fredag den 13. juni 2008

EURO 2008: Holland march on!

The tournament is just flying by and recapping everyday, while actually watching the games and while doing other things, is not something I've been quite able to do, so instead here and I think in the next few entries as well, are general thoughts on what has happened so far.

First of all we just watched Holland take France apart. That's seven goals now in two matches against the two best defensive national teams of the last 10 years or so.
It's hard not to like their chances!
Some people will still point to a largely unproven defence or unproven defensive midfielders, like Engeelar, but when they manage to pull ahead and can bring in the likes of Robben and Van Persie who are absolutely deadly counter attack players, then that's in some ways the best defense there is but more on that later.

Wesley Sneijder is also playing like the best midfielder in the world right now.
He is a good passer. Quick Short passes or the direct long. Has good ballcontrol and makes great decisions.
Works hard offensively or defensively and is obviously capable of creating magic whenever he kicks the ball.
It being a shot on goal or from a set-piece where no one right now, probably, is more value.

Van Der Vaart is someone who at this point has been surpassed by Sneijder which in itself seemed unlikely years ago. but he is still a world class player who like Sneijder has no real weaknesses.
He can do it all and his short passing is probably even better than that of Sneijder's.
Those two and De Jong, another very complete player, makes for the most allround sound midfield in the competition.
They're so versatile that it's so far has made for a near perfect balance between going forward and holding their own defensively.

Spain have some midfielders who are even better technically but then the dutch midfielders are better in other areas.
France have physically stronger midfielders but the dutch like we just saw are much more dynamic and with their quality passing able to control the game a lot better.
Like the german midfielders they're also really good at creating pressure.
There is just nothing not to like here!

Well except perhaps:


Because I see some serious luxury problems on the horizon for this guy!

Dirk Kuyt who never seems to get much love from fans of either Liverpool or Holland had a great game against Italy and today he even scored the first goal.
He works so hard. Is their best player with the head, but rarely for Liverpool or for Holland plays a defined striker role.
He is asked to do so many other things, simply because he can, which leads to less goals which leads to him getting the fans on his back.

I think he is so much value that Van Basten has to play him and he has throughout his tenure as well, but now you have Robben and Van Persie back from injuries playing their very best.
Especially Robben can reach levels very few are able to and it's almost impossible to see how it can be justified keeping him, one of the best attacking players in the world, out of the lineup.
Van Persie I think should be used from the bench, also because his health is still a major issue, and he is probably not able to play 90 minutes anyway.

I see two options if you want to bring Robben in.
Replacing either Van Nistelroy or the main defensive, least versatile midfielder of the bunch, Engelaar.

Now playing without a clear defensive midfielder is what I slammed Croatia for doing against Austria. That almost cost them the game.
They thankfully made up for that against Germany by adding an extra midielder and with that and help from a very hard working forward, did what few teams have done in recent years, resisted the german immense pressure 4-4-2
Very well done!

But Holland like I said have so much more to offer in their midfield.
They're so versatile. So flexible. Sneijder, De Jong and Van Der Vaart, they're just true complete players and if any team can overcome not having a defined defensive midfielder, it's exactly those players.
Add to those what will be a very hard working Kuyt.
And with this team so far, the old "attack is the best form of defence" cliche has rarely rung more true.
Adding a Robben in full flow to that mix should only add value in my opinon.
Shifting the balance towards their main strenghts even further.

But if the defensive midfielder is untouchable, and no matter how much sense it makes, it's still a drastic step against probably everything Van Basten has been taught in Italy,
then yes rather than dumping for an example Kuyt, I would like to see Van Nistelroy dropped instead and just further strenghten the best most versatile and flexible midfield in the whole competition.
The obvious worry there being a potential lack of goals but with what those midfielders have done so far, against usually very strong defensive teams, I don't think it's really a realistic downgrade.

Thoughts on other teams coming up!

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Wow - a picture! A poll! Comments! More exclamation marks! Crazy!

Regarding the post, maybe it's finally the year to hope for a Dutch or Spanish triumph? Well, they'll probably find some way to get rid of themselves before the final, but at least it looks kinda great so far.