Dutch in disarray as Scotland display superior team spirit

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The Independent Football

For either the Netherlands or Scotland, tonight's final whistle under the roof of the Amsterdam ArenA will signal party time. To the disbelief of the home nation, already reeling from the 1-0 defeat at Hampden Park, the Dutch team stand accused of having made an early start.

Reports in the broadsheet newspaper Het Parool yesterday claimed that several of Advocaat's squad - allegedly led by the Barcelona striker Patrick Kluivert - attended an all-night "rave" for 3,000 people after returning from Glasgow.

The "stop-outs", who are said to have included the 20-year-old Rafael van der Vaart, were reported to have arrived at the International Dance & Trance club at 11pm and stayed until mid-morning.

Only two players, Kluivert and Van der Vaart, were supposedly photographed, but Radio Three, a national station, said last night that it was "sticking by its story" that it had received pictures of other players taken by party-goers.

Advocaat later maintained that Kluivert alone had attended, and then only to collect his wife. The Dutch manager complained that it seemed "everyone is trying to undermine the national team" and added: "The players are furious".

Judging by the reaction in phone-ins, the public felt the same away about the players. Many callers suggested they would not have minded their partying if they had beaten Scotland heavily, though not after a result which left them needing to win the second leg of their play-off by two goals to reach next summer's European Championship finals.

The Scots had themselves celebrated their finest victory of Berti Vogts' often traumatic tenure - and arguably their best competitive result in more than a decade - by going out for drinks at the Duck Bay Inn, near their Loch Lomond base, rather than hitting Glasgow's night spots.

Vogts, who apparently knew and approved of their outing, played down the potential impact of the Dutch "scandal" on tonight's game, saying: "Sometimes it's good for the boys and for team spirit [to go out drinking together]. They [the Dutch] are not a youth team, they are professionals - and it was a Saturday."

There was a certain irony about the Scots being presented with the opportunity to take the moral high ground, especially with up to 10,000 kilted fans depleting Amsterdam's alcohol supplies. It was left to Christian Dailly, whose suspension from this evening's match was confirmed yesterday by Fifa, the game's world governing body, to put the matter in light-hearted perspective.

On being informed by a reporter that some of the Dutch squad may have been out until 6am, he replied: "Only six o'clock? We've done them on that one as well. We had a curfew of 2am on Sunday morning, but anyone in bed by that time was in big trouble!"

The fact that Dailly - who shackled Kluivert and protected his centre-backs superbly on Saturday - travelled and trained with his team-mates is a sign of the spirit which set Scotland apart from their illustrious opponents in the opening encounter. Jaap Stam, who was also banned from the second leg after being booked, is already back at Lazio.

Vogts threw out several red herrings on the issue of who might replace Dailly, but may well bring in Maurice Ross at right-back, with Jackie McNamara moving into the role of midfield anchor. Whatever his starting line-up, the German was clear in his assessment of Scotland's task.

"We're close to making history, but we have to score. Then the door to Portugal will be wide open. And we'll be looking to score early. The first 30 minutes is always vital in international matches.

"All the players are feeling so good I think they can hardly wait for the game. It will be a big, big day for my boys - and maybe a historic day. The boys did it on Saturday by playing the matches of their lives and they have to do it again."

Vogts is clearly hoping that if his side can resist the anticipated Dutch barrage, the temperamental flaws which have long afflicted the "Oranje" may resurface. Lest this may sound fanciful, he reiterated his opinion that Scotland had played better in the away group fixture with Germany than against them at Hampden.

A repeat of the 2-1 defeat in Dortmund would send Scotland through to Euro 2004, which would be an extraordinary achievement for Vogts after the hostility generated by his early experimentation and poor results. If it is 1-0 to the Netherlands after 90 minutes, extra time will be played, with the "silver goal" rule coming into play. After a further goal, the game would continue until half-time - if it arrived in the first additional 15 minutes - or the last whistle. If it then remained 1-0, a penalty shoot-out would ensue.

Advocaat is expected to bring in Wesley Sneijder, the 19-year-old Ajax midfielder, and Wilfred Bouma, the PSV Eindhoven left-back, with Van der Vaart replacing Kluivert as the withdrawn striker. The team will be playing not only for the manager's job but for the Netherlands' credibility as a leading football power. As Vogts said, twisting the knife, the pressure is all on the Dutch.

THE NETHERLANDS (4-2-3-1; probable): Van der Sar (Fulham); Reiziger (Barcelona), Oojer (PSV Eindhoven), F De Boer (Galatasaray), Bouma (PSV); Sneijder (Ajax), Cocu (Barcelona); Van der Meyde (Internazionale), Van der Vaart (Ajax), Overmars (Barcelona); Van Nistelrooy (Manchester United).

SCOTLAND (4-1-3-2; probable): Douglas (Celtic); Ross (Rangers), Pressley (Hearts), Wilkie (Dundee), Naysmith (Everton); McNamara (Celtic); Fletcher (Manchester United), Ferguson (Rangers), McCann (Southampton); Dickov (Leicester), McFadden (Everton).

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia)