Kharkiv (Ukraine): The Netherlands’ players hinted that their Euro 2012 campaign had been undermined by changing-room disunity after their participation in the tournament ended with a 2-1 loss to Portugal.
A team that arrived at the competition as one of the favourites after finishing runners-up at the 2010 World Cup and plundering 37 goals in qualifying will travel home dejected following three consecutive defeats.
The draw that placed the Dutch in the finely balanced Group B was not kind, but no-one could have predicted the tame losses to Denmark, Germany and Portugal that followed. Cristiano Ronaldo was the axeman in their final game on Sunday, scoring twice to cancel out Rafael van der Vaart’s opener in Kharkiv to leave Bert van Marwijk’s side rooted to the foot of the table without a point to their name.
The cracks had appeared much earlier, however, with outbursts from several players hinting at discord among a national squad with a historical reputation for feuding and in-fighting.
Van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar both complained about being left out of the starting line-up, while Arjen Robben reacted petulantly to his substitution during the 1-0 loss to Germany.
Asked to provide explanations for his team’s struggles after the defeat by Portugal, Robben appeared at a loss.
“We lost three times. It’s a difficult thing to accept,” said the Bayern Munich winger.
“We have to dare to look at ourselves in the mirror: we all failed. It’s hard to find explanations. Sometimes things are impossible to explain.
“In the match (against Portugal), we started the match well but we quickly forgot to keep developing our play.”
Tellingly, he conceded that, behind the scenes, all had not been well.
“Things happened in the squad, but we’ll keep that between us,” Robben said.
The unexpected nature of Holland’s failure will inevitably prompt scrutiny of national coach van Marwijk, who extended his contract until 2016 last year.
The man who led the Oranje to the last World Cup final seemed incapable of reacting to the setbacks that assailed them in Poland and Ukraine, but Wesley Sneijder does not believe his position should be called into question. (Agencies)