Van Marwijk pays price for Dutch meltdown

Netherlands' coach Bert Van Marwijk is pictured before their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match against...

Netherlands' coach Bert Van Marwijk is pictured before their Group B Euro 2012 soccer match against Portugal at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, June 17, 2012. (REUTERS/Felix Ordonez)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:27 PM ET

DONETSK. UKRAINE - The biggest tragedy, at least from a pure soccer standpoint, about the resignation of Bert Van Marwijk as Dutch manager is that some of his egotistical, ubertalented, underachieving players didn't follow him out the door.

Maybe that was the problem.

Maybe he should have planted his foot in their rumps and booted them out before he exited himself.

Because, in the end, they were as much to blame for Holland's humiliating 0-3 record in Euro 2012 as Van Marwijk ever was.

Did Van Marwijk's ability to coach his players suddenly evaporate between Johannesburg, where de Oranje barely lost to Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, and Kharkiv, where the squad laid a giant Ukrainian egg in its three matches at Metalist Stadium, much to the chagrin of the 20,000 Dutch fans in attendance?

Of course not.

At the same time, the mix of infighting and sense of entitlement on a roster as talented as any on the globe served as a recipe for disaster that ultimately paved Van Marwijk's path to the managerial gallows.

Where was Arjen Robben in the tournament? Wesley Sjneider? Robin Van Persie? With a list such as this, scoring twice in three matches would almost seem incomprehensible. And yet, that's what happened.

In the end, like it or not, the blame falls on the shoulders of the manager. Always does, always will. Rightly or wrongly, that's the way it works.

"I was in serious doubt, but still decided to take this step," Van Marwijk said in a statement.

For a nation that has always felt style does indeed matter as much as substance when it comes to The Beautiful Game, Van Marwijk's insistence that an ugly win was preferable to an artistic loss held little credibility with a rabid Dutch fanbase that prefers its soccer played with flair. And when the victories stopped coming, so did its patience for Van Marwijk.

Van Marwijk's biggest fault was an inability to create unity within the locker room. It was his job to make sure some of his prima donnas banded together to play as one.

Didn't happen.

France's Laurent Blanc suffered from the same fate. He could never keeep the inmates from running the asylum that was Les Bleus,

If it wasn't heated exchanges between players in the dressing room, it was young Samir Nazri getting into a war of words with a reporter. Nazri was a lightning rod from the get-go, yelling at the English bench after scoring in a 1-1 tie on June 11, then allegedly being in the middle of the verbal barbs between teammates after a 2-0 loss to Sweden on June 19.

The French public has become sensitive to this type of in-house garbage, and rightly so. Two years ago in South Africa, the club held soccer's version of a mutiny when the players refused to get off the team bus to practice because of a tiff with management.

Blanc was brought in to clean up the mess after World Cup 2010 and it seemed he had done just that, leading the French to a 22-match unbeaten streak. But losses to Sweden and Spain exposed the seedy underbelly that once again had formed in the French locker room, an issue for which Blanc will now be held accountable.

And what of Portugal manager Paulo Bento's decision to line up Cristiano Ronaldo as the fifth shooter when Wednesday's semifinal against Spain went to kicks? In the end, one of the two best players in the world never had the chance to put boot to ball because the Spanish already had cliched the victory with a 4-2 margin in penalties.

The emails supporting Bento's decision were both curious and off base. Whether Ronaldo would have missed had he kicked earlier is not the issue here, people. At least he would have had the opportunity to kick, something he didn't get because of Bento's brain cramp.

Should managers be held responsible for everything that happens to their team? Maybe not. But when you are at the helm of respected powers such as Holland, France or Portugal, you will always be held accountable before the players are, whether it's fair or not.

And in the case of Bert Van Marwijk, it meant leaving his post just two years after he was one goal away from helping Holland win its first World Cup.

These managerial gigs can be cruel, can't they?

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Zeisberger

 


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