The Netherlands came second in the World Cup 2010 - now they want to do better and are reaching for the title. Pundits say their chances are good.
Group B in the preliminary round of Euro 2012 is the Group of Death. At the draw in Kyiv in December, the Netherlands were already seeded. No one wanted to be drawn with them in the group stages and to have to meet them so early.
When, finally, Denmark, Germany and Portugal were also drawn together, there was something of an outcry - on all sides.
The reasons are obvious. The Netherlands and Germany ranked among the favorites heading into the championship. Denmark are very much outsiders - as they were when they won the tournament in 1992 - but they won an early victory against the Netherlands in 2012 group rounds, casting an early shadow over Dutch chances.
Dutch have heart set on trophy
And so it is that the good old rivalry between Germany and the finds a new lease of life. This time, the Dutch will not be too daunted by the prospect of facing their big neighbor, and for good reason.
Germany's archrival has impressive firepower, including Bundesliga top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and English football's Player of the Year, Robin van Persie.
With that pairing and the confidence of runners-up in the 2012 World Cup in South Africa, the Netherlands will be striving for their first major trophy in 24 years. The fact they will face Germany on the way will also be seen as a good omen. At the European Championships in Germany in 1988, so far the sole major success the Dutch have enjoyed, a showdown with Germany in the semifinal was key. The 2-1 victory for the Oranje remains a feted day in the Netherlands.
A production line of goals
The Dutch got qualification for the current tournament out of the way without too much trouble. It was only in the last, already meaningless, encounter with Sweden that the side suffered a 3-2 defeat.
With an impressive goal difference of 37 for, 8 against, coach Bert van Marwijk brought the side out of the elimination round and make clear that Dutch fans could look forward to a real offensive show from the players.
The Dutch attacking potential is enormous. Alongside Huntelaar and van Persie, who was top scorer in the English Premiership, are exceptional players such as Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart.
There could however be the possibility of conflict within this squad, because which of these stars would be happy to sit on the bench? A question that has troubled Dutch fans long before the tournament is whether the type of players that Huntelaar and van Persie appear to be would be would gel as a pair.
“Of course they can play together,” said van Marwijk, responding somewhat defiantly to that doubt, but added, “I still don't know myself if I really will have them take to the field together.”
Then, there is the consideration that Sneijder, van der Vaart and also Robben are back from their numerous injuries just in the nick of time.
“I am very happy,” the former Borussia Dortmund coach said. “I am going to put together a team that I think I am going to have the most success with,” he said.
Reputations are not something that van Marwijk has much regard for. That is something he has demonstrated often enough in the past.
Not so solid at the back
As impressive as the Dutch appear to be upfront, their line-up at the back appears to have some holes in it.
Van Marwijk has particular problems on the left of his defense after PSV Eindhoven's Erik Pieters had to be ruled out by injury.
Meanwhile the central defense, with John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen, does not exactly embody the very best of European football. Despite this, the aim is clear. The Netherlands have their sights set on the big trophy at the Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
Author: Calle Kops / rc
Editor: Rina Goldenberg