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Netherlands left wondering what might have been

The Netherlands leave Ukraine today reflecting on how a side with creativity in abundance and a couple of prolific goalscorers failed to record a point in UEFA EURO 2012 Group B.

Netherlands left wondering what might have been
Netherlands left wondering what might have been ©UEFA.com

The Netherlands went into UEFA EURO 2012 as one of the favourites to win the tournament but ultimately failed to live up to expectations. A team containing eight of the XI that started the FIFA World Cup final two years ago lost 1-0 to Denmark in their Group B opener – and never recovered. Despite the best efforts of coach Bert van Marwijk, Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Rafael van der Vaart et al thereafter, the Oranje finished bottom of the section with no points and just two goals to their name.

In a nutshell
In the end it boiled down to missed chances. The importance of getting off to a positive start in a tournament goes without saying, particularly in a section as difficult as the one in which the Netherlands found themselves. They had 28 attempts on goal against Denmark; all but eight missed the target. They would pay the price for such profligacy. In that game, and the following one with Germany, they fell behind – had they taken the lead things might have been different.

High point
Though the Dutch scored just twice, they at least seized the initiative in every match and created a plethora of opportunities. As ever their supporters brought colour and vibrancy to the party with their good nature and Oranje parades through the streets of Kharkiv.

Star performer
Wesley Sneijder was the Netherlands' creator-in-chief, setting up a slew of chances, but only by Van Persie scoring against Germany did the FC Internazionale Milano playmaker get credited with a deserved assist.

Hope for the future
Aged 18 years and 71 days, Jetro Willems became the youngest player to appear in a UEFA European Championship when he began the game against Denmark, breaking Enzo Scifo's record. The PSV Eindhoven player, who made his senior international debut in a pre-tournament friendly, displayed a wise head which belied his tender years. Having started all three matches at left-back, he is a prime candidate to be the long-term successor to Giovanni van Bronckhorst in that position.

Vital statistic
For a squad boasting Van Persie, Huntelaar, Sneijder and Van der Vaart, a return of two goals from three games was way below par.

Final word
"Doubt crept into the team after the defeat by Denmark and it remained there. I knew it would be difficult to repeat the 2010 success, but I hoped they would do it one more time. Simple mistakes were made, that annoyed me, but I have also failed."
Bert van Marwijk gives an honest assessment of the Netherlands’ campaign.