Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Arjen Robben have all been declared fit to play in the Group C meeting between France and the Netherlands here tonight, though the French pair are much the more likely to return after missing the opening game.
The Dutch will qualify for the quarter-finals if they win and for their coach, Marco van Basten, the decision to keep an unchanged team is a strong temptation after his side defeated Italy 3-0 in thrilling fashion on Monday. "It is a luxury problem," he said yesterday. His opposite number, Raymond Domenech, seems certain to bring back Henry and probably his old Arsenal pal Vieira too, given the feeble nature of France's attacking in the grim goalless draw against Romania, when strikers Nicolas Anelka and Karim Benzema wasted the very few chances created.
Domenech said he had decided on his team but would only add: "Thierry Henry is in the 23 who are all match-fit and could start." The right-back Willy Sagnol, whose position has been a subject of some debate, was more forthcoming about Henry: "He had a hard season in Barcelona, but we know he's the best scorer in French history. I'm sure he's very motivated and wants to show Spanish people as well as French people that Thierry Henry's still one of the best players in the world."
The coach's gnomic utterances bewilder as well as frustrate the French media. When replying yesterday, "I'm not superstitious, it brings bad luck," Domenech was presumed to be making a joke. He was more serious on the subject of the French fans, who to William Gallas' annoyance whistled the team after the Romania bore: "It's a different culture to countries where 15,000 travel to support the national team, and we're working on it but it won't be possible in a week."
Orange-clad Dutch fans outnumbered those in blue in the delightful Swiss capital last night, excited by the possibilities for Van Basten's men. For Wesley Sneijder, the little Real Madrid midfielder who could be one of the stars of Euro 2008, the squad that eats and drinks together, wins together. Fractious factions have cost Dutch teams in the past, but Sneijder said: "This is my third tournament and never before have I seen such a good group. The group that drinks a cup of coffee after dinner is growing, the coaches are there too. When we had a day off in a tournament, a few guys used to go this way and another went somewhere else. Now all 23 people eat together. Maybe that's why we have the now-or-never feeling."
Netherlands (probable, 4-2-3-1): Van Der Sar (Manchester United); Boulahrouz (Hamburg), Ooijer (Blackburn), Mathijsen (Hamburg), Van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord); De Jong (Hamburg), Engelaar (Twente); Kuyt (Liverpool), Van Der Vaart (Hamburg), Sneijder (Real Madrid); Van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid).
France (probable, 4-2-3-1): Coupet (Lyon); Sagnol (Bayern), Gallas (Arsenal), Thuram, Abidal (both Barcelona); Vieira (Internazionale), Makelele (Chelsea); Govou (Lyon), Ribéry (Bayern), Malouda (both Chelsea); Henry (Barcelona).
Referee: Herbert Fandel (Ger)
Misses next match if booked: Netherlands De Jong. France SagnolReuse content