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Netherlands vs Argentina World Cup 2014: As the Dutch know only too well, looks can be deceiving, as their good starts to tournaments continues to breed disappointment

Flying out of their group with ease has become a warning sign that the Netherlands are going to falter when it matters

Once again the Netherlands peaked too early in a major tournament, running out of steam when the going got serious. After sailing through the group stages of the 2014 World Cup with a 100 per cent record, seemingly in with a great chance of claiming a maiden world title, Louis van Gaal’s side stuttered past Mexico and Costa Rica before coming unstuck from the spot against old foes Argentina.

Dutch supporters were in dreamland after their opening victory against Spain, as they gained revenge for the 2010 final defeat with a stunning 5-1 thrashing over the world and European champions. Subsequent wins over Australia and Chile had the Oranje dreaming but they had been here before.

The Dutch also began home tournament Euro 2000 with a perfect group stage, before coming a cropper in the semi-finals as they failed from the spot – spotting a trend? - against Italy. Eight years later, Marco van Basten’s side started with three out of three as they began Euro 2008 in style, waltzing past then-world champions Italy 3-0 in Bern before returning to the stadium four days later to put on an equally impressive display against the other 2006 World Cup finalists – beating France 4-1. Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, both impressive early performers in Brazil this summer, also found the net against the French six years ago, but would have done well to have heeded the warning signs.


Despite making it into the knockout stages in style, the Dutch quickly came unstuck in the quarter-finals in 2008 – losing 3-1 to surprise package Russia, as their early form came to nothing. Alas, the same thing has happened, with that early momentum coming to nothing as Van Gaal’s side left it late against Mexico in the last sixteen and squeezed past the Costa Ricans last Saturday before being shown up against the Argentines last night.

The wait to add to their sole national title, the 1988 European Championship, goes on. How did they start that campaign? A disappointing defeat against the former Soviet Union. Appearances, as Dutch supporters will only be too aware this morning, can be deceptive.

The shoot-out loss also continued a quirky set of scores in this year’s knockout stages. Greece lost to Costa Rica from 12 yards in the last sixteen before the Concacaf side faltered themselves from the spot in the following round, against the Netherlands – who then went on to use up their luck when they failed in Sao Paulo against Argentina. The South American side remain the only country to win successive shoot-outs in a World Cup finals, triumphing in both the quarter and semi-finals in the 1990 tournament in Italy – where they then lost to… (West) Germany. Deutschland uber alles, indeed.