The Netherlands suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Bulgaria on Saturday night which has thrown coach Bert van Marwijk’s preparations for Euro 2012 into disarray.
Arsenal striker Robin van Persie gave the home side the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Ivelin Popov levelled just five minutes into the second period.
Substitute Ilyan Micanski then headed the winner in stoppage time to hand the Bulgarians – who were priced at a huge 29/2 before the game – a night to remember.
The Dutch, who had not lost to Bulgaria in any of their three previous meetings, started brightly in front of a packed house in Amsterdam and could have taken the lead after ten minutes if Rafael van der Vaart had managed to control Wesley Sneijder’s precise chip, but the move came to nothing.
The hosts continued to control the match without really creating any outstanding chances, as emphasised by Sneijder’s long-range drive on 36 minutes which was comfortably saved by Stojan Kolev in Bulgaria’s goal.
With the Netherlands dominating possession, Bulgaria’s main threat was on the counter-attack and with a few minutes of the first half remaining, a quick break led to Johnny Heitinga giving away a free-kick 25 yards out.
Former Man City striker Valeri Bojinov stepped up and watched in despair as the ball cracked against the crossbar – and the Dutch appeared to have heeded the warning as they took the lead on the stroke of half-time.
After 45 minutes of probing, Sneijder played another wonderful dink over the Bulgarian back line and Van Persie kept his eye on the ball to stroke home a left-footed volley to cheer the home fans.
But just five minutes after the break, their celebrations were silenced when Van der Vaart inadvertently handballed inside the area when trying to block a cross and gave away a penalty.
Gaziantepspor midfielder Ivelin Popov grabbed the ball and sent Newcastle’s Tim Krul in the Dutch goal the wrong way with a driven right-footed effort to level the scores at 1-1.
The following 40 minutes passed by with very little to speak of as both managers made a number of substitutions and the game looked to be coming to a drab end, until Bulgaria stunned the 2010 World Cup finalists in stoppage time.
Ilyan Mitsanski, one of those aforementioned subs, found himself unmarked at the back post to head home a Stanislav Manolev cross from the right after a dreadful pass from Gregory van der Wiel was intercepted.
Despite the unexpected result and disappointing performance, the Netherlands are still 7/1 third favourites to win Euro 2012.
Punters can claim a free £25 bet when registering with bwin and using this on a Dutch victory in Ukraine and Poland would see a return of £200 if successful.
But on this form, they look a long way off recapturing the glory of their win in 1988.
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