Sat, Nov 15, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Scots face tough task against Dutch

EURO 2004 Holland has by far the stronger squad on paper, but recent infighting has installed discord in the Dutch dressing room, giving the Scots a chance to capitalize

AP , GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy of Manchester United arrives at Prestwick Airport in Scotland on Thursday. The Netherlands are due to play Scotland in a Euro play-off match today.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat returns to Scotland with his job and his country's soccer reputation on the line.

Advocaat's talent-rich but squabbling Dutch failed to qualify directly for next year's 16-team championship in Portugal. Instead, they face Scotland at Hampden Park today in the first leg of the playoffs.

The game marks a homecoming of sorts for Advocaat, who managed Glasgow Rangers from 1998-2001.

"There are not a lot of secrets between Scotland and Holland," he said.

Scotland coach Berti Vogts has called the matchup a "dream draw" for the Dutch.

"Advocaat knows all my players, especially the players from Rangers," he said.

History also plays a part for Vogts, who was a member of the German team which beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the 1974 World Cup final.

"For me a German taking on Holland is like England vs. Scotland for you," he said. "It's a great challenge but we know we can make the impossible possible."

After missing out on the 2002 World Cup, the Netherlands faces the possibility of failing to qualify for a second consecutive major championship.

That prospect weighs heavily on Advocaat, who said he'll resign if the Dutch fail to advance.

"It's all or nothing," he said. "I know that and the players know it. We all want to go to Portugal badly. It has to happen Saturday and Wednesday."

The second leg will be played in Amsterdam.

The Dutch have been roiled by infighting.

Last December, Edgar Davids and Mark van Bommel clashed in the locker room. Advocaat dropped Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy from the side's final Euro 2004 qualifier as punishment for kicking a water bottle in disgust after being substituted in a game against the Czech Republic.

Van Nistelrooy has been recalled to the squad, but is likely to be relegated to the bench along with Bayern Munich striker Roy Makaay.

FC Barcelona's Patrick Kluivert and Ajax's Rafael van der Vaart are expected to start up front.

While van Nistelrooy -- the top scorer in the Premier League last season -- hasn't reconciled with Advocaat, AC Milan's Clarence Seedorf returned to the squad after a dispute over his position in August.

Seedorf denied the claim by Dutch great Johan Cruyff that the Dutch would be a "lost generation" if they failed to qualify.

"It's not for nothing that we have a good reputation outside the Netherlands," Seedorf said, noting the Dutch reached the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

"I am 100 percent convinced we are going to Portugal. I have no worries about that at all. We have better players than Scotland, and top players deserve to be playing in major championships."

Scotland has scored only once in its last six matches against the Netherlands, and hasn't won since a 2-1 victory in a friendly in March 1982.

The Scottish players view the tensions in the Dutch camp with interest.

"They have not had the best of times in the last few years so I think they are there for the taking," Scotland forward James McFadden said.

"If we are going to beat them then it has got to be now, and I don't see why we should fear them. If we fear them then we will not win."

Defender Christian Dailly, who will win his 50th cap Saturday, said Scotland's results against Germany in group qualifying would help. Scotland drew 1-1 in Glasgow, then lost 2-1 in Dortmund.

"The squad is in the best shape since Berti took over [in February 2002]," Dailly said. "We did quite well in the two games against Germany and might have got more."

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