When the calm in the De Haan household was broken by a cry of "He's coming!", the wife of the Netherlands Under-21 coach knew in an instant that Marco van Basten had been on the phone to husband Foppe and Klaas Jan Huntelaar would be leading the Jongoranje line in Portugal.
This season the 22-year-old had announced himself as the latest in a long line of outstanding Dutch forwards, scoring 17 goals in 15 games for SC Heerenveen and another 16 in 16 for AFC Ajax, following a €9m winter transfer that made him the costliest player ever to move between two clubs in the Netherlands. Huntelaar subsequently made his mark in the UEFA Champions League, striking 16 minutes into his debut against FC Internazionale Milano, and was expected to carry the hopes of a nation at the FIFA World Cup.
Memories of 88
Fans believed Huntelaar had both the confidence and the armoury to match Van Basten's achievements at EURO '88, when the AC Milan forward started the competition as third-choice striker and ended it a legend after scoring a hat-trick against England and a volley of outrageous brilliance in the final against the Soviet Union which brought the Dutch their first and, so far, only major trophy. Crucially, Van Basten did not, leaving De Haan free to select a player who ended the qualifying campaign as its 12-goal leading scorer.
Huntelaar had the perfect opportunity to vent his frustration on Ukraine as the sides got UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group B under way in the sunshine of Agueda, a town that sits below the Caramulo and Bucaco mountains. The Ajax man found himself in the shadow of two other towering peaks today as Olexandr Yatsenko and Dmytro Chygrynskiy stuck closer to him than two coats of paint, reducing the star attraction to a bit-part role as Artem Milevskiy instead took centre stage.
Lanky and languid, the FC Dynamo Kyiv attacker unsettled the Netherlands throughout with his intelligent play and industry. Upended by goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer in the 39th minute, he stepped up to chip in a penalty trademarked by Czechoslovakian great Antonín Panenka. Milevskiy also played a part in Ukraine's second in the 51st minute, drifting behind a Dutch defence caught inexplicably cold by another Adrian Pukanych free-kick before teeing up Ruslan Fomin to tap in from close range.
Milevskiy had found himself in the type of space Huntelaar could only dream of as his supply line from midfield and out wide was ruthlessly cut out by a wave of yellow shirts. A couple of blocked shots, some neat touches and a large dose of frustration were all he had to show for his efforts. Looking ahead to Friday's match against Denmark, Huntelaar said: "The advantage of playing games in such a short space of time is that you are able to get revenge quickly and put things right. We lost the first match in 1988 and went on to become European champions so there is still hope." With Huntelaar there always is.
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