Dutch struggle to maintain football reputation
28 November 2007, AMSTERDAM - Euro 2008 will provide important testing ground for the Dutch football team, which has run into trouble in recent years.
28 November 2007
AMSTERDAM - Euro 2008 will provide important testing ground for the Dutch football team, which has run into trouble in recent years.
Despite ranking seventh in the world, Marco van Basten's team appears neither as strong, let alone glamorous, as previous Dutch sides - highlighted by a meagre 15 goals in 12 qualifying games.
The biggest national team success was the Euro 1988 title in Germany, plus two runner-up finishes at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups.
The Dutch qualified for the Euro finals in Austria and Switzerland with a lucky 1-0 home win over minnows Luxembourg and then lost 2-1 at Belarus.
Commentators referred to the Oranje team as "weak" and said the team "lacked a clear image and strategy."
Van Basten admitted that "throughout qualifying we have made chances but we haven't scored enough, and that is essential in football."
The coach mentioned the young age of many players, but hopes that additional matches can make his team more experienced and with it a serious title contender at Euro.
"We have a lot of players with good attacking qualities and that is a luxury, but most of them are young boys who need to mature," Van Basten said.
"With more experience, we will have a chance to clinch a major title," he insisted
The Manchester United goalkeeper Van der Sar, at age 37 and with 122 caps the most experienced player, also pointed out at the experience factor after the Luxembourg match in which the Dutch almost threw away the lead.
"That should not have happened. It shows the inexperience and attacking mindset of this group. We were smashed around the ears with two counterattacks that could have cost us a place in the European championship," Van der Sar said.
Van Basten must blend veterans such as Clarence Seedorf, Ruud van Nistelrooy and van der Sar with younger players such as Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Snijder, Ryan Babel, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Injuries - van Persie and Robben for instance missed the last games - also forced van Basten to come up with new lineups.
But critics of Van Basten also say the coach may have used his players too much as "testing ground". They argue he should have rather moulded a large number of great individuals into a close-knit team.
Van Basten now has just seven months left to work on this aspect as well as fitness, which he names as another current weakness.
"In the final phase of a match we lack the physical strength. That is something we have to work on, because against the bigger opponents you can get into huge trouble with that."
The Dutch will need to be at their best in Austria and Switzerland because as one of the four seeded teams in the draw they face a very tough group at the finals - possibly with record Euro winners Germany, world champions Italy and World Cup runners-up France.
[Copyright dpa 2007]
Subject: Dutch news