7 Things the Netherlands Must Do to Defeat Portugal
After two draining rounds of play, Netherlands find themselves last place and winless in their "Group of Death." This is absolutely not the ideal situation for any team to be in, but somehow, there might be a way for this team to escape an early exit from the Euro Cup.
As it stands, Germany is first place in the group with six points and a plus-two goal differential. Then, Portugal and Denmark are tied with three points with a goal differential of zero. Netherlands has zero points and has a goal differential of minus-two.
Germany will be playing Denmark in the next round; it shouldn't be a difficult fixture for them. If Germany beats the Danes at least 1-0 and Netherlands beats Portugal at least 2-0, then Netherlands will qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament due to goal differential.
This obviously might seem like an easy task when said, but Holland will have to do many things to overcome a pretty strong Portuguese side.
So with all this in mind, here are seven things the Netherlands must do to defeat Portugal.
Netherlands Must Keep an Attacking Mindset Throughout the Match
In the second-round match against Germany, Holland started out really well. They were possessing and not allowing Germany to establish a composed attack. However, after the Germans settled down, they were attacking Holland's defense chance after chance.
Eventually, Mario Gomez was able to find the net on two occasions. While Germany took a big lead, Holland wasn't able to get any attacks going. They would string together a few passes, but it wouldn't lead to anything.
After halftime, however, one of the two defensive midfielders, Mark van Bommel, came out and was replaced by Rafael van der Vaart, a more offensive-minded player. Ibrahim Affelay, who wasn't able to get his attack going, was substituted by Bundesliga top scorer Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
These substitutions paid off when Robin van Persie was able to get a great goal, due to a good buildup.
In the match against Portugal, Bert van Marwijk should probably start with a similar lineup that was used after halftime if Holland is to build a strong lead.
Then, later on in the match, they can bring on whatever defensive reinforcements they need to guard their lead.
Robin Van Persie Should Be Provided with Chances Just Like Against Germany
Robin van Persie is an extremely talented forward. He had a great season in the Premier League before the Euro Cup began; he scored 30 goals in the English Premier League, winning the golden boot.
In the first match of the group stages against Denmark, van Persie had many shots, but wasn't able to convert any of those chances into goals. That ended up costing the Netherlands as Denmark managed to get a goal and take the victory.
In the match against Germany, he did better. In the beginning of the match, Mark van Bommel hit a wonderful ball to van Persie from distance, but van Persie only managed to get a small touch as it was close to the German goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. As a result, it was saved.
In the second half, van Persie converted one of his chances when he spun off a defender and took a right-footed shot from outside the box that went through Holger Badstuber's legs and beat Neueur to the bottom right corner.
Robin van Persie is capable of scoring in many different forms; if he gets the chances, he can score.
Against Portugal, he will need to take good shots and make the most of his chances if he is to score.
Ronaldo's Involvement Must Be Minimized
Cristiano Ronaldo is without a doubt one of the best players in the world. However, so far in the Euros, he has failed to impress. In Portugal's first match against Germany, Ronaldo only had 38 touches. He wasn't able to have his usual influence on the match.
Then, in the second match against Denmark, he had some great chances to score, but he just wasn't able to convert. At one point in the second half, when Portugal was up 2-1, Ronaldo had two chances to increase the lead.
The first chance he had was fired right at the keeper; he could have done more with the opportunity. In the second chance, he was one on one with the Danish keeper, but he put his shot wide of the keeper, but wide of the post as well; he could have waited and tried to get around the keeper.
If Netherlands manage to minimize Ronaldo's presence in the game, then they can certainly prevent some chances from being made.
Netherlands Must Extinguish Portugal's Counterattacks
Portugal have shown that they can establish a strong counterattack off wastes in possession. In their match against Denmark, there were quite a few cases where, off a wasted free kick or corner, Portugal was able to establish a quick counterattack that would lead to a chance.
These counterattacks can lead to goals if the opposition's defense can't hold. So in their match against Portugal, defenders like Johnny Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Gregory van der Wiel and Jetro Willems must up the ante on their defense.
If they can succeed at stopping Portugal's counterattack, they would have stopped a good portion of Portugal's attacks.
Arjen Robben Must String Together Some Effective Passes
In the very first match against Denmark, passing was one of the issues for Arjen Robben's game. He would dribble into the heart of the defense, and other defenders would collapse on him. As a result of this, a player would be left open. However, Robben wasn't able to find the open man in a few cases.
In the match against Germany, he did better; he was able to string together some nice through balls to Robin van Persie and some other teammates. But, if the Netherlands are to beat Portugal, Robben will have to make even more passes that will lead to easy goal-scoring chances.
He has also been able to attack on the wings and create chances. He will need to continue that as well.
Arjen Robben will need to do both of these things if he is to perform well in the upcoming match against Portugal.
Wesley Sneijder Must Not Be Afraid of Taking Some Long Shots
Wesley Sneijder is one of the good distance shooters in football. He is a good free kick taker and a good shooter in general. He hasn't scored in the Euro Cup just as yet, but I'm sure a goal is awaiting him.
Wesley must use his shooting abilities in the upcoming match against Portugal. In the match against Germany, he had one shot from beyond the edge of the box, which curled just wide of Manuel Neueur, but just pas the post as well.
I know this shot might not have meant anything, but it was certainly a strike that could have resulted in a great goal. He must continue to take shots like this in the match against Portugal, but not excessively.
Netherlands' Defense Must Remain Compact and Hard to Get Through at All Times
The Netherlands lineup that has been seen so far in the Euro Cup is a star studded one that makes a great team. It has strong forwards and a good midfield, but its defense is the squad's weakness.
In the second match against Germany, the German midfielders were given too much space and were able to form too many passes. It was because of this that Bastian Schweinsteiger was able to create both of Mario Gomez's goals with incisive passes.
He was able to make his passes without too much trouble, and was able to move without the ball to get another pass with the closest defender some 10 yards away.
This won't be acceptable against Portugal as they have some creative midfielders such as Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso and Nani, who can make some great passes and split defenses.
If they are given enough space, they can create big damage.
Holland must not give Portugal this kind of space if they are to prevent Portugal from scoring.
If the Netherlands can manage to do what has been mentioned, they will have an increased chance of beating Portugal and augmenting their possibility of qualifying for the knockout stage of the Euro Cup.
Prediction for the match: I predict that Holland would have learnt from the mistakes they made in the first two matches and will come out strongly in this third match. I think that Robin van Persie will score at least one goal in this fixture. My prediction for the score in 3-1 in favor of the Netherlands.