The Netherlands stormed through the “Group of Death” defeating Italy, France, and Romania. The team scored 9 goals and conceded only one. More importantly, seven different Dutch players scored. Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie both scored two goals. There is no mistaking that the Dutch team is an offensive force, but one has to believe that the defense can’t continue to play at such an elite level. Captain Edwin van der Sar is a world-class goalkeeper, but the backline has played above expectations. When will a defense comprised of right-back Khalid Boulahrouz, centre backs André Ooijer and Joris Mathijsen, plus left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst begin to concede goals? Could the Dutch defenders finally be exposed against an underrated Russian attack lead by playmaker Andrei Arshavin and forward Roman Pavlyuchenko?
Prediction: The Dutch survive 3-2.
Three final notes from Croatia vs. Turkey:
After that epic battle yesterday, Turkish midfielder Hamit Altıntop was named the Carlsberg Man of the Match award winner.
36-year-old Croatian captain Niko Kovač will now retire from international competition after his team’s loss to Turkey.
Croatian primer minister Ivo Sanader visited with the team after their deflating loss to offer encouragement.