Marco van Basten has delivered an ominous warning for Holland’s Euro 2008 rivals: the Dutch coach believes the side that has taken the tournament by storm still has room for improvement.
In comments that underlined the burgeoning confidence in the camp of the Oranje, van Basten insisted his side would be going all out for victory in their final group match against Romania on Tuesday, despite having already wrapped up their quarter-final place with stunning wins over Italy and France.
The Italians and the French have expressed concern that the Dutch will take their foot off the pedal and allow Romania a win that would see both of the 2006 World Cup finalists eliminated at the group stage.
Van Basten insisted however they had no cause for concern.
“We are in a good position but we also want to play a good game, so we take it really seriously and we are going to put out the best formation we can think of against Romania,” he said.
The former AC Milan striker — who is attempting to add the European title as a coach to the one he won as a player in 1988 — is confident his squad will not allow the plaudits they have received to go to their heads.
“All the praise gives you a lot of confidence and that is important for the players,” he said. “But it does not really matter what the crowd or the press say.
“They are very positive at the moment, everything is great. But we also know between ourselves there are things to improve and that is what we are talking about and working on.”
Van Basten has confirmed that he will take the opportunity to give some match time to players who were not involved in the 3-0 win over Italy and the 4-1 demolition of France.
But he claimed that would not necessarily mean Romania would be facing a weaker side.
“We have a very professional group with 23 ‘A’ internationals and they are all serious professionals and good players.
“Tomorrow we are going to confront the game with the same concentration and intention as the last two games.”
Van Basten’s comments were backed up by Ruud van Nistelrooy, who said the Dutch were reluctant to switch down a gear ahead of a quarter-final against either Russia or Sweden.
“We put a lot of work in to reach the level of the first two games and we don’t want to lose that momentum tomorrow (Tuesday),” he said. “It is important for the next games we have to play.”
Asked to explain how the Dutch have hit such form here, van Basten said the quality of his side’s finishing had been crucial.
“I think we had already a good team and good players,” he said. “We already played some good games in preparation. But also last year we had some games where we created a lot of chances and didn’t make the goals.
“The big difference now is that the occasions we created ourselves against Italy and France we made into goals. The result is very positive and the feeling is very positive.”
Van Nistelrooy — who set aside his differences with van Basten from the 2006 World Cup finals to rejoin the international set-up — put the performances down to the strength of team spirit, an element that has sometimes been missing from equally talented Dutch squads in the past.
“We did play some good games before but we didn’t expect this either,” the Real Madrid forward admitted.
“We surprised ourselves a little bit but now we are in a good mood. we have a good squad of people, we are working hard and I think that is the main reason (for the performances).
“I think this moment is the best I’ve been in with the national team. I joined in 1998 and that was also a good group (Dennis Bergkamp, Jaap Stam, Edgar Davids, Frank de Boer etc.).
“But I have to say that at the moment, I’m enjoying the way we are performing.”
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