Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk discusses his team's defensive frailties and the "uncertainty in the players' heads" going into Sunday's crucial Group B game against Portugal.
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The Netherlands have endured an unexpectedly bumpy UEFA EURO 2012 campaign so far, but the Oranje remain just about in the hunt for a place in the quarter-finals. Coach Bert van Marwijk spoke to UEFA.com to explain his team's tactical deficiencies and mental frailties ahead of Sunday's decisive Group B game against Portugal.
UEFA.com: What went wrong against Germany?
Bert van Marwijk: Losing against Germany can just happen because they are one of the best teams in the world. What was actually more painful was the first defeat against Denmark, in which we had 15 chances and the opponent four. We simply had to win that match and then the situation would have been completely different. In the match against Germany, I think we started very well again. In the first 20 minutes we did exactly what we wanted, we were in the right positions and we caused the Germans problems.
We had chances. Unfortunately we didn't score them and from the moment Germany scored a kind of fear came into the team. We had problems in the main part of the match, when we didn't really dare to hold a high defensive line any more. This meant that spaces appeared, especially in the middle of the pitch, which the Germans could exploit.
UEFA.com: How do you think that happened?
Van Marwijk: It has to do with a feeling that you have ... Two years ago at the World Cup, we felt unbeatable, like nobody could hurt us. And now, for two games in a row, we have conceded goals. Our defence is nervous pushing forward, and so we actually lose the battle in midfield as well. We need to play closer to each other and play as a tight-knit team. Our defenders need to be more confident going forward.
UEFA.com: Is that what you've learned from these games?
Van Marwijk: We've been working for weeks on this. The players know exactly what we want from them as they showed at the beginning of the match. But if you have a certain kind of uncertainty within your team and in the players' heads, then that is the most difficult thing to deal with.
UEFA.com: Despite two defeats there is still a chance of going through – how will the team deal with that?
Van Marwijk: We think Germany will beat Denmark and so we have to win against Portugal. History tells us they are not the easiest opponents for us so we need to be patient. But we also have to play in a way which enables us to score, and I'm convinced that if we score one, we will get a second.
UEFA.com: What do you expect from Portugal?
Van Marwijk: They probably cannot afford to lose so they might be in two minds. The most important thing for us is that we know we need to score twice. We can't afford to let the opposition score, unless we score another one. The Portuguese have their qualities and most of the time they are up front, on the wings with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. They also have their weaknesses so we have to capitalise on them.