KHARKIV, Ukraine — Netherlands striker Robin van Persie had a dreadful evening in Kharkiv, as chance after chance literally slipped away for him on the wet grass of Metalist Stadium.
He was frustrated by poor aim, a weak first touch or by Denmark goalkeeper Stephan Andersen, who unlike the Dutchman had a flawless game Saturday.
Van Persie's performance was the complete opposite of his stellar season at Arsenal, where he scored 30 goals in the English Premier League and was voted the league's best player. A telling moment for him came early in the second half of his team's 1-0 loss, when he was set up clean in front of goal, but slipped as he took his shot, missing the ball.
And in the final stages of the Group B opener, Van Persie had one last chance, but sent his header just over Andersen's crossbar. For Arsenal, Van Persie has buried those chances late in a match in what was the best season of his club career.
It wasn't only Van Persie who was missing the target against Denmark. The Dutch had 28 attempts on goals, with teammates Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Ibrahim Affellay also wasting good opportunities.
"There were maybe four, five, six players who had chances," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said, refusing to place the blame squarely on Van Persie.
Before the match, Van Marwijk's biggest decision was whether to play Van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as target man.Comment on this story
When Plan A didn't work, Van Marwijk played both, sending on Huntelaar as a second-half substitute for Ibrahim Affellay, with Van Persie falling back to a support striker role.
That didn't work either.
Denmark's players admitted that the fact they didn't concede was a combination of their own good defending and poor marking by their opponents.
"They missed a lot," Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen said. "All season they've scored a lot of goals. Why it was different today, I don't know."