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Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil miss each other. They might act like they don't need each other, but deep down, they know the truth.
Mario Gomez and Bastian Schweinsteiger put together an absolutely brilliant 25-minute spell of football for Germany on Wednesday night, and it was all that their team needed from them. Germany were not good in the first 20 minutes of their match against the Netherlands and were the inferior side in the second half, but they took advantage of the porous Dutch backline on two occasions, which was good enough to bag a 2-1 win.
Both goals were scored by Gomez, assisted by Schweinsteiger, and conceded in horrific fashion by the Dutch. On both the 24th and 38th minute goals, Schweinsteiger was left completely alone in the center of midfield before he found the feet of Gomez, who applied great finishes. They were two of just five shots on target and 11 total shots for the Germans, but the Netherlands made enough mistakes on both ends that it was all Die Mannschaft needed to win the match.
Trailing 2-0 at halftime, Bert van Marwijk made a couple of bold changes that he probably should have made before the match started. Rafael Van der Vaart and Klass-Jan Huntelaar entered the match for Mark van Bommel and Ibrahim Afellay, giving the Dutch a much more attacking look. They played considerably better in the second half than they did in the first half, but they couldn't get all the way out of the 2-0 hole they dug for themselves.
It took a while for the Netherlands' changes to settle in, and before doing so the Dutch gifted Mats Hummels a couple of good opportunities early in the half. He was allowed to come forward uncontested and had two shots saved by Maarten Stekelenberg back-to-back in the 52nd minute. That appeared to be a bit of a wake-up call for the Dutch, who began to play better from that point forward.
Manuel Neuer made a big save on Robin van Persie in the 58th minute, but the Arsenal striker would eventually get the better of him. It took until the 73rd minute, but van Persie finally showed exactly why he's first choice for the Oranje ahead of Huntelaar with a stellar right-footed strike from 25 yards out, powered past Neuer. That shot got the Netherlands back into the game, but they would never create a better chance.
Wesley Sneijder was brilliant throughout the game, while van Persie was very useful as a passer for much of the contest. Both Huntelaar and Arjen Robben were incredibly wasteful throughout the night. Robben, in particular, was the Netherlands' least effective attacking player and was very unhappy when van Marwijk substituted him for Dirk Kuyt in the 83rd minute.
Stekelenberg almost robbed his team of a chance to fight for a stoppage time equalizer when he misplayed a ball into his feet and nearly allowed substitute striker Miroslav Klose to score. The Dutch keeper scrambled to recover the ball just as Klose was beginning to put a foot to it. That saved embarrassment, but the Dutch never challenged Neuer's goalmouth in the closing minutes.
The Netherlands have not been eliminated from Euro 2012, but they have a lot of work to do. They need to defeat Portugal in the final game of the round and hope that Denmark loses to Germany, while also winning by enough to have the best goal differential among the three teams tied on three points apiece.
The Dutch are back in it! They've had their fair share of chances in the second half, but until Robin van Persie picked up the ball in the 73rd minute, they'd yet to beat Manuel Neuer, and Germany looked as though they'd be cruising to victory. No longer.
The Arsenal forward picked up a Wesley Sneijder pass 35 yards from goal, turned the usually imperious Mats Hummels without skipping a beat and advanced towards Neuer's goal. Bayern Munich centre half Holger Badstuber moved in to intercept, forcing van Persie to shift the ball to his usually weaker right foot, which turned out to be a mistake. Van Persue blasted the ball straight through Badstuber's legs, the shot hit so hard that Neuer couldn't get down to his left in time to stop the shot. It's now 2-1 with ten minutes to go, so the Netherlands have a lifeline.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has played the best half-plus that he has played in months today, but his day may come to an end soon. The Germany midfielder has injured his hamstring, although the severity of the injury is unknown and it may not be anything of note.
It is unclear when Schweinsteiger hurt his hamstring. There did not appear to be an obvious stretch or fall that could cause a strain, he just started grabbing it and limping a bit. He has stayed on and is running it off so maybe it is just a cramp and nothing to worry about, but for now it is worth watching.
The midfielder is playing his best game in a long time, spraying passes around, helping keep the ball and showing great range to break up Dutch attacks before spurring Germany forays forward. He already has two assists in the game and could easily add another one or two so to see him hurt now, in the midst of a great match, would be a real shame.
