Euro 2012 fact-file – Holland

Is it possible to have too many attacking options? Holland boss Bert van Marwijk has the difficult task of juggling superstar forwards into a winning combination, as he looks to exorcise the heart-breaking demons of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Belief is strong that the Oranje can go one better in Poland and Ukraine and win their first major tournament since 1988.

For many years before 2010, Holland were the team who played the beautiful game in its correct fashion and did not have enough to get over the final hurdle. In South Africa, that dynamic shifted completely as the tournament was epitomised by Nigel de Jong’s savage karate kick into the chest of Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso. Holland roughed and rode their way to the final, facing critics who were disappointed and angry at how the Dutch way of playing football, the traditional values, had been defaced in the final.

Van Marwijk knew his side had to win back the support of the public with an attacking ethos heading into Euro 2012 qualifying and that is what the Oranje provided. 37 goals in their ten qualifying fixtures, in which they lost just once against Sweden in the final game, showed that the Dutch way is not lost under the former Feyenoord boss. There is still the steely determination that was taken completely out of hand in 2010, with De Jong’s actions in Johannesburg seeing him slip down the pecking order behind Marwijk’s son-in-law Mark Van Bommel. The PSV Eindhoven veteran occupies a defensive role in centre midfield to allow a magnificent five-pronged Dutch attack to flourish.

Holland are expected to deploy Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, the top goal scorer in the Bundesliga, in the main striker role with Robin van Persie, the top goal scorer in the Premier League, occupying a position from the right flank where he can cut inside and use his left foot to dazzling effect. Arjen Robben showed England how devastating he can be from the left flank in February’s friendly at Wembley and Wesley Sneijder, despite an indifferent season at Inter Milan, has the quality in the traditional number ten role to conquer Europe. Tottenham’s Rafael van der Vaart, as a deep lying playmaker, partners Van Bommel in central midfield and has been used to brilliant effect in that role by van Marwijk.

Defensively, there are problems facing the Holland boss. Regular left-back Eric Pieters has been ruled out with a foot injury, so Van Marwijk may either go with Vitesse Arnhem left back Alexander Buettner or Pieters’ club teammate Jetro Willems. The 18 year old has been on Manchester United’s radar and helped Holland to the European under 17 title in 2011. There are concerns over Joris Mathijsen’s form with Malaga this season and responsibility will be heavy on the shoulders of Everton centre-back John Heitinga to lessen the pressure on the attacking dynamite to explode.

The task in hand for Van Marwijk is not only to restore the ideals and beliefs associated with Dutch football, but do this whilst coming back to Holland with the Euro 2012 trophy. Pressure is firmly on the squad to deliver a tournament for the first time since a Marco van Basten-inspired 1988 side.

Coach – Bert van Marwijk: The 59 year old has impressed in qualifying and was rewarded with a lengthy contract by the Dutch FA. A UEFA Cup winner with Feyenoord in 2002, Van Marwijk is desperate to collect silverware with Holland and is excited that this year will be when his dreams will come true.

One to watch – Kevin Strootman: Strootman has been interchanged with Rafael van der Vaart during qualifying, but the 22 year old has a bright future in central midfield. Interest from AC Milan and Inter is high for Strootman, who boasts a fantastic work rate and innate ability to control the tempo of a game.

Possible XI:

Stekelenburg

Van der Wiel – Heitinga – Mathijsen – Buettner

Van Bommel – Van der Vaart

Van Persie – Sneijder – Robben

Huntelaar

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