BASEL, Switzerland -- Eight days in and there's plenty of interesting stuff to admire at this European Championship. What struck me most was the tactical diversity on display. In fact, while the quality of the play has been roughly on par with expectations, the coaching has, in my opinion, surpassed them. There really are managers doing new and interesting things.
Sneijder and van der Vaart are good case studies because, while they're extremely gifted and creative players, neither is a phenomenal athlete in terms of pace or stamina. And yet they move the ball accurately and intelligently and, crucially, are put into situations and areas where their technical superiority makes all the difference.
Those two teams stand out because of their managers, but it doesn't end there. Romania's
By now, we're used to
As I wrote before, the format of this tournament -- with the two halves being kept apart until the final -- was a major blunder on UEFA's part. Meeting teams you already faced in the group stage just one game after the end of the group stage is not a good idea. And in Group C we've seen exactly why.
We have a bizarre situation where it may be in Holland's interest to lose to Romania. Doing so would knock Italy and France (which, on paper at least, look like more formidable opponents) out of the tournament (and, because of this silly format, the Netherlands would risk facing one or the other in the semifinals).
Personally, I think the Netherlands have earned the right to do whatever it likes and Italy and France only have themselves to blame. That said, here are five good reasons why I don't think this will happen:
1. Van Basten is a gentleman and he has pride and dignity. If that were to happen, I don't think he could live with himself.
2. The Dutch reserves who come in (and he's bound to rest players, nothing wrong with that) have a lot to play for. They will want to unseat the regulars, especially the likes of
3. These same Dutch reserves have, in fact, nothing to gain by throwing the match. If they do so, it may help the Netherlands, but it won't do them any favors: They'll still be sitting on the bench behind the starters.
4. Psychologically, it's a lot easier to informally agree a draw when the result benefits both sides (witness the "miraculous" 2-2 result between Denmark and Sweden four years ago) than to let an opponent win.
5. Why would the Netherlands want to lose momentum? Yes, Italy and France may be fearsome on paper, but the Dutch beat them both by a three-goal margin. Wouldn't it make more sense to keep things rolling?