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Returning Netherlands have eyes on grand prize

Back in the finals after six years away, two-time winners the Netherlands are aiming for a hat-trick in Israel, coach Cor Pot saying: "Now we are there we want to become champions."

Returning Netherlands have eyes on grand prize
Returning Netherlands have eyes on grand prize ©UEFA.com

Victory against Slovakia in October's UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying play-offs was a cathartic experience for Cor Pot and all concerned with the Netherlands.

Two years before, at the same stage of the competition, Pot presided over an away-goals loss to Ukraine that meant the Jong Oranje missed out on the finals for the second successive edition. Now they are back, though, and the coach is intent on going all the way in Israel next June.

"It [the Ukraine defeat] was an unbelievably disappointing moment for everybody because we missed the Olympic Games and the European Championship," Pot told UEFA.com at November's final tournament draw in Tel Aviv. "So this time we were so focused on reaching the European Championship in Israel and I am very happy we are here."

As two-time winners of the competition, in 2006 and 2007, the Netherlands boast an impressive pedigree. Their qualification for this summer's showpiece event was founded on a watertight defence – conceding just three goals in ten matches, a particularly noteworthy statistic given the sometimes stepping-stone nature of U21 football. 

"We fielded a lot of different teams because a lot of players were going to the [senior] national side," said Pot. "So everybody was happy that we reached Israel and now we are there we want to become European champions. That is the target for us."

A daunting section awaits, though, with the Dutch up against holders Spain, 2009 winners Germany and Russia in Group B. "We are well organised and we have good players with good skills," explained Pot, who turns 63 the day before his side's matchday two encounter with Russia on 9 June. "Now we must operate as a team and if we can do that, with our style of play, then we have a chance."