Although Germany is ranked one spot ahead of the Netherlands in the FIFA World Rankings, they must fear the Dutch more than any other opponent in the 2012 European Championship.
Yes, even more than Spain.
The two teams, along with Portugal and Denmark, make up one half of Group B in a collection of teams that have been dubbed the "Group of Death."
Germany and the Netherlands have met 38 times in their storied history, resulting in 14 wins for the Germans, 10 for the Netherlands and 14 draws. If Germany isn't careful in the group stage, they are going to see the Dutch add to their win total.
The Netherlands have perhaps the most talent of any other team in the entire competition. Boss Bert Van Marwijk has almost too many offensive options with Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben figuring to be on the attack.
The Dutch offense heads into the group stage firing on all cylinders. They outscored their opponents 35-5 over the course of nine matches before suffering a 4-1 loss at the hands of Sweden in their last match. What should scare the Germans most is the fact that neither Van Persie, Sneijder nor Robben were the club's best player in the qualifying stages. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was the man of qualifying for the team, scoring 12 goals during qualifying.
That should terrify the Germans, because Van Persie enters the tournament as one of the favorites to grab the golden boot. If Huntelaar is playing at the top of his game, and Van Persie gets hot from the get-go, we very well may see the Germans finish as the runner-up of the group.
Van Marwijk learned his lesson against Spain in the World Cup, as his team was caught hanging back too much when they should have been on the offensive. Germany has two quality defenders on the back line in Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker, but they will be no match for the aforementioned trio and Huntelaar if they are relentlessly attacking.
If the Netherlands can stay on the attack and retain possession for a greater time than Germany, they won't run the risk of their defense getting beat by the German attack. Although, the Dutch have faith in Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong. If those two can handle Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, the Germans are going to have a hard time scoring.
Another thing working against the Germans is that they have a tougher first match test than the Dutch. On June 9, the Dutch play Denmark and the Germans play Portugal. Germany is going to have a much harder time against the Portuguese than the Netherlands will against the Danes.
Who will win Group B?
Van Marwijk and company are likely to come out and try to make a statement to the rest of the field that they are not to be underestimated. The Netherlands and Germany will meet in the second matchup of group play on June 13.
Surely, the Germans will have to exerted much more energy against their previous opponent than the Dutch will.
The Germans definitely have their match against the Netherlands circled on their calendar, and they definitely should, as the Dutch are one of the best teams in the tournament and will validate that claim when they get a chance to handle Germany.