Netherlands v Denmark preview

Netherlands v Denmark preview


Ron Vlaar or Wilfred Bouma are likely to partner Johnny Heitinga in central defence for the Netherlands after Joris Mathijsen was ruled out of the game against Denmark on Saturday.

Mathijsen has a hamstring injury, but he hopes to face Germany on Wednesday.

PSV Eindhoven left-back Jetro Willems, 18, could become the youngest ever player to feature in the Euros.

Stephan Andersen will start in goal for Denmark in the absence of Thomas Sorensen.


Maximising underdog spirit is second nature to Denmark, and Morten Olsen's squad are likely to require a ship-load of Viking strength to get a result against the losing 2010 World Cup finalists.

A nation with a population of under six million, who banned professionals from their national football team until 1971, Denmark have played at four World Cups. And this is their eighth European Championships. As last-gasp replacements for banned Yugoslavia, they even famously won the trophy back in 1992.

That evocative epitome of collective power overcoming all odds 20 years ago in Sweden really should fire them up - as might their status as the outside bet to progress from Group B. They are now ranked the world's ninth-best team by Fifa and match-day two opponents Portugal sit behind in 10th. It is not without reason - they topped the Portuguese in qualifying for this tournament, and the last World Cup,

But the Netherlands, who scored the most goals in qualifying as they racked up nine straight wins before a dead rubber loss to Sweden, are a different matter altogether, and the Danes have never won any of their seven opening matches at European Championships. Allied to that, this clash is a repeat of both team's opening match at the 2010 World Cup, which the Dutch 2-0 won with little trouble.

Though Nicklas Bendtner may disagree, the Danes are without a true star - though Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen will seek to live up to his billing as a potential Nordic Xavi.

The Netherlands, however, boast a raft of world-class forwards. But can Bert van Marwijk make the most of having Premier League top scorer Robin van Persie and the Bundesliga's leading hitman, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, at his disposal?

When he started with both, in their first warm-up friendly at home to Bulgaria, they lost 2-1. After that, Huntelaar was benched and they beat Slovakia 2-0 and then crushed Northern Ireland 6-0.

The Dutch have only lost two of their eight openers at the European Championship. And though the last time it happened was back in 1988 (a 1-0 defeat to the Soviet Union), when they won the tournament - with Germany then Portugal to come, they won't want to risk it again.






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