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Dutch in must-win game against rivals Germany
(AFP) / 13 June 2012
WARSAW - Germany take on the Netherlands in the pick of Wednesday’s ties in Euro 2012, with the Dutch knowing that defeat could consign them to an early exit from the tournament.
Joachim Loew’s Mannschaft go in to the match in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on a high after beating Portugal in their Group B opener while the Oranje, who suffered a shock 1-0 reverse to unfancied Denmark, face an uphill battle.
Dutch captain Mark van Bommel said all the players are aware of the importance of the crunch tie — and their final group match against Portugal — if they hope to progress in the competition.
“We have to win (the remaining two games). We have no other choice,” he said before the match.
The Dutch misfired badly against the Danes on Saturday. But hopes of greater accuracy against one of the pre-tournament favourites have been hit by apparent disquiet in the squad.
Last season’s top scorer in the Bundesliga, Schalke 04’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, in particular is unhappy with coach Bert van Marwijk for preferring Robin van Persie of Arsenal up front.
Dutch players have rejected suggestions of a rift but Huntelaar was pointedly the only player not to give pre-match interviews to the domestic media on Monday.
A Germany win will put them in the quarter-finals and Loew is aware that his side will be feeling less pressure than the Dutch, despite the intense rivalry that comes with every sporting encounter between the two nations.
“Clearly, the challenge is huge for the Netherlands. When you’ve lost the first game, you can no longer afford another defeat. They allowed themselves to be rushed against Denmark and they will not let that happen again,” he said.
Germany-Denmark kicks off at 1845 GMT and is preceded by Denmark-Portugal in Lviv, Ukraine, at 1600 GMT.
Danish coach Olsen has again cast his team as underdogs for the match with Portugal, given that Portugal, with Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, will be desperate to avoid making an early exit from the competition.
Denmark and Portugal were in the same Euro 2012 qualifying group and know each other well, with both sides winning their respective home games — but the Danes had the last laugh by edging the Portuguese in the group.
“We know Portugal have a lot of individual flair and players who can drive them forward and so we will have to be more on form than we were against the Netherlands,” said Olsen.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento conceded that his team would be feeling more pressure but said he still took heart from the performance against Germany.
“We have no reason to be anxious. We lost our opening game to one of the favourites but we lost playing well. We didn’t deserve to lose,” he added.
In Tuesday’s matches, Russia stayed on course to qualify for the last eight but failed to make it two wins in a row, after old rivals Poland fought back to secure a 1-1 draw in the capital Warsaw.
The Czech Republic meanwhile kept alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals by beating 2004 champions Greece 2-1 in Wroclaw, making qualification from Group A a three-way battle between Poland (two points), the Czechs (three) and Russia (four).
The Poland-Russia game was played amid tight security and a fiercely political and historical backdrop, which has created an intense sporting rivalry.
A total of 184 fans, including 157 Poles and 24 Russians, were detained after they fought running battles and clashed with riot police before the match, throwing bottles, rocks and broken road signs.
Police used tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and pepper spray during the disturbances.
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