Created on 16-06-2012 at 00:00 AM
It is the day of reckoning in Euro 2012 Group B, with the eight FCB men in Germany colours and Dutch ace Arjen Robben heading for an evening of tension and drama in Ukraine. Germany, leaders of the section on six points, need just a draw against Denmark (three points) to qualify for the last eight, but the highly-fancied Netherlands have yet to earn points and could be knocked out of the tournament when they play Portugal (three points).
Germany are in the box seat, but must be very wary against the stubborn Danes, or they too could be packing their bags. A 1-0 or 2-1 defeat for Joachim Löw’s team in the forecast 30 degree heat of Lviv would seal their premature exit, in the event Portugal beat Holland in the parallel fixture.
Put the calculators away
“Our going-in position is clear. We know full well we’re not through yet. We face a very tricky match,” commented Löw. “If you run through the various permutations, you see it could all happen very quickly,” warned team manager Oliver Bierhoff. The players are determined to avoid any thoughts of combinations and alternatives, relying instead on their excellent results so far.
“It’s very comforting to know a point would be enough for us to win the group,” said defender Mats Hummels. With the exception of Munich’s Jérôme Boateng, who is suspended, all 22 members of the squad are fit and available. Benedikt Höwedes and Lars Bender are the candidates to deputise for Boateng at right-back, remarked Löw. Holger Badstuber would miss any quarter-final clash if he picks up another yellow card against Denmark.
History in Portugal’s favour
“It’s all or nothing” commented Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder, as the Dutch contemplate a do-or-die meeting with Portugal. After defeats in their first two matches, the World Cup runners-up must win by at least two goals, and hope Germany defeat Denmark in the parallel match. This is the only combination of results which would prevent the men in orange boarding the plane home.
“Two years ago we were in the World Cup final. And we’re supposed to be knocked out here at the group stage? That can’t be,” continued Sneijder. “I want to win things with this team, so I’m not even thinking about being knocked out, just about what we can still achieve,” a clearly fired-up Robben added. In the wake of Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Germany, under pressure coach Bert van Marwijk is set to ring the changes, and is likely to start with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar alongside Robin van Persie in attack.
Unfortunately, history is against Robben & Co. In ten meetings with the South Europeans, the Dutch have won just once. Portugal have always tended to have the edge when the chips are down. The Dutch fell in the Round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and two years earlier at the Euro in Portugal, who also won the day in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.