Now this was more like it from the Dutch.
The TV commentators promised that there would be goals at the start of Tuesday's Hungary vs. Holland 2014 World Cup qualifier. The first 20 minutes of the match delivered and in a big way, but viewers in the United States missed nearly an hour of the contest due to technical difficulties killing the ESPN3/Watch ESPN feed for the game. I was lucky enough to locate a (totally legal) Internet stream and catch the action until the Watch ESPN video returned, but the Dutch had just about put the hosts away for good at that point of the match. Holland's 4-1 rout of Hungary gives the Netherlands two wins in two at the start of World Cup qualification, and it also happened to be the most enjoyable Dutch football match I've watched since the team's 6-0 win over Northern Ireland on June 2.
Hungary 1-4 Netherlands: Man of the match
Jeremain Lens wasn't supposed to start for Holland on Tuesday, but he was given the nod when Arjen Robben picked up a knock in warmups. The PSV man didn't wait long to make a big impact on the match, as he used his strength to hold off a defender before heading a Luciano Narsingh cross past Hungary goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and into the back of the net just three minutes after kickoff. Lens was a nuisance in the attacking third throughout the rest of the first half, but his two next significant moments came during the final 45 minutes of play.
Lens was gifted an attempt on goal in the 53rd minute, when he made his run toward the center of the box as Akos Elek attempted to clear the ball from danger. Unfortunately for Elek, his header landed right at the feet of Lens, and the Dutch forward took a touch before coolly depositing his second tally of the contest.
Nothing but being a good teammate stopped Lens from (potentially) completing his hat-trick 16 minutes from time. With over half of the Hungary squad lining up to defend an upcoming free kick, Wesley Sneijder played the ball quickly. Both Lens and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar remained onside while beginning their runs, with Lens tracking down the through ball. Instead of trying to beat Bogdan for a third time, Lens slid the ball over to his teammate, and Huntelaar buried the can't-miss shot that gave Holland a deserved 4-1 advantage.
Hungary 1-4 Netherlands: Control
A lack of consistent play from the team's back line and an inability to control the ball in the midfield were two problems that plagued the Dutch throughout the summer of 2012. I have to admit that I didn't see the penalty that allowed Hungary to level the match roughly five minutes after Lens opened the scoring, but all reports I've read suggest that the referee got the call right. Assuming that's true, I must say that I'm still very pleased with the way Holland controlled the tempo of play in both halves.
Outside of a scary stretch of about five minutes of play in the second half, a run of play that was halted by Lens scoring his second goal of the match, the defense of the Netherlands was as tight and performed as well as I've seen since before Euro 2012. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg was largely a spectator during the final half-hour of the contest minus one memorable save, and I never really felt that Hungary were going to make things interesting even before Lens and Huntelaar combined for the final goal of the night.
Hungary 1-4 Netherlands: Worry for Man U fans?
Robin van Persie, who carried Manchester United to victory in the team's 3-2 rally at Southampton two Sundays ago, was subbed off after the halftime break. While original reports were that Huntelaar was brought on for RvP only for tactical reasons, it was later learned that Van Persie had picked up a knock. United fans can let out sighs of relief, however, as Dutch boss Louis van Gaal told reporters after the match that the switch was "a precaution."
Hungary 1-4 Netherlands: Conclusion
Thus ends what was a rather rocky summer for the Holland national team. I will, at some point before the upcoming weekend, be taking one final look back at all that went wrong for the Netherlands starting last November when they were routed by Germany. For now, Dutch football fans should see victories over Turkey and Hungary as the beginning of a new chapter for this team. Holland will next be in action a month from tomorrow, when they host Andorra in another qualifier.
I, for one, am welcoming the fall season with open arms.
- Sports & Recreation