There seems to be a divide in the Holland camp between coach and players after the first racism incident of Euro 2012 involved the Dutch squad. Coach Bert van Marwijk insisted he could not be sure whether there were any racist taunts towards his players, whereas captain Mark van Bommel was defiant about what he had heard and saw his teammates be subjected to.
Van Marwijk has admitted that he is ‘trying to be as nice as possible in a new country on the eve of a tournament’, but whether that comes at a detrimental price to his side’s tournament ambitions is yet to be told. UEFA have confirmed that there were isolated incidents and other well-known Dutch figures, including Euro 1988 winning captain Ruud Gullit, have also declared that they heard derogatory chants to the black players in the squad.
Van Bommel was enraged by the situation and is looking for the Dutch FA, as well as UEFA, to address the issue as quickly as possible. The PSV midfielder is one of the veterans of this exciting Oranje side, with 77 caps, and is the son-in-law to Van Marwijk, who has made him captain. However, it now seems that captain and coach are involved in an issue which could escalate, despite their attempts to soften the problem.
All thoughts must now go to the opening fixture against Denmark in the Metalist Stadium, where Van Marwijk will have to cast aside the racism issue and concentrate on who he will play in defence. Joris Mathijsen has been ruled out in central defence, so either experienced Wilfred Bouma or Ron Vlaar will deputise alongside Everton’s John Heitinga. The worrying position for Holland is left-back after regular Eric Pieters was ruled out of the squad through injury. Van Marwijk opted for 18 year old Jetro Willems, who is Pieters’ club teammate, in the last friendly against Northern Ireland, but could go with Bouma at left-back to try and neutralise the threat of flying winger Dennis Rommedahl.
Denmark does pose a threat to the Dutch with highly-rated attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen plying his club trade in Holland with Ajax. Morten Olsen’s side play in a similar free-flowing style to Holland and will be keen to show they are not the whipping boys in a group that also holds Germany and Portugal. Olsen has attempted to heap more pressure on Van Marwijk by claiming that the Oranje are the favourites, which the Holland coach accepted as a fact and is looking for a similar scoreline to the 2-0 victory in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup.
The racism issue has not been brushed under the carpet, but the Dutch squad are hoping that their coach acts accordingly if the situation arises once again. Van Marwijk and his players have to ignore the chants and the lunacy, so that they can concentrate on fulfilling their potential. If they want to reach the final, three points is essential in what should be the easiest game of their group.
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