Three quick thoughts from the Netherlands' 2-0 win over Denmark in Group E on Monday:
1. Rafael van der Vaart has blown his chance. The Netherlands played some intricate passes around the Denmark area but initially only broke through the back line when Simon Kjaer's wayward clearance went straight to an opponent -- that is, until Eljero Elia came on with just over 20 minutes to play. His first move was to spin his marker and break into the area, giving the Netherlands' approach play a vigor it lacked when Rafael van der Vaart was on. Elia was a constant threat thereafter, his pace troubling the Danes, and his well-timed run and shot rebounded off a post to set up Dirk Kuyt for the second goal (after the first had come from a wide position). Before Elia's cameo, the absence of Arjen Robben, out with a hamstring strain, hung heavy over the team. Now, though, Holland coach Bert van Marwijk will find it difficult to keep Van der Vaart, a playmaker too similar to Wesley Sneijder, in the team. Instead, it will surely be Robben or, if he's unavailable, Elia.
2. This tournament is costing Ajax. Three of the most exciting young players coming into the tournament are on the books of Dutch club Ajax, which presumably dreamt that the trio would star, resulting in bidding auctions and inflated prices to fund its academy for years to come. It has not quite worked out like that: For Uruguay, Luis Suarez suggested he might come from the Mateja Kezman/Afonso Alves school of prolific Dutch scoring rather than the Ruud van Nistelrooy/Klaas-Jan Huntelaar school, while Nicolas Lodeiro lasted 16 minutes before he was the first player sent off in the competition. Denmark gave its highly rated midfielder, 18-year-old Cristian Eriksen, 20 minutes in which the tournament's youngest player did very little, leaving Ajax at least grateful for Gregory van der Wiel and Marten Stekelenburg, who both had solid games.
3. No one will score from 40 yards. We have seen a few goalkeeping hashes and, in this game, some poor ball control early. But as the hype continues over the Jabulani ball, at what point will the players realize that shooting from 40 meters out or farther is a waste of time? Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel, Daniel Agger, and Simon Kjaer all took pot-shots from ridiculous distances and, unsurprisingly, none came close to scoring. Enough already.
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