Dutch begin inquest

Dutch players and fans enjoy nothing better than arguing amongst themselves over the national team and they have plenty to get their teeth into after their swift removal from Euro 2012.


Defeats by Denmark, Germany and Portugal mean Netherlands wound up bottom of Group B and head home without a point.

For years the Dutch were every neutral's favourites with their orange shirts, Total Football, Johan Cruyff's brilliance, Ruud Gullit's dreadlocks and for winning Euro 88 when Marco van Basten scored one of the greatest goals of all time.

But they lost the sympathy vote after their rugged and cynical display in the World Cup final against Spain two years ago and few outside their homeland will now be shedding many tears as the Dutch depart after flattering to deceive.

Arjen Robben, who has endured a miserable month following Bayern Munich's defeat by Chelsea in the Champions League final when he missed a penalty, and now this exit after three largely ineffective games here, was among the chief culprits.

The flying winger believes it is time the Dutch looked closely at what went wrong, saying after the game: "We all failed - the players, the technical staff, everyone.

"Just like everyone was responsible when we got to the World Cup final in South Africa, now we are all to blame for this defeat," he said.

There will certainly be a nation full of people ready and willing to help him and his team mates do that.

Primarily, key players, like striker Robin van Persie, despite a superb goal against Germany, and Robben himself, did not produce their best form.

Playmaker Wesley Sneijder, featuring in one position and then another, was also below his best and injuries to defenders Joris Mathijsen and Ron Vlaar did not help either.

Rafael van der Vaart, one of their most creative players, was only a substitute in the first two matches but showed what the team were missing with his sublime opener against Portugal.

The Dutch came into the tournament, if not among the leading favourites, then certainly highly fancied.

They won their first nine qualifiers to reach the finals with ease and in Van Persie and fellow striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had two players who had enjoyed exceptional seasons with their club sides in England and Germany respectively.

Van Persie was top scorer in the Premier League last season and netted 37 goals for Arsenal in all competitions, while Huntelaar was overall top scorer in Euro qualifying with 12 and led the Bundesliga with 29 goals for Schalke 04.

But although the Dutch dominated their opening match against Denmark, they fluffed one attempt after another, lost 1-0 and were always in trouble after that.

Until he started against Portugal, Huntelaar appeared as a substitute against Denmark and Germany, and despite starting the final game he lacked any notable input against Portugal.

Coach Bert van Marwijk accepted full responsibility for his team's failure, but said he had a contract to remain as coach until 2016 and would not be discussing his future now.

"We're just disappointed. It wasn't a good game at all today. I'm responsible for that and I'm disappointed. It's the same team as two years ago, except for two positions. But it just didn't work."

Despite being a team littered with talent and touted as potentially one of the best at the Euros, the Dutch must now be regarded as a team in transition.

Van Marwijk said as much on Sunday, adding: "We tried to make the team faster and a little bit younger, and make it better in terms of strength in depth.

"I knew it wouldn't be easy to do what we did two years ago. It didn't work from the first game onwards."

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