Maniche wary of Dutch threat despite past successes

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The Independent Football

The Netherlands have a particularly poor record against Portugal but Maniche, who scored the decisive goal when the two sides last met, in the Euro 2004 semi-finals, is sensibly ignoring history in the run-up to tomorrow's second-round meeting.

The 2-1 defeat two years ago was the most recent instalment in a seven-game winless run for the Dutch, but Maniche, who spent the last half of last season on loan at Chelsea, said: "We have been talking about our record against Holland and it is true that the statistics are good for Portugal but it is a totally different team now and it is also the first time we have played them in the World Cup."

Maniche, who scored in the 2-1 group-winning victory over Mexico, will face his former Chelsea team-mate Arjen Robben.

"I was glad to have played with Robben at Chelsea," he said. "He is not only a good player but a good friend. But Holland are not only Robben. We have to worry about other players as well. Holland have strikers who are better than any we have faced in the competition so far."

Ruud van Nistelrooy matches that description, and Maniche was expecting the Manchester United forward to play despite hints from Van Basten that he might be dropped for Dirk Kuyt. Maniche, who was on loan at Chelsea from Dinamo Moscow, also clarified his own situation, confirming he would not be returning to Stamford Bridge because Jose Mourinho had decided not to take up an option to buy.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst will also be meeting a friend, the Portugal playmaker Deco, in Nuremberg tomorrow. But the defender said that friendship counts for nothing at the World Cup - especially as he is one of the five remaining members of the Dutch starting line-up for the Euro 2004 semis.

"He is a fantastic person and a great player," Van Bronckhorst said of his Barcelona team-mate. "But I will not be texting him or contacting him in any way. You have no friends once the World Cup starts. All I am interested in is winning the game."

Defender Johnny Heitinga is the only injury concern for the Dutch with a hamstring problem, though he is expected to recover, while Khalid Boulahrouz is expected to start at right-back.

Boulahrouz came on against Ivory Coast to replace the injured Heitinga and also started against Argentina in central defence on Wednesday. The 24-year-old did well in both positions, and the coach Marco van Basten said: "There is a big chance that Boulahrouz will start against Portugal."

The defence is the one part of the team Van Basten does not have to worry about as they have conceded only four goals during an unbeaten run of 15 competitive matches. Van Basten believes his midfield should take much of the credit: "The strength of the defence has also to do with the support they get from the midfielders," he said.

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