Preview – EURO 2012 – Netherlands vs. Germany

When Germany met the Netherlands in a friendly in November last year no one expected the game to be completely one sided yet it turned out to be one of the best Germany performances under Jogi Löw, a 3-0 win that really spotlighted the team’s verve in attack and talent on the ball. The caveat of course is that it was not a competitive match which puts a slight hamper one of Germany’s brightest performance since the World Cup.

Approaching the game in a must win scenario the outcome is probably not going to be the same.  Another win for Germany and their ticket to the quarterfinals is all but booked, a loss for the Netherlands and can likely kiss the competition goodbye.  With seemingly everything on the line and a built in rivalry this should make for one of the most competitive matches of the tournament so far.

Germany need to improve on the Portugal performance

Almost all post match comments after the Portugal win reflected one sentiment, it was a great result but the performance needed to improve.  Germany approached the game more conservatively which may have in turn hampered their attacking game as they lacked the usual fluency, precision and speed.  It worked in the end against a Portugal side who primarily attacked on the counter but the Netherlands offer an entirely different proposition.

In fact, the Germans and the Dutch play a nearly identical game nowadays.  Both are methodical and patient in their build up, emphasize possession to a degree while using the flanks as their primary attacking outlet. As such, the Dutch will have a higher degree of possession in Germany’s half and give their defense less time to regroup or organize after losing the ball.  The margin of error is even lower than it was against the Portuguese. Still rediscovering his form, Schweinsteiger will be especially important in both Germany’s retention game and in shielding the backline.

Simply put, Jogi Löw’s men have to be quicker against the Dutch, both with the ball at their feet and in their thinking.  They won’t be given the time to build slowly out of the back or many chances to score so they will have to be more clinical and make better use of the ball than they did against Portugal.

Defense a question for the Dutch

Former Hamburg centre back Mathijsen will make a return to the starting line up against the Germans after an injury but overall the backline remains their biggest issue.  Both aging and inconsistent they will face a big test against Germany’s plethora of attacking options.

Against Denmark, the Netherlands had the majority of the possession and chances but wasteful finishing and an organized Danish side put the Netherlands in a precarious and dangerous position.  Despite putting the Danes on the back foot for much of the match the Dutch backline never looked secure when Denmark did get forward, particularly down the flanks.  So much of their play is geared towards the flanks and their wingers with the fullbacks overlapping and allowing them to cut inside that it can leave them exposed against teams whose fullbacks frequently push forward.  Bert van Marwijk has even used Dirk Kuyt at right back in training as a backup should he need an alternative.  

Familiarity

The Dutch side is full of either former or current Bundesliga players. Out of those seven players (Van Bommel, Mathijsen, Boulahrouz, van der Vaart, de Jong, Huntelaar and Robben) five are likely to start.  Of course, this is not a guaranteed advantage but familiarity helps preparation, especially when you have been training with your opponents every day of the week with your club for years.

Another thing that works in Germany’s favor is their defenders’ records against Huntelaar.  Should he start, which is likely considering van Marwijk practiced with him up to and Van Persie in a wide position, every started in Germany’s backline should feel comfortable against him.  Germany’s back four played a combined four games against Huntelaar in the Bundesliga and won on all four occasions, leaving him scoreless every time.

Where the threat will come from

One of the few Dutch players who did impress against Denmark was Wesley Sneijder who created an impressive ten goal scoring chances in that game and played brilliantly between the lines.  Sneijder’s movement and link up were terrific and should have been rewarded with equally good finishing from his teammates.  Either way, he will be the key man to keep an eye on for Germany.  Löw does not usually deploy a man marker and relies on Schweinsteiger and Khedira’s interchangeable roles to be sufficient in shutting out the opponent’s playmaker but this game might warrant an exception.

Against Portugal, Germany faced a midfield that rarely advanced past their own halfway line. Moutinho preferred to play his passes from deeper positions but Sneijder tends to operate much like a traditional number “10”, off the striker and in and around the box.  His clever movement drags defenders away and opens space for midfield runners, something Germany’s high line will have to be particularly careful with.

Projected Lineups

Germany

Neuer – Lahm, Badstuber, Hummels, Boateng – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – Podolski, Özil, Müller – Gomez

Netherlands

Stekelenburg – Willems, Mathijsen, Heitinga, van der Wiel – van Bommel, de Jong – Robben, Sneijder, Afellay – van Persie

Facts and Figures

Played: 38 matches, Won: 14, Drawn: 14, Losses: 10, Goals For: 75, Goals Against 63

-Germany have played the Netherlands in official competitions 9 times, winning 3, drawing 4 and losing twice, the most famous win being the 1974 World Cup final and

-Their last meeting was an international friendly last month which Germany won 3-0

-Germany’s biggest win against the Dutch came in a 1959 friendly (7-0)

-The Netherland’s biggest win came in their very first international meeting in 1910 (4-2)

-Klaus Allofs is the record goalscorer in this fixture with 3 goals (all scored in one match back in the 1980 EUROs)

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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