Euro 2012 Day 10: Robin And Nicklas Out, Lukas Very Much In
The group of death claimed its expected high-profile scalp yesterday, Robin van Persie’s Netherlands being dumped out of the tournament by Portugal. In the other game, Lukas Podolski scored on his 100th appearance for Germany (no, he’s not 35) as they knocked Denmark and the world’s best striker (no, not Cristiano Ronaldo) out of the championships.
It was another miserable performance by the Dutch defense. But the battle was lost in midfield. After Van der Vaart had scored the first goal for the Dutch, the Portuguese midfield moved further up the pitch and took control. The Spurs midfielder went missing and Nigel de Jong was often caught in no man’s land, not knowing which runner to pick up. Bert wan Marwijk has been heavily criticised for playing Van Bommel and De Jong together, but yesterday’s performance vindicated his initial decision to field two holding midfielders to protect his brittle defense.
While criticising the Dutch, one has to also acknowledge that Cristiano Ronaldo was on fire last night. He made surging runs down the left, tormented Van der Wiel with his silken skills, cut inside and used the space vacated by the Dutch midfield, competed strongly for headers and shot with purpose when he found himself in a good position. If he can continue in this vein for the rest of this tournament, the Ballon d’Or may finally be heading his way.
Will this disastrous Dutch campaign have an effect on Robin van Persie’s career decision? It’s unlikely but if there is an impact, you feel it has to be a positive one for Arsenal. The obvious disharmony in the Dutch squad is not something RvP is used to Arsenal. With the Gunners, he’s the main man and his role is vital to the team’s success. With the Dutch, he was shunted from one position to another – I am not sure he will relish the idea of being treated similarly at a new club.
Hopefully, there will be an early resolution to his contract situation. I doubt anything will happened before the first week of July though, with Arsene Wenger covering the Euros for French TV at present.
In Lviv, new recruit Lu Lu Lu Lukas Podolski marked his hundredth appearance for Germany by being in the right place at the right time. It was the kind of goal Arsenal don’t score often enough, an instinctive run towards the penalty spot when the ball is in the box. He may not possess the flicks, tricks and stepovers but his eye for goal and clinical finishing is exactly what Arsenal need.
After the shock results in Group A, is there a twist in the Group C tale as well? If the Irish can beat or even hold the Italians, Croatia’s result against Spain will be of no consequence as both those teams will go through.
I think the Slaven Bilic’s side have enough to draw against Spain. Their defense has been reasonably solid while at the front, Mandzukic and Jelavic will ruffle the feathers of Pique and Ramos. Modric looked decent against the Italians too, so it should be a good match.
I’m going for a 1-1 draw between Spain and Croatia, rendering Italy’s best efforts irrelevant. Enjoy the matches, back with more thoughts tomorrow.