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Netherlands beat Denmark 2-0

The Netherlands managed to grind out a 2-0 win over Denmark today despite failing to live up to its billing as one of the most dangerous attacking teams at the World Cup in Johannesburg, reports Dhiman Sarkar.

sports Updated: Jun 15, 2010 01:23 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times

Till an early second-half goal, Holland and Denmark looked like neighbours even on the football park, the players staying really close to each other.

Though Dirk Kuyt did drift wide, Holland played narrow for most of the first half with Rafael van der Vaart often moving in. Man-of-the-Match Wesley Sneijder operated behind the frontline but Holland's inability to stretch Denmark made their job of containing the orange shirts that much easier. That changed with the arrival of Eljiro Elia and coincided with Holland ending this group E match much stronger than how they began it.

The dazzle of the 'we are red, we are white, we are the Danish dynamite' perhaps went with the generation of Preben Elkjaer, the Laudrup brothers and Morten Olsen, now their current coach. The Danes are now a solid, no-nonsense mostly-tonsured team whose midfield played close to the defence with the 1.94m Niklas Bendtner being targetman trying to create something from the occasional long ball.

Bendtner headed out Dennis Rommedahl's cross following Daniel Agger's crossfield ball and once found Thomas Kahlenberg who should have done better than going close to Maarten Stekelenburg in the Holland goal.

Van der Vaart came close twice, one of his shots taking a fortuitous deflection for a corner.

Another time that happened, Denmark were anything but lucky.

Van Persie did well to control the long-range delivery, which had Dane goalie Thomas Sorensen stranded, but the cross wasn't going to any teammate when Simon Poulsen's headed clearance hit Agger on the back and went in.

Glimpses of Dutch class came later. An audacious flick by Van der Vaart that had Sorensen flying to his left to grip should have pleased the legendary Dutch star Johan Cruyff in the stands.

With Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane among the 83,465 crowd, a large number of them blending with the orange seats in their orange shirts, Holland showed more flashes of individual ability through a cheeky stepover and another smart dribble by Elia, who seems to love running at defenders.

Holland skipper Giovanni van Bronckhorst came close to making his 100th international memorable with a drive that Sorensen tipped for a corner-kick.

Kept busy in the last quarter, the Dane goalie also managed to re-direct Sneijder's looping shot into the horizontal.

Elija's left-foot stab, after turning faster than Lars Jacobsen and running down the inside left channel to meet a million-dollar pass from Sneijder, hit the upright before Kuyt slotted in the insurance goal that looked coming for a while. It could have been more but for an incredible back-volley which prevented Ibrahim Afellay's drive from going in.

With Nigel de Jong mopping up the midfield, the backline wasn't really troubled even after Denmark were trailing. Japan and Cameroon may keep them busier but Holland's bid to solve the World Cup conundrum sure has got off to a smooth start.

First Published: Jun 14, 2010 18:21 IST