Friday, June 1, 2012

Dutch target Euro 2012 crown

The Netherlands lost a World Cup final for the third time two years ago in South Africa, leaving its 1988 Euro triumph as the lone major title in its impressive history.
The Netherlands lost to Spain two years ago in the World Cup on a late goal in extra time as it was denied the sport's ultimate prize for the third time. The Dutch also lost in the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals.
This summer in Poland and Ukraine, the Dutch have their sights set firmly on a second major title and have the team to accomplish the task.
"The changes Bert van Marwijk has made to our style of play since taking over have proven to be quite successful as we reached the final at the World Cup," Dutch star Wesley Sneijder told De Telegraaf.
"We are now aiming to reach at least the final at Euro 2012. We want to do even better, though, and win the European title."
Although the Dutch don't completely resemble the former "Total Football" squad from the 1970s, they still feature a few of the most talented attackers in the world.
Forward Robin van Persie led the English Premier League in scoring last season for Arsenal, midfielder Arjen Robben led Bayern Munich to the Champions League final, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar led the Bundesliga in scoring for Schalke.
Not to mention Sneijder, who picked up a minor injury in a pre-Euro friendly, and veteran Tottenham midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, the most experienced player on the international level for the Netherlands.
Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder should all feature for coach Van Marwijk, who should also have Huntelaar up top this summer.
As usual, the Dutch should have no problem on the offensive side, as the core of its squad is not just talented, but experienced on the international level. All five of the previously mentioned players have played at least 50 games for the Oranje.
And Dirk Kuyt, with 87 international appearances, provides another key option, as well as Barcelona attacker Ibrahim Afellay.
The Netherlands will rely on midfield tandem Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong to provide an intimidating presence in defensive midfield, and ease the burden on the back line that is always under the microscope.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, captain in 2010, has retired and left the Dutch with some concerns on the back line.
But even without Van Bronckhorst, Van Marwijk has experienced players in John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen, as well as internationally tested trio Gregory van der Wiel, Wilfred Bouma, and Khalid Boulahrouz.
And in goal, Maarten Stekelenburg is well settled as the No. 1, as he started all seven games in the last World Cup.
Overall, the Dutch are talented in all positions but lack a little depth. That will only be a concern if injuries hit, and fragile players like Robben and Sneijder are always a concern.
What is also a concern is Group B, which also features Denmark, Germany and Portugal in one of the best Euro groups ever. But Van Marwijk should feel good with the talent as his disposal, as the team pursues its second major title.
The Netherlands should escape Group B along with Germany, and its first match in knockout play against a team from Group A should be a breeze. But the last four is where it gets interesting, and the Dutch will once again have to prove its disappointment from the World Cup is a thing of the past. The Oranje could see Spain in the semifinals, which would be a chance at redemption, but also a rematch that could end its title hopes again.

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