The Dutch’s two year pursuit of redemption after a terrible Euro campaign seemed in vain. 86 minutes in, down a goal, and unable to penetrate Mexico’s taught lines, the Netherlands seemed on the verge of an early trip home. Then came Sneijder’s kick, a bullet to the left side of the net; the yellow card against Marquez, and Huntelaar’s penalty shot. Ten minutes from desolation, the Dutch reversed course and launched a party in the The Hague that will last throughout the night.
That said, it should be realized that while the Dutch won, they weren’t very convincing… When Nigel De Jong exited
the game, their formidable three center-back defensive scheme became quite shaky, and Giovani Dos Santos took full advantage with a beautiful individual effort (and when he was taken out of the game, I was quite surprised).
For the Netherlands, many lessons can be learned from this game, beginning with the fact that their back three should never play without a player like De Jong in front of them, and… Dirk Kuyt is a terrible right wingback…
But anyways, although they performed extremely well in their first three games, the Dutch looked shaky today – after Mexico scored their first goal, their attack dropped back slightly and the Dutch were left with the ability to control more possession from within their opponent’s half – and quite frankly, they didn’t seem to have the ability to take advantage of that situation. Their first goal today was the result of set-pieces blunder on Mexico’s part, and their second goal came from the penalty spot… The Dutch won’t get so lucky when they play better teams, and Robben will no longer get the calls in the box that he expects – that’s why the Dutch must learn to rely on forms of offense other than the counter-attack and set-pieces.
Furthermore, I didn’t understand why Van Persie was substituted for Huntelaar (despite Huntelaar’s header pass to
Sneijder for the tying goal): Van Persie is a player that needs to be on the field at all times, especially in a Dutch system that relies so much on the attacking three that he, Sneijder and Robben make up. Huntelaar is a great player, but if world class Van Persie is struggling to get going, I’d find that Huntelaar would also have a lot more trouble finding a rhythm – especially as he hadn’t played in the previous three games.
If the Dutch can continue to win, I’ll shut up, but after today’s performance, and De Jong’s injury, I see them having a hard time advancing much further as the competition gets better. That said, I still look forward most to seeing how teams defend Robben moving forward, and how he responds. The World Cup stage has proven to be a place where players can make their careers, break their careers, and transform from world class stars, to world class legends. If Robben continues his fantastic form, he could win the Ballon D’or, and right now if the World Cup were to end today, he’d deserve it.