Netherlands discord centres on role of captain Mark Van Bommel

 

Kharkiv

The Dutch split for many reasons. Sometimes, it is ego, epitomised by Ruud Gullit's refusal to play in the 1994 World Cup because Dick Advocaat was not Johan Cruyff, the man Gullit wanted to manage the team. Two years later, the Dutch camp divided on racial lines, although the dispute may also have had plenty to do with money.

The reason for the latest fault lines that threaten to topple one of the favourites almost before the competition has properly begun was sat beside Bert van Marwijk at the Netherlands' official press conference last night..

Mark van Bommel is not just the Dutch captain, he is their manager's son-in-law and father to his three grandchildren. And in the scarcely hidden views of many of the squad, this is the principal reason why he is likely to start against Germany tonight.

The 35-year-old, whose style of play can politely be described as "uncompromising", was not only recalled to the Dutch side by Van Marwijk after being sidelined by his predecessor, Marco van Basten, he was made captain.

It should be said that Van Bommel did not want the job and perhaps he should have trusted his instincts. In any football dressing room, especially one as volatile and full of talent as that of the Dutch, the captain has to be an automatic selection. When Van Marwijk announced his starting line-up for Saturday's fateful defeat to Denmark, Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were both angered by their omissions, Nigel de Jong by his substitution. Huntelaar may be brought back in tonight and it may be at the expense of Robin van Persie or the winger Ibrahim Afellay may make way with the Arsenal man playing in the hole.

De Jong, who was brought off with time draining away, stalked his way through the mixed zone in the Metalist Stadium, believing that Van Bommel should have been the man to make way. Even Dirk Kuyt, who at Liverpool was the epitome of hard work and loyalty, thought he should have played, adding: "You never ever get over the disappointment of being a substitute."

Van der Vaart expects the feeling to stay with him for the remainder of the European Championship. "The manager has had his starting line-up in his head for a long time," said the Spurs midfielder. "He has players he counts on and, obviously, I don't come into that category.

"I have got the feeling that I am not going to get back into this team. We have seen over the years that he is a manager who does not change his mind very easily. I think I have the right to bring this subject up."

For Wesley Sneijder, there has been too much talking already. When it was suggested that the Dutch FA bring in a psychologist to their base camp in Krakow, he reacted with disdain. "Don't even bother talking to me about that kind of nonsense," he said.

"If players have problems with each other, then they should talk them through, face to face. If the players can't reach an agreement, I can't imagine a psychologist is going to succeed."

Head to head

Robin van Persie (Arsenal)/Klass-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke)

48 2011/12 club games 47

37 Goals 48

17 Assists 10

7 2011/12 Dutch games 7

6 Goals 5

1 Assists 1

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