Polar problems for Dutch in Euro prep

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The third most likely team to win Euro 2012; that is was the bookmakers have deemed Netherlands to be.


It is understandable if you consider they are fourth in the FIFA World Rankings, but that list is baffling at the best of times.


Bert van Marwijk has had mixed success in his side's preparations for the tournament and still has uncertainty over what formation he will play in their first game against Denmark on Saturday, June 9 in Kharkiv.


It is a problem brought about by form, though not bad form – Van Marwijk has the enviable problem of two players in the same position having had a fantastic season.


The current system is similar to that used by most of Europe’s top sides, employing a single central striker with two wide players supporting him and a midfield trio protecting the back four.


Arsenal captain Robin van Persie scored 37 goals for the Gunners this season in a side that incorporates a similar formation to Van Marwijk.


Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a whopping total of 48 goals for Schalke 05, but did so playing in a different system and many of those goals were scored against lesser sides in the Europa League.


Van Persie had been the first choice for the striking role up until recently, but Van Marwijk spoke about the possibility of playing them both and did exactly that in the home friendly with Bulgaria.


It was an unimpressive performance and, despite going ahead through Van Persie, a late Iliyan Mitsanski header gave the Bulgarians a win in the Amsterdam Arena.


This appeared to put paid to the experiment and the Oranje boss reverted to his previous selection with the Arsenal man leading the line in the next warm up against Slovakia.


This resulted in a vastly improved performance, as well as a 2-0 win, but the amount of chances the team missed highlighted how useful Huntelaar would be on the pitch.


As ever, the defence has provided the coach with the opposite kind of headache as they looked slightly ragged in the previous two warm-up matches.


Joris Mathijsen, a centre-defence mainstay, pulled up early in the Bulgaria game with what looked like a hamstring strain, though he has still been included in the squad.


A surprise inclusion into the squad was that of veteran defender Wilfred Bouma, who had not played a competitive game since the last European Championships in 2008.


His inclusion may be to do with PSV teammate Erik Pieters, who is out with a broken foot, and Van Marwijk believing he needed experienced cover for 18-year-old Jetro Willems.


Pieters' PSV replacement, Willems will be the youngest player at the tournament and had never played for the Netherlands senior side until the close season.


The former Sparta Rotterdam starlet is an exciting talent, but will be as green as they come when – maybe a concern when the Dutch have been drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ with Germany, Portugal and Denmark.


Bouma’s inclusion means Ajax’s versatile defender Vurnon Anita got the chop and was sent home when the squad was trimmed down form 27 to 23 men.


The exciting young Ajax side that swept to the title in the second half of the Eredivisie season has only one representative in first-choice right-back Gregory van der Wiel, but he will be a key player for the Oranje – he is a very attacking full-back and will be the starting point for many of their moves.


His teammate at the Amsterdam club, Siem de Jong, may be feeling a touch unlucky at missing out having been the top scorer for the league champions.


However, with the quality of players in fornt of him there can be no great surprise – he would have had to compete with the likes of Arjen Robben, Ibrahim Afellay, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart.


This does not include the strikers who are able to play wide in Dirk Kuyt and an exciting young prospect from Heerenveen called Luciao Narsingh, who recieved rave reviews for his performances in the Eredivise last season.


Attack has never really been a problem for Van Marwijk and the usual deployment of two midfielders in front of the back four has always been his remedy for their vulnerability.


The effectiveness of the usual pairing in Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong may be compromised somewhat by the latter not playing very regularly for Manchester City, while the latter creaking a little in the twilight years of his career.


The Netherlands could well provide us with some of the best entertainment at the tournament with their heavy firepower up front and defensive instability.


Van Marwijk managed to marry the two when reaching the World Cup final two years ago and, should they do it again, they have the capacity to go one step further this time.

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