It was Holland’s most relaxed pre-match press conference so far. On the eve of the crucial Euro 2012 Group B encounter against archrivals Portugal, manager Bert van Marwijk and captain Mark van Bommel took their seats in the sizeable press room in Kharkiv's Metalist stadium. It very much looked like a charm offensive to defuse criticism from the assembled Dutch and international press.
Under fire from the domestic media, the two men behind the media desk would not be drawn on the Holland line-up for Sunday's final group match. Van Marwijk had hinted earlier though that there would be some changes in the offing to enable Holland to go through to the second-phase knock-out stage. After all, the Dutch need to beat Portugal by a two-goal margin and hope that Germany will defeat Denmark.
“Portugal are more than just Ronaldo," Van Marwijk said. There’s Nani too and nine others, who together constitute a great team.” Asked why Dutch national and club sides always find it hard to beat Portuguese teams, Van Marwijk said he had no explanation, "apart from the fact that these were often tough confrontations involving many bookings.”
The Holland manager was referring to the so-called “Battle of Nuremberg” between Holland and Portugal at the 2006 World Cup where 16 yellow and four red cards were dished out, the world record for the most bookings and sendings off in one game. “We have to show more discipline this time around,” Van Marwijk said, “and that’s something my players are well aware of.”
Van Bommel added that “the atmosphere in the squad was not as good as it could have been if Holland hadn’t lost its two previous group matches.” To which Van Marwijk jokingly added that he wished “the atmosphere was as bad as it was reported to be among the Spanish earlier this week, who went on to thrash Ireland by 4-0.”