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Stam's Portuguese predictions
Netherlands defender Jaap Stam gives his predictions for EURO 2004.

Friday, 02 April 2004

Fresh from playing in the 0-0 draw against France on Wednesday, Lazio defender Jaap Stam is preparing himself for a summer of competition with the Netherlands at EURO 2004. 

The 31-year-old took time out to speak to and discuss his hopes for the finals, and the teams and players who he thinks will be making the headlines in Portugal. 

Adrian Clarke: Who do you think will win EURO 2004?

Jaap Stam:
Naturally I hope and believe that the Netherlands will win it. This will be my last major tournament with the national team so it is my final chance to win a prize for my country and thatís why I'm so desperate to succeed. As a squad of players we are potential champions but itís all about how you perform while you are involved in the tournament. If I had to choose another team Iíd say that France are my favourites to win EURO 2004. When you look at the quality they have at their disposal they have to be considered the team to beat. I know that they had a bad World Cup in 2002 but to me, they are still the best team in Europe - and maybe the world. 

Which team will cause the biggest surprise at EURO 2004?

The Czech Republic. They aren't European minnows but they are still regarded as outsiders and I'm not so sure about that. The Czechs have proved in recent years that they are a hard team to beat and I think they will be just that in Portugal. Unfortunately for us, we're in the same group as them. 

Who will be the star player at the tournament?

If I had to pick out a few players who I expect to shine I would say Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and Ruud van Nistelrooij. They are all world class and this occasion will probably bring out the best in them. Zidane and Henry have done it before at major tournaments but this will be Ruud's first real taste of it and I expect it to bring the best out of him too. For the Netherlands' sake, I really hope it does! 

Which player will emerge as a new star?

One name stands out and that is my Dutch compatriot Arjen Robben. Arjen is a left winger who is very much like my old Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs. He is quick, very good at dribbling, and scores goals. Of course, I don't know if he'll play yet, but watch out for him if he does. 

What is your most memorable moment of past European Championships?

Sadly, the one moment I can't forget is when I missed a penalty in the shoot-out against Italy in the EURO 2000 semi-final. I wish I could but I can't! The disappointment of that moment will live with me forever, but I canít do anything about it now. We had so many chances to beat Italy that night in Amsterdam that it was fate that we wouldn't go through. When a big match goes down to penalties like that it is always a lottery and, unfortunately for us, we were the losers. It's not a nice memory but is my most memorable moment of past European Championships that's for sure. Hopefully I will have some new fantastic things to remember from this year's tournament in Portugal. - Adrian Clarke




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