EURO2012 JUNE 9, 2012
It is hard to think of the two more cynical and destructive players than the Netherlands’ Van Bommel and De Jong, who acquired dubious eternal fame for the karate kick into the chest of Xabi Alonso. Apart from their brutality, they’ve played as two holding midfielders, which slowed down transition and isolated Van Persie. That is why Sneijder was their top scorer in the World Cup. Both of them are playing today, which is to say that we can expect the same ugliness as in the World Cup. It will be interesting to see how Germany will respond to the Dutch bullying. Even if the Danes give them problems today, they are unlikely to change their ways.
As a kid, I adored the Dutch, the flowing total football of Cruyff and Rensenbrink and Neeskens and remember rolling on the floor when Rensenbrink hit the post in the final agains Argentina in 1978. I can also recall the sublime volley of Van Basten’s against the USSR in the 1988 finals. The image that will mark this generation of Dutch players is of De Jong (who also broke Ben Arfa’s leg last year, for which van Marwijk dropped him briefly from the team) digging into Alonso’s chest. Unless De Jong (or Van Bommel, although he is a bit more insidious) memorably inflicts bodily damage on someone else.