Handle with care as Dutch meet Portugal
KHARKHIV (Reuters) - Portugal and the Netherlands shared 16 yellow cards and four reds in their last competitive match and there are plenty more reasons that make their decisive Euro 2012 Group B match on Sunday a powder keg.
Two teams with a penchant for theatrics, self-styled hard men like Pepe and Nigel de Jong and a brooding Cristiano Ronaldo add up to a potent mix for Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli.
With seven Dutch survivors in the squad from the team who lost 1-0 to Portugal at the 2006 World Cup, there could be lingering resentment from a match which broke all the wrong records.
There have also been warning signs of another Dutch implosion with winger Arjen Robben stomping off the field and immediately removing his shirt when substituted in the 2-1 defeat by Germany.
Both teams still have a chance of qualifying although it is a long shot for the Dutch, who are pointless after demoralizing losses to Denmark and Germany.
Bert van Marwijk's team are set to follow a curious trend in which beaten World Cup finalists exit the following European Championship at the group stage. It happened to the Dutch themselves in 1980, West Germany in 1984, Italy in 1996, Germany in 2004 and France in 2008.
Their only chance is to win by two goals and hope Germany beat Denmark in the other game.
Portugal have three points after beating Denmark 3-2 and a win would be enough for them, unless the Danes beat Germany by a one-goal margin and score more than two goals in the process. A draw would also do the trick for Paulo Bento's team if Denmark fail to beat Germany.
Portugal beat the Dutch at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup but it was the second match, quickly named the Battle of Nuremberg, which gained notoriety. Continued...