1. Time for Plan….A?
I wasn’t overly impressed with Holland today. Granted, they were missing their star man in Arjen Robben, but their lack of a contingency plan in his absence puzzled me more than anything. Rafael Van Der Vaart was brought in initially as a direct replacement, but it’s been nearly 10 years since Van Der Vaart was the electrifying teenage wing sensation in the Ajax youth set-up. He’s very much a central player these days, and struggled out wide for me today. Bert van Marwijk obviously shared the same view, as he shuffled his deck by allowing Van Der Vaart to swap with Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder from around the thirty minute mark onwards. But they didn’t look as fluid and composed as one would expect from a team who won all of their qualifying matches. Still, they will be delighted with the win, and another clean sheet (they only conceded 2 goals en route to South Africa) in what was always going to be the trickier of their three group games this summer.
2. Where to go from here?
Rather than answering any doubts about how to cope with Robben’s absence, the Dutch opened the floor for more questions today. Van Marwijk got it wrong, perhaps not in keeping the same formation, but certainly is his direct replacement. Eljero Elia perhaps should started. His impressive cameo towards the end certainly provided some backing for this particular argument. He’s a very quick player, and can cause lot’s of problems with his ingenuity on the ball. Van Marwijk now must decide, assuming Robben misses the Japan match, whether to change his formation to accomodate today’s starting eleven, or to keep things as they are but draft in Elia for Van Der Vaart. The Real Madrid midfielder is a great little player, but I feel Wesley Sneijder already offers what Van Der Vaart does, and more.
3. Almost Flawless
With the self proclaimed best player in the world™ in Nicklas Bendtner up front, I expected Denmark to cause the Dutch more problems today. However, what I was most impressed by was the Danish defence. A youthful centre back pairing of Simon Kjaer (21) and Daniel Agger (25) held their own today, and winger-turn-left back Simon Poulson had a decent game apart from one glaring error which resulted in the Dutch opening goal. Kjaer looks a real prospect at centre back, and while he could have done better in tracking Dirk Kuyt for the second goal, he and Agger coped well against a frightening Dutch attacking quartet. It’s refreshing to see two uncompromising centre backs playing side by side, and boy do they know how to tackle. Denmark can feel hard done by – they were beaten today by a combination of graft that the Dutch didn’t expect they would need, and a couple of fortunate deflections – one off Daniel Agger’s back, the other from the woodwork.
4. Excuses, excuses
We’ve avoided discussing the dreaded vuvuzela’s in Talking Points so far – hearing folks complain about them is almost as annoying as the incessant buzzing itself. But with Patrice Evra partially having already blamed the horns (or are they instruments?) for the poor French performance on Friday, Robin Van Persie was next in line to voice his discontent – claiming he did not hear the referee’s whistle when playing on after the official had blown for an offside. I don’t agree for one second that the vuvuzela’s should be banned to make the match experience more comfortable for those watching at home, but if Evra, Van Persie and co. are right about on-pitch performances being compromised, then FIFA have to step in.