Euro 2012: Expert v Expert Preview - Netherlands v Portugal

Dutch perspective: Onno Heijdens

Will this be a last hurrah for the Dutch, or could it be a stepping-stone? Much will depend on the team’s ability to score. At least two goals are needed and even then we will have to wait on the Germany/Denmark result. The Germans need to win to be sure of finishing top of the group, so while Germany could do the Danes a favour, this seems rather risky.

Remember the last time the Dutch rested their squad when already qualified for the knockout stages? The rhythm of the team was disrupted, resulting in elimination from Euro 2008 at the hands of Russia. I hope that Germany take heed of this warning.

Portugal have looked beatable during this tournament. Ronaldo has not been at his best and has looked nervy in front of the goal. Even though he has taken the most shots in the tournament so far, it doesn’t seem to be his tournament.

Another man who has struggled is Robin van Persie. He finally hit the net for the Netherlands against Germany, but it was a case of too little, too late. We hope that Robin will strike again against the Portuguese, and he should have the support of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Holland will be motivated and will be desperate to give their fans something to cheer about. A farewell show? I hope not.

Score prediction: Holland 3-1 Portugal

Huntelaar to score two or more at 9.00; van Persie to score from outside the box at 8.00; Holland to qualify at 6.00.

Portuguese perspective: Ben Shave

Record kept it simple: “Obrigado Varela”. Although Portugal’s super-sub deserves more than a brief note of thanks from one of the nation’s three sports dailies, you get the sense that after 90 minutes of life-shortening tension, that was all the editors could come up with. 

After the cautious approach that characterised their opening group match against Germany, Portugal returned to their schizophrenic ‘best’ in a tournament-saving 3-2 victory over Denmark, their bête noire of recent times.

As performances go, it was far from perfect, but Paulo Bento focused his post-match comments on the positives, declaring (somewhat disingenuously): “the equaliser was unjust but we didn't bow our heads; we showed character and got the winner we deserved.”

With one bogey team successfully negotiated, Portugal can look forward to Sunday’s match knowing that, depending on how Germany-Denmark unfolds, a draw could be enough to see them through to the last eight. With the Netherlands still harbouring faint hopes of qualification, Portugal’s task will not be easy – but history is on their side.

The Selecção have faced the Oranje eight times since their last loss back in 1991, winning five and drawing three of those matches. Their most recent encounter was the infamous ‘Battle of Nuremburg’, which saw four red cards and a remarkable sixteen yellows issued.

Just one Portugal player from that night remains on the scene: Cristiano Ronaldo. Now captain, the winger has endured a torrid tournament so far, and registered a pair of uncharacteristic misses against Denmark. Perhaps more worryingly, Ronaldo also seems to be attempting to win matches on his own, and his expression of profound relief following Varela’s winner betrayed the immense pressure that weighs on his shoulders. Despite the criticism, Ronaldo cares – perhaps too much.

Yet there is hope for Cristiano. Sunday’s referee is Nicola Rizzoli, and Ronaldo has scored in every game he has participated in with the Italian officiating. It need hardly be said that Portugal need that streak to continue.

Score prediction: Portugal 2-2 Holland

Draw at 3.45; Ronaldo to score at 2.55; over 3.5 goals at 2.70.