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De Jong defiant in face of elimination

SoccerNews in European Championships 14 Jun 2012

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Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong has insisted they can still qualify for the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Germany left Bert van Marwijk’s team needing to beat Portugal on Sunday and then rely on Germany to beat Denmark in Group B.

If Joachim Loew’s side fail to win against the Danes, the Netherlands will be eliminated regardless of their own result having lost both of their games so far.

“This situation is a bit odd, three teams could finish with three points, and we might qualify with that,” de Jong told Goal.com.

“It was not what we expected, but we must seize the opportunity.

“Portugal are a good team, of course, with good players, especially in attack. But I think we are better, and that it’s time to prove it because we have not done so in this tournament.”

De Jong admitted that they have been left in an uneasy situation, given that a draw between Germany and Denmark would see the Dutch eliminated.

“I do not know (about the Germany-Denmark match),” de Jong said.

“Now it is not up to us what the outcome will be.

“I’m sure we will beat Portugal, but obviously we have to wait for Germany to win, which is a bit uncomfortable, really.”

The Manchester City man also hit back at suggestions that the Netherlands lack the mental strength to progress, having struggled to respond after falling a goal behind in their two matches so far.

“During the qualifiers we won almost every game and we also won almost all of our friendlies,” he said.

“Arguably the Euros have been a little unfortunate, but we can’t expect much when we miss so many chances.”

De Jong also maintained that the loss to Germany had not adversely affected the squad despite the rivalry between the two countries.

“There is a great rivalry, but it hurts the fans more than us,” de Jong said.

“The defeat against Denmark also hurt a lot, in both cases the situation is the same.

“We started the game well, the first 20 minutes were very good, but we collapsed after the goal. I do not know what it was.

“In the second half, having Rafael van der Vaart on the pitch was important, because we link well in midfield and that helped us catch up with a goal from Robin van Persie, but in the end we fell short, and we lost deservedly.”

Despite his lack of success in Portugal’s opening two matches, de Jong was wary of the threat posed by Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the decisive meeting between the two nations.

“He’s a great player, everyone knows that,” he said.

“Sure you can stop him, but you have to be focused the whole game, he won’t let you relax.”

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