Holland need to score two goals in the next 45 minutes or they're likely going to exit the European Championships after the group stage. Since the first 20 minutes, they've rarely threatened, and thus, Bert van Marwijk has made two changes: Rafael van der Vaart has come on for the captain, Mark van Bommel, and Klass-Jan Huntelaar, the popular striker, has come on for Ibrahim Afellay.
Van der Vaart will play in a double pivot with Nigel de Jong. It's a very different role to the one he plays at Tottenham, and requires him to cut down on long passes; that's for Wesley Sneijder. Instead, van der Vaart will increase Holland's ball circulation. The problem, though, is that Holland become more susceptible to conceding chances through the midfield, but they have to go for it.
Klass-Jan Huntelaar will come on and play through the middle. He's a classic poacher, and if he gets a chance, he will probably score. Bringing him on, though, means Robin van Persie goes to the right side of Holland's attacking three midfielders, a position he isn't at his best at. Holland look like they're out of ideas, really, and pushing van Persie to the right might not change that, as he'll likely just come inside.
Germany got off to a very slow start against the Netherlands on Wednesday night. Joachim Löw looked worried on the sidelines as the Netherlands kept the ball with ease and created scoring chances. This went on for the first 20 minutes of the game. When things changed, they changed dramatically.
The last 25 minutes of the first half couldn't have been more of a different story than the first 20. The Netherlands' midfield and defense absolutely fell apart as Bastian Schweinstieger and Mario Gomez took over the game, creating two goals with relative ease. Because of the result in Wednesday's early game, the Netherlands cannot be entirely eliminated with a loss in this game, but they're about to enter a very dire situation unless they can do a complete 180 in the second half. They deservedly trail Germany 2-0 at halftime.
Robin van Persie almost capitalized on Germany's bad start on a couple of occasions, but just like it did in the Netherlands' first match of the tournament, his finishing let him down. On both a Mark van Bommel long ball in the 6th minute and an Arjen Robben cross in the 10th minute, he put weak shots right into Manuel Neuer.
Germany's opener came 23 minutes into the match, and even though the finish was beautiful, it's hard not to focus more on Holland's failings than Germany's successes on the goal. Schweinsteiger was somehow completely unchallenged in midfield when he played a through ball into the feet of Gomes, who was kept onside by a slacking Gregory Van Der Wiel. Gomez made a beautiful turn with the ball and smacked it into the net with his second touch, instantly turning the tables on a Netherlands team that had looked like the better side until that point.
Maarten Stekelenberg made an unbelievable save in the 37th minute on a header by Holger Badstuber, but once again, the chance was downright gifted to Germany. John Heitinga completely fell asleep on a set piece and allowed Badstuber to run right by him. Badstuber had an open header and hit it well, but close enough to Stekelenberg that the Dutch keeper was able to make a save.
The Netherlands could have made Germany regret not taking that chance, but they couldn't get their defense together quickly enough to make that happen. Less than one minute later, the Dutch defense absolutely fell apart again. For the second time, Schweinsteiger set up Gomez with a great pass on the ground. For the second time, no one cut off the supply and no one closed down Schweinsteiger in midfield. If that wasn't bad enough, Stekelenberg went to ground before Gomez even took his shot, allowing the German striker to score easily.
If anyone has the answers for Holland, ring up Bert van Marwijk. He can't make his country produce quality central defenders during the halftime interval, but surely there's someone on the bench that can change this game. Holland look terrible. What they're doing isn't working.
Germany haven't looked very threatening against the Netherlands, and the Oranje have been the better team, creating more chances and dominating proceedings. Crucially, though, they've been unable to take their chances, much like their last game against Denmark. Conversely, Germany only needed one clear chance to take the lead, with Mario Gomez scoring his second goal of the tournament after 24 minutes.
The goal was excellent play from Germany; Thomas Müller took the ball down the right side, before passing to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had moved forward. Müller continued his run, looking for the one-two, and Mesut Özil also made a forward run. Schweinsteiger, though, slid in Mario Gomez between the centre backs, who controlled, turned, and slotted past Martin Steklenberg.
Yet again, the Dutch have been let down by their defensive midfield. It was completely non existent; Schweinsteiger was placed under no pressure at all and had lots of time to play the decisive pass. Because of this poor midfield play and their inability to take their chances, they look like they're on their way home.
After lots of speculation in the Dutch media about who would start upfront after the poor finishing from Robin van Persie last Saturday, Bert van Marwijk went with the Arsenal man, again not starting Klass Jan-Huntelaar. Straight away, van Persie had a chance to make his manager look like a genius, but after collecting a fantastic long pass from Wesley Sneijder over the top of the German defence, he shot straight at Manuel Neuer.
