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Netherlands eyeing Euro 2020 glory ahead of clash with ‘difficult’ Czechs

Budapest (AFP) – Netherlands coach Frank de Boer said Saturday his sights are set on winning Euro 2020 as the Oranje embark on the tournament’s knockout stage against the Czech Republic in their last-16 tie.

“Our goal is not only to reach the final but to win it, that’s the objective, then the tournament will be judged a success for us,” De Boer said ahead of Sunday’s clash in Budapest.

“But there are six or seven teams who also think about it this way and they have a lot of quality as well.

“You don’t become a European champion easily but I think we have the quality to do so.”

After failing to qualify for Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup, the likes of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder have all gone and a new Dutch generation embodied by Barcelona playmaker Frenkie de Jong has emerged.

De Boer is optimistic that repeating the famous Marco van Basten-inspired triumph at the 1988 Euro may not be beyond his side.

“I’m a positive person, so let’s say that everything will fit in its place,” he said.

The Oranje strolled through Group C, winning all three games in Amsterdam and scoring eight goals in the process, but now face a stiff test in Jaroslav Silhavy’s stubborn Czech side.

The winners of this tie will take on Wales or Denmark in the quarter-finals in Baku on July 3.

“Traditionally we have a difficult game against the Czechs,” said De Boer.

Since the Czech Republic emerged as an independent state in 1993, its national team has won five games and lost three against the Dutch, on top of three draws.

– Czech discipline –

Czech fans cherish above all the memory of an epic battle at Euro 2004 in Portugal, won by the Czechs who came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

The Czechs qualified as one of the four best third-placed sides, finishing behind England and Croatia in Group D with four points.

“They have good team discipline, are well-organised, and individually they have some great players,” said De Jong.

Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick’s 50-metre wonder strike against Scotland was “probably the most beautiful moment of the tournament,” said De Boer.

“I don’t think another player will beat that goal, it was world class, Schick’s a great striker,” he said. 

But the Dutch are not planning special treatment for Schick even though he has scored all three Czech goals at the tournament so far.

“We won’t defend him a different way, our defenders will have to be 100 percent focused, but not just on him,” said De Boer.

Rejecting the suggestion that the Dutch were on the “easy side of the draw” the 51-year-old coach said that for now only the Czech challenge matters.

“The best thing of being on this side is that we have five or six days between the games, so if we make it through we have more days to prepare, that’s all,” he said. 

Sunday’s tie will take place in a packed Puskas Arena in the Hungarian capital, the only Euro 2020 venue not to limit stadium capacity as an anti-coronavirus precaution.

“Packed stands always motivated me as a player, whether they were for or against me, this is what we play for, the emotions, we’re looking forward to it,” said De Boer.

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