The Netherlands is looking to maintain its perfect qualifying record against Hungary and virtually assure itself of a place at next year’s European Championship.
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The World Cup runners-up will make it six wins from as many qualifiers if they win Tuesday’s match at the Amsterdam Arena. Hungary, meanwhile, is trying to get its Group E campaign back on track against a team that demolished its defense in a 4-0 victory on Friday.
The absence of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, midfielder Mark van Bommel, winger Arjen Robben and striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar did not hinder the Netherlands on Friday and coach Bert van Marwijk’s rejigged lineup is expected to win against a Hungary side that provided very little resistance in Budapest.
”We put on an exhibition and won 4-0 with beautiful football,” Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder told the official Dutch supporters’ club website. ”If we stay focussed, it’s going to be fun again Tuesday – for us and our fans.”
Even with four key players missing and starting Friday’s match fielding 11 players from 11 different clubs, the Netherlands is playing the sort of confident, slick-passing ”total” football made famous by Dutch teams of the 1970s.
Sneijder said the Dutch team has improved since losing 1-0 in extra time to Spain in last year’s World Cup final in Johannesburg.
”You know what the lines of attack are, how to get free. But there’s still more potential in this team,” he said. ”You see that almost everybody is involved in the buildup.”
As if to underscore the involvement of all players in Dutch attacks, there were four different scorers on Friday – Rafael van der Vaart, Ibrahim Afellay, Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie.
For Hungary, Friday’s loss confirmed that, despite some encouraging results in the first few qualifying matches, the team has to improve greatly if it wants to reach the continental championship hosted next year by Poland and Ukraine.
”One dream less,” Hungary coach Sandor Egervari said after Friday’s loss. ”We have to acknowledge that our rivals were superior in every way.”
Adding to the woes, PSV Eindhoven winger Balazs Dzsudzsak aggravated a rib muscle injury and his status for Tuesday’s rematch in Amsterdam is uncertain.
Stuttgart midfielder Tamas Hajnal and Anderlecht defender Roland Juhasz are also expected to miss the match.
”I’d like to refresh the team for Tuesday’s match, so, beside the forced substitutions, I’m planning changes to the lineup,” Egervari said, without revealing further details.
Hungary last took part in a major international tournament at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
If it loses Tuesday and Sweden beats Moldova, the Swedes will draw level on nine points in Group E.