decisions for Dutch
Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat has some big decisions to make
as he considers his squad selection for EURO 2004.
05 February 2004
the Dutch begin their finals campaign on 15 June against
Germany, Advocaat will have five friendlies in which to
consider his options: the United States, France, Greece,
Belgium and South Africa provide the opposition. For Advocaat,
these matches should help him find the right blend of
established internationals and talented youngsters.
Finding that blend is the key. Serious questions were asked
after the 3-1 qualifying defeat in the Czech Republic last
September. Before that match, the 'Oranje' remained built
around the generation of players who emerged in the mid-90s.
The stars of Ajax's 1995 Champions League-winning team - Edwin
van der Sar, Frank de Boer, Edgar Davids, Michael Reiziger and
Patrick Kluivert - had been fixtures in the team for close to
So long as results were going their way, there was no problem.
From Advocaat's first match against England on 13 February
2002, the Netherlands stayed unbeaten for 14 matches. After
defeat in Prague, however, which left the Dutch facing a
play-off against Scotland, Advocaat's position became a
subject of debate.
When the Netherlands lost the play-off first leg 1-0 in
Scotland, all hell broke loose. "Against my instructions,
we played backwards. I am not going to give any names because
I prefer to discuss this with the players involved,"
Advocaat said. He recognised, however, that, with both
qualification and his own position under threat, he had no
choice but to make changes. The main victims were captain
Frank de Boer and Kluivert.
With youngsters Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart
playing important roles in midfield and striker Ruud van
Nistelrooij finally given the lead role in attack, the Scots
were dismantled 6-0. "This was the right time to
rejuvenate the squad. During the World Cup 1994 I made the
mistake by maybe keeping in some players for too long,"
Advocaat said. "I must not make that mistake again."
While Advocaat is negotiating with the Royal Netherlands
Football Association a new contract that will take him up to
the 2006 World Cup, the Dutch players recognise a good second
half of the season will decide who will go to Portugal. For
some, it could be the final showpiece tournament of their
Frank de Boer, his country's most-capped player with 108
appearances, understood this when he left Galatasaray to join
his twin brother Ronald at Rangers. His reasoning was clear.
"Advocaat told me that the situation had to change,"
said the 33-year-old about being left on the bench at
Galatasaray. "That is why I signed until the summer of
2004. I have always said that reaching Portugal was my
Advocaat will also follow closely developments at Barcelona,
where there are six potential squad members in Philip Cocu,
Michael Reiziger, Marc Overmars, Giovanni van Bronckhorst,
Kluivert and Edgar Davids. A Barça revival in the second half
of the season would do their prospects the power of good.
At home, meanwhile, Advocaat will be concerned by the injury
problems at PSV Eindhoven, which have affected Mark van Bommel,
Wilfred Bouma, Kevin Hofland and André Ooijer this season.
PSV youngster Arjen Robben will have to continue his good form
if he wants a place on the plane to Portugal. The same applies
to Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart at Ajax and Robin
van Persie at Feyenoord. - Berend