Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat has admitted he is disappointed with the criticism that he has received from the Dutch media during UEFA EURO 2004™, particularly after the 3-2 defeat against the Czech Republic in the group stage.
"I am not bitter, but I was disappointed in what was said about me after the Czech match," he said of the criticism that followed his decision to replace winger Arjen Robben with the more defensive-minded Paul Bosvelt with the Dutch leading 2-1. "They [the press] should realise that after this tournament I have to go home.
Joy taken away
"Luckily for me, we qualified for the semi-finals, otherwise who knows what would have happened. The joy of this tournament has been taken away by the press." However, the 56-year-old refused to say whether he was planning to continue as coach after the finals.
"To beat Portugal now is the most important thing to do," he continued. "I have said it from the start of this tournament, reaching the final is our goal. We can get rid of our semi-final syndrome. All the big nations are out already. I hope we can play in the final against the Czechs."
The Dutch lost on penalties the semi-finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™. Other past Dutch campaigns have floundered due to off-the-field wrangles, but Advocaat believes this time is different. "I think we have done very well, although no one seemed to believe in us any more two years ago," he said, referring to the failure to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
Compliment to players
"It is a huge compliment to the players who are on the bench, as they are still acting in a positive way. That is something to be proud of. If you look at experienced players like [Patrick] Kluivert and how positively he is acting in the interests of the team, that is very important." Kluivert has yet to make an appearance in Portugal.
Words of encouragement
Advocaat also gave his backing some of the younger players in his squad who have not quite lived up to expectations here. "We have some youngsters in our squad who will have to do it after the tournament," he said. "Rafael van der Vaart is one of them. He is really a huge talent, who has already proven himself in the past. Now he is experiencing a temporary set-back, but he will certainly come back."
Advocaat expects an open game against Portugal tomorrow after Saturday's tight quarter-final against Sweden. "When one of our wing attackers is not in good shape, we lose the ball too much," he said. "Against countries that play like Sweden we do not do very well most of the time. I think Portugal suit us better. There will be more attacking action and more space."
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