After yesterday’s wonderful start, the competition continues with fancied Dutch against ’92-winners.
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Group B gets underway with one of the favourites pitted against the masters of channelling the underdog spirit.
Twenty years ago Denmark won the Euros after initially failing to qualify. This year, they are even more unfancied, courtesy of their place in a group containing Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal.
The Dutch boast an array of stars, including perhaps the most dangerous marksman on the planet in Arsenal’s Robin van Persie. The Danes, by comparison, will be led by Gunners’ reject Nicklas Bendtner and relying heavily on talented but unproven youngster Christian Eriksen.
That said, Denmark finished above Portugal in qualifying and, not without reason, are ranked as the ninth-best team in the world by Fifa.
Expect technical mastery versus Viking spirit. Magic!
Prediction: 2-0 – a repeat of the result in the team’s opening match at 2010 World Cup. Holland to prove too strong.
Team news: Centre-half Joris Mathijsen has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, meaning Ron Vlaar or Wilfred Bouma will partner Johnny Heitinga at the back.
Familiar faces: Plenty. Back-up ‘keepers Tim Krul and Michel Vorm represent Newcastle and Swansea respectively, while there are squad places for Man City’s Nigel de Jong, Spurs’ Rafa van der Vaart and, of course, Robin van Persie of Arsenal.
One to watch: Where to start? Look out of for Jetro Willems, the twice-capped 18-year-old full-back could become the youngest player ever to feature at the Euros. Switch flanks and right-back Gregory van der Wiel is wanted by Chelsea, while promising striker Luuk de Jong is a Spurs target. Ibrahim Affelay is also being watched by Premier League clubs. Eyes peeled then…
Soundbite: “I think we are the favourites” – Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk gets the point when asked about his side’s chances against Denmark.
Stat attack: The Dutch scored more goals in qualifying (37) than any other team at Euro 2012.
What to expect: Given there are just seven changes from the squad that finished runners-up at the 2010 World Cup, much the same really. Should go far.
Team news: Stephan Andersen will deputise in goal after Stoke’s Thomas Sorensen was ruled out of the tournament after suffering a back injury in last Saturday’s friendly with Brazil.
Familiar faces: ‘Keepers Kasper Schmeichel and Anders Lindegaard – of Leeds and Man United respectively – will no doubt be discussing their joint-ambition of emulating the former’s father, while sat on the bench. Liverpool’s Daniel Agger will have the familiar task of stopping Van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner of Sunderland should also start.
One to watch: Christian Eriksen. The Ajax creative midfielder was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup and was named Danish Player of the Year in 2011. A sublimely talented passer and dribbler who has his heart set on a move to Barcelona when he finally leaves Ajax.
Soundbite: “Eriksen cannot carry the team by himself and we have told him that he shouldn’t try to do that” – Danish coach Martin Olsen tries to relieve the pressure on his young playmaker.
Stat attack: Denmark have lost more matches at European Championships than any other team in history. Despite winning the competition in 1992, they have a 50% loss rate, having tasted defeat in 12 of 24 matches.
What to expect: Not much…but that’s just how they like it.
FANCY A FLUTTER?
Best bet: The Netherlands to win 3-0: 30/1