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Holland find no Dutch treat at Euro 2012

Wow.

The Netherlands are out of Euro 2012 following Sunday’s loss to Portugal. We knew someone among the power trio of Germany, Holland and Portugal would not make it out of the Group of Death, but we didn’t think it would be Holland, the fourth-best team in the world according to the FIFA rankings.

And we definitely didn’t think they would exit without picking up a single point in group play.

“We have failed with the entire squad,” Arjen Robben told The Daily Mail. “It is time to look in the mirror with all the players. We must all do that. Individually we should look in the mirror and as a team. We have been knocked out in a major tournament with three defeats and that is the stone hard truth. It was a disastrous campaign.”

They were done in by two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, who finally decided to show up for the tournament. Ronaldo tied the game in the 28th minute and put the winner home in the 74th minute.

Portugal advances to the knockout stage to face the Czech Republic on Thursday. Both teams advanced by bouncing back after losing their opening games in group play.

Germany also advanced out of Group B, winning all three of its matches, and will face Greece on Friday.

(Photo by Reuters)

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Euro 2012 Preview – Group B

With Euro 2012 starting on Friday in Poland and Ukraine, we continue our look at the 16 teams today focusing on Group B, the glamour group of the tournament with Denmark, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands (or Holland, depending on who you ask).

The Teams
Denmark, currently at No. 9 in FIFA’s world rankings, won all four of its home games in group play, including a 2-1 win against Portugal to clinch the group. Problem is, this tournament isn’t being played in Denmark.
The one thing the Danes do have in their favor is coach Morten Olsen, currently the longest-tenured coach of any national team. Olsen has led the club as it qualified for World Cups in 2002 and 2010 and for the Euros in 2004 and 2012, and that experience will be needed for the squad to have any hope of coming out of the toughest group in the tournament.
The same can be said of captain Daniel Agger, who knows all about playing on the big stage after spending the past six years with Liverpool. Agger’s ongoing injury issues – he only played in four of Denmark’s 10 qualifying matches – are a concern for a squad that doesn’t have much depth.
The Netherlands (No. 4 in FIFA’s rankings) are coming off an ugly loss to Spain in the finals of the last World Cup but enter Euro 2012 in good form, having won nine of their 10 qualifying matches.
With Robin van Persie (48 Premier League goals over the past two years), Arjen Robben (Footballer of the Year in Germany in 2010 for his play with Bayern Munich) and Wesley Sneijder (five goals in thee 2010 World Cup), the Dutch should not have problems scoring goals (and let’s not forget Dirk Kuyt, the hardest-working man in the game), but they need to be more creative, especially if they are going to play Nigel do Jong and Mark van Bommel as holding midfielders.
“The problem with two holding midfielders is quite simple, but somehow many coaches don’t see it,” complained Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, according to ESPN. “The build-up happens too slow; holding midfielders always need that extra touch, always need to have a look when they have the ball already … plus, having two holding midfielders means there is one less creative playmaker.” 
Portugal (No. 10 in FIFA’s rankings) is led by Cristiano Ronaldo, whom ESPN ranks as the No. 1 player in the tournament, and who has 84 goals and 22 assists in 67 games over the past two seasons for his club team, Real Madrid.
The squad struggled in qualifying, though, losing to Denmark and Norway in the group stage before a playoff win over Bosnia & Herzegovina secured a tournament spot.
Then there is Pepe, who some consider one of (it not the) dirtiest players in football. As ESPN points out:
Apart from being dirty, Pepe can be termed, to put it bluntly, a big baby. Not ashamed of clattering into opponents with no intent to win the ball, a faint touch sends the defender down. The latest example of his childish behavior came in the Champions League semifinals against Bayern Munich, when Pepe writhed on the ground after Franck Ribery made mild contact with his arm.
Germany (No. 3 in FIFA’s rankings) is a three-time winner of the tournament and is consistently a favorite in any competition. The team was perfect in group play, finishing 13 points ahead of second-place Turkey. The Germans scored three or more goals in eight of their 10 qualifying matches.
The availability of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who injured his thigh in the Champions League final, was in doubt but the midfielder has been cleared to play which can only be good news for Germany, which looks to end a 16-year title drought.
“This is the best national team I have ever played for,” Schweinsteiger, capped 90 times for Germany and going into his fifth major tournament, told The Daily Mail. “Everyone expects us to win the title and naturally it is something that we also desire.”  
Did You Know?
Games to Watch
Pretty much every one of them in this group, and when they are not busy delivering flying karate kicks to the opposition, Holland is just such a good team (plus we have to be partial to any team that has Orange as one of their primary colors). It will most likely come down to the final group game on June 17 between Holland and Portugal, but we think the Dutch will make it through.
Who Will Advance?
Wow, this is a tough one (they don’t call this the Group of Death for nothing, you know). Something really bad would have to happen to see Germany not make it out of this group, and Holland should have enough to advance as well.

