Glum mood, long odds weigh on Dutch at Euro 2012

The Netherlands is ready to gamble that it can beat Portugal by

two goals and keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet in the teams’ last group

match at the European Championship on Sunday.

Needing a German victory over Denmark to have even a glimmer of

hope of advancing, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk says on the eve of

the decisive Group B match that caution has little use at this

stage.

With his team needing to win by at least a two-goal margin, Van

Marwijk said: ”Our way of playing will be totally based on

that.”

Van Marwijk is expected to pair top strikers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

and Robin van Persie after losing the first two games of the

tournament to Denmark and Germany starting with a single striker.

At the same time, he must find a way to keep Portugal’s forwards at

bay.

As the Dutch coach readily acknowledged: ”We are clutching at

our last straw.”

”A draw should be enough for them,” he said. ”And they have

Ronaldo and Nani – and nine other players.”

A group stage exit would be the worst result in over a decade

for the Dutch since they failed to reach the 2002 World Cup

finals.

What makes that prospect worse are the high hopes they had

before the tournament. Two years after losing the World Cup final

in extra time to Spain, the Dutch felt they were ready to reap the

rewards of having stars like Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley

Sneijder all coming into Euro 2012 unburdened by injury.

By Saturday, though, the mood was almost as dark as the black

jerseys they will wear Sunday.

And even the statistics don’t look good. In all, the Netherlands

has defeated Portugal just once in their past 10 meetings, way back

in 1991. And that was only 1-0.