BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

Germans have put down a marker last night with the 4-0 win over Australia and in doing so have achieved what others so far who have an eye on the biggest prize have failed to do: impressed, and caused fear.

The Dutch qualified at a canter fourteen points ahead of the second placed side. They are own “gun to the head” favourites and with Denmark, Japan and Cameroon in the group there is seemingly little to stop them getting through to the next round.

Frequently the biggest problem the Dutch have had have been internal. Too many players with too high an opinion of themselves. Too many people – including the legendary Cruyff – thinking they were World beaters before they beat the world.

Denmark are a team putting faith in experience – half a dozen of the squad have over 75 caps – but they struggled through qualifying and seem to lack a top class player. They are a team of players who have been effective next to top quality but in that they have some strength.

A team used to playing for one another against a team that struggles to do just that.

Both teams start testing the flight of the infamous Jabulani ball with Thomas Enevoldsen doing equally as poorly as Wesley Sneijder with a pair of long range free kicks.

The obsession in the International game with trying to strike any free kick within forty yards of the goal straight in is shown up by the inability of the World Cup so far to get the Adidasroundthing on target and one longs for a good cross to the far post. The unpredictable nature of the ball would be just as much of a problem for keepers on crosses as it is shots.

The difference between the two sides is seen in their deployment of Arsenal strikers. Nicklas Bendtner spends much of his time as the only man within forty yards of the Dutch goal but his running is there to tests the backline. Robin van Persie drifts in and out of his forward role swapping with Rafael van der Vaart and being a part of some high tempo passing moves which threaten the Danish goal although not enough to have Thomas Sørensen being more than a spectator.

Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg was rendered spectator as a fine cross from Dennis Rommedahl – receiving a 75 yard pass as glorious as the sunshine that bakes the stadium from Daniel Agger – is headed weakly wide by Bendtner who should have done better.

The Dutch look to re-establish a grip on the game but that results in Nigel de Jong being dubbed “luckiest man in South Africa” after a two footed tackle on Martin Jørgensen which should have resulted in a straight red card. It is tempting to suggest that the Dutch constantly hover over a self-destruct button but de Jong’s strength in midfield returns dominance of the game to the men in Orange if only for a short time when the Danes scramble to defend a corner putting it over their own bar.

Nevertheless at half time the Danes rued as many missed chances as the Dutch and after much talk it seems that the Netherlands have yet to make a noise on the field to match the vuvuzelas off it.

Those vuvuzelas have been said to be disruptive and distracting and perhaps it was those factors that thirty seconds into the second half sees Simon Poulsen head a van Persie cross towards his own goal and in off the back of Agger. The pair can argue over the own goal – Poulsen’s header would have gone wide – while the Dutch can celebrate the luck of being given a lead in a game where they should have been down to ten men and could have been one or two down.

The Danes are something between shell-shocked and shackled and the response is laboured with the Dutch able to maintain the attacking flow with van Persie unlucky with his touch in front of goal and – once again – lucky to not be shown a red card for another studs up challenge. Another Referee would have reduced them to nine men and been justified in doing so but Frenchman Stephane Lannoy is kind, or weak.

Eljero Elia injects some invention down the left for the Dutch and hits the post after springing from the Danish backline but Dirk Kuyt is there to tidy the ball into the goal for a second. The Dutch though one feels have failed to make the impressions of their German neighbours and – as with England, France, Ghana and Argentina – they will hope to improve with matches.

Certainly the sight of van Persie heading wide with the goal open for him just as his Arsenal team mate Bendtner had done will impress no one nor inspire anyone to fear the Dutch more than they do the Danes which is to say, not very much.

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