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Holland please fans with 6-0 win
Published on:Saturday, June 2, 2012 - 21:49
Holland manager Bert van Marwijk had promised an exciting match and the capacity crowd at the Amsterdam ArenA got one.
The Dutch just owed one to their fans. Following a string of poor performances, Van Marwijk's men just couldn't leave for UEFA Euro 2012 without a convincing farewell victory in their final warm-up match against Northern Ireland.
It was the Oranje's fourth friendly in a row. Earlier fixtures ended in a 3-2 away defeat against Bayern Munich and a 1-2 home defeat against Bulgaria followed by a 2-0 victory over Slovakia.
Right from the word go on Saturday, the home side took control of the game, leaving the green and white army gasping for breath. With fast passing and a great deal of movement, Holland opened up Northern Ireland like a tin.
The first goal came after just 11 minutes, when Wesley Sneijder crossed for Robin van Persie whose controlled header from close range left the keeper little chance. Four minutes later came another roar from the crowd as Wesley Sneijder curled a free-kick from 18 metres just inside the left post.
Two goals and two yellow cards within just 15 minutes - was there going to be another double-digit victory for the Dutch, following their 11-0 rout of San Marino last September?
Two more goals before half-time
On 29 minutes, Robin made no mistake from the penalty spot. More scoring opportunities followed with all four defenders joining in the effort with a flurry of shots on target. But it was a superbly executed counter-attack involving Holland's forward trio - Arjen Robben, Van Persie and Ibrahim Afellay - which sliced open the Northern Ireland defence once again for number four.
What followed looked like a siege of the poor green and white defence whose limbs deflected a barrage of howitzers from the men in orange. The half-time whistle prompted a massive applause from the home crowd.
There would be more to enjoy in the second period, with Afellay tucking the ball inside the right post from the 16-yard line after a deft little Van Persie flick on 51 minutes. Two substitions – Van der Vaart for Mark van Bommel and Klaas Jan Huntelaar for Van Persie – slowed down the orange juggernaut somewhat. And a third – Dirk Kuyt for Wesley Sneijder – failed to restore the balance within the team. Northern Ireland even got a few chances, with Ryan McGivern aiming just wide.
It was clear that the number 100 on FIFA’s world ranking were no match for the number four and matters soon got worse. Number six, a powerful header by Ron Vlaar 12 minutes from the end, prompted a broad smile on the goalscorer’s face and, moments later, a standing ovation and a series of waves in the stands.
Many wondered whether Klaas Jan Huntelaar would score. After all, Van Persie, his main rival for the coveted centre-forward position, had netted two. But somehow, the ball failed to reach the topscorer of both the Bundesliga and the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Huntelaar failed to get one on the goalsheet. He may have been one of the few on the Holland side feeling a little disappointed by his performance.
"I think the gulf in class was evident between the two teams," Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill admitted after the final whistle. "There was a mismatch, you know, we have players who haven't played for five or six weeks since their season has finished and we've only had them together for three days. And obviously Holland are competition had ended for most of our players about five weeks ago and Holland are preparing for a major tournament. So, that was difficult for us."
His Dutch counterpart concurred. "We’re on the right track," Van Marwijk said. "But we have to be realistic and look at the quality of our opponent. We managed to play our passing game, even with 21 players in the defending team's half of the pitch, although at times, our passing was quite sloppy. There were some beautiful attacks and most players carried out their tasks a bit better than in previous matches, but don't let us get overexcited by this 6-0 victory. We're just making progress."
Van Marwijk would be the first to agree that Holland can expect more opposition in their Group B opening match against Denmark in Kharkiv on 9 June.
Holland starting line-up:
1-Maarten Stekelenburg, 2-Gregory van der Wiel, 3-John Heitinga, 6-Mark van Bommel, 8-Nigel de Jong, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 11-Arjen Robben, 13-Ron Vlaar, 15-Jetro Willems, 16-Robin van Persie, 20-Ibrahim Afellay
Northern Ireland starting line-up:
1-Lee Camp, 2-Lee Hodson, 3-Daniel Lafferty, 4-Michael Duff, 5-Oliver Norwood, 6-James McPake, 7-Andrew Little, 8-Sammy Clingan, 9-William Grigg, 10-Grant McCann, 11-Shane Ferguson