While it may be another miss, his third bad one in two games, van Persie has stared off looking very sharp. His movement has been superb, his passing is crisp and he's linking up well with Sneijder and Arjen Robben. He looks in the mood and Mats Hummels isn't looking very good up against van Persie, playing like he did when Borussia Dortmund played Arsenal in the Champions League. van Persie may have missed two early chances, screwing another one wide with his right foot, but he looks very dangerous.
Germany and the Netherlands have kicked off their huge Euro 2012 Group B match from Kharkiv, with neither team making any significant changes from their previous games. There had been a bunch of rumors floating around about potential adjustments to each team, but Joachim Löw and Bert van Marwijk have decided to stick with their original first choice teams.
It's worth keeping an eye on whether or not Mesut Özil can find any of the ball while both Mark van Bommel and Nigel De Jong are focused in on him, and it's also worth keeping an eye on whether or not either of those two defensive midfielders can do anything for the Netherlands going forward.
Neither is going to hit spectacular through balls or make surging runs forward, but they might accurately make solid passes to the guys around them and make good decisions on the ball. The Netherlands will have problems again if there's a massive gap between the defensive midfielders and Wesley Sneijder, and if they can't get the ball to Sneijder on a regular basis.
There were lots of rumors about both the Netherlands and Germany making changes after disappointing opening matches so, naturally, there were barely any changes. Netherlands made only one change, bringing Joris Mathijsen into the team for Ron Vlaar and Germany didn't make any changes.
Both teams are counting on the players to simply play better. For the Netherlands that is just about everyone, but especially Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, both of whom were extremely wasteful in the Dutch opener. For Germany, they will need Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski to step up, both of whom alternated between invisible and sloppy against Portugal.
Netherlands (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Jetro Willems, Joris Mathijsen, John Heitinga, Gregory van der Wiel; Nigel de Jong, Mark van Bommel; Ibrahim Affellay, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben; Robin van Persie.
This is it for the Netherlands. If they lose here they might as well kiss their chances at the knockout stages goodbye, which isn't particularly good for a team with eyes on the trophy. Oh, and they have to do it against Germany, one of the title favorites. Cry, Holland, cry.
Lines: Germany, pick 'em (-130). Netherlands, pick 'em (+110).
Odds: Germany, +140. Netherlands, +180. Draw, +240.
Over/Under: Over 2.5, -105. Under 2.5, -115.
This one has Germany written all of it, but the question here is whether to take the -130 or the +140. Obviously the -130 is safer, but does anyone think that the Netherlands can handle Mesut Ozil. If you're not sure, go with the -130 because the idea of the Dutch getting through the impenetrable Mats Hummels is hilarious, but the +140 is tempting. Roll with that if you want the payout, which is worth the risk.
The over/under isn't worth betting. Rumors out of the Netherlands are that they are experimenting with Rafael van der Vaart in a double pivot and Dirk Kuyt at right back for this match. Will they actually do that? Won't they? Betting on the over/under with that much up in the air is foolish. If you must, over.
Dutch publication Voetbal International is reporting that Barcelona attacking midfielder/winger Ibrahim Afellay will be dropped from the Netherlands' starting XI when they take on Germany later on Wednesday. Dirk Kuyt is believed to be the man taking Afellay's place in the side. The report also says that Ron Vlaar and Mark van Bommel could potentially be dropped, but is less definitive on those possibilities.
Afellay missed most of the season for Barcelona with a knee injury and barely made it back to full fitness in time to make the Netherlands' team for Euro 2012. He was hardly the Netherlands' problem in their 1-0 loss to Denmark, but Bert van Marwijk might feel like Afellay doesn't give him anything that Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder don't already, while Kuyt brings phenomenal work rate and some defensive qualities.
If Vlaar is dropped, it will be for first choice central defender Joris Mathijsen, who missed the Denmark game with an injury. He recently returned to full training. That decision is simply based on fitness, but any decision to drop van Bommel would be a tactical one. The Netherlands absolutely cannot afford to lose to Germany and need to attack. Van Bommel and his partner Nigel De Jong are both true defensive midfielders that offer nothing going forward, and it makes sense that van Marwijk would want to bench one of them in a situation where his team has to score.
The Netherlands can't afford to lose on Wednesday, and depending on what happens in the early game, they might need a win against Germany to reasonably stay alive in Euro 2012.