Euro 2004: Early blues for the Dutch

The Dutch will head into this weekend's European Championship in probably the worst form possible.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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New Delhi:

The Dutch will head into this weekend's European Championship in probably the worst form possible, having lost two of the three warm up games leading up to the championship that included the 1-0 defeat at home to Belgium and the Republic Of Ireland. The Dutch in fact nearly did not even make it to this summer's tournament. They were piped to automatic qualification from Group three by the Czech Republic and it took a hat-trick from Ruud Van Nistelrooy against Scotland in the play-offs to make sure Holland would not miss out on another major Championship. Infact Holland's progress to the knockout stage at Euro 2004 will depend largely on how Van Nistelrooy performs. Thirty goals for Manchester United helped salvage some pride with a FA Cup win and there is no doubt that Van is the Man for Holland. Patrick Kluivert is another player who may hold the key to the Dutch success. Last season was not the best for him in a Barca shirt but when he puts on the Orange shirt, Kluivert is probably one of the most dangerous forwards in the World. One player though who could steal the limelight is Ajax's Rafael van Der Vaart, the teenager who has already become a household name in Holland and could just turn out to be the next big thing for the Dutch. The Dutch are in group D or the Group of Death with their greatest rivals Germany. Holland's only win at the European Championship came in 1988 but in the last three editions they have been knocked out on penalties. Their best performance at the World Cup has been runners up in 1974 and 1978. However, the Dutch are known as much for their brilliant football as for their infighting. Its a well known fact that many of their players do not see eye to eye and coach Dick Advocaat will have to make sure that the players do not become their own worst enemies.