For additional coverage, be sure to check out The Daily Mail, The Guardian, EPL Talk and ESPN.

(Photo by Getty Images)

World Cup Preview – Group E

This group has a colorful set of teams that range from attack-minded to more defensively oriented. There’s a clear favorite in the Netherlands and a team clearly expected to bring up the rear in Japan, with Denmark and Cameroon expected to fight for advancement.

Indeed, although neither Denmark nor especially Cameroon will necessarily be pleased to settle for second place, the match between the two on June 19 does figure to be the key to the group. Were Denmark to draw — or defeat — the Netherlands in its opening match, it might give the Danes more license to dictate the pace against Cameroon, figuring a tie would suit them well enough with the match against Japan left. But were Denmark to lose the opening match, there would be more pressure on Denmark to open up its game, a pace that would figure to favor the Indombitable Lions.

The Dutch made their mark on world football in the 1970s with the introduction of Totaalvoetbal, or total football. This system is characterized by a fluid style of play, with the formation having more importance than position. In other words, players are not constrained in their positional roles, but are able to play throughout the field. More than three decades later, their style of play remains one of the most beautiful and influential, with Arsenal and Barcelona two of the best-known clubs emulating Holland today.

Although the 2010 Netherlands national team is considered to be among the top five squads in the world, supporting the Oranje doesn’t guarantee immunity to heartache. Like Spain, Holland enjoyed a magnificent qualifying round, as they coasted through eight victories, making them one of the form-teams in the world at the moment. But Holland has a bit of a reputation for falling apart at critical junctures. As always, the Dutch will play some of the prettiest soccer in the tournament. But if past form holds true, they’ll play one iffy game when it counts and go out before the finals. Still, the talent for a run is always there. Although the loss of Bayern Munich forward Arjen Robben for the opening game doesn’t help.

Cameroon has been somewhat synonymous with African soccer since their World Cup quarterfinal run in 1990, but their bite hasn’t matched their roar since. The Lions have managed only one win in their last nine World Cup matches, exiting after the first round in 1994, ’98 and ’02, while missing out completely in 2006.

The Indomitable Lions had a difficult qualifying campaign and will be without Michael Essien, but they emerged atop a group that included Togo, Gabon and Morocco. The Lions were relatively quiet at the African Nations Cup, edging into the quarters where they were beaten soundly by eventual champion Egypt. Nevertheless, Samuel Eto’o heads an experienced team with serious aspirations of making some noise in South Africa.

Denmark arrives at the 2010 World Cup with possibly its best squad of footballers since they won the European Championship in 1992. Morten Olsen’s blend of young and old topped a tough qualification group that included Portugal and archrival Sweden. Denmark has made the last 16 on its two previous appearances at the Word Cup finals, and with opening matches against the Netherlands, Cameroon and Japan this time around, you would not bet against the Danes’ repeating the achievement. Denmark went through 35 players in its first few matches, but settled on a squad after that and won a very tough group while conceding only five goals in ten games. What may be missing here is a striker in his prime, as standby Jon Dahl Tomasson is now 33 and Nicklas Bendtner, just 22, is still coming into his own.

Japan has become a World Cup fixture in the past decade, with South Africa 2010 representing its fourth straight finals appearance. Yet the Blue Samurai have never won a World Cup game on foreign turf: Its two group-stage wins came on home soil during the 2002 finals.

A lack of offense could be a problem when facing opposing strikers who are more clinical in front of goal, but a number of the team’s stars who now see action for European club sides — such as midfielders Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda — are aiming to lead Japan to a surprise run to the knockout rounds.

Japan is one of those teams that seems to know its place, dominating inferior opponents but seldom challenging stronger ones, as a 3-1 loss to South Korea in the East Asian Championship and a 3-0 loss to Serbia in the Kirin Cup attest. For whatever reason, Japan has matched up well against African teams, going 5-0-1 against them since 2007 while outscoring them 16-4.

Information for this preview was researched, and more team information is available, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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