Blind works hard at English lesson

euro-spy; MAN ON THE SPOT Danny Blind (Netherlands)

If the Netherlands are to survive tonight's quarter-final against France at Anfield, their defenders will have to play a great deal better than they did against England on Tuesday, when they left Alan Shearer unmarked in the penalty area, among other sins.

Off the pitch, the responsibility for sorting it out lies with Guus Hiddink and his coaching staff. But, once the first whistle sounds tonight, there is little they can do. Then, the Dutch captain and senior defender, Danny Blind, will be in charge.

Now 34 years of age, Blind has been with Ajax for a decade, following seven years with Sparta Rotterdam. He has been content to stay out of the limelight at the Amsterdam club while a succession of more eye-catching performers have hogged the headlines, but no one in the Netherlands underestimates Blind's value to club and country. A strong and disciplined central defender, comfortable on the ball and tactically sharp, he remains a key player even in the twilight of his international career.

Blind knows what went wrong against England. "The worst thing you can have is a team in two minds," he said, admitting that some team-mates had ignored instructions. "Normally there's no problem but on Tuesday there was, because some players wanted to go into attack when they should have stayed back."

The off-field problems, with Edgar Davids' expulsion from the squad being followed by further dissent from Clarence Seedorf, have not helped. "They're all rumours," Blind insisted, however. "I've played for many years with all these guys at Ajax and there haven't been any problems at all. Nothing has changed." He remains a positive captain. "We have to learn from the England game. It will be very difficult, but nothing is impossible."

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