Heavy-legged Holland heading for early exit

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The biggest result of the first weekend of Euro 2012 was Denmark's unlikely victory over much fancied Holland.

The Dutch were guilty of profligacy in the first degree and their defensive instability left them vulnerable to Danish counter-attacks, though they weren't exactly lightning quick and didn't need to be.

Stephan Andersen's goal led a charmed life as chance after chance to breach it was squandered, but profligacy is too simple an explanation.

Fatigue looks like it may be a problem for Bert van Marwijk, as many of his players wilted in the latter stages of the match, and the Danes could possibly have scored more had their passing been a deal more accurate when breaking away.

If ever a man did not have his shooting boots on it was Robin van Persie; the Arsenal skipper bungled three or four very good chances, and looked well off his best.

Van Persie had a season of unprecedented success for the Gunners, scoring 37 goals for Arsene Wenger's side and featuring in 48 fixtures – he played in every Premier League fixture last year, starting 37 of them.

Such consistency in appearances is something he has been unable to provide before, with varying fitness issues limiting his opportunities to make an impact on the side's long-term fortunes.

His dire first touch when played through by Sneijder in the first half, was something you would not have even begun to countenance earlier in the season.

Arsenal's stuttering end to the season saw much of this, and Van Persie's slick performances from earlier in the campaign had disappeared, with him snatching at chances he was finishing without much fuss previously.

Anther man who looked out of sorts was Arjen Robben, who had one of those days where it feels as though he was deliberately infuriating teammates and spectators.

The Bayern Munich winger's talents mean he will always pose some kind of threat – an ability to find space means he sees a lot of the ball.

He could just not seem to do anything right on Saturday; his crosses were far too often over hit, he would hold onto possession unnecessarily for far too long, his passing was poor and his shooting, barring a shot that hit the post, was very poor.

Bayern have had a season full of heartbreak, losing both the Champions League and the German Cup finals, as well as being beaten to the Bundesliga title by Borussia Dortmund for the second year running.

He has not played in as many matches as Van Persie, but you can understand an amount of emotional fatigue will be present after so many crushing disappointments in such a short space of time.

Robben's tendency to hold onto the ball for too long and ignore teammates in better positions to affect certain attacking situations feels a logical symptom of a man struggling with his form.

An unfamiliar backline did not help matters – first choice centre-back Joris Mathijsen was ruled out, while left-back Jetro Willems was making his competitive debut for the senior side as the youngest player in the competition.

There were varying faults and a number of off-kilter showings, but the most damnable fact to come out of the loss was the fact that Holland had a total of 32 attempts on goal, and only managed to get five of them on target.

Denmark, meanwhile, had a far better ratio in getting half of their eight attempts on target.

More than one of the Dutch players referred to Denmark's win as a "miracle" and suggested they were merely victims of ill fortune.

Genuine belief in this notion will be damaging for them going into the make or break tie with Germany on Wednesday, where defeat is likely to send them out of the tournament.

Legs had gone with 20 minutes to go and the quality of passing deteriorated the longer the game went on – there was one moment where the Danes were able to hold onto the ball in midfield practically unchallenged for a minute or so.

It has been labelled the 'Group of Death' and last rites must be close, for Holland's players look dead on their feet.

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Robin Van Persie
European News
Arjen Robben
Premier League

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