People are blaming Coupet, but sometimes, you just have to admit that a blast to the top of the goal from that angle is unexpected and hard to stop when struck with that pace. You just can’t get your palms up fast enough to push it over the top of the bar or block it back.
Domenech, you are terrible. No Nasri or Benzema. Can’t you see that your old guys aren’t getting it done – look at the Dutch team to get a clue? And you play Maka the whole game when you are trailing. Terrible decision making. I hope Les Blues fire you and bring in Laurent Blanc or Didier Deschamps as coach of the national team.
On the other hand, Marco van Basten, you are the MAN. I LOVE YOUR SUBSTITUTIONS. I suggested you get more speed in midfield by bringing on Robben or Van Persie in the second half. You bring on BOTH! Forget protecting the lead. You rightly believed that a good defense is a good offense. Fans, like CH12, bray for that all the time, but then we don’t have the pressure to get results. Few coaches ever subscribe to that cliched philosophy. But, you did – the cynics may say you already know you are leaving for Ajax after the tournament, so what the heck. However, it was brilliant and that’s why I am rooting for the Dutch to win the Euros 20 years after they last won it in 1988, when Van Basten scored one of the most unbelievable goals ever in the final against Russia (“rooting” not predicting – this is the Dutch team after all). If you think Robben’s angle was tight, check out that goal. So your two subs combine to score the second goal and Robben scores the third. Wesley, master strike for the fourth goal. The final compliment is to Ruud – the Zidane-step-on-the-ball-and-spin for a pass move!?? Who knew?! It absolutely set up Robben’s lane down the wing and led to the second goal.
Pre-game prediction: France 2 Holland 1
Result: France 1 Holland 4 ( “If one is going to be wrong, sometimes it is best to be spectacularly so” – CH12 June 13, 2008 )
Scorers: Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder (Holland) Thierry Henry (France)
CH12 is now 6 and 8. Got to come back strong tomorrow to get back to even. Maybe I will use Van Basten’s philosophy and go with the thought that the best defense is to go with the offense…