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Dutch combination suits Stam
Jaap Stam believes the Netherlands' talented crop of youngsters can help his own generation of Dutch players to win their first major tournament at EURO 2004 this summer.
Tuesday, 17 February 2004


The 32-year old defender, who is expected to retire from international football after the competition along with the likes of Frank de Boer, Phillip Cocu and Marc Overmars, knows that this is realistically their last chance to become national heroes. 

And Stam believes this overwhelming desire to succeed, coupled with the exciting group of young players also at Dick Advocaat's disposal, could be enough to help the Netherlands finally repeat their memorable success at the 1988 European Championship, the country's only major trophy. 

"The fact that it will be the last chance for a lot of this squad will have a major bearing on how we do," Stam told "The talent has always been there with this group of players but in truth we have underachieved. I know that those of us who won't be around for the 2006 World Cup will be very determined to prove people wrong by winning this competition. I believe we are still good enough - it's our final chance to prove it. 

"As for the new group of footballers coming through - I think they are going to be another excellent generation. Boys like Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben are the future of Dutch football and the rest of Europe will see how good they are this summer. The future looks very bright." 

Advocaat's side begin their preparations for Portugal this week when they entertain World Cup quarter-finalists the United States at the Amsterdam ArenA. It is the first time they have met as a squad since overcoming Scotland in the EURO 2004 play-offs and Stam believes it will be the ideal way for them to get back into international action. 

"I think the United States will provide us with a hard test on Wednesday," he said. "The Dutch federation has arranged some tough friendlies - our next two are against France and Greece - and that is just what we need. It might do more harm than good if we gave ourselves easy games ahead of EURO 2004. At the European Championship there will be 16 top teams, so to have five difficult warm-up games is great preparation." 

Stam is convinced that all of the best Dutch players will get a fair crack of the whip in the forthcoming friendlies, thanks to Advocaat's substitutions policy. "What Dick Advocaat prefers to do is make just three or four changes at most, but use different substitutions in different friendlies," he said. "I think that is the best balance because the first-choice team gets a lot of practise together, the fringe players get a longer chance to impress, and the coach can see new combinations develop too. 

"As for our hopes at EURO 2004 - as always I think the Netherlands have a good chance," he added. "On paper we still have a squad that is good enough win the tournament but as we've found out in the past, that doesn't count for anything when the matches begin. We need to find our form at the right time and if we can do that in Portugal I'd like to think that we are good enough to be champions."
- Adrian Clarke




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