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Giovanni van Bronckhorst is more than happy for the Netherlands to begin their UEFA EURO 2008™ campaign against the world champions as they take on Italy in their Group C opener at Berne's Stade de Suisse Wankdorf.
With 78 caps, the Feyenoord man is the Netherlands' most experienced outfield player, and he is not afraid of the Azzurri's status as FIFA World Cup holders. "I think it's a good match to start the tournament," Van Bronckhorst said. "It's a difficult match for us against the world champions of two years ago. We are very determined to have a good first game. We have a lot of respect for Italy and what they have achieved but we will do all we can to get the three points."
Van Bronckhorst knows this territory, having already played in two UEFA European Championship semi-finals, including the 2000 defeat by the Azzurri, whose strength he again emphasised. "Italy have won a lot of titles, their players play for the biggest teams in Europe, they have a lot of experience and it is no accident that they are the reigning world champions," the 33-year-old said. "Any team would have trouble in beating them, but we have confidence in ourselves and we will go out there to pick up the points."
A midfielder for his club, Van Bronckhorst reverts usually to left-back in Marco van Basten's Oranje team and says the squad are in ideal condition for the tests to come in Group C against Italy, France and Romania, despite the withdrawal of Ryan Babel and Arjen Robben's current absence with a groin problem. "We have prepared for three weeks and worked very hard to get into top shape, and I think we are in peak condition," Van Bronckhorst said. "Unfortunately we have some players who cannot start but we have good players to replace them, players who will give 100 per cent for their country."
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