Euro 2012 Tactical Analysis: Will the Dutch attacking threat be enough?

Netherlands will want to rectify their loss in the World Cup finals in 2010 but have been drawn in a tough group and will rely on their attack to get results. analyses...

The Netherlands are probably the best team to have never won a World Cup. Bert van Marwijk and his men will be desperately trying to rectify that in this year’s tournament. The Dutch have always been renowned for their attractive style of ‘total football’ that was especially prominent in the 70’s. However, van Marwijk has adopted a more pragmatic approach since his appointment, rarely straying from his system that involves two anchormen in midfield.

This system has come under some criticism but it has nevertheless proved effective. With the Dutch lacking in quality defenders, the deployment of two holding midfielders may not only be a wise choice but also a necessity against formidable opponents.



Defence is the one department in which the Dutch are found wanting. Their lack of personnel means that Jetro Willems will be the youngest player at Euro 2012 as he takes his place as the first choice left back for Netherlands.

The back line will squeeze in when defending, trying to minimise space for the attackers to exploit. The two holding midfielders are key when the Dutch goal comes under attack. They will sit in front of the back four, shepherding potential threats away and closing down opposing playmakers. Their added responsibility when the team lose possession is to offer cover in the wider areas as the wingers will not be positioned to track back quickly, leaving space in behind them. Joris Mathijsen has been ruled out of the group B opener against Denmark with Ron Vlaar or Wilfred Bouma expected to start.


The Dutch are blessed with an abundance of attacking flair so much so that they struggle to accommodate some of their best players in the team. The likes of Van der Vart and the prolific Huntelaar are subjected to the bench as a result. Although we suggest that Afellay will be deployed on the left, he is but one of several able-bodied candidates who can slot into that position, others being Kuyt, Schaars and Van der Vaart.

Again, the holding midfielders offer insurance at the back, granting the four attackers the freedom to attack. Wesley Sneijder is at the heart of their creativity while Arjen Robben is a supreme threat when he cuts in onto his lethal left foot. Their focal point is the in-form Robin Van Persie who is not adverse to dropping deeper to get involved in the link-up play, allowing Sneijder to sneak forward unmarked. Afellay will cut inside from the left time and again and act as a shadow striker while defenders focus on keeping Van Persie quiet.


Strengths –
Their strength and depth in midfield and attack rivals that of Germany and Spain. Their options on the bench are incredible especially when you notice 29 Bundesliga goals sitting there, raring to go. Van Persie is at the peak of his powers and could lead the Dutch to glory.  

Weaknesses – For a team like the Netherlands who are realistically aiming to win the tournament, their defensive personnel leaves much to be desired. Their central defensive pair although experienced, is not top-notch. Young Willems at left back will be seen as a weak-link and will face the brunt of the pressure from opposing wingers.

Opportunities – Their best players are definitely in their prime at the moment. Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder are 28, 28 and 27 respectively. They are at that perfect juncture where they have honed their skills to the best of their abilities while also possessing the experience to go with it.  

Threats – The Netherlands will not enjoy battling in the toughest group of the tournament as questions will be repeatedly asked of their defence. With Germany and Portugal vying for a place in the knockout stages as well, there is the chance of the Dutch being surprisingly eliminated early in the competition.


"Of course Huntelaar and van Persie can play together, but I'm also happy that Wesley Sneijder is fit again and Arjen Robben is doing great things at Bayern Munich"

- Bert van Marwijk


The Netherlands’ threatening forward line makes them one of the favourites going into the tournament despite their lack of defensive quality. Their attack has the ability to blow away any opposition and they will be banking on its effectiveness

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