Anyone who who is on this site should know what is going down in the otherwise obscure Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv tonight, and if you don’t… Hmm. To avoid repeating much of what I have said in the last few days – my comments after the Portugal match are still relevant – I will keep this one short.
The team lining up in what should be yet another hum-dinger against the Netherlands is expected to be the same eleven that triumphed at the weekend against Portugal, though I have this very small sneaking suspicion that given the opposition we may see Miroslav Klose start instead of Mario Gómez – in spite of the FC Bayern striker netting the winner on Saturday.
“Why?”, I hear you all ask. Let me explain.
1. Facing possible early elimination, the Dutch will need to chase the game from the start – which will suit a fast-paced counter-attacking game running through the middle of the field as well as down the flanks.
2. Klose is the far better option for this sort of game, where we hope to keep the ball on the ground and run through and around the Dutch defence rather than spend the entire ninety minutes pinging in crosses to a standalone centre-forward. With his neat link-up play, Klose is the natural option to work alongside Lukas Podolski, Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil.
3. Klose is unlikely to be able to play a number of important matches in a row, and it would make more sense to rotate the striker to fit the game. If I were in the coach’s position, I would have played Gómez against Portugal to ensure that I would have a 100% fit Klose to start against the Dutch.
4. Although we cannot read into it too much, Klose was instrumental in the destruction of the Oranje in last year’s friendly encounter in Hamburg. A performance even half as good should still guarantee a win this evening.
The Nationalmannschaft will have to play better today than they did on Saturday against Portugal, but things should be a little easier as the Dutch will certainly not be looking to park the bus. We should expect an open game, and could well see the match of the tournament so far.
The Opposition Threat
Where do you start? There are a number of talented players in the Dutch side, and on their day they are offensively as potent as any other team in this competition. They are perhaps even more dangerous after a defeat, as their big guns will be doubly determined to make up for what was a genuinely bad day where they couldn’t do anything right. Bert van Marwijk’s powerful front line are unlikely to have two bad matches in succession, and the German defence will have to step up and deliver another convincing performance.
The names to watch out for need no introduction. The mercurial FC Bayern München winger Arjen Robben will be more than familiar to more than half of the German starting eleven, as will Schalke 04 striker and Bundesliga top-scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar should he be selected to start. Arsenal’s Robin van Persie had a nightmare against Denmark and will be looking to make immediate amends, while opposite Robben Internazionale’s Wesley Sneijder remains a dangerous threat and was the Oranje’s best player against the Danes.
The midfield and defence on the other hand are either old and creaky or young and inexperienced, and it is here were the Mannschaft will need to pinch the opposition. The Dutch defence were undone time and again by a not wholly spectacular Danish attack, and if things click for Jogi Löw’s Jungs we could see a repeat of the Hamburg friendly where the Oranje were torn to ribbons by a fast-paced and intelligent German attack.
Facts and Stats
Germany have played the Netherlands thirty-eight times over the course of just over a century, winning fourteen, drawing fourteen and losing ten. The Euros have been a popular combat arena, with the teams meeting on four occasions: the Dutch have had the upper hand, winning two (1988, 1992) while the Germans have won one (1980) with the most recent encounter in 2004 producing a 1-1 draw.
While the Oranje have done marginally better at the Euros, Germany have the better record overall in competitive fixtures: there have been nine encounters between the two sides, with the Mannschaft winning achieving a win-draw-loss record of 3-4-2. The last competitive match took place at Euro 2004, where a late Ruud van Nistelrooij goal cancelled out an earlier strike by Torsten Frings.
Following their 1-0 defeat against Denmark, the Dutch may well be playing to stay in the competition. They will have a clearer picture of what they have to do once the previous game between Portugal and Denmark finishes. It is worth noting that the last time the Oranje lost their opening match at the European Championships – in Germany in 1998 – they went on to win the competition.
No need for a player by player analysis today – you just need to look at the Portugal previews and reports and mentally photocopy them. It’s nice when a plan comes together and the coach doesn’t have to tinker too much with the team, so for now I’ll just leave you with the expected starting XI:
Neuer – Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm (c) – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – Müller, Özil, Podolski – Gómez
A simple case of “as you were”.