It hasn’t even kicked off its second game at Euro 2012, but the Netherlands squad is already coming apart at the seams.
In what has become a Dutch tradition as much as its often brilliant soccer, petty squabbles between players have once again threatened to derail the team’s tournament before it’s barely started. Midfielder Wesley Sneijder is getting tired of it.
"It is time we let go of these pathetic egos," he said. "If somebody is creating a mess [within the squad], I will stand up against them.
"We don't need a psychologist with the Dutch team, we are grown-up men. The ones who have a problem with other players or the manager should tell them face to face. That is the only psychology we need. We have to stop living on little islands. We must all go for the same goal, be united or face the consequences."
As if to prove his teammate’s point, Rafael van der Vaart then decided to voice his displeasure at being left out of the starting 11 for the opening game.
"I am very disappointed," the attacking midfielder told Voetbal International. "The coach has his preferences, I am not part of them and I don't think that is going to change.
"We have seen in the past few years that the coach does not make changes to the starting lineup easily. It is great to have a nucleus of first-choice players, a lot less so for those who have to sit on the bench. Besides I believe I am in tremendous form. I will continue to give 100 per cent but at the same time I have the right to express my disappointment."
That disappointment will extend to the entire squad if it does not get a result Wednesday against Germany. Last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Denmark has the Dutch looking down the barrel of gun, a weapon the Germans will be only too happy to discharge if it means knocking its long-time rival out of the tournament while simultanously booking its passage to the quarter-finals.
Netherlands’ player to watch: Arjen Robben
The Dutch winger was as scintillating as he was infuriating last Saturday - often at the same time. While his dribbling and shot power are indisputable, so is his selfishness and inability to use his right foot. Still, his speed alone drives fear into the heart of any defender in this tournament but in German left back Philip Lahm he’s going to come face to face with someone who knows him as well as any defender can - the pair are teammates at Bayern Munich.
Germany’s player to watch: Jerome Boateng
The German right back got his tournament off to a flying start, being handed the unenviable task of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo in check and doing exactly that. Boateng won’t get any respite Wednesday either, with a likely one-on-one duel with speedy Dutch winger Ibrahim Afellay, who had numerous chances to find the back of the net against Denmark but missed the target on nearly every occasion. Keeping Afellay quiet will be key for the German chances of success.
“I am looking forward to the duel. As a player you always want to play the best and Arjen is one of the best around. He has the ability to beat anyone down both flanks with his speed and dribbling even when he's known to cut inside. The Dutch cannot lose against us and in this game we will not be friends. Arjen will be especially motivated against us.”
German captain Philip Lahm on his matchup with Bayern Munich teammate and Dutch winger Arjen Robben in Wednesday’s game.
Did you know?
In seven head-to-head matches at either the World Cup or European championship finals, Germany and the Netherlands have never failed to score on every occasion.
Netherlands 2-1 Germany