Two games played, seven goals scored and the Dutch are through to the quarter finals of Euro 2008 in glorious fashion. by Andy Clark
A confident Holland was expectant after the 3-0 win against Italy, but to follow it with a 4-1 demolition of France was beyond even the wildest of Dutch schoolboy dreams. In fact the scoreline was somewhat flattering with the French pinning back Holland for large parts of the match - but the big difference was in front of goal.
Orange-250.jpgAnd that difference was epitomised by Arjen Robben's Tomahawk missile of goal on 72 minutes, stealing a few centimetres from two French defenders his shot rocketed into the roof of the net leaving the French keeper Coupet grasping at its backdraft.
The deadly strike came at exactly the right time, a minute after Thierry Henry had brought the French back to being within a goal of the Dutch, at 2-1, with 20 minutes still to go. Dutch fans were just starting to stress when Robben broke free and smashed his team into the next round.
And then cream, candle and large slice of chocolate on top of the cake at the end was Wesley Sneijder's strike on the turn from the edge of the box, to take it to 4-1. Top left hand corner of the net, Coupet in flight but again grasping nothing more than the whoosh of a ball long departed.
In contrast the French were impotent in front of goal and when they did find their shooting boots the one-man-wall, known as Edwin van der Sar, was in the way. He handled shoots from distance, but also from point blank range, with a confidence verging on the holy, no surprise for the Dutch fans who've known for years that he can walk on water.
In contrast to the wonder goals of the second half the first from Dirk Kuyt, after 9 minutes, was positively mundane, not that anyone was complaining when he muscled his way in to score from a corner.
After that though it was tough for the Dutch in the first 45 minutes and only the valiance of van der Sar kept them ahead.
Come half-time came the changes - Orlando Engelaar, who had struggled, was taken off and Robben brought in, soon after van Persie was thrown in too. The French kept pushing but now the Dutch, with so much firepower, were truly deadly on the break.
And ten minutes into the second half, after a dream turn on the centre-line from van Nistelrooy, Robben was free on the left, his cross to van Persie sprinting on the right was inch perfect, Coupet got his fingertips to the ball but all it did was slow the trajectory and it limped over the line.
Euro 2008 blogIt gave the Dutch breathing space, but the French kept on coming and the game raged from end to end. But after Robben's supersonic strike on 72 it was over.
So the men in orange have slain all-comers so far in the so-called Group of Death - the rest must be looking on in terror.
14 June 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands]