Dutch bandwagon flattens Romania
Second-half goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie ended Romania's hopes of a quarter-final place in Berne as the Netherlands rounded off an impressive Group C campaign with a third successive victory.
Netherlands on top
Romania knew three points would ensure they joined their opponents in the last eight, but Victor Piţurcă's side were always on the back foot and Huntelaar, having passed up one presentable opening in the first half, clinically guided in Ibrahim Afellay's teasing right-wing cross nine minutes into the second. The win was sealed for a largely second-string Oranje team with three minutes left as Van Persie drove in his second goal in as many games.
With progress already assured following victories against Italy and France, Marco van Basten named a much-changed lineup with only Khalid Boulahrouz and Orlando Engelaar retaining their places. That was little relief for Romania, however, given that the reshuffle brought Arjen Robben, Van Persie and Huntelaar into the XI, and the Netherlands started the match showing their usual command of possession, Romania having to hector and hassle for every touch. Nonetheless, the best the Dutch had to offer in the early exchanges was an Engelaar shot from distance which Cristian Chivu bravely charged down. If the key to tackling Van Basten's side was to deny them space, it seemed Romania had found it with everyone chipping in to cut the Oranje supply lines.
The Netherlands were not held entirely in check, as Van Persie headed wide from an Engelaar cross. Romania then threatened for the first time, Adrian Mutu collecting a throw-in and twisting and turning to work space only to pull his shot across the face of goal. Next, Boulahrouz got behind the Tricolorii back line on the right, cutting the ball back for Huntelaar, but the AFC Ajax striker lifted his effort over. Robben was soon guilty of a more glaring miss, running on to a Huntelaar flick only to nudge his attempt wide of Bogdan Lobonţ's right-hand post. Paul Codrea may have been equally disappointed to have missed the target after Răzvan Raţ's teasing pass from the left wrong-footed the Dutch defence as half-time approached.
The Group C winners took up where they had left off after the interval and might have broken through within four minutes of the restart when a long ball found Van Persie with only Gabriel Tamaş for company. But while the Arsenal FC attacker spun his marker, Lobonţ turned his low shot round the post brilliantly. The goalkeeper had no chance five minutes later, however, Afellay's ball from the right finding its way through a crowded penalty area for Huntelaar to guide in expertly.
With news filtering through that Italy had taken a 2-0 lead against France, Romania's situation now looked desperate. Still unable to master possession, they continually found themselves on the defensive but while flying interceptions and timely challenges kept Piţurcă's men in contention, it was goals that were needed. Mutu set up substitute Florentin Petre for an overhead kick that looped over, but for all their efforts, Romania were not to conjure up a second Miracle of Berne, with Van Persie underlining the class divide with the fiercely-struck second goal. The Netherlands will play either Sweden or Russia in the last eight in Basel on Saturday, while Romania finish in third position.