SEMIFINAL 1 - Portugal vs. Netherlands
Wensday, June 30
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The Netherlands will accept nothing less than victory in its Euro 2004 semifinal against Portugal, coach Dick Advocaat said Monday.
"That's what the players are saying. If we come this far, the only prize is the final," Advocaat said. "It's one game to win to make the final, that's the way they want to think and change things that happened in the past," he said, referring to the Netherlands' elimination in the semifinals of Euro 2000.
The Dutch beat Sweden on penalties in the quarterfinal Saturday and now face Portugal in Lisbon Wednesday.
The team has a number of veteran stars like Jaap Stam, Frank de Boer and Marc Overmars who will quit international soccer after Euro 2004 but have yet to win an international title. Advocaat said they've "already seen the semifinals" in other tournaments, and want to win this time.
"Straight from the beginning they've been desperate to come that far," Advocaat said. "They had only one goal: to make it to the final. But you still have to do it."
But Advocaat singled out Ruud van Nistelrooy, a tournament rookie, as among the most driven of his players.
He said Van Nistelrooy, who has scored four times for the Dutch at Euro 2004, was playing better than he did for Manchester United last season.
"His playing for the team has been incredible. He's scoring goals and working his socks off," Advocaat said.
"He's desperate to get the result he wants, to get to the final and probably to be the winning goal scorer," Advocaat said.
Advocaat said that despite criticism by the Dutch media and supporters that he is too conservative as a coach, he always wants his side to attack.
"I say press early, don't drop back. But you have to play against an opponent who can also play football. If they are better than you on that day, then you have to fall back."
He said he was enjoying coaching the team, despite having been whistled by his own fans and derided in the Dutch media after swapping winger Arjen Robben for midfielder Paul Bosvelt during the Netherlands' 3-2 loss to the Czech Republic.
"Expectations are high in Holland and you have to cope with that," he said.
But he said he had stopped paying attention to Dutch media in order to be able to focus on the tournament.
"Criticism is part of job of being coach. But to break somebody is different, and that's what they tried to do."
He praised the fans for turning out in large numbers for the matches in Portugal, saying that they had made every game feel like a home match.
Winning the title would be "important for the team, but also for the fans," Advocaat said.
"We are such a small country compared to Germany and France, but again we are part of the last four. It's great for Dutch football."
Posted on Jun 29, 04 | 9:56 am