Group B opens with Netherlands against Denmark with the Dutch side not only favoured to emerge victorious this game but also expected to stake a claim to the European Championship.
Denmark threatens early with a free kick converted into a shot on goal less than 2 minutes into the game. However, Netherlands dominated possession for most of the first half. They respond with star striker Van Persie along with teammate Arjen Robben testing the Danish defense with several decent chances; few of them resulted in a shot on target. One of their best chances came in the 18th minute, with Robben speeding down the left inside the box. His cross found a Danish defender and was quickly scooped up by goaltender Stephan Andersen. The Dutch side constantly pressured the Danish side by keeping the ball on the Danish side of the pitch, generating offense. Robben and Van Persie demonstrate great chemistry by continuously attacking the right flank but were unable to generate a goal. The Danes were unfazed by the Dutch pressure as they surprisingly took the lead when midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli found himself with the ball and a clear shot on goal from close range; he slotted the ball between Stekelenburg’s legs and into the back of the net. At the 35th minute, it appeared that Netherlands were about to find the equalizer when Andersen made a shocking error as his goal kick resulted in a turnover to Arjen Robben about 30-odd yards away from goal. Robben dribbled to the edge of the penalty box and after contemplating his options – including a pass to Van Persie – decides to let it rip. His shot beat Andersen but not the post. Near half time, Van Persie and Robben threaten again, with Robben finding an open Van Persie in the box. The striker’s shot could not get past Andersen.
Netherlands started the second half wasting no time seeking an equalizing goal. They threatened early on again but Andersen and his defenders were able to hang on. Impatience and frustration seemed to creep in the Dutch side more than halfway through the game. Many of Van Persie’s shots were off target though he was in good position to score and Robben and Van Bommel both decided to test Andersen from long range when better options were available. In contrast, Denmark gained confidence from their first half goal and effective defensive efforts as they counter attacked and produced more scoring opportunities than they did in the first. At the 70th minute mark, Huntelaar was sent on as a substitute to pair with Van Persie by providing dual scoring threats. 4 minutes in, Huntelaar gets his chance to make an impact as he finds himself one on one with Andersen who bravely charged out to make the save and defused the pressure when he drew a free kick as the Dutch committed a foul against him. The Dutch desperately tried to rally near the end of the game but were unable to get past Andersen and the Danish defense who hold on for the surprising 1-0 win.
Denmark will have momentum and morale on their side as they go into their next match against Portugal. While Netherlands exhibited dominance in the f, especially in the first half in the form of possession, they were unable to convert any of their chances. On a different day, Van Persie may have scored a hat trick with the number of chances he’s had. However, the Dutch know now that they must win both of their remaining games guarantee advancement into the knockout rounds.