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  Coaches Reaction


Group D: Völler wary of old foes
Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic were united in emphasising the difficulty posed by Group D after the draw in Lisbon.
Sunday, 30 November 2003


The three heavyweights are among the favourites to go all the way at UEFA EURO 2004 but will have to battle it out, along with surprise package Latvia, for just two places in the quarter-finals. It is a group full of intrigue with the Germans and the Dutch rivals of old, while the latter also came through qualifying with the Czechs. To add further spice, Germany defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 to win this competition back in 1996. 

Dick Advocaat, the Netherlands coach, said: "It is a very difficult group and we all know each other quite well. There is a big rivalry between Holland and Germany and it is up to us to show that we can beat them, the Czechs as well. The outsiders are Latvia but if they can beat Turkey [in qualifying] it shows they have a good side as well." 

Regarding that rivalry with the three-time champions Germany, Advocaat added: "They are two great countries and it will be the same in June. They always show in big tournaments what they can do. They showed it in the [2002] FIFA World Cup in Japan, I think it will be very exciting between the two countries." 

Rudi Völler, his German counterpart, recalled his memories of meeting the Dutch when they won the 1988 UEFA European Championship, and also at the 1990 World Cup. He said: "I played myself in two of these games. I know it was something very exciting and I expect the same this time." 

He added: "The Netherlands finished second in their group but only because they were playing a strong opponent in the Czech Republic, it is one of the strongest groups in the tournament." Völler also believed that his team had drawn closer together over qualifying and that this would stand them in good stead for the finals. 

Czech coach Karel Brückner said: "Undoubtedly we know more about Germany and Netherlands who have very strong championships. Certainly we will have to learn something about our Latvian friends, but I think they may be the surprise team at the tournament." 

Despite pipping the Dutch in qualifying Group 3, Brückner refused to get carried away with his team's chances of emulating the victorious Czechoslovakian team of 1976. "I don't want to speculate, but every team normally has a better chance of winning when they play well, and we will need to play that way when we play Latvia in our opening game. The same applies, of course, for the subsequent matches against Germany and the Netherlands." 

Latvia will not be underestimated by any of the big three, although they are playing at their first major finals. Having beaten Turkey in the play-offs, Aleksandrs Starkovs's men will fancy their chances against anyone, especially in a one-off encounter. Starkovs, however, was playing down their chances and emphasising the strength they would face. "All of our opponents have won previous European Championships which shows how strong they are," he said. 

Starkovs added: "It is an honour to be playing against such good teams, but everyone knows that every good team has some sort of weakness and we will need to be able to find that in order to give ourselves the best chance of causing a surprise."




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