COMMENTARY | Well that was somewhat of an odd contest.
Sunday's Holland vs. Russia 2013 Euro U-21 match had a little bit of something for everybody. One highlight reel strike, two goals against the run of play, and a questionable sending off all propelled the Netherlands to a comfortable 5-1 victory over Russia, who have been bounced out of the tournament before completing their final game of group play. The scoreline is more than a little flattering, as the Dutch were far from dominant until Ola John eliminated all doubt about the final result when he chipped Russia goalkeeper Nikolai Zabolotny for Holland's third tally of the game. After two performances that left at least this Netherlands supporter wanting more, I can't help but wonder:
Can Holland really win the whole thing if they put it all together beginning next Wednesday against Spain?
Holland 5-1 Russia: The red
This match was undeniably altered when Nikita Chicherin was given his marching orders five minutes after the halftime break. Chicherin was chasing after Adam Maher from behind when he brought the Dutch man down with a sliding challenge. While contact was definitely made, replays showed that the tackle wasn't all that harsh, and that a yellow card and a stern warning would have been sufficient. Perhaps most telling about that incident is that the Holland players on the pitch protested that they weren't allowed to play the advantage instead of pleading for a red card. Russia did manage to pull one back in the 65th minute, but the Netherlands ultimately used the extra space and extra man to expose an opposing side that was, after the sending off, well over-matched.
Holland 5-1 Russia: Goal of the game
Spain and any other future Holland opponents should be clear of one thing after the past half-week: Whatever you do, do not give Georginio Wijnaldum time and space in the middle of the field, because he will make you pay each and every time. Three days after he made a mockery of the German defense before smashing home a goal of the tournament candidate, Wijnaldum was gifted with practically acres of space while in the attacking third. His "hey, why not?" rocket from long range curled at the perfect moment before depositing itself into the right corner of the net, a golazo that had come from nothing and one that put the Netherlands up 1-0 seven minutes before halftime.
Wijnaldum may not be the most talented midfielder among this crop of Dutch youngsters, but he is currently playing as well as is any other goalscorer in the team. Assuming that opposing sides eventually get the message and start to shut him down outside of 30 yards from goal, things could open up for front men such as Luuk de Jong and Ola John. That could be a scary thought for Spain and others considering that Holland are averaging four goals per game in this competition.
Holland 5-1 Russia: Cause for concern?
It's difficult to overly criticize any part of a team that has just picked up a 5-1 victory. One potential worry for me moving forward was once again the play of Holland goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet. Zoet wasn't quick enough in coming off of his line against Germany, a miscue that resulted in the Netherlands surrendering a penalty 30 seconds into the second half of that match, and a similar mistake when dealing with a Russian corner kick on Sunday would have resulted in the Dutch being down a goal in the first half had the ball been headed on frame.
Holland aren't scoring 4-5 goals per game between now and the Final. Zoet has come up with a handful of athletic and memorable stops, but his inability to deal with the more physical plays inside his box concerns me. Just one bad gaffe from their 'keeper could be the difference between Holland making a real run this June, or the Netherlands being eliminated immediately after group play.
For more: Holland outlast Germany
Zac has been covering Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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