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Germany solidly defeated the struggling Netherlands in the opening group stage of the Euro 2012 Cup in Poland and Ukraine. A pair of wonderfully-taken goals by Mario Gomez gave Germany the lead, but they looked solid, assured, and never truly in danger throughout the night.
The Netherlands have foundered under the weight of expectation--pundits felt they could win the tournament, along with Germany and Spain. They still could but only managed to eak out a 1-1 tie against Denmark in their first game and never looked up to Germany's organization and menace tonight, when they lost 2-1. A strong goal from Robin van Persie, the only Dutch player to look up for it this evening, was a consolation. The Dutch swapped in two offensive players at halftime, with Bundesliga top-scorer Klaus-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart coming in for Ibrahim Affelay (quick but with little to show for it) and defensive bruiser Mark van Bommel. They opted for a fully offensive second half, leaving on relentless Nigel de Jong to screen the defense, and the plan at least did not backfire. Germany were unable to score a third goal, and the Dutch did get one back. But despite the considerable flash and firepower, the loss will hurt. Netherlands will have to win their next game to be considered a candidate to move on at all. Perhaps the weight of pressure is to blame, but it is hard to imagine a team with more star-power. They played together beautifully at the World Cup two years ago, but can they turn things around at the Euro Cup?
Meanwhile for all Spain's brilliance it's hard not to cheer for Germany. Joachim Low knows his players and selects from an abundance of dazzling talent. They play as a team, which cannot be said for all national sides, and inject a joy into the sport that is refreshing to see.
Tonight was all Germany. For the next match, the pressure is on the Netherlands to save their campaign.