Monday, June 18, 2012

Euro 2012 Thoughts Part 4: The REAL Ronaldo Shows Up (Portugal 2 – Netherlands 1)


The Flimsy 'Spine' of the Dutch Formation allowed the Portuguese Midfield 3 to blunt their attack. And when the Dutch Full Backs Bombed forward, Ronaldo and Nani were afforded acres of prime real estate in their favorite attacking zones to do their damage. Ronaldo punished them for this. If Nani was on his game, the scoreline might have been 4-1.

Bert Van Marwijk needed to win by 2 goals and a German victory to get to the quarterfinals. The Germans did the business once again, becoming the only team to finish with 9 points (a 100% record) in the group stages of the competition – but the Dutch failed miserably again. The Dutch needed to attack – and so they did… but they threw caution to the wind and paid dearly for it. They did not account for the fact that Portugal knew their predicament and would happily hit them on the counter with 2 of the best attacking wingers in the tournament. All the Portuguese were hoping for was for the Real Ronaldo to turn up. The ‘Real’ Ronaldo meaning both the ‘true’ Ronaldo and the ‘Real Madrid’ Ronaldo. Luckily for the Portuguese – he did turn up.
.
The Dutch go home with ZERO points after starting the competition as one of it’s favorites. I take their elimination as payback handed out by the Football Gods upon them for their cynical and ugly approach in the world cup. Like the cliché goes: if you want to use the dark arts to win and get far, then the only criteria you get judged by is winning or losing. Those who play positively AND WIN are universally hailed as heroes. Those who do so but lose, are hailed as martyrs. Those who win negatively are generally respected but begrudgingly so. And those who lose while playing negatively are scorned, insulted, belittled, scoffed at and ridiculed… and in my opinion, rightly so. Karma’s a bitch ain’t it, Bert?
.
The Dutch played a formation that showed no semblance of balance, organization or team shape in my opinion. It looked like a 4-1-1-3-1: with De Jong as a lone holder behind Van Der Vaart who played a neither-a-10-nor-a-deep-lying-playmaker role at midfield. In front of this fragile ‘spine’ (if you can even call it that) was an array of 3 ‘attacking midfielders-cum-forwards’ who didn’t look to be in their comfort zone –Sneijder shunted to the left flank, Van Persie played as a ‘10’ (a role he hadn’t played for some time) and Robben at his predictable role on the right side.
.
In a way, the Dutch Formation fit like a glove to suit Portugal’s tactical intentions to use their wingers (Nani & Ronaldo) to hit the Dutch on the break. Pepe and Alves are both physically powerful bruisers, adept with dealing with poachers like Huntelaar. Coentrao can singlehandedly handle Robben (as proven in the Champions League), while Sneijder, who is keen to drift to the middle wouldn’t have threatened Pereira that much. At midfield, Van Persie, playing as a withdrawn forward, and supported by Van Der Vaart behind him would be outnumbered 3 vs. 2 by Veloso, Moutinho and Meireles. And when we consider the fact that Van Der Wiel and Willems bomb forward while on attack – Nani and Ronaldo are given acres of real estate in their favorite prime attacking areas to thrive. It was too bad for the Netherlands that Ron Vlaar’s bad-ass name did NOT have a bad-ass game to match. Ron Vlaar was not a bad-ass. He was just bad. And Ronaldo abused him over and over again.
.
I'm also curious to find out who it was who suggested that Real Madrid ought to buy Gregory Van Der Wiel as our first-choice Right Back. Are you kidding??? The dude can't even guard his lunch. Let Barca have him - as I would love to watch CRon tear him a new one in a Clasico. Ha.
.
Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox has sounded like a broken recordin these European Championships, suggesting over and over again, the use of PSVbox-to-box midfielder as a moderate alternative at midfield to De Jong + Van Bommel or De Jong / Van Bommel + Van Der Vaart (and I agree with him). His suggestion fell on deaf ears. I’ve watched Rafa Van Der Vaart in his years both at Madrid and Spurs and have not seen an iota of evidence to suggest that he can play as a Central Midfielder in the true sense of the word (he’s an attacking midfielder, maybe a playmaker, possibly a withdrawn forward). Van Marwijk instead opted for an ‘extreme’ option.
.
.
Verdict:
The Netherlands leaves the competition with their reputation: as a team filled with brilliant attacking players but used as a clumsy, functional and even dirty unit - completely intact. You can also add to that the fact the players sounded and looked like a bunch of whining, petulant bunch of brats with little team chemistry or camaraderie. Bert Van Marwijk deserves the sack. Or if he has any honor left in him, he should fall on his own sword. I miss the days when the sight of the Dutch’s bright orange uniforms would make my emotions simmer with excitement at the possibility of watching a beautiful footballing extravaganza.
.
The Portuguese are not without their weaknesses and those will definitely be exposed by worthier teams further down the road. They will take rightful comfort however at seeing their star-man Cristiano Ronaldo show signs of life. As a Real Madrid fan, wanting to see him win the Balon D’ Or, I certainly hope that the confidence boost that he and his team has received from this match and spur him on to bigger things in this competition and for his national team. The Czechs will be tricky but not impossible for the Portuguese to overcome. Either way, the time has come for Ronaldo to turn up and assume the mantle of leadership for his country, just as he has done for his club.
.
.
Post-Script: Belated Thoughts on Other Matches:
.
Spain 4 - Ireland 0: Vicente Del Bosque lmight have learned something from this game - that if you put in a player whose main function is to put the ball into the back of the net - then you might actually score goals: lots of them. That Mr. Del Bosque is what you call 'A Striker'.
.
Italy 1 - Croatia 1: Oops! Seems like someone figured out how to stop the Italians and their 'unique' 3-5-2. The principle seems to be simple enough: stop Pirlo and you stop Italy. It's difficult not to recall  Argentina's Riquelme-dependent 2006 World Cup Team.
.
France 2 - Ukraine 0: People should stop expecting Benzema to score. Those who have followed him through Lyon and then onto Real Madrid knows that one of Benzema's best qualities his is coolness in making the right decisions in pressure packed situations - which leads to either goals or assists. He did the latter against the Ukraine. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't score for the rest of the tournament but continues to create the goals for his team. Sadly I wouldn't be surprised if people choose to take that against him too.
.
England 3 - Sweden 2: No one will ever have a clear explanation has to how England will get results or win matches. Their ugliness, functionality, messiness is part of their 'beauty'. They will scrap, run, defend, press, attack and counterattack to get results and win without doing any of those things particularly well. Anyone who thinks and expects otherwise have clearly had one too many drinks.

No comments:

Post a Comment