Dutch masters must banish ego wars
26 May, Euro 2012 friendly: Holland v Bulgaria (Amsterdam, 7pm UK)
Think of Bulgaria and, automatically, you think of the great team of the 90s, with Kostadinov, Stoichkov, Lechkov and Balakov that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1994 in the United States. Since then, they have plummeted into a period of mediocrity and are a long way from that magnificent team.
Their opponents tomorrow Holland, who are my main topic of interest, seem to be finally showing the potential that they so flattered to deceive for so many years. They have mainly always been the nearly men or the best man at a wedding. The eulogies could go on and on.
I remember watching the dream Holland team of the late 80s and early 90s, where the names of van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard, Koeman and Winter, to name but a few, were triumphant in their only success in a major tournament by winning Euro 88. The bright orange kit is always infectious and the site of their fans, all in the “Oranje”, always added to the atmosphere wherever they played.
Since then, the names of Davids, Overmars, Stam, van Bronckhorst, Kluivert, van Nistelrooy, the de Boer brothers, Frank and Ronald, and Seedorf have come and gone and promised so much but delivered so little. So why is it that, with all these great players, they have remained trophy-less for more then 20 years?
I have always seen a huge disharmony within the squads over the years, with big egos taking centre stage and team spirit being on the back burner. The last World Cup, though, saw a definite change in attitude within the camp. There seemed to be no “Big-Time Charlies” that wanted the glory; instead, a team dedicated to one another and willing to run through the proverbial brick wall for their country.
There is no arguing with the quality in their squad, which came so close to winning the Holy Grail of the World Cup and, the beauty for them, is that, out of that squad that came so close, there are no major players who have retired by the time these Euros come round.
Robin van Persie could be the star of the show, if his Premier League form is anything to go by. His make-up, though, sums up the mentality of the Dutch over the years. When things are going well, he is truly a world beater; but when the shit hits the fan, which he endured, at times, with Arsenal this season, then all of a sudden an ego seems to grow within the camp that likes to point the finger instead of looking at themselves.
That is the real big stumbling block for the Dutch. If – and it’s a big if – they can create a unity within the dressing-room, in which everybody is looked on as an equal and there is no blame culture, then there is no reason why they can’t go on to emulate the class of ’88. Tomorrow night at the Amsterdam ArenA? Easy for the Dutch … and without a spat dummy in sight!
Prediction: Holland 3, Bulgaria 0.
Group B update: Oh dear. Denmark take on the frightening prospect of facing Brazil in a pre-Euro friendly in Hamburg, Germany, tomorrow afternoon. Good luck to them. Germany, away from home turf, should maybe have less problems against Switzerland in Basel on the same day. And Portugal even less so against Macedonia in Leiria.