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Dutch on the Brink

By Lawrence Ostlere

Just four days after kicking off against Denmark, Holland are on the brink of crashing out of Euro 2012 following a disastrous start that leaves Bert van Marwijk's team dumped at the bottom of Group B.

The Dutch must now beat Portugal in their final game to have any chance of staying alive in the competition.

Van Marwijk's tactics employ two holding role players in Nigel de Jong and captain Marc van Bommel.

This strategy brought success in South Africa of course, reaching the World Cup final after a series of performances with discipline and structure at their core, the polar opposite to the free flowing 'total football' of the 1970s.

De Jong and Van Bommel provided a base from which to gain and retain the ball, and launch measured forays forward. Perhaps more importantly, they provided protection without the ball, filler for cracks in the Dutch defensive wall.

But in amongst the solidity, Denmark and Germany have exposed flaws.

Captain Van Bommel slowed play down to walking pace against Germany and was rightly replaced at half time.

The veteran midfielder's mistimed tackles have been a feature of his competitive streak in the past, but today they are an illustration of the 35 year old's struggle to keep up with play. Van Marwijk may take the decision to drop his midfielder in the final group game, though it with be a brave one - Van Bommel is his son-in-law as well as his captain.

In the latter stages of both games Rafael Van der Vart and Klaas Jan Huntelaar came off the bench and provided a more direct attacking emphasis. This relieved much of the pressure on Holland's creaking centre back partnership - attack may be the best form of defence for the Dutch.

Van Marwijk is unlikely to make whole-scale changes to his tried and trusted methods, but his days in the job are numbered if his much fancied side crash out against Ronaldo and co.

He must now have the courage to turn back the clock and adopt the attacking spirit of old, and hope it is not too late to salvage Holland's Euro 2012 campaign.

Lawrence Ostlere is a freelance writer and can be reached at:

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