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Group B of the European Championships got off to a competitive start when Denmark took on World Cup runners-up the Netherlands at Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The Dutch were favored heading into the match and started well, pressuring Denmark all over the pitch and causing a number of errors, but despite going close through both Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, they were unable to break the deadlock.
The opening goal, against the run of play, fell to the Danes in the 24th minute when Michael Krohn-Dehli picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty box following a cross from Simon Poulsen, and burst past defender Ron Vlaar to fire the ball beneath the helpless Maarten Stekelenburg in the Dutch goal.
The Netherlands continued to threaten and should have equalized when Vlaar was left unmarked at a corner but his header went harmlessly wide of the goal. An even better opportunity beckoned minutes later when Danish goalkeeper Stephan Andersen attempted to pass to one of his defenders, but instead sent the ball straight to the feet of Arjen Robben, but the wingers’ curled effort hit the post to the relief of the travelling Danish fans.
The rest of the first half played out with the Netherlands in almost complete control of the game, repeatedly denied an equalizer by the impressive duo of Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer at the heart of the Denmark defense.
The Dutch onslaught continued at the beginning of the second half, Robben forcing Andersen into a good save to his right whilst Ibrahim Afellay was inches wide of the goal with his left footed strike from outside the area. Frustration from the Dutch players at their inability to break down a resolute Danish defense led to some poor passing from the Netherlands, gifting possession back to Denmark on more than one occasion and allowing the Danes to relieve some of the pressure being exerted on them.
With the Netherlands getting more desperate for a goal, they began to push more players forward and were only denied it by the heroics of Andersen, the goalkeeper coming out to smother the ball at the feet of Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, as the Dutch striker was readying himself to lift the ball over the rushing goalkeeper and towards the unguarded net.
Despite their best efforts, the slick passing game of the Dutch could not break down a well disciplined Danish side, and Denmark recorded a highly impressive 1-0 victory.
Denmark manager Morten Olsen will be thrilled with his sides’ victory, a feat even more impressive given that Group B has been dubbed the ‘Group of Death’ as it boasts European powerhouses the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal. The defensive work of Agger and Kjaer will have been particularly pleasing and will have given Olsen confidence that his side could also upset either Germany or Portugal and defy the odds by qualifying from Group B.
Bert van Marwijk, the Dutch manager, will be far less pleased as he watched his side slump to a 1-0 loss to a side they will consider inferior to themselves. This game will have been highlighted by coaches as a must win for the Netherlands and they will now face an uphill battle to qualify from the group as they take on one of the tournament favorites in Germany, and a skilful Portugal side led by the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo.