11 June, 2006

Divided, United: Serbia & Montenegro 0 Holland 1

Given the political situation it is impressive enough that the Serbia & Montenegro squad have made it to the first game without falling apart. The country that qualified for this tournament has since become two, and there have been reports that the players are similarly divided.

There is no sign of this instability in the opening minutes of the match. Serbia & Montenegro look solid enough against a typically fluid Dutch side and have their fair share of possession. Arjen Robben puts Holland ahead after 18 minutes but the lead could have gone either way.

The goal knocks the stuffing out of the opposition, who struggle to win the ball. There are moments when Serbia & Montenegro show signs that they are capable of an equaliser but the rest of the half is dominated by the Dutch and by Robben in particular.

Serbia & Montenegro look revitalised in the second half and have the better of the early play. The Dutch are under pressure but do have a handful of threatening attacks of their own, Robben again the architect.

This pattern continues but the Balkans are unable to make the breakthrough they need and the Dutch spurn the few opportunities they get to kill the game. The single goal decides it but both teams look good and justify the labelling of the so-called Group of Death.

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