For England 2002, 2004 and 2006 read Netherlands 2008, 2010 and 2012. Watching the so-called 'golden generation' of Dutch footballers meekly exit the Euros made re recall those European art house films of the late 1970's that were the Friday night post-pub entertainment on TVS or Meridian or whatever the south coast ITV franchise was called back then. A flash of breasts from the female lead would appear every so often to keep the male lead and the male audience interested but ultimately the relationship between actors and audience was never consummated, so it was with the Dutch. An Arjen Robben chance for glory spurned in the World Cup Final was the closest the team in orange ever got to losing their tournament cherry and not for the first time a team was less than the sum of its parts.
Was it simply a case of too many factions within the group or too much similar talent in one team? The debate about whether to field two 'holding' midfielders was long and intense and in the end Bert Van Marwjk decided to drop his son in-law Mark Van Bommel and give in to the majority of Dutch supporters wishes and play Sneijder, Van Persie, Van Der Vaart, Robben and Huntelaar in the same starting line-up playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Unfortunately it meant that the Portuguese playing in a more conventional 4-3-3 formation were able to pick the Dutch off at will on the counter attack and the Dutch began to argue amongst themselves over which of the six attacking players should try and help out the beleaguered defence.
The Dutch were poor in every game. Poor in the first game because they created so many chances that at one point Robin Van Persie appeared to be so embarrassed at the ease at which they were getting behind the Danish defence that he decided to 'save something for later' and missed chance after chance. In the second match against the Germans the Dutch started well but then the die mannschaft decided to move out of second into third gear and the match was over.
You couldn't help thinking that the Dutch should have taken a note out of CR7's book and showed that they were fully committed to the common cause rather than being fully committed to yet more in-fighting. The shame was that during the pre-tournament friendlies the Dutch had showed that Van Persie and Huntelaar could play in the same team, with RVP out on the right wing, unfortunately come the main event and they bottled it.