After reaching the World Cup final in South Africa in 2010, many saw The Netherlands as the next dream team in European football. Instead, the Euro 2012 tournament is turning into a waking nightmare for the Dutch side.
After a shock 1-0 loss to Denmark in their opening game, the Dutch fell to arch-rival Germany 2-1 in their second match. Now the Dutch are a long shot to go through to the knockout phase.
The Dutch will have to produce a convincing win over a revitalized Portugal in their final group match and will need the loathed Germans to go for the win against Denmark. Barring these longshot circumstances, the Total Football Experiment will end in a Total Football Disaster for Netherlands this June.
As to be expected, there are a lot of whispers surrounding the Dutch team regarding their poor showing.
Here are 10 talking points that have seemingly prevented Dutch delight at Euro 2012 thus far.
Bert van Marwijk's curious choice of starting two defensive midfielders in a crucial match against Germany is evidence the Dutch manager might not be at the top of his game.
While Mark Van Bommel was subbed out at halftime against Germany, the Netherlands were already in a 2-nil hole. The team really only came to life after the 65th minute.
Leaving Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael Van der Vaart out of the Starting XI for both matches may well be second-guessed. Van Marwijk's overall strategy will surely be questioned if the Dutch crash out of the tournament before the knockout stage.
What appeared to be rotting in the Denmark game seemed altogether withered in the first half against Germany. We're talking about basic chemistry and understanding among the Dutch here.
Some pundits are pointing to inflated egos and there's no denying Arjen Robben, Mark Van Bommel and Robin Van Persie are not exactly gushing with humility. Despite all the intense media scrutiny and speculation, an outsider can never fully gauge the prevailing team sentiment at camp.
Based on appearances and results though, the Dutch clearly aren't enjoying their Euro 2012 experience.
Which brings us to...
Dutch Training Ground
The deplorable issue of racism has once again reared its ugly head in football. Considering global tensions are at alarming highs, it's no surprise to see sub-humans coming out of the woodwork at a major tournament.
Hopefully Euro 2012 will be remembered for more than just the nastiness that has pervaded the first week.
UEFA's zero tolerance policy could not stop the Dutch team from being assaulted with racist chants on the training ground prior to their first match against Denmark. Surely this had an effect on the psyche of the squad.
While it appears that the team rallied to support its members who had to withstand such abuse, if the team was on shaky ground attitude-wise beforehand, this unfortunate incident surely didn't help.
The selection of 18-year-old Jetro Willems in a must-win match might be rethought if the Dutch make an early exit from Euro 2012.
The defense is considered to be the weak link in the Dutch side. Injuries and an aging Khalid Boulahrouz (no action as of yet; a force to be reckoned with in South Africa 2010) have rendered the Netherlands' backline suspect.
Many oddsmakers had the Dutch at 6-1 favorites or better at the outset of the tournament. Only Germany and Spain had better odds heading into Euro 2012.
While the Dutch can always be considered a contender at any tournament they participate in, perhaps the bar was set just a bit too high for this side.
The team's run of form in qualifying and friendlies (including a 6-0 thumping of Northern Ireland in their final tune-up) was sensational but history may suggest The Dutch are better suited to flying under the radar status.
Arjen Robben had a rather good World Cup in 2010, earning a Golden Ball nomination while scoring twice for The Netherlands.
He scored a total of 19 times for Bayern Munich in all competitions this past season, including five in nine appearances during Bayern's run to the Champions League Final.
His penalty kick miss in extra time of that final may have damaged his psyche though. While the darting midfielder has shown signs of dominance, overall he looks worn down by a lengthy club campaign.
That combined with his reputation as a prima donna can't be welcome in the Dutch camp.
Many, including famed blowhard Alexi Lalas, are suggesting that World Cup 2010 was this current Netherlands' side's summit point. On the basis of two tepid performances, it appears members of the media might actually not be talking out of their asses for once.
Go bloody figure.
It's no secret that captain Mark Van Bommel is married to manager Bert Van Marwijk's daughter. Does this have any real bearing on the game of football? This is not a British tabloid, so we're not going to get into that sort of thing.
Or are we.
We're trying to understand why a team so exquisitely talented predicated on the principles of Total Football is performing so miserably. Perhaps Wesley Sneijder (who's been playing scintillating football mind you) is a better man for the armband.
We're at a loss for answers here clearly...
The less-than-inspired performance against an incredibly strong German team can be rationalized. But not being able to muster a result against Denmark is hard to fathom.
Yes the Danes are no slouch but surely the Dutch are a better side. This is why we can only turn to the poor timing and bad juju of this guy for answers.
One more thing...
Perhaps the footballing gods require more of these types of offerings?
To all our Dutch friends, we feel your pain (the U.S. team under Jurgen Klinsmann isn't exactly setting the world ablaze either, at least you don't have notorious soccer haters like this guy in your country).
Anyone who's ever been to Holland has a great story to tell. Some of the most tolerant and good-natured people the planet has to offer. Don't drown in your Heinekens Citizens In Oranje, this too shall puff, puff pass.