Over and out
Calls for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart were answered by Holland coach Bert van Marwijk but the duo couldn't save the Dutch from defeat by Portugal. Rachel Griffiths looks at Holland's humiliating exit.
Last Updated: June 17, 2012 11:09pm
Holland: Out of Euro 2012 after disastrous campaign saw them suffer three defeats
After Holland started Euro 2012 with two defeats from two games the message from Dutch fans and pundits alike was clear - bring in Rafael van der Vaart and Klass-Jan Huntelaar. They needed some creativity and, with Arsenal's Robin van Persie's goalscoring touch apparently left back in North London, some firepower.
Coach Bert van Marwijk, knowing his side needed to beat Portugal by at least two goals to stand a chance of making the quarter-finals, complied. Mark van Bommel and Ibrahim Afellay were consigned to the bench as Holland's touted saviours Huntelaar and Van der Vaart stepped up.
In the end, it didn't make any difference.
For the first few minutes of Sunday's encounter in Kharkiv, it looked like things might follow the script. The Oranje came out brightly, with Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben flanking Van Persie, sitting deeper than usual as Huntelaar spearheaded the attack. Holland took control for the opening minutes and their pressing paid off as Van der Vaart curled a wonderful ball into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box in the 11th minute. When Germany took the lead against Denmark, the other condition to Holland's potential escape route, it seemed everything was going to plan.
But it was a short-lived party for the Dutch as Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo shrugged off his uncharacteristic blip from the first two games to rain on their parade, with his 28th-minute strike the product of a perfectly-timed run to meet Joao Pereira's deadly through-ball.
Denmark had equalised against the Germans three minutes earlier and while on paper Holland were on course to spring an upset until that point, in reality they had been in trouble since their opener. Questions had been raised ahead of the match whether Holland would suffer defensively if the introduction of Van der Vaart saw Van Bommel or Nigel de Jong excluded and the answer was clear as the latter was overrun, with a comprehensive Portugal attack steered by Ronaldo and sharpened by the likes of Joao Moutinho and Nani slicing easily through the Dutch midfield.
With no Van Bommel to help De Jong contain things and a Dutch side heavily built to attack, it was not long before their shortcomings in defence were exposed and they often appeared shapeless at the back. Portugal were particularly dangerous on the counter-attack, taking advantage of Holland throwing players forward in their hunt for a much-needed win.
Not that their attacking efforts came to fruition. Van der Vaart's goal was easy on the eye but was one of the only significant highlights of a bafflingly lacklustre performance from a frontline boasting so much potential. Van Persie's finishing touch was still missing in absence and Huntelaar, despite his barrage of qualifying goals, was ineffective. Van Marwijk had been critical of Robben's lack of service out wide ahead of the game and he was guilty of that again, going missing for large parts.
Some tactical tinkering from Van Marwijk at the break saw Robben move to the left, with Van Persie pushed out right and Sneijder taking a central role but it was to no avail as the midfield once again failed to click.
In the end the Oranje seemed to quietly accept defeat, with Ronaldo completing his brace 15 minutes from time to put the quarter-finals beyond their reach, leaving the side that had been pre-tournament favourites without a single point, rock-bottom of Group B and with just two goals from a disastrous campaign. The Portugal captain's second was the final nail in Holland's coffin but, in all honesty, their fate had looked decided much earlier.