UEFA Euro 2012: Mario Gomez, Germany Too Much For The Netherlands
Whereas the 3-0 German win in November was merely a friendly, this group stage matchup took on far more significance.
Already reeling from a stunning 1-0 loss against Denmark on Sunday, the Oranje came into this match needing a win or tie to keep pace in the “Group of Death.”
Now, the Dutch are hanging on life support thanks to Mario Gomez.
The Bayern Munich striker scored with ease in the 24th and 38th minute, his second and third goals of the tournament, giving Germany all they would need to hold off a Dutch rally.
Bayern teammate, Bastian Schweinsteiger, assisted on both goals after being left with tons of open space on each occasion.
Schweinsteiger found Gomez as he dashed past Ajax defender Gregory Van Der Wiel for the first strike.
Gomez’s second goal came on yet another defensive lapse for the Netherlands when Gomez walked past the Dutch line, got another crisp pass from Schweinsteiger and easily kicked the ball past the already falling keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg.
Until about the 70th minute, the Dutch hardly resembled the team that was the runner-up at the 2010 World Cup and seemed, at times, more interested in watching than reacting to the German attack.
Seeking to shake things up, Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk used all his substitutions, including taking captain Mark Van Bommel out at halftime in place of more offense in the form of striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Momentum finally came when Robin Van Persie, the man who led the English Premier League with 30 goals this season, finally found net in the 72nd minute with a booming kick that went right through the legs of Holger Badstuber for the goal.
But the return to form came far too late for the Dutch, as they were unable to find the equalizer with the Germans skillfully hanging onto the ball in the remaining time.
Not that they didn’t have their chances.
Van Persie had a jump on the German defenders in the 16th minute, but was left stranded when no teammates were in the vicinity to finish off the attack.
Wesley Sneijder had a chance in the 62nd minute when he had keeper Manuel Neuer beaten, but his kick from long-range was just off to the right.
Frustration and fatigue showed down the stretch for the Dutch when Arjen Robben was substituted in the 83rd minute for Dirk Kuyt and later in the 89th when Stekelenburg misplayed a back-pass almost allowing Miroslav Klose to score a third goal.
The Germans, meanwhile, looked every bit the contender they were expected to be coming in to the tournament. They will only need a draw in their final match against Denmark on Sunday to assure advancement to the knockout round.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, find themselves in a must-win match against Portugal Sunday and needing a win by Germany to advance.