Man of the Match: Dirk Kuyt was one touch away from a chance at an equalizer, but 23 yards from goal, he made the mistake of giving Bastian Schweinsteiger a finally stab at the ball. The 90th minute look was the Netherlands’ venture toward goal, making it apropos Schweinsteiger was allowed to snuff it out.
It takes a special performance to take a Man of the Match from somebody who scored twice, but culminating with his tackle on Huntelaar, Schweinsteiger gave it. His two assists were perfect if unspectacular – playing direct, 10-12 yard passes to Mario Gomez – but his awareness stood out. He not only knew where Gomez was, but he knew to get it to him with one touch.
After Germany had their two goal lead, he teamed with Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil to keep the game under German control. The Netherlands may have had more of the ball, but Germany’s midfield was dictating the game. At the end, Schweinsteiger was the man winning back possession, allowing to bleed out the clock.
Packaged for takeaway:
- The match was practically cliché. Germany imposes themselves in these types of matches, they say. Today, the Germans showed why. The execution on their two goals was simple, targeted and clinical:
- Simple: The first goal saw basic passes go from Mats Hummels to Thomas Muller to Schweinsteiger to Mario Gomez. The second was Manuel Neuer to Gomez to Mesut Ozil to Schweinsteiger and back to Gomez. Each sequence was a long pass played back and then middle before finding the striker between defenders. None of the passes were anything you or I couldn’t execute.
- Targeted: The Netherlands’ left side of defense was a problem. Germany was ruthless about going after it. Both goals were built though that side.
- Clinical: Mario Gomez’s finishing was very great. The touch he took to turn onto the first goal was more graceful than we’ve come to expect from the Bayern target man, with the second goal barely nestling inside Maarten Stekelenburg’s right post.
- The easy with which the Germans took apart the Dutch was in part Bert van Marwijk’s doing. There was no pressure in Germany’s half, so Mats Hummels had no trouble picking out Thomas Müller in the build up to the first goal. In the second half, Hummels was at one time allowed to dribble through the Dutch defense and force a save from Stekelenburg.
- The Dutch had their plan, too. They seemed intent on targeting Jerome Boateng, with many of their attempts to connect with Robin van Persie going into the left channel or wider. Their goal came from that side, though it was Mats Hummels, losing van Persie as the striker turned in, that was culpable.
- It was another mixed day for van Persie, His finish on the goal was great, but a blown chance in the sixth minute got his day off to a bad start. After redirecting that a chipped over the defense directly to Manuel Neuer, van Persie seemed to rush some chances. In the second half, with Klass-Jan Huntelaar on, he looked better, but this has still been a trying tournament for a man of whom so much was expected.
- The Ozil-Sami Khedira-Schweinsteiger trio dominated play when they wanted, calmly absorbed pressure when they didn’t. The Netherlands’ starting midfield duo, Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, were AWOL. Each goal was the type you try to guard against by playing an extra man in front of the defense. “These two will prevent those easy passes from being played through our line.” Turns out, they won’t.
- How can a team aspiring to win this tournament come into the competition with that left side of defense? Jetro Willems, the 18-year-old from PSV with barely a season’s experience at club level, is starting for the Dutch, while Joris Mathijsen, in today for Ron Vlaar, is coming off a terrible season at Malaga. Willems is an injury replacement, but there are really no better left backs in the Netherlands? One year as an 18-year-old in the Dutch league said “we should be comfortable with him for six games in Europe’s biggest national tournament”?
- Smart pundits noted this might be a problem, but not me. I assumed that the defense wouldn’t be much worse than the team that made the finals in South Africa. Clearly, I was wrong. And now, I’m bitter.
- Arjen Robben had a difficult first half, but in the second, but he and Wesley Sneijder started to have an impact from wide positions. That’s why it was so curious that, with his last substitution, Bert van Marwijk elected to take Robben off for Dirk Kuyt. It’s not like the Dutch needed a goal or anything, right?
- Robben must have felt the same way, because instead of going to meet Kuyt to complete a traditional substitution, he stepped off the pitch at the far side and slowly walked around to the Dutch bench, applauding to the supporters periodically as he strolled. When he got to the bench, he ripped off his kit and sat outside the dugout.
- To me, the craziest thing about this day is the Dutch not only still have a chance to advance, but it’s not a remote one. Thanks to Portugal’s third goal, the Netherlands are still alive, and if they post a lopsided result in the third group game (two-or-more goal victory), they will get through, provided Germany beats Denmark.
- That’s obviously not a given. Germany wins the group with a draw, though a loss opens the door to them finishing third. There have been so many times we’ve seen this scenario end in a draw, but it goes without saying that anything can happen.
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