Denmark supplied the first shock of Euro 2012 with a convincing win over a surprisingly passive Holland, who will need to sort out their supply line to Robin van Persie if they are to have any chance against Portugal or Germany, let alone justify their billing among the favourites for the tournament.
The Danes were rarely dominant but they did enough to deserve a win, scoring a quality goal and defending well afterwards, in addition to occasionally threatening at least one more. Much was made of Holland's defensive worries in the buildup to this game but it was the midfield that looked weak here, never really linking effectively with the lone striker Van Persie, who for most of the game had only Wesley Sneijder to look to for the ball. "We found enough room to play the game we wanted to play," said Morten Olsen, the Denmark manager. "We could even have played a little better, sometimes the final ball let us down. We will need to improve that against Portugal."
Holland created all the early chances, with Ibrahim Afellay missing narrowly a couple of times, Van Persie putting a shot wide from Arjen Robben's cut-back and then managing to find Sneijder with a cross that might have produced a goal had the Arsenal striker been on the receiving rather than supplying end. The Danes were pressed back in their own half for the first 15 minutes but seemed content enough with that, though they wasted a free-kick in a rare good position when Christian Eriksen shot into the wall after Ron Vlaar had rather clumsily fouled Nicklas Bendtner.
The Dutch had a great chance to take the lead midway through the first half when neat play by John Heitinga and Mark van Bommel played Robben in behind the Denmark defence, only for the winger to square unselfishly when shooting might have been a better option, allowing Lars Jacobsen to scramble the ball away before it could reach Van Persie. Denmark were doubling up on Robben but he still managed to find Van Persie with a neat reverse pass a few minutes later, for a shot on the turn that rolled the wrong side of a post.
So far so predictable but, completely against the run of play, Denmark livened up the proceedings in the 24th minute with an excellent opening goal. Picking up a rebound from a strong Simon Poulsen run down the left, Michael Krohn-Dehli showed great awareness and no little acceleration to power his way beyond Vlaar and slip a confident shot under Maarten Stekelenburg.
Going ahead so emboldened the Danes that they began to play more of the game in the Dutch half, reversing the earlier pattern of the match, though when Holland recovered their composure after a few minutes they could easily have equalised when Robben struck a post from the edge of the area, then Afellay sent a rising shot just over the crossbar. Sneijder found Van Persie in front of goal two minutes from the interval, only for a slightly heavy first touch to allow Stephan Andersen to make a save, though at the other end Stekelenburg also had to get down well to keep out a shot from Krohn-Dehli.
One of Holland's problems was not bringing Van Persie into the game enough, yet when Sneijder did find him with a measured through ball at the start of the second half he managed to fall over himself instead of unleashing a shot. He did better with his next attempt seconds later, forcing a save from Andersen as the Dutch tried to impose themselves more, and the Denmark goalkeeper had to make an even smarter save when Van Bommel hit a shot on target from just outside the area.
Afellay went close and Heitinga headed over as Holland searched for an equaliser but, just as in the first half, Poulsen almost sprang another surprise with a deft run to the left hand byline, Afellay having to react sharply to prevent his cross providing Jacobsen with an open goal.
As the game went into its final hour Holland's attacks became just a little more frantic, with Robben putting a header well wide from a position where he should have at least hit the target. Just after the busy Krohn-Dehli had brought another save from Stekelenburg, Bert van Marwijk beefed up his attack with Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the final 20 minutes, a bold move but one which many Dutch fans would say should have been made earlier. Both players seem too good to leave on the bench, and either might usefully have been on from the start.
Sneijder immediately found Huntelaar with an immaculate flicked through ball, but the forward found Andersen equally quick to come off his line and smother. Huntelaar had an appeal for handball against Jacobsen in the penalty area turned down in the last minute of normal time, but the referee shook his head, ignored the player's invitation to check replays on the giant screen, and the Dutch crept away defeated. "We just have to beat Germany now," Van Marwijk said. "Everyone can see that."