The Netherlands have arguably been one of the biggest disappointments of UEFA EURO 2012 so far. Bert van Marwijk’s side started among the favourites to win the tournament but have lost both of their matches to date, the first a 1-0 defeat by Denmark and the second a 2-1 loss to arch-rivals Germany.
Even so, the Oranje still have a mathematical chance of reaching the knockout stages – provided they beat Portugal in their final group match and Germany win their remaining game against Denmark. FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Dirk Kuyt, one of the most experienced players in the Dutch national squad, who gave his take on the situation.
Kuyt, who recently signed for Turkish outfit Fenerbahce, pulls no punches in his analysis and recognises that his team’s performances have not been up to scratch. “We had high expectations before the tournament, and to not have a single point after two matches is definitely very disappointing,” said the forward.
Particularly painful for the Netherlands was the defeat by Germany, their fierce rivals, who ran out convincing winners in Kharkiv on Wednesday. “It hurts much more to lose against them,” said Kuyt, before adding: “I think we started the game well, we had control, possession and created good chances.
"But conceding the first goal was a shock and we weren’t able to recover. In those situations you have to keep playing as if nothing has happened, but we didn’t do that and we conceded the second goal very quickly. We then made changes and pulled a goal back, and with a bit more luck we could have scored a second, but we didn’t do enough.”
The match was less enjoyable on a personal level than Kuyt would have liked, as he was afforded just eight minutes on the pitch to try to make a difference. Nonetheless, the forward is determined to make the best of a bad situation. “For a player, not being in the starting XI is always disappointing, but we’re a team and we want to achieve things together,” he said. “As a substitute you have to put your own frustration to one side and support your team-mates. Obviously I’d like to have played for longer, but what can you do – that’s football.”
Wiping the slate clean
Having analysed his side’s difficult opening games, Kuyt is now keen to move forward. Netherlands are not yet out of the competition, and the forward is still clinging to the hope of progressing.
“That’s one of the good things about football,” he said. “Anything can happen and we still have a chance. We have to play well against Portugal and then perhaps we’ll go through. After that, all the bad taste in our mouths will be gone.”
While the Netherlands’ hopes may not be entirely in their own hands, Kuyt is convinced they can turn the situation around. “It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “Denmark and Germany were tough, but it’s always like that in these tournaments. If we have a good day we can beat anyone, so I don’t see why we can’t do it against Portugal.”
Kuyt has done his sums and, as the moment of truth approaches, he has faith in the quality of his team, which has risen to the occasion so many times before. “This is a winning team that knows how to perform well at important times,” said the forward.
“It’s been many years since we last lost two matches in a row, and while it is a blow, I believe we can use our winning experience and quality to have a good game against Portugal. I hope the gods are on our side,” he concluded, with a touch of humour.