Injuries, expulsion, opening draw dim Dutch hopes
TIANJIN, China (AP) Roy Makaay is hurt. Evander Sno is ineligible due to his expulsion. And a less-than-impressive 0-0 draw against Nigeria can't do much for confidence. The Netherlands looks like a damaged favorite.
Entering as the two-time reigning European under-21 champion, the Dutch came to China - its first Olympic appearance since 1952 - with many predicting them to challenge defending titlist Argentina and Brazil for the gold medal.
Argentina and Brazil both won their openers. The Netherlands was outshot (24-7, and 16-4 in shots on goal by FIFA's official count), and some are saying outplayed, in their first game against the Super Eagles.
"It's not a disaster. We can play better," was the immediate assessment from Netherlands coach Foppe de Haan. "We have time to grow with a draw."
But with a day to evaluate, De Haan sounded a bit more cautious Friday, looking ahead to Sunday's match against the United States.
Makaay, who injured his right foot when a shot was blocked off his foot and had to leave the Nigeria match at halftime, was walking Friday "very difficultly. It was painful," De Haan said.
A trip to the hospital and an examination showed no break, team spokesman Annemarie van der Eem said. But he's out for at least Sunday's game and possibly the group finale against Japan on Wednesday.
Sno was sent off in second-half injury time for a foul on Emmanuel Ekpo and now must sit Sunday.
With a limited roster, three games in six days, and in heat and humidity that official weather forecasts listed a heat index of "torrid, heat stroke imminent," De Haan realizes the Netherlands' obstacles just got bigger.
"In these circumstances, it's a real problem," De Haan said. "Our next game, we'll be down to 14 field players, and we'll use them all.
"We can't change it. We have to live with it. We're going to have to be careful with our energy. We're going to have to very careful, and use our minds in a good way."
Hedwiges Maduro seemed to be most affected, and also had to leave the game at halftime.
"Maduro had the most difficulty," De Haan said. "Today he's feeling better, but we have to talk to him about what he was drinking during the day."
Sno was his replacement, and he's now out. Additionally, Kew Jaliens drew a second-half yellow card and is in danger of missing the group finale if he gets another.
For De Haan, at least, he sees the Americans - and the Japanese - as not on the same level as Nigeria.
"Nigeria is confident on the ball," he said. "They have two very good strikers. The Americans are more of a team on the same level. They don't have anybody extremely good.
"They're totally different than Nigeria, in my opinion."
The Americans, at least officially, are brushing off De Haan's dismissal.
"It all comes down to mind games," said U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden, whose goal gave the Americans a 1-0 victory over Japan on Thursday. "We're fine. If you look at the group, we're not the favorites to advance. We knew that going in. We prefer it as underdogs. There's more pressure on them, less on us."