Goor undermines Dutch preparations

Netherlands 0 Belgium 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

It is said that a crisis is never far from the enigma that is Dutch football. Chronic underachievers or gifted champions-in-the-making, the Netherlands have their wonderful supporters guessing again.

Dick Advocaat's team will be among the last two to make their first appearance in Euro 2004 when they face Germany in Oporto, the city of the Champions' League winners, on 15 June.

Judging by a performance that turned a sultry, carnival night here in Eindhoven hugely anti-climactic, the orange half of that heavyweight pairing need the extra preparation time beyond this week's friendlies against the Faroe Islands and Republic of Ireland. The Dutch worryingly lacked the spark to unlock their neighbours, who were strictly limited, albeit splendidly organised defensively.

Skipper Phillip Cocu was denied by Belgian keeper Tristan Peersman's fine save from a bouncing first-half header and had a shot unwittingly blocked on the line by Bart Goor in the mêlée in which Giovanni van Bronckhorst's effort clearly struck Sven Vermant's lower arm. But the likely lad was Wesley Sneijder, who showed again that he could be one of the stars in Portugal next month.

The Ajax midfielder, not out of his teens until next week, was the Netherlands' dynamic, creative force, demanding one flying stop from Peersman and, from a similarly long range, hitting the underside of the bar.

Sneijder's young legs will drag along ageing limbs in the Championship and salvaged a personal triumph from this first defeat since the away leg of the play-offs in Glasgow.

From the starting line-up at least, Advocaat rested any player on club duty in FA Cup final weekend, so Ruud van Nistelrooy's reintroduction to PSV fans did not come until the three-quarter stage, while his possible tournament partner, Roy Makaay, was not seen for another 10 minutes.

Patrick Kluivert, who has told Dutch reporters to go easy on rumours linking him with Middlesbrough, will not have impressed any prying Teesside eyes and Pierre van Hooijdonk was only moderate.

Edgar Davids, another linked by the grapevine with the Premiership, and his Barcelona colleague, Michael Reiziger, did not make it off the substitutes' bench and into a line-up for whom Jaap Stam and Clarence Seedorf were praiseworthy performers.

The Dutch, having survived Vincent Kompany's early header, at least seemed destined for the consolation of a fifth successive clean sheet until Wilfred Bouma, playing in his home town, clumsily brought down Mbo Mpenza, leaving Goor to expertly steer in the penalty 12 minutes from time.

Goal: Goor pen (78) 0-1.

Netherlands (4-4-2): Van der Saar; Heitinga, Stam, Bouma, Van Bronckhorst (Overmars, 61); Seedorf (Makaay, 79), Sneijder, Cocu, Zenden; Kluivert (Van der Meyde, 45), Van Hooijdonk (Van Nistelrooy, 69). Substitutes not used: Westerveld (gk), Davids, Reiziger, De Boer, Waterreus.

Belgium (4-4-2): Peersman (Lemmens, 45); Deflandre, Simons, Kompany, Dheedene; Bisconti, Vermant, Clement, Goor; Buffel, M Mpenza. Substitutes not used: Baseggio, Deschacht, Pieroni, Dufer, Soetaers, Borre, Vandenbergh.

Referee: C Colombo (France).

Attendance: 34,000.