Euro 2012: Rating the Dutch Players in the Netherlands V. Denmark Group B Game
According to Optajean's David Wall, one of the preeminent sources for statistical information in the footballing world, Holland winger Arjen Robben entered into Saturday's Group B opener against Denmark having missed his last 21 shots for club (Bayern Munich) and country.
Several of those misses—his extra-time penalty in the Champions League final against Chelsea, which compounded his miss in a key Bundesliga match against Borussia Dortmund—had drawn the ire of Bayern fans, who had taken to booing Robben in recent weeks.
That errant marksmanship followed Robben onto the international stage, where he was one of the most wasteful players in the Dutch starting XI Saturday.
Following the Danes' shock 1-0 win, where they managed just one less shot on target (four) to Holland despite seeing scant possession until the final minutes, questions may be asked about several of his teammates as well.
The task has become immeasurably more difficult for the Netherlands now, as they must navigate the dangerous waters of the Group of Death. Matches against Germany and Portugal await.
Here are the player ratings for the Denmark match.
Martin Stekelenburg, Keeper: 4
He didn't touch the ball with his hands until the 17th minute—the Dutch were that dominant in the opening portions of the match, when possession figures teetered into the high 70-percent range—but when Martin Stekelenburg was called upon, he failed to deliver.
Danish midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli capitalized upon a broken clearance by the Dutch defense in the 24th minute and launched upon a furious run into the penalty area, where he sent a low-footed drive through the legs of Stekelenburg...who really should have done better with his angles.
Although Denmark would get the three additional shots on target, none came as close to threatening the AS Roma No. 1's goal like Krohn-Dehli's attempt.
And when he needed to be at his best, Stekelenburg was found lacking.
Jetro Willems, Left-Back: 5
Much was made of 18-year-old Jetro Willems' inclusion in the Holland starting XI following Erik Pieters' injury in the dying embers of the Eredevisie season.
Willems thus became the youngest player to start a European Championship match in history, but if the magnitude of the occasion had him nervous, he certainly didn't show it.
Pieters's Eindhoven teammate fired off Holland's first shot on the evening, a third-minute effort that, while well-struck, fizzled over the bar.
That would be the extent of his attacking industry, however. Aside from a few forays up the left flank, Willems stayed close to home; and while he wasn't sensational in defense, did a serviceable job manning his position.
He beat out Danish players for pace, most notably in the second half when he shepherded a through ball to Stekelenburg (albeit by perhaps illegally obstructing his marker).
All in all, a good debut to the competition from the youngster.
Ron Vlaar, Center-Back: 4
The Feyenoord defender, who made just 12 appearances in the Eredivisie this past season, didn't cover himself in glory on the rare occasions he was called into action on Saturday.
Vlaar was culpable for failing to respond to Krohn-Dehli on Denmark's first-half goal, and highlighted the worries over the Dutch defense for the competition.
John Heitinga, Center-Back: 5
There was little reason for the Everton defender to applaud his side's performance on the night, but of the two central defenders, John Heitinga was the more assured.
Vlaar's own spot is nowhere near hammered down, but Heitinga put in a measured display that should see him on the pitch for the starting whistle against Germany.
Gregory Van Der Wiel, Right-Back: 5
Van der Weil has a habit of launching forward in attack with both club and country; and on Saturday against Denmark, he continued that trend: offering Holland another option on the right flank to Arjen Robben's wastefulness in front of goal.
The Denmark goal came on his side of the field, but the Ajax youngster was hardly the cause of the problem. A decent display, but nothing special.
Nigel De Jong, Center Mid: 4
The Dutch central midfield pairing of Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel is long on steel and toughness, and relatively short on aesthetic.
De Jong is there to defend, and defend he did in his usual resolute—and, at times, illegal—manner.
Substituted in the 71st minute for Rafael van der Vaart, it was a decent performance from the Manchester City midfielder, offering little in the attacking vein; but then again that is hardly the reason he is in Bert van Marwijk's team selection in the first place.
Mark Van Bommel, Center Mid: 5
The aging central midfielder (he's 35) was given the unenviable task of smothering Danish attacking midfield maestro Christian Eriksen, and, to his credit, van Bommel handled his assignment effectively.
Eriksen was hardly in the match, save the rare deft flick or pass, often running right into van Bommel in the center of the park.
Ibrahim Affelay, Left Winger: 4
The 26-year-old Barcelona man was short of match fitness heading into the Euros—a debilitating injury had allowed him to make just four league appearances for the Catalans this season—and it showed against the Danes on Saturday.
Outside of a couple decent forays to the end line, Afellay's production was of the muted sort, although he did show his individual ability with a neat combination of step-overs on the left edge of the penalty area before freeing himself to fire over Stephan Andersen's goal.
He'll be one to watch in the next two group matches, as he will only get stronger with the more games he gets under his belt.
Wesley Sneijder, Attacking Midfielder: 7
The best Dutch player on the pitch by a country mile, Wesley Sneijder was at his omnipresent best in midfield on Saturday.
Starting in an advanced position behind striker Robin van Persie, the Inter Milan maestro dropped deep regularly to bring teammates into play, and distributed possession with aplomb.
His passing was absolutely sensational, exemplified by a sublime outside-of-the-foot through ball that fell perfectly into the path of substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who scuffled the chance.
With the number of times Sneijder laid inch-perfect gems for his teammates, you'd have thought Holland would score at least once. But 32 shots on goal later—including one Sneijder strike that came dangerously close to lodging itself in the back of the net—the Dutch were still scoreless.
By no fault of their No. 10, however.
Arjen Robben, Right Winger: 4
The Bayern Munich star had come into the tournament on a limp, rather than a canter, and his first performance for the Dutch inevitably fell flat.
Unwilling to pass until the chance was gone, Robben infuriated both teammates and viewers alike with his dogged determination to go for goal himself.
The image of him collecting the ball on the right wing only to cut in to free himself up for a left-footed curling effort has become well-known in the footballing world...and that's beginning to become to a problem for the Dutchman.
Denmark knew exactly what he wanted to do, and brought over a second defender to choke his playing space off.
Robben stubbornly refused to diversify his game, however, and outside of hitting the left post once in the second half, provided very little in the way of positive attacking play for the Netherlands.
Robin Van Persie, Center Forward: 3
The prolific Arsenal striker—he tallied 30 league goals in 2011-12—turned profligate on Saturday, slipping and sliding to one of his worst performances in memory.
Whether it was his boots or his undecided future that were the culprit for his poor display mattered little. What did, though, was Robin van Persie's inability to score for Holland when they needed it most.
It was a marked departure from the saving grace he'd shown so frequently at club level this past season, making the act of scoring match-winning goals look as easy as breathing.
More than once he had a clear sight on goal, and more than once he slipped or saw his first touch desert him.
Much more will be needed, and fast, from the man sporting No. 16 for his country if Holland are to progress out of this group.
Substitutes: Rafael Van Der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Dirk Kuyt
Huntelaar, who'd scored 29 league goals for Schalke 04 in 2011-12—and a staggering 48 in all competitions—had said he'd wanted to start at the Euros, but he did not take advantage of Van Persie's foundering to further his own cause.
The tall striker wasted Holland's most gilt-edged chance (of many) in the second half, unsuccessfully trying to chip Andersen after latching on to what may prove to be the pass of the tournament from Sneijder.
Van der Vaart, the Tottenham man, was no more effective than the man he came on with in the 71st minute, getting far too few touches on the ball for his liking.
Kuyt, Van Marwijk's final introduction on the night (85'), barely registered the faintest touch on the ball, if he even managed that.