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Glory for Die Mannschaft

Glory for Die Mannschaft
This summer in Poland and Ukraine, sixteen countries will be deciding who can call themselves the best European footballers for the next four years. Once again Spain are the favourites by far. However, the statistics are not in favour of the current European and World Champions.

Never before did a country win the most coveted international football titles three times in a row. Whether Holland will be able to equal its best achievement ever, in 1988 the lads in Orange won the prestigious cup, is by no means certain. In this group with very strong opponents Germany, Portugal and Denmark, it won’t even be easy for coach Bert van Marwijk’s team to get past the group stage.

The tournament starts for Holland on Saturday 9 June (18:00 hours). With a game against an old acquaintance: Denmark. Twice before the Dutch masters played the Danish, who play in red-and-white, at the final stages of a European Cup, but they never lost. The last meeting between the two old friends, at the World Cup in South-Africa, ended in a simple 2-0 win for the Dutch. No doubt this time around the Vikings will again fight proudly, but realistically the difference in quality is too great for them to be able to force a surprise.
Just four days later Holland will kick off the second group game, against Germany. If you intend to put your money on Holland to win, you might want to have another good look at the statistics. And at recent history. After all, Germany is not only the Orange team’s arch rival, it’s also one of the teams the Dutch fear the most. The two neighbouring countries have regularly met in the stands at international tournaments. The statistics are in Germany’s favour, as they’ve won 14 games and lost only 10. It’s quite remarkable however that the Germans usually win in the World Cup, while the Dutch tend to do better in the European Championships.

The Dutch suffered ‘the Mother of all defeats’ at the hands of the Germans in 1974, when La Naranja Mechanica wooed the world with dazzling football, while the highest prize went – as usual – to the home team in black and white. At a number of subsequent tournaments the Dutch were also taught a lesson in effective football by their eastern neighbours. Until the 21st of June 1988. Which is still the Day of Sweet Revenge. On a sweltering summer’s night in Hamburg, during the semi-final of the European Championships, Holland finally managed to revenge itself.

A late goal by forward Marco van Basten, in the 88th minute, earned him the status of a hero forever. Current Feyenoord coach Ronald Koeman’s appearance in the news was slightly less positive when he – somewhat insultingly – wiped his backside symbolically with the shirt of the opponent they hated so much.
In the middle of November, before the draw for the European Championships had taken place, the two teams played each other in a friendly. Again the stadium of Hamburge SV was the battlefield.

The Dutch, who had to play without most of their top players, had to put up with a conclusive defeat: 3-0. Coach van Marwijk wasn’t too worried by the ‘inflated defeat’ and called it a ‘welcome wake-up call’. Fact remains that both teams will meet again on Wednesday 13th of June (20:45 hours) in Charkov for what will without doubt be one of the most exciting games of the tournament. The Dutch play their three home games in group B in the remote town of Charkov.
The beautiful and futuristic stadium of the town’s team Metalist Charkov has a 35,000 seating capacity. This Ukraine town, which is not particularly attractive, is close to the Russian border and is known for its gigantic square which experts claim is the second biggest square in the world.

Normally thousands of Dutch football fans follow their idols. Many of the supporters are ordinary family men dressed in insane Orange outfits. We’ll find out whether their verbal support is enough to beat Portugal, on Sunday 17th June at about 22:30 hours. Around that time the Dutch team, which will play in their new black kit for the first time on that night, will have finished the last group game against star player Christiano Ronaldo’s team. We won’t know until then whether Holland, one of the main favourites for the title, has survived the group phase. Unfortunately the statistics don’t favour the Dutch. Only once before did Holland beat Portugal.
Perhaps it’ll help that manufacturer Nike designed the ‘most eco-friendly football strip ever’. No less than thirteen plastic bottles were recycled to produce the full away kit. According to Nike the black colour exudes ‘authority, control and power’. We doubt whether this will impress dirty players like Pepe and his equally hot-tempered teammates…

Despite the sombre perspective, the editors of In Your Pocket The Netherlands fully expect Holland to reach the second round. If they finish second in the group, which is our prediction, they  will play the number one of Group A on Thursday 21st of June (20:45 hours) in Warsaw (Poland). Holland have got a very good chance to beat both host Poland and Russia, the teams we expect to go through, in order to reach the semi-final on Wednesday 27th June (20:45 hours) in Donetsk (Ukraine). We will then face the winner of the match between the number one of group C and the runner-up of group D. We predict these to be Spain and England respectively. Our crystal ball says the islanders, unfailingly fanatical, will be the winners of this clash of Titans (after penalties). Which means Holland and England have to battle it out for a place in the final. And it doesn’t really matter who wins that game as we’re convinced Die Mannschaft (nickname of the Germans) will end the tournament as winners on Sunday 1st of July.


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