Two first half goals from Mario Gomez were all that Germany needed to cruise by the hapless Netherlands defense on Wednesday. What was anticipated as one of the biggest matches of the group stage has ended with Netherlands needing nothing short of a miracle to escape the Group of Death. Germany become the first team to seal their qualification for the quarterfinals, and they did achieved this result without every revealing their full deck.
Joachim Low appeared at ease on the sidelines, taking time to joke with the ball boy, as he watched his squad dismantle the Dutch defense in the first half.
The defensive third is the weakest part of the Dutch national team, that weakness dictates that Bert Van Marwijk must utilize two defensive midfielders in order for the defense to remain stable. The Dutch defensive line contains only one player that can currently be considered World Class, Gregory Van der Weil. John Heitinga is a competent (non-elite) defender. Joris Mathijsen is a aging, slow defender playing his club football with Malaga. Jetro Willems is the youngest player ever to play at the European Championship, and his lack of experience against top opponents was exploited by Germany for their two goals.
Bastian Schweinsteiger had a fantastic game, earning himself an assist on each of Mario Gomez' goals. The first goal came when Schweinsteiger settled into a vacant area just outside of the Dutch penalty area, after receiving a pass he calmly threaded a ball between three Dutch defenders. Mario Gomez received the pass with a deft pirouette and finished calmly past Maarten Stekelenberg. Germany was a goal up without even breaking a sweat.
Schweinsteiger found himself in a similar position to set up the second goal, this time closer to the wing, before playing Mario Gomez into the penalty area. The big German striker finished with a fierce shot into the top corner past a diving Stekelenberg. It was the mark of German efficiency. After finding the net twice in the first half Germany settled into defense, but still managed to test the Dutch keeper several times throughout the second half. One such incident involved German center back Mats Hummels charging up the field forcing two saves from Stekelenberg.
After the halftime introduction of Rafael Van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Netherlands pulled one back off the right foot of Robin Van Persie. After coming under fire in the first match for flubbing several chances, his precise second half strike gave the Dutch a lifeline for a result. That lifeline was quickly cut off by the Germans who utilized solid defending and time wasting tactics to ensure their victory. Even Van Marwijk's late introduction of Dirk Kuyt could not prevent defeat for the Dutch.
Bert Van Marwijk will surely come under fire for his team's performance in this match. The exclusion of the Netherlands' top qualifying scorer Huntelaar from the starting lineup has raised many questions. The squad appears to lack passion and enthusiasm, aside from the fiery Arjen Robben who had his head stapled (literally) early in the first half. Captain Mark Van Bommel had a poor performance and can be partially blamed for failing to close down Schweinstieger on both Germany goals. They will need a win over Portugal, a win over Germany, and sufficient goal differential in order to qualify for the quarterfinals. If qualification does not come for this floundering Netherlands squad, I would expect Van Marwijk to be sacked despite recently renewing his contract.