Euro 2012: Holland in group of death

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The draw for the final stages of next year’s European football championship has pitted Holland against Denmark, Portugal and Germany in a very tough group B.

Holland striker Arjen Robben remained upbeat. He tweeted: "It's a tough group for us, but in order to become European champions, you'll have to be able to beat everyone and that's what we aim to do."

[media:factfile]"I looked at all the coaches of our group and I didn't see any happy faces," Holland manager Bert van Marwijk commented. "It's clear to all that this is the heaviest group. The upside is that the players and me are already motivated. Besides, we know our opponents well."

Van Marwijk's words were echoed by his German counterpart Joachim Löw, who said "This is probably the toughest group, but also the most interesting and most balanced."

Creating history
Conducted under the theme of "Creating History Together" and attended by such football legends as Zinédine Zidane, Gianni Rivera and Marco van Basten, the draw ceremony was held in the Palace of Arts in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and broadcast live in many participating nations.

It was Marco van Basten who drew his countrymen first as the top-seed in Group B. That means Holland will play the first three matches in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, a slight disappointment for the Dutch fans given the distance involved. Van Basten made matters worse by drawing Holland's arch-rivals Germany from pot 2.


The first match will be against Denmark on 9 June. Ranking 11th on both the UEFA and FIFA lists, the Danes may be the weakest side in Group B, but they've recently shown great form. The Red and Whites finished top of their Euro 2012 qualifying group, beating Portugal 2-1 at home in their last match, and then went on to beat their Scandinavian rivals Sweden and Finland in two friendlies last month.
Nicknamed Danish Dynamite or the Olsen gang, the Danes have continuously been visible as a solidly competitive side since the early 1980s. Their triumph in the 1992 European Championships in Sweden was their most prominent victory, beating the European champions Holland in the semi-final, and world champions Germany in the final.

The man to watch is Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland, on loan from Arsenal), who has been on an impressive scoring run this year. 
Plenty of Danes know Dutch football inside out, including manager Morten Olsen, who once famously stated that Holland would never be world champion. At least five players have Dutch Premier League experience: Christian Eriksen, Nicolai Boilesen, Dennis Rommedahl (PSV, Ajax, NEC), Mads Junker (RODA JC Kerkrade), Lasse Schöne (NEC Nijmegen). 
Holland won’t particularly be looking forward to meeting Portugal. Featuring mega-star Christiano Ronaldo, the team are one of Europe’s strongest in Van Marwijk’s eyes. An encounter with the Portuguese would evoke memories of one of the ugliest fixtures in football history: their 2006 World Cup match was marred by a record four red cards and 16 yellows.

Holland versus Portugal means a clash of two giants: Cristiano Ronaldo and his former Real Madrid teammate Wesley Sneijder, two technically skilled and passionate players of quite different calibre. Apart from Ronaldo, Portugal have plenty of pedigree: Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Helder Postiga, to name just a few. The match is scheduled for 17 June.
Finally, in a rather dramatic quirk of the draw, Holland face their old foes Germany, who always perform well at major tournaments. And this time, the Euro 2008 finalist Germany look set to be in excellent shape.
One of the top favourites to win next year’s title, die Mannschaft have a tactical magician, “Jogi” Löw, lording over a young and talented side, with Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos and Mario Götze poised to become the key star attractions of Euro 2012. Having romped through their qualifying group with a perfect qualifying record, they obliterated the Netherlands 3-0 in a prestige friendly last month. 
Of course, the Dutch will be gunning for revenge in Kharkiv on 13 June. "The match in Hamburg presented a wake-up call," Holland captain Mark van Bommel told the press:
"In Kharkiv, we can show that we're a match for Germany. It's clear to all of us what we have to do. Obviously, these are fantastic fixtures, for us football players, but for fans to. Despite this being a tough group, I have every confidence that, with the support of our loyal fans and the quality of our squad, we'll be able to go through to the next round."
The competition begins in the Polish capital Warsaw on 8 June with the final in Kyiv on 1 July.