Top scorers in qualifying with 37 goals, the Netherlands are in good shape to add to their 1988 European success having been denied by Spain in the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup
THE HAGUE: World football’s perennial bridesmaids, the Netherlands, will be hoping that Euro 2012 is the tournament at which they end their 24-year wait for a major title.
Making the latter stages of tournaments has never been a problem for the nation that has given the world Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp and Total Football.Beaten World Cup finalists in 1974, 1978 and 2010, they have reached the semi-finals at the European Championship three times since they last lifted the trophy in 1988, only to fall before the final on each occasion.
The Dutch side that competed at Euro 2008 were the sensation of the group phase, beating Italy (3-0) and France (4-1) in scintillating fashion, but they went out timidly to Russia in the last eight.In a bid to address the country’s traditional football failings, coach Bert van Marwijk turned the team that went to the 2010 World Cup into a more dogged and pragmatic outfit.Nobody could accuse the Netherlands of being boring on the road to Poland and the Ukraine.
With 37 goals in 10 matches they were the top scorers in qualifying, while their 11-0 annihilation of San Marino last September was the biggest victory in the country’s history.Klaas-Jan Huntelaar topped the scoring charts in qualifying with 12 goals and he has also been in sensational form for club side Schalke, plundering 29 goals to win Kicker magazine’s award for the Bundesliga’s top marksman.
Robin van Persie played second-fiddle to Huntelaar in qualifying but over the past 18 months he has belatedly emerged as one of the world’s top strikers, netting 30 goals for Arsenal this season and being crowned the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.With Robben fit and firing for Bayern Munich, van Marwijk has plenty of options in attack but Wesley Sneijder — talisman of the World Cup campaign —has endured an injury-plagued season for Inter Milan, making just 16 league starts.