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Through a combination of sheer defiance and one clinical finish, Denmark defeated the Netherlands for the first time in nine attempts, and 45 years, to throw UEFA EURO 2012 Group B wide open.
To term this a tale of frustration for Bert van Marwijk's side would be an understatement. Boasting eight of the team that started the FIFA World Cup final two years ago – a tournament they began with a 2-0 win against Denmark – the Oranje were at times every bit as stylish as their eventual conquerors in South Africa, Spain.
Chance after chance came and went but that final flourish, that most important of touches, eluded them. Denmark, by contrast, had one clear opening and one fine goal. Michael Krohn-Dehli provided the finish on 24 minutes and, though their backs remained against the wall thereafter, it was enough for Morten Olsen's men to go top of a daunting section also including Portugal and Germany.
The Dutch had outscored Denmark by 22 goals in qualifying and came charging out of the blocks with all the incision and fluidity that got them here. There was, though, one thing missing.
Jetro Willems, at 18 years and 71 days the youngest player ever to grace a UEFA European Championship, let fly early on but it was Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben who led the assault. However, the Arsenal FC man showed none of the devastating finishing that earned him 30 Premier League goals this season.
Glorious opportunities either end of the first half went begging for Van Persie, who let one slip by after an uncharacteristically poor first touch with just Stephan Andersen to beat. Robben was equally culpable when he too could see the whites of the Denmark No1's eyes yet, bizarrely, opted to pass.
The FC Bayern München forward endured disappointment of a different kind on 36 minutes when he seized on goalkeeper Andersen's slipshod pass but struck a post. Robben, Van Persie and Ibrahim Afellay all had further chances but, nestled among this Dutch bombardment, was a moment of Danish delight. Simon Poulsen's deflected cross landed at the feet of Krohn-Dehli, who shrugged off three Dutch defenders with an exquisite dummy before scurrying through and firing between Maarten Stekelenberg's legs.
The Danes had not so much ridden the storm, but somehow emerged on the other side with a suntan. Half-time failed to dampen the Dutch verve and soon enough Van Persie was again in behind, yet this time he could only kick the ground.
Mark van Bommel, tired of the scenic route taken by his more refined colleagues, went direct only to see his rasping shot turned behind. If that was Plan B, Plan C looked to be to go aerial. John Heitinga nodded over from a corner before Robben completed a hat-trick of spurned gilt-edged openings when he headed Sneijder's raking cross wide from eight metres.
Cue the cavalry – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart – but still it went on. This time it was the outlandish through ball from Sneijder, the impeccable first touch from Huntelaar and the failure to finish. It was a familiar story.
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