Games in the Group of Death tend to be cagey affairs as teams cancel each other out, especially in the first round of fixtures where no one wants to lose. Today was no different as Denmark upset the Dutch while Germany eked out a win over Portugal with a solitary goal each.
Robin van Persie started for the Oranje amidst some chatter that Huntelaar might get the nod. The Arsenal skipper didn’t have a great World Cup and his on-pitch relationship with Sneijder and Robben isn’t telepathic to say the least.
In this game though, RvP saw a lot more of the ball and was on the end of a number of chances. The Dutchman attempted a total of 8 shots but only found the target with 2 of those. At least two of his chances were gilt-edged and he must be more disappointed than any fan that he couldn’t put one in. His movement was excellent as ever and he also set his teammates up on a number of occasions with clever passes.
On the whole the Netherlands seemed to struggle with their combination play for large parts of the game. It seemed as though they didn’t have the confidence to push bodies forward and were relying on individual moments of quality in attack rather than moves involving a number of players.
To an extent this was understandable given the rather average nature of their central defenders and goalkeeper which meant the midfield had to stay close and even the full-backs were restrained. The fears were justified when Krohn-Dehli was able to pick up a loose ball and skip past Heitinga as if he just wasn’t there. Stekelenburg allowed the ball through his legs from a tight angle. It still hard to believe at one point some Gooners wanted him at Arsenal.
The Danes stayed true to their compact style and rode their luck on the way to three points. On another day, as Bendtner himself said, Holland might have scored a couple from the chances they created but in such closely fought encounters a side always needs a bit of fortune.
Bendtner didn’t have a great game from an offensive point of view but that was more down to the lack of supply. He did pull his weight around to press from the front and did help his side sustain the pressure on the Oranje.
Another player of interest to Gooners was Ibrahim Afellay. The winger had a number of individual moments but his end product, in terms of shots or the final ball, was just not good enough. I’ll be surprised if he starts the next game.
The Ajax youngster Eriksen has also been touted as one to watch but there wasn’t much to note in his hardworking but unspectacular effort.
Holland have a mountain to climb and will have to produce much better quality in the final third especially now that Germany have beaten Portugal.
Jogi Low went with Hummels and Badstuber at the heart of his defence which meant there was no place for Mertesacker in the starting line-up. It wasn’t a surprise as the Bayern defender has a good understanding with his club teammates and is naturally left-footed while the Dortmund man is among the best centre-backs at the tournament.
Up front Podolski got a start on the left for a German side that was looking to take the initiative against a painfully negative Portugal team. However, this isn’t a style that the Germans are used to and they found it hard to break down an opponent that didn’t mind pulling all eleven men deep into its own half.
The new Arsenal signing probably had Germany’s best chance of the first period when Ozil’s square pass from wide on the left found him in acres of space inside the box. Podolski rushed his effort and was leaning back as he skied it woefully. The German striker also had a couple of other half-chances and connected well but his efforts were blocked. But the man who’ll either support or replace Van Persie matched the Dutchman’s knack for getting into excellent positions in and around the penalty area. Prinz Poldi also showed he wasn’t shy of dropping back to help his full-back out but Pereira wasn’t really testing him so it wasn’t a tough ask.
This was another game that was settled by that little dollop of kismet. Pepe’s shot in the first half hit the post and bounced out after falling on the line. It was literally a matter of inches and there was nothing anyone in a white shirt could have done about it. Similarly, the goal for Germany came from a cross that was deflected perfectly into the gap between Pepe and Pereira for Gomez to pounce. Of course, the striker’s header was class but the cross could easily have been a yard or two either side and the goal wouldn’t have come.
At the end Boateng also made a crucial last gasp tackle when Ronaldo was poised to pull the trigger from an excellent position just inside the box. Given the amount and quality of chances that Portugal created in the final few minutes of the game, it left me wondering how exciting this fixture would have been had they shown greater urgency from the start. The Selecção have an abundance of individual talent but I find it impossible to enjoy their performances as they’re invariably negative with their tactics.
On the day the most impressive performers in my opinion were Krohn-Dehli for Denmark, Sneijder for Holland, Hummels for Germany, and Coentrao for Portugal. In case you’re wondering, I don’t see any of them coming to the Arsenal.
On a side note, a tidbit that might be of interest to Desi Gooners was the presence of a player named Luciano Narsingh on the Holland bench. And while I’m roughly on the topic, I want to post the link to the survey for all Indian Gooners. Yesterday I just left a link to Karthik’s twitter page but forgot to link to the actual survey. Here it is. Do fill it out if you have a few moments, it’s not a long one. Also please share it with other Indian fans and your followers on twitter. It’s surprising that we don’t already have a strong Desi supporters club. Perhaps something will come off it.
On Sunday, we don’t have any Gunners involved but Spain V Italy should be a fascinating tactical battle. We might see one team defending with the ball while the other defends without it so it should be a locked game unless there is an early goal, but over 90 minutes it will be interesting to see how the Azzurri challenge La Furia Roja.Follow @goonerdesi