Group B was always the most appealing pool in this tournament, and it now looks set up to be by far the most exciting.
Consider the permutations. No teams is yet knocked out. No team, despite Germany’s double victory, is yet through.
As it stands, we could have a three-way tie on three points or a three-way tie on six points.
Because, should the Netherlands defeat Portugal in the most anticipated clash of the day — and arguably the entire group stage — they will be on three points along with their opponents and Denmark… provided the Danes are beaten by Germany. As such, with all of those three teams having beaten each other, it will come down to goal difference.
Should both the results go the other way, though, we might have exactly that situation for first. All of Denmark, Portugal and Germany could end up on six points having beaten each other.
What’s more, the situations means the Germans are denied the chance of a dead rubber. They have to go out and get a result themselves.
With both games in Group B going to the wire, this pool is continuing the general theme of the tournament: not yet the highest quality but certainly the highest excitement.
The Netherlands have suffered something of a decline since the 2010 World Cup but their two defeats in this competition should also put that one into context: they’re not really that accomplished a side. Certainly, despite the fact they were runners-up, they were certainly not the second best team in the tournament. Germany were just unlucky that the lay-out of the tournament pitted them against Spain first and there is a strong argument that their quarter-final opponents, Brazil, were a better team. On that day, though, they were also an unluckier one.
As has been commonly said since that time, the Dutch are a tactically broken team but, as is becoming apparent, also a broken team on a more human level. Many of their players just don’t get on.
Ironically, of course, one of those individuals – Robin van Persie – might have saved them with a goal that may yet put them through to the quarter-finals on goal difference. If so, it would be oddly fitting.
Onward Cristiano soldiers?
Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent travails for Portugal have evolved from a coincidence to a curiosity to, now, a real concern. It’s six years since he could be said to have properly influenced a tournament, with the general trajectory of his club career still going in the opposite direction to that for his country.
It also strengthens a theory that, for Ronaldo to really excel – as he has undeniably done for Real Madrid – he needs a team to be completely constructed to his strengths; in other words, play counter-attacking football with every move funnelled towards his runs inside off the wing. Without that, he looked like what he was today: just a detail in his team’s win rather than a decisive factor.
Good day for
- Mario Gomez
- Nicklas Bendtner
- Silvestre Varela
Bad day for
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Joris Mathijsen
- Arjen Robben