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"The intellectualisation
of football has
always foundered
on a simple problem-
-the players. Doing
all your most
rewarding thinking
with your feet seems
to dull the philo-
sophical impulse.
Unless, of course,
you are Dutch.
According to legend,
Europeans played
a moronic, muscular
version of the world's
game, until Holland
proclaimed its vision
of total football in the
1974 World Cup,
and enlightenment
dawned."

From:
Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football
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UEFA Euro 2012 Poland & Ukraine - Friendlies
Ibi and Rafa show manager he has options

Holland beat Slovakia (2-0) tonight by an early own goal from Saláta, who deflected an Afellay cross into his own net, and a second Dutch goal from Rafael van der Vaart 15 minutes from the end. Afellay and Van der Vaart were also the players who gave manager Bert van Marwijk much food for thought for the coming days as they both might be thinking they have a claim to a spot in the starting line up on 9 June.

The first half showed a decent Holland side that created a few good opportunities. Although some players were struggling with their concentration a bit in the opening minutes (resulting in Wilfred Bouma and John Heitinga banging their heads together) Holland took an early lead by a solo effort of the most active player, Ibrahim Afellay. In the 8th minute he rounded his opponent on the left and saw his low cross get deflected into the goal at the near post.

Before the game there had been a lot of discussion in the Dutch media about the lack of width and depth in the game against Bulgaria (1-2). Today Arjen Robben and - especially - Ibrahim Afellay provided that, but with Robin van Persie too often away from his center forward spot ever so many times there wasn't anyone to receive in the box. The other central player, Wesley Sneijder, behind Van Persie, was struggling against a strong Slovak midfield and failed to impress.

When the Inter player went off with an injury to his calve in the 51st minute it is well possible that we have seen his last start for a while. His replacement Rafael van der Vaart came on well, scored a goal and put a free kick on the post from just outside the box. He also livened up the game, as he was much more active than the bleak Sneijder.

By the time Sneijder went Holland could have been 2-0 or 3-0 up. Afellay had another good chance which was saved by the goal keeper, but the biggest chance of the first half was for Robin van Persie. Put through with a bouncing ball by Sneijder the Arsenal striker blasted his shot half a meter over the goal from perhaps some 15 meters out.

So more injury trouble for Van Marwijk. Bouma stayed in the dressing room at half time and Sneijder's injury seemed unpleasant as well. Bouma went to the hospital even during the second half for a check up. If the PSV defender is out options are getting few for Van Marwijk in central defense with Mathijsen out for another ten days. Ron Vlaar replaced Bouma well, but doesn't have the experience Mathijsen and Bouma have. The Feyenoord captain does come with some extra charms though in the shape of a fierce shot and good offensive heading.

However the injury of Sneijder might give Van Marwijk the excuse he needed to leave Sneijder - who had a poor season at Inter - out for the game against Northern Ireland in the Amsterdam ArenA. Sneijder doesn't swallow a role as a substitute easily, but the way Van der Vaart came on could well see him there on Saturday.

On left back Stijn Schaars played an unremarkable game and it's hard to say whether he has convinced Van Marwijk. The former AZ midfielder was unable to make a mark up front like his colleague on the right, Gregory van der Wiel did. However, Schaars looked a bit more solid in defense than Van der Wiel, and isn't that what a defender should think of first?

The center forward position still seems undecided. Van Persie started, but struggled against the strong Slovak defense. He was away from the center on too many occasions when the Slovak center backs saw themselves faced with no one to mark. Huntelaar weighs on the center backs a lot more, but in the half hour he got he was also not able to cause much danger. He was however somewhat involved in Van der Vaart's goal that was mostly Van der Vaart's own making with the help of Ibrahim Afellay.

As for the Slovaks: they put a header on the bar when both Bouma and Heitinga were on the touch line receiving treatment for their painful collision, and just before half time Bako went face to face with Stekelenburg, but his diagonal shot went wide.

Netherlands

2-0

Slovakia

 

Goals

8' Saláta (o.g.) 1-0
75' Van der Vaart 2-0    

Lineup: Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Bouma (46' Vlaar), Schaars, Van Bommel, De Jong, Afellay (79' Kuyt), Sneijder (51' Van der Vaart), Robben (83' Narsingh), Van Persie (68' Huntelaar).

Players not used: Vorm, Willems, Strootman, L. de Jong, Boulahrouz, Krul.

Euro 2012 campaign - Results, schedule, standings

Holland at European Championships

All time European Championships ranking

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