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Home comforts suit De Haan

Published: Saturday 16 June 2007, 2.37CET
Netherlands coach Foppe de Haan is hoping for a third Group A win against Belgium to ensure his side play the semi-final at his old Heerenveen stomping ground.
by Michael Harrold
from Langezwaag

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Published: Saturday 16 June 2007, 2.37CET

Home comforts suit De Haan

Netherlands coach Foppe de Haan is hoping for a third Group A win against Belgium to ensure his side play the semi-final at his old Heerenveen stomping ground.

For all the talk of collusion in the build-up to Saturday's Group A tie between the Netherlands and Belgium, Jong Oranje coach Foppe de Haan's mind is on one thing alone, ensuring his side remain in Heerenveen for their semi-final next week.

If the Netherlands top Group A they will play again at the Abe Lenstra Stadion on Wednesday, and after making themselves at home in De Haan's native Friesland, they have no intention of upping sticks yet. "As a human being I just want to win everything," De Haan said. "It's important we win the group as it would mean we wouldn't have to travel a lot. We like playing in Heerenveen because we're used to that." Things have gone well for his team in the north of the country. Victories over Israel and Portugal have earned a place in the semi-finals as well as Olympic qualification and a point against Belgium would take them through as group winners.

Belgium have earned admirers of their own and are yet to concede a goal after drawing with Portugal and defeating Israel. Another clean sheet would see François De Sart's side advance as runners-up, though the coach knows there is still work to be done. "Our first objective was to play well and qualify for the semi-finals and the Olympics," he said. "If we do that it will be a huge source of satisfaction. Beyond that anything is possible and we will try our best. There is one more step to go and I have to remind my players we are not there yet." Five of the Belgium squad play in the Eredivisie and texts have been passing between club-mates in the two camps. The mood remains upbeat, with De Sart joking about receiving a call from De Haan at today's press conference. Both coaches, though, have had serious matters to address.

Selection dilemmas
De Haan was still weighing up his options as he faced the media but is expected at the very least to rest man-of-moment Royston Drenthe, who is one booking away from suspension and unlikely to be risked ahead of the semi-finals. Goalkeeper Boy Waterman has been suffering the recurrence of a back problem and should cede his starting place to Kenneth Vermeer despite returning to training on Friday. Hedwiges Maduro has a slight hip complaint, increasing De Haan's selection dilemmas. "I'm caught in two minds, basically about not changing too much and building on what we have achieved with this team," he said. "If you change three positions things become more difficult, so I will have to think about it a little longer."

De Sart's hand has been forced by injury and suspension. Defender Thomas Vermaelen will be missed after returning home with a shoulder injury while midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Jan Vertonghen are suspended. Faris Haroun and Killian Overmeire are expected to line up in central midfield while Laurent Ciman could come in at centre-back. The Low Countries derby may no longer stir the emotions as it used to, but with 26,000 expectant supporters to impress at the Abe Lenstra, the Jong Oranje will not want their momentum to slip now.

Last updated: 16/06/07 21.38CET