Group of Death Claims 2010 World Cup Runner-Up
I watched most of the Portugal-Netherlands game from my couch in pain from my own men’s league soccer match earlier in the day, in which my team pulled off a nice 2-1 victory. For some reason, I am unable to play a little soccer without my whole body feeling like I fell off the top of a building, but that’s a story for another day. I was hoping the Netherlands, my favorite team in the 2012 Euro field, would play well enough to ease some of my pain. Their black and orange kits were slick, but their play did not live up to my expectations heading into the tournament.
Going into Sunday’s final round of Group B match ups, it was well documented what needed to happen for the Netherlands to survive and reach the quarterfinals: a win by 2 goals and a Denmark victory over Germany.
One would think with the offensive talent of likes of Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie, and Arjen Robbin up front for the Dutch that they had some hope to pull it off. At the same time, it begs the question why they let themselves get in this predicament in the first place.
The game started on a positive note, with the Dutch controlling the play for much of the first 10 minutes. Portugal’s chances were limited to counter attacks. I thought this wide-open style of play would eventually lead to a high scoring match, which would help the Netherlands more, as opposed to a low-scoring affair.
In the 11th minute, the fast-paced game led to an early goal. Arjen Robben carried the ball in from the right midfield, and fed the ball to Rafael Van der Vaart about five yards north of the 18 yard box. Van der Vaart cut the ball to his left foot and curled one into the far side netting! Near that same time, the announcers alerted the audience that Denmark had also taken a 1-0 lead over Germany. Things were looking up for the Dutch, and the soreness in my own legs.
However, the speed of the game was still a concern to me, I knew better than to expect Portugal to go away quietly. Just 5 minutes later, Christiano Ronaldo hit the post, proving my concerns. Portugal was finding a groove, and the Dutch back line was showing why they hadn’t registered a point in the tourny through 2 games. Eventually, Portugal did break through with a goal in the 28th minute. The Dutch defense turned it over in their own half, and after a few passes, right back Joao Pereira fed a nifty through ball on the ground to Ronaldo, who had a 1-1 with the Dutch keeper. Despite his recent struggles finishing, even Ronaldo couldn’t miss this chance. Oddly enough, near that same time Germany also tied their game with Denmark. I decided to go grab some Aleve from my cabinet.
At halftime, the score was still knotted at 1. The game seemed to have settled down some for Portugal who started controlling more of the possession. Early in the 2nd half, it looked like just a matter of time for the Dutch. Portugal rang a couple great chances off the post in the 2nd half, and the Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg had to make a some wonderful saves to keep his team in it. Ronaldo had so many chances, it was a wonder he didn’t have a hat trick by the 60th minute.
Finally, in the 74th minute, Ronaldo all but sealed it for Portugal, with an easy right-footed finish from a great ground cross from Nani. This play was started off with an offensive turnover by the Dutch in their attacking third. One of the Portuguese defenders stole the ball and quickly got it forward to his counter attackers.
At this point in the game, I resigned to the fact that my favorite Euro 2012 team was about to be eliminated, and that I would spend most of the next few days limping around, wondering who I should root for next.