The European Championship. One tournament that comes every four years and the big guns of Europe fight it out to claim the ultimate glory, to reign over Europe. For the past four years, the Spanish armada have conquered the World Cup along with the European Championship in a row, and are the undoubted favorites for this year’s European championship as well.
BUT, it’s not Spain that people are worried about. Something else haunts the supporters of four world-class footballing nations. It’s the Group B, the group of death, the most talked about group in the history of any football tournament till date.
Why? Because for the first time ever, four of the top 10 footballing nations –Netherlands, Portugal, Germany and Denmark — are drawn together in the same group. Two will qualify and the other two will be left to wonder what went wrong.
Normally people would have predicted Germany and the Netherlands to go through with ease keeping in mind the performances of Denmark and Portugal in the last European championship and World Cup 2010. But what followed was nothing less than extraordinary.
First match was Denmark against the World Cup finalists Netherlands. The team who has the top scorer of the English Premier League Robin Van Persie, the top scorer of the Bundesliga Klass Jan Huntelaar along with the Dutch magician Arjen Robben supported by the playmaker Wesley Sneijder. A team packed with unmatched attacking talent. Facing them were a team that had two known faces in the likes of Christen Eriksen because many clubs were interested in signing him and the former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner. All the bets were on the Dutch to crumble the Denmarkdefence into pieces. When the final whistle blew, the scoreline was nothing less than disbelief for all soccer fans around the world — 1-0 to Denmark. Thanks to a 24th minute, Danish winger Krohn-Dehli sold Netherland’s John Heitinga a dummy inside the box before tucking the ball between Stekelenburg’s legs. The Dutch were left licking their wounds.
The second match in the group for Netherlands was against Germany. They knew they simply HAD to win this match to even have a fighting chance of reaching the final eight of Euro 2012. Coach Van Marwijk was in tremendous pressure before the match kicked off. Still, he didn’t bother to change his side and left the top scorer of the Bundesliga on the bench, deciding to go for Robin Van Persie up front. Earlier reports suggested that Sneijder had revealed that everyone in the group weren’t friends and there are a few issues that needed urgent rectification. Well… nothing was rectified. As Mario Gomez showed twice as he skilled his way past the Dutch defence — carrying passes from Schweinstieger both the time — before putting the ball in the net.
Netherlands trailed by 2-0 at half time with coach Van Marjwik on the edge of this technical area, the weight of the world on his shoulders — more because he had signed a four-year extension to his contract a day before. Watching his side on the course of a second defeat in a row meant an uphill task to stay in the European Championship. He introduced Huntelaar and Van Der Vaart in the second half to try to get back in the game. Neither of them was able to do it, but the Premier League top scorer hit back with a goal from outside the box to half the deficit. Still, it wasn’t enough as Germany went on to win the game.
Netherlands, nicknamed the ‘Oranje’, is a team filled with star names who are being paid a fortune by their clubs. But when it comes to playing for their country, the ego battle among the players turns out to be their nemesis. They still have an outside chance of making it but it’s next to impossible. The coach will take the blame for their shameful performances but we know where the problem lies. As they say, ‘play for the name on the front and not the back’ doesn’t go down too well with the Dutch players.