It does not take a tactical masterclass to work out what the Netherlands need to fix after their 1-0 upset to Denmark – they simply have to be able to convert their chances and that could mean a start for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
The Dutch face Group B leaders Germany on Wednesday and while their opponents already have three points after a 1-0 win over Portugal, the Netherlands are in "must win" mode already.
Bert van Marwijk's team produced 28 attempts on goal but only eight were on target in Kharkiv and midfielder Wesley Sneijder knows that ratio will have to improve against the Germans or they risk an early exit. "It's painful. The only positive thing we can take out of this match is that we played really well at times and created lots of chances. We'll also create chances against Germany – that's our strength – but they have to be converted or it's over for us," he said.
Sneijder's smart movement and incisive passing were on show against the workmanlike Danes but striker Robin van Persie and winger Arjen Robben wasted a series of good openings while Michael Krohn-Delhi scored for Denmark. "Dominating the match isn't enough. Look what's happened – we left empty-handed. We missed that last bit of sharpness," said Sneijder.
"If you truly dominate a match, you don't let your opponents get into it and you put your chances away. We started well, in the opening 20 minutes we should have scored a couple and then everything would have been fine. We could maybe even have then racked up more. But instead the first goal fell at the other end, and we spent the rest of the game trying to repair the damage," he added.
Van Marwijk opted to leave Schalke's Huntelaar, the continent's top scorer in qualifying with 12 goals in eight games, on the bench until 19 minutes from the end but he will surely consider starting the prolific striker on Wednesday. The Dutch really should not have problems in front of goal given the pedigree of their two main strikers: Van Persie top-scored in the Premier League while Huntelaar achieved the same in the Bundesliga.
The pairing is by no means incompatible, even within the Dutch system which utilises just one out-and-out striker with three players attacking from wider and deeper positions. When they played together in qualifying Van Persie moved out to a wider role, cutting in from the left flank, leaving Huntelaar to sniff out goals.
If Van Marwijk chooses that option then Ibrahim Afellay, who did not impress against the Danes, would be the most obvious choice to stand down. It would be a logical move to make given the sudden urgency of a win against the Germans. "We have to win twice now to progress – we have to, that's a clear mission," said Spurs midfielder Rafael van der Vaart. "We really have to go for it now. If we had won then we knew a draw against Germany would mean we were already doing well, but now we just have to win twice."
Despite their magnificent achievement Denmark, for their part, also know they have to improve. "Portugal will be a different kind of opponent," defender Simon Poulsen said. "There are always good things we can focus on and there are some aspects of our play we can improve on."
Holland: STEKELENBURG 7/10, VAN DER WIEL 6, HEITINGA 7, VLAAR 6, WILLEMS 7, ROBBEN 6, DE JONG 6, SNEIJDER 6, VAN BOMMEL 6, AFELLAY 6, VAN PERSIE 6
Denmark: ANDERSEN 7, S POULSEN 6, AGGER 7, KJAER 7, JACOBSEN 7, KROHN-DEHLI 8, KVIST 6, ERIKSEN 7, ZIMLING 7, ROMMEDAHL 7, BENDTNER 7
Scorer: Denmark Krohn-Delhi 24.
Substitutes: Netherlands Van der Vaart (De Jong, 71), Huntelaar (Afellay, 71), Kuyt (Van Der Wiel, 84). Denmark Schone (Eriksen, 74), Mikkelsen (Rommedahl, 83). Booked: Netherlands Van Bommel. Denmark S Poulsen, Kvist.
Man of the match Krohn-Delhi.
Match rating 6/10. Possession: Netherlands 54% Denmark 46%. Attempts on target: Netherlands 9 Denmark 7.
Referee D Skomina (Slvn). Attendance 34,973.Reuse content