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Netherlands' hopes hanging by a thread

With Bert van Marwijk planning changes for Sunday's game with Portugal, Berend Scholten looks ahead to what may be the Netherlands' last stand at UEFA EURO 2012. 

On Friday, Van Marwijk told me that the 1-0 defeat by Denmark in their opening match had shown him that his team had lost some of the invincible optimism that took them all the way to the FIFA World Cup final in South Africa two years ago. He also said that his side need to play a less stretched game, keep their defensive and attacking lines closer together, and that he might have to make tactical – and personnel – changes to tidy things up.
At Saturday's pre-match press conference, those thoughts were still on the coach's mind, though he did not go into detail on exactly what he was considering. "We know what we have to do," he explained. "In my battle plan, I have factored in that we need to book a 2-0 win."
The change most people anticipate is that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will be deployed as a central striker instead of Robin van Persie, who could either replace Ibrahim Afellay on the left wing or be used as a No10, with Wesley Sneijder then moved out to the flank. Sneijder might even be shunted one line back at the expense of one of the holding midfielders, Nigel de Jong or Mark van Bommel.
Everyone in the Dutch squad realises that their chance of progressing is not particularly great statistically, yet it is there, and that can be the only focus for this match. Get to the next stage – that is all that matters.


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