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All the best images from Group B's climax

After all the speculation about the tortured arithmetic that might decide this group, the sums were simple. Germany and Portugal advance. Hope had arrived for Holland in the shape of Rafael van der Vaart's opening goal, but Cristiano Ronaldo first equalised and then struck the winner in the second half to send his side into a quarter-final meeting with the Czech Republic.

Mark van Bommel may have appeared beside his manager at the press conference on the eve of the match, but the air of solidarity was not to be trusted. In the wake of the two losses by Holland, radical action had not been wiped from the agenda. Van Bommel was ditched and so lost the armband to Van der Vaart, who had not made the starting lineup against Germany.

Other adjustments were more predictable still, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar accommodated at centre-forward while Robin van Persie took up a deeper attacking role. The adjustments spoke of an extensive squad, yet the manager, Bert van Marwijk, was trying to avert an unexpected debacle by a squad that were World Cup finalists two summers ago.

His mind was on resilience as well as adventure, with Ron Vlaar coming into the middle of the back four, and John Heitinga demoted to the bench. The side soon had a prize worth protecting. Arjen Robben came in from the right after 11 minutes and slipped a pass to Van der Vaart, who bent a beautiful shot past Rui Patrício from just outside the area.

The stakes may have been high yet this had the air of an open game, with each side indifferent to defence or, on this evidence, simply not adept at resistance. Ronaldo was soon close to levelling with an attempt that brushed the far post as it went behind. The Dutch right-back Gregory van der Wiel then presented the ball to Helder Postiga, who slipped his attempt wide.

Chances were abundant in that period, however, and there was no cause to brood if some were misused. Ronaldo levelled with authority after João Pereira's pass put him clear of the centre-backs in the 28th minute. The free-spiritedness in that period was embodied almost entirely and, seven minutes later, Ronaldo was heading wide from a João Moutinho corner.

Despite the permutations that were feasible in this group, it was critical for the sides to think solely of this game. There was, after all, nothing else that they could influence. Holland needed the greater upgrade to form after coming to this match with the two defeats in the group, yet it was almost a mystery that they should be level at the interval.

Some woe has been attaching itself to them. The plight was so great that the previews had a trace of the autopsy when the Dutch were being discussed. It was the duty of manager and squad simply to produce their best. If nothing else, this should have been and occasion to emphasise the value of Dutch football. That, in itself, was a challenge to a group that had been wasteful against the Danes and simply inferior to Germany. Holland are not shy, but a particular boldness was anticipated in this fixture. The introduction of Huntelaar spoke of purpose, yet the side's play had become tame long before the interval.

It was Portugal who carried intent then. The manager, Paulo Bento, might have reproached them at half-time, but he would also have pointed out that his side had impressed in several respects. At that stage, the Dutch had the deeper cause to reproach themselves. With so much at stake, the lack of urgency was curious.

There may have been a possibility that the technique of the Portuguese was marginalising them, but that interpretation made little sense when Holland have stood so high in the world rankings. Van Marwijk still had faith and the lack of immediate substitutions was a reminder that the score remained tied.

For all that we speak of intent and effort, Holland had to discover poise no matter how their thoughts might drift to the other fixture in Group B. The pattern of play had scarcely altered with an hour gone. Regardless of determination in the ranks, Holland simply looked the weaker side. The shuffling of the pack by Van Marwijk for this game was justified, but that did not mean that their hand was necessarily stronger.

Risks soon had to be embraced, with Willems withdrawn so that Ibrahim Afellay could at least attempt to apply pressure.

Portugal, all the same, had too much technique not to command and they could afford a chance that Nani squandered. Shortly after, it was Ronaldo, however, who made his presence felt once again. Nani squared the ball to the Real Madrid attacker on the left and, with the full-back keeling over, Ronaldo came inside to establish a 2-1 lead.

The Dutch have worth established over many years, but this occasion asked too much even of them. Portugal, for their part, looked as if their tournament was just starting. All was in their favour, with Van der Vaart's attempt being blocked by the post in the 82nd minute of a night that Portugal can relish.

Holland never gave up and were close to a leveller from Van Persie whose shot went wide. As if piqued Ronaldo then hit the post. Recent issues had left the Dutch in circumstances they could not overcome and they will face quite an inquest in the coming days. Read More

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