23 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — Much of the Netherlands will be oscillating between fear and hope on Wednesday night as its national soccer team battles for a place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004.
In the Portuguese city Braga, the Netherlands must defeat Latvia in its final Group D match starting at 8.45pm (Dutch time).
But for the Dutch to qualify for the finals, the Netherlands’ arch-rival Germany must lose to or draw with group winners the Czech Republic in Lisbon. That match also starts at 8.45pm.
If something akin to a miracle occurs, the Netherlands will take on Sweden in the quarter-final in the Algarve on Saturday. If not, the Dutch will arrive home at Schiphol Airport on Thursday.
Despite the prospects of elimination, 63 percent of thousands of Dutch fans believe that the Netherlands will survive to fight another day, reported the website nationale-ek-poule.nl, where football fans can try and pick the winners of Euro 2004 matches to win prize money.
Of the other 27 percent, they either think the Dutch will lose to Latvia or Germany will defeat the Czechs.
Having seen his team draw with Germany and lose to the Czech Republic, much criticised coach Dick Advocaat said as far as possible the same team that played against the Czechs will also take the field against Latvia.
“We have to go on in the way we played against the Czechs. We have to try to continue like that,” the Euro 2004 website quoted him saying.
But Advocaat is expected to make two changes to the line-up that went down in a five-goal thriller against the Czech Republic on Saturday night.
Wilfred Bouma is injured and Johnny Heitinga is unavailable after being given a red card in the match against the Czechs. Advocaat is considering either Frank de Boer or Phillip Cocu as Bouma’s replacement. Michael Reiziger will probably replace Heitinga.
The expected line-up according to newspaper De Telegraaf is: Edwin van der Sar; Michael Reiziger, Jaap Stam, Phillip Cocu and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst; Wesley Sneijder, Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids; Andy van der Meyde, Ruud Van Nistelrooij and Arjan Robben.
The Euro 2004 website includes De Boer — for his 111th appearance for the Dutch national team — and leaves out the youthful Sneijder from a possible starting line-up.
Meanwhile, Advocaat has played down the speculation surrounding his future as Dutch national coach. “I do not fear that this will be my last match as national-team coach. I do not fear anything. We left the match against the Czechs behind us and we are totally focused on Latvia,” he was quoted saying.
But less optimistic Dutch fans desperate for a win lit hundreds of candles in Braga — a city of pilgrimage which totals 35 churches — as they prayed for victory on Tuesday, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.
In total, about 20,000 Dutch fans are expected in Braga, where a pre-match party will be staged with several Dutch artists performing.
According to public broadcast ratings agency Dienst Kijk- en Luisteronderzoek, about 10 million Dutch fans will watch the match live on Nederland 2.
And Dutch firms operating in the Czech Republic have offered a bonus of CZK 130 million (Czech koruna, converted as EUR 4 million) to the country’s national team if they manage to defeat Germany, a German DPA report said.
“Both the Czech and Dutch economies would benefit from such a victory,” a spokesperson with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce was quoted saying.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news