Arsenal At Euro2012: Robin, World Class Is Not All It’s Made Out To Be
Euro2012, Matchday 2
Netherlands 0 – 1 Denmark
Germany 1 – 0 Portugal
Group of Death. Whatever title you wish to bestow upon this quartet, tiers of boredom may fit quite well at some point especially if Germany and Denmark lose the next round of fixtures. I’ll bet it will be by a single goal if they do.
The Danes rode their luck spectacularly, permitting the Dutch over thirty shots on goal. Tellingly, only five were on target which was one more than their opponents. It was a bit like watching an Arsenal home game; opponents strangled through exclusive possession. Actually, there was a difference; the Dutch became ragged as the match progressed and their opponents became more comfortable in possession which increased their attacking threat. Oh…
It is ironic that Robin van Persie has demanded Arsenal sign more top quality players since his national team-mates are frequently cited as exactly that level of player. All except the defence that is. Stekelenburg was distinctly ordinary and an Arsenal goalkeeper beaten by a shot through the legs could expect crucifixion and damnation in a thousand barbs. van der Wiel made you wonder what the fuss was about whilst the two centre backs were positively anonymous. Willems? Add an ‘h’ and Jetro becomes the Dutch equivalent of the Cornish comedian.
van Persie on another day would score a hat-trick but when it mattered, he didn’t. Even then he was not the most culpable. And when the Dutch looked like they were about to break through, the referee ignored blatant consecutive handballs and theatrics which brought nods of approval from Olivier.
All of which seems to detract from the Danes; it should not. They were diligent, hard-working and able to compensate for sloppy passing from Nicklas Bendtner. Harsh since it was a mixed bag from him – some good shielding of the ball undone by poor lay-off – but it was too cheap a gag to turn down. Whilst he worked hard for the team, he did little to live up to the reputation he has given himself; too often he seemed to be outside of the area when a cross demanded he be attacking the ball. That said, he was aware of colleagues being further ahead of him and – I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt – was providing a body to complete the defensive barrier that had been built.
As it was the impressive performers for the Danes emphasised their defensive capabilities. Simon Kjaer’s youthful promise has diminished over recent seasons at Wolfsburg and latterly, Roma. There seems to be something about the Roman capital, overseeing Philippe Mexes decline but Kjaer certainly showed an awareness which might fit well in the English game. There was nothing simple about the Danish Simons; Poulsen was defensively diligent and aggressive in attack – a modern day Nigel Winterburn, especially with the wayward crossing.
The Portuguese tried to emulate Danish success but came up against a far better organised defence; teutonic efficiency indeed. Germany deserved their win, Portugal might have nicked a draw but it would have been undeserved. Ozil – whom Arsène was quick to point out only had eyes for Madrid or Arsenal when he left Bremen – prompted, Muller and Podolski primed and eventually Gomez found the net with a great header. Shame about the marking really.
Podolski worked hard against the hard-working Portuguese defence. Indeed he showed a willingness to shoot that Arsenal will soon coach out of him. Wait, they were wayward and off-target; keep it up, Lukas.
It all makes for a decisive next round of matches. If the Dutch do not beat the Germans, they can pretty much book their flights home, likewise the Portuguese need to beat the Danes. Actually, the Dutch have to beat the Germans otherwise Redknapp will actually look like he knows what he is talking about and that is just wrong. Plain wrong.
Today sees Ireland and Croatia as the side-dish to Spain versus Italy. I am looking forward to the first game, with Eduardo surely going to be showing the world what abilities were brutally kicked out of the Premier League. And the Irish side of the family will come to the fore as the boys keep their grandmother happy – had I possessed the abilities, Jack Charlton would have known I was more qualified for the Irish team than Cascarino. In fact I didn’t need to possess the abilities since Cascarino did not either.
Spain will no doubt pass and prompt but I wonder whether the Italians will be able to continue their hex over the Iberians? Spain have not yet scored in normal or extra-time in the finals of the European Championships. Apparently. And with Fernando Torres likely to lead the line, there does not seem to be much chance of that record being breached. Italy are much under-rated, their chances written off already. It won’t be a surprise if they qualify from the group, experience tells us that Italy do what they have to in order to reach the knockout round. From then on….