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Denmark sink Holland 1-0

Denmark beat Holland tonight in the opening match of Euro 2012 Group B, dubbed the "Group of Death".

It was a clash between the numbers four and nine in FIFA's world rankings, between two former European Champions (1988 and 1992) and two teams who "have no secrets for each other," in the words of Holland boss Bert van Marwijk.

Most players from both sides have been teammates and know each other well. When they stood chatting on the pitch 90 minutes before kick-off, it looked like a reunion of old friends.

Technically superior Dutch
But that friendly attitude was gone straight after the first whistle, when a technically superior Holland took the initiative. On two minutes, young Jetro Willems sent a long-range howitzer flying just over the crossbar. And moments later, a Robin van Persie attempt from inside the box went centimetres wide.

More solid chances followed, but the ball never hit the net. And when one team fail to score, the other will. It was Danish left-winger Michael Krohn-Dehli who fired home from point-blank range after a rapier counter on 23 minutes.

Now, it was Denmark going on the offensive. Time for Van Marwijk to get out of the dug-out, take off his jacket and try to galvanise his team back into action. Minutes later, Robben hit the post and Ibrahim Afellay aimed too high, prompting a series of "waves" from the crowd, in which Dutch, Danish and the majority Ukrainian all took part.

Repeat performance
The start of the second period saw the same pattern: Holland on the offensive, swirling through the double Danish defence lines with fast-paced creative play, and missing every great opportunity along the way. And there were plenty of those. It was a one-sided, but exciting tactical match and the Ukrainians were proud to be hosting it. In between the waves, one side of the stands chanted "Ukraine" and the other "Russia", giving a political touch to the game.

Meanwhile, Holland boss Van Marwijk changed tack, bringing in more firepower with Klaas Jan Huntelaar replacing Afellay and Rafael van der Vaart instead of Nigel de Jong. Later he put in Dirk Kuyt to replace Gregory van der Wiel, an attacker for a defender.

But all to no avail. Denmark beat the Dutch with a clever tactical game, that was very defensive but never negative. Holland missed too many good chances and sealed their fate. Not all is lost though, because in 1988, Holland was also defeated in its first group match, and went on to win the tournament.

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In tonight's other Group B match, Germany defeated Portugal 1-0 in Lviv. The next fixtures - Germany v Holland and Portugal v Denmark are scheduled for this coming Wednesday.

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Holland starting line-up:

1-Maarten Stekelenburg, 2-Gregory van der Wiel, 3-John Heitinga, 13-Ron Vlaar, 15-Jetro Willems, 6-Mark van Bommel, 8-Nigel de Jong, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 20-Ibrahim Afellay, 16-Robin van Persie, 11-Arjen Robben

Denmark starting line-up

1-Stephan Andersen, 6-Lars Jacobsen, 3-Simon Kjaer, 4-Daniel Agger, 5-Simon Poulsen, 7-William Kvist, 8-Christian Eriksen, 21-Niki Zimling, 10-Dennis Rommedahl, 9-Michael Krohn-Dehli, 11-Niklas Bendtner
 

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This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011 Dutch government’s decided to cut funding and shift RNW in 2013 from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW’s current activities can be found at http://www.rnw.org/about-rnw