It almost seems inevitable that at every major tournament the draw ends up producing a group that everyone is hoping to avoid, the so called ‘Group of Death’. Euro 2012 is no exception with Group B. The inclusion of Germany in this group has ensured that the Bundesliga will be well represented at the tournament, but here we’ll look to take the focus off Die Mannschaft and spotlight the Bundesliga based players from the two of Germany’s opponents in Group B: The Netherlands and Denmark.
The Oranje are serious contenders for the EURO 2012 crown. After a heartbreaking extra time loss in the Finals of the 2010 World Cup, Bert van Marwijk’s men cruised through qualifying as Group E winners losing only once to Sweden on the last matchday so they will be very keen to ride the wave of confidence into the tournament proper. While the mainly veteran squad contains only 3 current Bundesliga players, the team is rife with players that have plied their trade in Germany very recently, most notably Rafael van der Vaart and Joris Mathijsen ( both formerly of HSV) and Captain Mark Van Bommel (FC Bayern).
Khalid Boularouz – 30 years old – Defender – VfB Stuttgart – 35 Caps 0 Goals
Never one to be overly flashy, Boularouz’s strength is that he is fairly sound defensively with an emphasis on his strong tackling ability. He was Bruno Labbadia’s first choice at right fullback until a broken toe suffered in training in late March kept him out of the Stuttgart squad for the remainder of the season; even more unfortunate as it came after perhaps his best match of the season, a 2-1 victory at Hoffenheim. The injury however did not preclude him from being selected to the Netherlands’ 23 man squad for the European Championship, although his role will likely be to serve as back up to Ajax’s Gregory Van Der Wiel. However his versatility (he can also play as a central defender) may serve him and his country well in the event that there are any injuries to the back line.
Arjen Robben – 28 years old – Winger – FC Bayern München – 55 Caps 17 Goals
It is not hyperbole to say that Arjen Robben is considered a world class player having played previously for the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid. It was in 2009 when he was deemed expendable by current Real president Florentino Perez following the arrival of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernebeu that he made the move to Munich. After winning the Bundesliga title in his first season with Bayern, in which he managed to stay relatively healthy and was also named Footballer of the Year, his second season saw significant setbacks. A series of injuries stemming from the 2010 World Cup kept Robben out of the entire first half of the 2010-2011 season, and while he still managed 12 goals in 14 matches it was not enough as Bayern finished in relatively disappointing third place. Despite missing 5 weeks early in the 2011-2012 season, Robben still finished with 12 Bundesliga goals (19 in all competitions) and 6 assists and was a key feature in a Bayern offence that scored 77 league goals, second only to Dortmund’s 80. His main attributes are his explosive pace, incredible dribbling ability even at high speeds, and his confidence to attempt to completely dominate a game, although this confidence can sometimes translate into selfishness and at times and he tries to do more on his own than is probably in the best interest of his team.
Making his senior national team debut in 2003 Robben has consistently performed extremely well for the Oranje, perhaps no more importantly than in South Africa. After suffering an injury in a pre tournament friendly he sat out the first two group stage matches but managed to come alive in the knockout stage scoring vs Slovakia in the round of 16 and then grabbed the winner in the semi finals vs Uruguay. In the final he missed a glorious chance to put the Netherlands ahead on a 1 on 1 with Iker Casillas in normal time and it would prove costly as Andres Iniesta scored 4 minutes from a penalty shootout allowing Spain to lift the trophy. There is little doubt that Robben will play an important role in the upcoming tournament, but issues surrounding his durability in a congested schedule of fixtures means he will likely not play in every match. Adept at playing on both sides of the field it is believed he will likely take up a spot on the left wing, the opposite side to where he plays at Bayern, where he can make use of his excellent vision and crossing ability to create goal scoring chances. While his mental strength has been called into question, especially after this latest Champions League final, his abilities cannot be denied and he is a true game breaker. If van Marwijk can manage Robben properly he will undoubtedly play a huge part in any success the Netherlands are expecting at EURO 2012.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – 28 years old – Striker – Schalke 04 – 51 Caps 31 Goals
A 2009 quote from former Bayern manager Louis Van Gaal sums up Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the footballer perfectly; he said “in the box, he is the best player in the world bar none.” At the time of the quote the aptly nicknamed ‘Hunter’ was playing for Real Madrid after transferring from Ajax. A year later he would move to the San Siro to play for Italian giants AC Milan but found himself perpetually out of favour with then manager Leonardo. Seeking to regain a regular spot in a starting 11, Huntelaar decided on a move to Gelsenkirchen to play for the Royal Blues of Schalke 04. After a decent first season in the Bundesliga, it was the 2011-2012 season in which the Hunter truly lived up to his moniker. His 29 goals in 32 Bundesliga matches made Huntelaar the first ever Dutchman to lead the German top flight in goals. He then added 5 more goals in the DFB Pokal and then an additional 14 in 12 Europa League matches for a grand total of 48 goals in 48 matches. Given the season Huntelaar has had most would figure he would be the first name on the Netherlands’ team sheet; this is to say nothing of the fact that he was the leading goal scorer in the qualification round with 12 goals in 8 matches.
However, as strange as it sounds, it is Huntelaar’s ability to do one thing incredibly well that casts a shadow over whether or not he will feature prominently in the next few weeks. Tactically speaking, the Dutch will be playing with one dedicated centre forward in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 either of which would suit Huntelaar’s abilities rather well. The problem that Bert van Marwijk is facing is who to select for that lone forward position. Arsenal striker Robin van Persie was far and away the best forward in the Premiership and certainly deserves a place in the starting 11 as well. This leaves van Marwijk with an interesting conundrum; relegate one of his centre forwards to the bench or attempt to work them both into the first team which would involve playing van Persie on the right wing seeing as Huntelaar can’t be moved. The latter appears to be the right way to go as the Netherlands would do well to let loose the Hunter onto the opposition.
The Danes appear as if they are to be the whipping boys of Group B but it would do well to remember that the last time Denmark were significant underdogs at a major tournament they ended up beating the Germans at EURO ’92. The Bundesliga isn’t teeming with Danes by any stretch; in fact only one player of Danish origin is currently playing for a Bundesliga squad. There are 2 others, both technically property of VfL Wolfsburg, but Thomas Kahlenberg and Simon Kjær have been sent on loan to Evian and AS Roma respectively and will not be covered in this review.
William Kvist – 27 years old – Midfielder – VfB Stuttgart – 28 caps 0 goals
In his first Bundesliga season William Kvist has quickly established himself as a vital part of the midfield at VfB Stuttgart. After 7 seasons at FC København where he won 5 Superliga titles and two consecutive Danish Footballer of the Year awards (2010 and 2011) he made the move to Germany and it has appeared to pay significant dividends. Kvist not only played in, but started in all but one of Stuttgart’s league matches and was statistically at or near the top in many defensive and passing categories which is a testament to his seamless adjustment to the style of the Bundesliga, which in no small part helped Stuttgart achieve an 11 point improvement over the previous season and solidified a place in the Europa League playoff round. Not too bad for someone most Bundesliga fans probably hadn’t heard of 12 months ago.
Kvist will no doubt try to translate his league success in Germany to success at EURO 2012. He appeared in 6 of his country’s qualifiers that eventually saw Denmark top the group, ahead of fellow group of death members Portugal. It is very likely that Kvist will find himself starting in a 3 man midfield playing beside Niki Zimling and just behind Ajax starlet Christian Eriksen where he’ll be charged with stopping the opponents from controlling the midfield and setting up counter attacks whenever possible. If Denmark is to have any kind of success you can bet William Kvist will likely be at the heart of it.
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