By Pete Sanderson in Amsterdam
Roy Makaay has admitted the Netherlands can learn a lot from their Scottish opponents ahead of Wednesday's UEFA EURO 2004™ play-off second leg at the Amsterdam ArenA.
The FC Bayern München forward, whose side must overcome a 1-0 deficit from Saturday's first leg, confessed the Dutch players froze at Hampden Park against the youthful exuberance of a spirited Scotland side. "It was an incredible atmosphere in Scotland and their players really rose to the challenge - especially their defenders," said Makaay.
Early goal vital
"We missed too many chances and struggled to play like a team - but it is only half-time and if we can raise our game at home like Scotland then we can win this match. I am sure our fans will be as passionate as the Scots in the ArenA and the players are keen to show Saturday was just a one-off.
If we can score an early goal then I am confident we will be in Portugal next summer."
The return fixture has gripped the entire Dutch nation with everyone from window cleaners to taxi drivers offering their opinion to under-fire coach Dick Advocaat on who should fill the two striking berths. Ruud van Nistelrooij, a starter in Glasgow, admitted their depth in the forward department has, at times, proved more a hindrance than a help.
"It is a problem that we have so many good forwards," the Manchester United FC striker told uefa.com. "It puts huge pressure on the shoulders of whoever plays in attack and if we do not score we get heavily criticised and told we are using the wrong two players like we did at Hampden Park."
Change in attack
Advocaat, who refused to reveal whether he will remain Dutch coach after the game even if the Netherlands qualify, is keeping his cards close to his chest ahead of Wednesday's encounter but the general opinion is that one of Van Nistelrooij or Patrick Kluivert will make way for AFC Ajax forward Rafael van der Vaart in the starting eleven.
Perhaps more pressing concerns for Advocaat are the suspension of key defender Jaap Stam and the lack of a genuine leader in central midfield due to the absence of the instrumental Marc van Bommel. FC Barcelona defender Michael Reiziger will move inside and do his best to fill the huge void left by Stam but it remains to be seen who Advocaat will turn to in a bid to add steel to a lightweight central midfield which was painfully exposed by Scotland. The call-ups of Arjen Robben and Wilfred Bouma suggest Advocaat may have a trick or two up his sleeve.
Scotland coach Berti Vogts has some selection dilemmas of his own. The suspension of midfield anchorman Christian Dailly leaves a gaping hole in front of the back four. Steven Caldwell, Don Hutchison and Graham Alexander will battle it out to take on Dailly's mantle as defensive shield.
Despite going into the game with a one-goal advantage Vogts insisted his side would go in search of the killer away goal which would leave the Netherlands requiring three goals to win. "
This could be a historic day for Scottish football," said the German. "The last thing we want to do is sit back. We must score a goal, it is as simple as that. We did it in Germany and I expect us to do it again in Amsterdam."
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