Obviously, since I'm Dutch, I'm extremely happy to see the Dutch national team playing so well. They play attractive, attacking football, and they've outscored Italy and France -- both 2006 World Cup finalists -- by a combined score of 7-1. As I said in my last notebook, they play a variation of Total Football, the strategy popularized by
Unlike those Dutch Total Football teams in the '70s -- which required technical efficiency and tactical brilliance from every single player -- van Basten has emphasized the counterattack, which is the key to success in the modern game. You want to be able to exploit your opponents' lapses in judgment because you don't get many of those opportunities. Five of Holland's seven goals have come off the counterattack and have taken advantage of the incredible speed on the squad.
Van Basten's team looks very different on defense than it does on the attack. On Holland's half of the field, there are two holding midfielders in front of the back four, which creates a stiff defensive block of six. That spreads the numbers and puts less responsibility on the central defenders, allowing the team to grab a loose ball and break on a counterattack.
When that happens, the team shifts from that 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-2-4, where even the wing backs are involved on the attack.
That said, it exposes the Dutch on several fronts. Even though both France and Italy were beaten soundly, they still were able to shed some light on Holland's vulnerabilities. Namely, defense: The Dutch defenders don't have the same athleticism as the attackers and are often vulnerable in one-on-one situations. Van Bronckhorst and
That's the key to beating the Netherlands, the most impressive team so far at the European Championship. With the group stage coming close to an end, here's what I think can bring down the other three top teams:
That said, Croatia doesn't have the go-to guys that Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands do. Beyond playmaker
Of more concern is right back