Netherlands enter Euro 2012 as one of the frontrunners for glory, and it is clear to see why when you look at their squad. The likes of superstars Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Huntelaar will take some stopping, and the Oranje looked immense going forward in qualifying. However, for all the offensive qualities in Bert van Marwijk’s arsenal, the Dutch rearguard looks slightly suspect.
When you look at the Spanish back four, on paper it looks much superior to Holland’s. Van Marwijk will look to have the bulk of possession in most games to negate defensive frailties, but when it comes to the business end of the tournament they will face some real quality. Despite a good goalkeeper in the form of Maarten Stekelenburg and solid defensive midfielders, Netherlands will need to be vigilant at the back, without the likes of a Stam or Blind, to stand a chance of lifting the trophy this time round.
A problem area for the Oranje, there has not been a watertight contender for this position in the national set-up since the exit of Giovanni van Bronckhorst. With Erik Pieters injured, young PSV prospect Jetro Willems looks likely to start, which could be a masterstroke or a disaster. Some of the centre backs, especially Wilfried Bouma, could play on the flank if pushed, but this looks like an area where the team could be vulnerable.
The right-back jersey is all but assured to be claimed by Ajax’s Gregory van der Wiel, who was part of the 2010 squad that made it to the World Cup final. The full-back is quickly becoming a household name and his time in the Eredivisie could well be coming to an end with a number of big European clubs tracking the defender. Johnny Heitinga provides cover if needed.
The heart of the Dutch defence looks vulnerable, with no Pique, Ramos, Hummels, Chiellini etc to boast like their main rivals. It looks like it will be two from Khalid Boulahrouz, Joris Mathijsen or Heitinga, and although the trio can boast over 190 collective caps, none install real confidence. All three are prone to a mistake, and there will be eagle-eyed strikers looking to capitalise on this in the knockout rounds.
Netherlands should be respected and feared due to the calibre of their attacking talent, however when it comes down to crunch time the likes of Spain and Germany will fancy their chances of picking off Van Marwijk’s men at the back.