Denmark claimed the first upset of Euro 2012 by overcoming a badly misfiring Netherlands side 1-0 in their opening Group B match at Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.
Brondby midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli claimed the game’s only goal midway through the first half, as Denmark avenged their opening-game loss at the 2010 World Cup and recorded a first win over the Netherlands since 1967.
Defeat already compromises the Netherlands’ chances of progressing to the knockout phase, with games against Germany and Portugal still to come in the competition’s most unforgiving group.
Beaten finalists at the World Cup and top scorers in qualifying, the Netherlands entered the tournament among the favorites, but their hopes of success in Poland and Ukraine may now hinge on Wednesday’s encounter with Germany.
“This is the game,” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. “We were really determined and I thought that we played even better than our opponents, but you have to score that goal.”
Denmark, meanwhile, will advance with renewed belief that they can emulate their shock European Championship triumph in 1992, particularly as they finished above forthcoming opponents Portugal in qualifying.
“If you want to beat one of these teams, you need to play at a high level,” Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. “We needed a good team performance and that’s what happened. Of course, the Dutch had a lot of chances, but so did we. The most important thing was that we trusted our own way of playing football, which is very important against a team like Holland [Netherlands]. It showed how and why we qualified for this tournament.”
At the age of 18 years and 71 days, Jetro Willems became the youngest ever player to grace a European Championship, but the Netherlands leftback showed no early nerves and saw his long-range shot narrowly clear the crossbar.
Maarten Stekelenburg was the first goalkeeper called into action, as he comfortably claimed a header from Denmark captain Daniel Agger, but gradually Denmark were forced deeper and deeper into their own territory.
Ibrahim Afellay, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben all threatened on multiple occasions, while the latter saw a low cross cut out by Lars Jacobsen after electing not to reward Van Persie’s through ball with a shot.
It was therefore against the run of play that Denmark broke the deadlock, in the 24th minute, as Krohn-Dehli sold John Heitinga a dummy inside the box, before tucking the ball between Stekelenburg’s legs.
The goal brought Van Marwijk to the edge of his technical area and it was from there that he saw Robben strike the base of Denmark’s right-hand post after pouncing on goalkeeper Stephan Andersen’s loose pass as the 1988 champions roused themselves.
Wesley Sneijder set up Van Persie for what looked certain to be the equalizer shortly before the interval, but for once the Arsenal man’s touch let him down and his shot was blocked by the advancing Andersen.
The Netherlands had 12 shots off target in the first half and their struggle for precision continued in the second, with Van Persie tripping over his own feet after being put through in the early stages.
Spurned chances continued to come and go at an alarming rate for the Netherlands, while Krohn-Dehli had Stekelenburg scrambling with a low shot at the other end.