Where there is Robin van Persie there is hope. It’s a saying that has been repeated at Arsenal all season and is now translated into Dutch.
The Gunners’ goal machine will be the talisman for Holland in the Euro 2012 finals, but that’s not to say that he hasn’t got talented, and perhaps most crucially experienced players around him.
In Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong and Johnny Heitinga, the Dutch have a core of players who have all spent the past season competing at the highest level, and all have over 50 caps.
What’s more, only skipper Van Bommel and Kuyt from that list are in their 30s, and so with a squad packed with players who are mostly hitting their peak, what reason is there for the Dutch not to impress in Poland and the Ukraine? The answer is that there isn’t one.
Almost perfect in qualifying for the finals with nine wins from 10 matches, Holland also impressed in beating England at Wembley in February’s friendly, leaving a mark on the English that cut far deeper than the wound inflicted on the back of Chris Smalling’s head when Huntelaar nodded in a cross from Kuyt during the 3-2 victory.
Bert van Marwijk’s side may have turned the 2010 World Cup final against Spain into an exhibition of their martial arts skills, but it is unfair to call them a dirty side. It is fair, however, to say that they’ve got their hands full right from the start in the summer.
Stationed in Group B alongside Denmark, Germany and Portugal, it took about three seconds for the group’s line-up to be completed before it was given the dreaded “of death” status.
Nonetheless, Holland’s opening match with the Danes in Kharkiv – where they play all three matches – should provide them with the ideal start, and whilst an offering of 2/1 (SkyBet) to win the group might not provide much value, a straight forecast of Holland/Germany (4/1 Bet365) to finish first and second in the group just might. If you fancy it the other way around, then Germany/Holland pays 5/2 (Bet365).
The second match in the group is likely to provide the answer to that poser, but whilst June 13th’s contest between the Germans and the Dutch will be one of the highlights of the group stage, the fiercely competitive pair will already have their eyes on something else.
Wherever they finish in the group (provided it is first or second of course), both countries will be coming up against a nation from the weaker Group A, and with the Dutch sure to be confident of progressing from that match then possibilities open up. Intriguingly, whoever wins Group B can’t possibly face the Spanish until the Final.
Holland would love to exact some World Cup revenge there, and if Van Persie can hit his Premier League form in the finals then there is every reason to believe that they can. Predictably, the Arsenal man is one of the favourites to finish as Euro 2012’s top goalscorer, and a Holland/Van Persie Winner/Top Goalscorer double might just be too tempting to avoid at 50/1 (Bet Victor). Huntelaar (20/1 Boylesports) is also worth keeping an each-way eye on.
At 15/2 (Bet365) then the Dutch should be looked at as a more confident each-way selection to win the tournament, and whilst the temptation is of course – as we’ve proved – to focus on Van Persie, the rest of the squad could be ready to prove that the immediate future is both bright and Orange.