The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Netherlands desperate for victory
- Latvian upstarts hope to spring another surprise as teams jostle for quarters berth

Porto: Dick Advocaat puts his job on the line when his under-achieving Netherlands team meets Euro 2004 surprise package Latvia in their final Group D match in Braga on Wednesday.

Both teams need to win to go through to the quarter finals and hope that three-time champions Germany do not beat the already qualified Czech Republic.

Advocaat’s team was unimpressive despite coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Germany in its first game and a controversial substitution handed the Czechs, then 1-2 down, a lifeline from which they built a 3-2 win on Saturday.

The Dutch coach has a contract with the national team until the 2006 World Cup in Germany but there is a clause for a review after Euro 2004 which his side will depart on Wednesday night if the Latvians spring another surprise.

“It wasn’t the substitution that turned the match, individual errors led to the Czech goals,” Advocaat said, defending his decision to take off Arjen Robben for the more defensive Paul Bosvelt.

Edgar Davids said: “Now we depend on what the Czechs do and we don’t like that. We have to be focused and concentrate against Latvia because we know they did well against the Czechs and also against Germany.”

Advocaat is expected to start with the same team that lost to the Czechs apart from suspended defender Johnny Heitinga, who was sent off in the match in Aveiro. Michael Reiziger will probably take his place.

Time is running out for Dick Advocaat

Latvia are equal on points with the Dutch, having led the Czechs before losing narrowly 1-2 and then holding Germany 0-0, their biggest footballing achievement to date.

Progressing with each match, Latvia believe in their chances of an even greater upset, a victory which would take them into the quarter finals of their first major tournament.

“If the first dream of reaching the finals came true why shouldn’t a second dream come true,” said their impressive striker Maris Verpakovskis, who almost scored against Germany and might have had a penalty.

Coach Aleksandrs Starkovs, the man responsible for putting Latvia’s number one sport, ice hockey, temporarily in the shade, said:

Starkovs is almost certain to keep the same starting line-up for the third successive match with English-based Marian Pahars again on the bench.


The Netherlands (4-3-3): 1-Edwin van der Sar; 2-Michael Reiziger, 4-Wilfred Bouma, 3-Jaap Stam, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 20-Clarence Seedorf, 8-Edgar Davids, 6-Philip Cocu; 7-Andy van der Meyde, 10-Ruud van Nistelrooy, 19-Arjen Robben.

Latvia (4-4-2): 1-Aleksandrs Kolinko; 7-Aleksandrs Isakovs, 2-Igors Stepanovs, 4-Mihails Zemlinskis, 6-Olegs Blagonadezdins; 8-Imants Bleidelis, 14-Valentins Lobanovs, 3-Vitalijs Astafjevs, 10-Andrejs Rubins; 11-Andrejs Prohorenkovs, 9-Maris Verpakovskis.

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