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?
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
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

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain