Oranje crushed by dogged Danes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Holland 0 Denmark 1: The 2010 World Cup finalists now face a battle to qualify from the Group of Death after shock defeat

Inevitably there were moments of the highest class, at times even a touch of surreal beauty, but in some vital respects the new masters of Dutch football are pretty much like the old.

So often they leave the killing to others – on this occasion a respected but hardly lauded striker from Denmark – and then look back to all those lost possibilities. No three more talented performers than Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and, supremely Robin van Persie, will ever do it more bitterly if this disaster remains unredeemed against the weight of Germany and the potential of Portugal's Cristiano Ronald to turn any game in which he finds himself.

Van Persie, in this season of maximum career opportunity, will be haunted by his failure to do that on which he has built his prodigious reputation, a touch here, a strike there, some predatory move which can undermine opponents.

Last night the invitation came repeatedly – as Holland outshot Denmark by a massive 27 to seven going into the last desperate moments – but each time the opportunity slipped by.

Robben seemed locked in the disappointment of his second failure to turn a Champions League final in favour of his Bayern Munich. Sneijder seemed no more than a ghost of the man who did it for Jose Mourinho in the colours of Internazionale.

It has been said of the Dutch that they could wake up one morning bored with the hotel décor and promptly go on strike. Certainly it is true that while an emotionally unstable team – just one European title and three World Cup final defeats through all the glorious years – might fairly claim a more serious psychological buffeting going into this opening of the Group of Death, they once again seemed intent on making some of their own problems.

The trauma of training ground monkey chants was not sufficient, apparently, to prevent coach Bert van Marwijk putting his faith in one of the victims, 18-year-old Jetro Willems, who was picked at left-back as the youngest ever Euro performer, and there was an impressive swagger to the early work of the team which went into such drastic creative hibernation right from the start of the last World Cup final.

So was this the starting point for redemption which came so gloriously in this tournament in 1988, when Marco van Basten announced himself as one of the greatest strikers in the history of the game?

Van Persie, in whom many of the world's great clubs, we are relentlessly informed, see the same potential, had the chance to make a similar impact last night – but three times he made something of a parody of the finishing which made him the scourge of the Premier League last season. Sneijder twice opened up the Danish defence, and twice Van Persie inexplicably failed to pull the trigger, the second time at a potentially pivotal point when the Dutch, wounded by the first-half strike of Michael Khohn-Dehli, resumed in a frenzy of aggression. Sneijdner opened up the way in his most clinical mode. But Van Persie froze – again.

There was a terrible irony in this for an increasingly concerned Marwijk. In the first half Van Persie had crafted a beautiful cross for Sneijder, who couldn't produce the required conviction. Van Persie also sent in Robben with a wonderful feint and pass but with the same result.

Inevitably, the Dutch were touched by desperation. This had the usual consequence when Mark van Bommel earned his latest yellow card. The Danish reaction was to continue to play the polished, resilient football at the centre of which they have longed planned a starring role for the promising Ajax 20-year-old Christian Eriksen. This was not his most dominating night, however, and when the pressure built in the second half veteran coach Morten Olsen replaced him with the older and maybe stronger Lasse Schone. Van Marwijk had other priorities as he withdrew Nigel de Jong and Ibrahim Afellay and sent in Rafael van der Vaart for his intelligence and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for his touch around goal.

The initiative, like all else that the Dutch tried, drained away. In the end the Danes, one of the most under-rated football nations, had something to spare.

Once again the Dutch had sought out still another disaster of their own troubled making.

Holland (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg; Van der Wiel (Kuyt, 84), Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems; Van Bommel, De Jong (Van der Vaart, 71); Robben, Sneijder, Afellay (Huntelaar, 71); van Persie.

Denmark (4-2-3-1): Andersen; Kjaer, Jacobsen, Agger, Poulsen; Kvist, Zimling; Krohn-Dehli, Eriksen (Schone, 74), Rommedahl (Mikkelsen, 83); Bendtner.

Referee Damir Skomina (Slovakia).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker