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|Portugal 2-1 Netherlands: Five Observations|
Rick D'Andrea analysed the Portugal - Netherlands match and says five things stuck out like a beacon...
PLAY TO THE WHISTLE, RONALDO
Six minutes in and the Portuguese captain was already attempting to influence the match. A surging run by Joao Moutinho down the middle of the pitch was met by a stiff Dutch defence, seeing the Porto man fall directly to the ground. Referee Nicola Rizzoli called “play on” whilst the superstar complained about the decision with the ball only yards away. Correct decision by Rizzoli, as Moutinho “dived” to the ground, but incorrect choice by CR7, as his whinging cost his side a strong chance on goal.
RAFAEL VAN DER VAART
Rafael van der Vaart has been itching to start for the Oranje, and has repaid the faith in Bert van Marwijk’s choice with a typical VDV stunner from the edge of the area on 11 minutes. Used ahead of captain Mark van Bommel, the Tottenham man was also given the armband for his 99th cap, and he marshalled this side like a true General. Sitting in from of the centre-back pairing, RvdV predominantly stayed on one side of the half-way like MvB, but unlike the former AC Milan and PSV man, he would become an attacking threat when the side broke forward.
CHANCES MUST BE TAKEN
Clear-cut chances were few and far between for both sides, as the Netherlands started both halves the stronger before Portugal settled into the match and began to play their possession-based, attack-down-the-wings football. Opportunities were created, but only three goals were seen on the evening. The Seleccao were wasteful in the first-half, with Ronaldo himself hitting the post and Nani failing to smash home a second-half certainty after 72 minutes from just inside the six-yard box. The Dutch themselves may have only been allowed to venture up the pitch on a handful of occasions - with Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar barely mentioned throughout the game - but neither had any impact.
VLAAR HAVE YOU BEEN?
The centre-back combination that has been preferred by Bert van Marwijk up to this stage of the tournament has been Joris Mathijsen and John Heitinga. The latter was dropped for this one on the back of several below-par performances. But Ron Vlaar provided one thing Heitinga failed to do: stability at the back. And without Mark van Bommel in front of the back-four, the Oranje seemed stronger. With all the attacking Portugal did in the first half after van der Vaart’s goal, it was a credit to Vlaar that the Dutch remained in this match. And the defender could have scored early after the break had his header been on target and beating Rui Patricio.
GREGORY VAN DER WIEL
The Dutch right-back would have seen how Jerome Boateng man-marked Cristiano Ronaldo completely out of the game on Matchday 1, curtailing his influence. Why didn’t the Ajax man do the same? Ronaldo could almost have been considered the player of the first half, as he constantly was the target man for a possession-based Portugal outfit. His Seleccao team-mates went looking for him on almost every occasion, and vdW was caught out on several occasions. The Real Madrid attacking forward by far had his best match of the tournament to date, due to the amount of space afforded to him. Ultimately, the night will be remembered by the Portuguese superstar scoring twice and sending his side through to the knock-out stage of Euro 2012.