Today at Euro 2012: Denmark v Portugal and Netherlands v Germany

 

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The Independent Online

Denmark v Portugal

When the draw was made, and Group B declared the "Group of Death", many presumed that Denmark would be the victims of circumstance, but Saturday's win over the Netherlands defied that gloomy assumption.

Nicklas Bendtner, the Danes' main goalscoring threat, will be gaining his 50th cap in Lviv tonight. His record against Portugal is impressive – four goals in as many games – although the striker insists it is "merely a coincidence". 

If Bendtner is modest regarding his prolificacy against the Portuguese, his faith in his team-mates cannot be questioned. "I think you rarely see a team like ours, always ready to make that extra run for your team-mate – no matter who the opponent is," he said.

This confidence in Denmark's ability is echoed by centre-back Simon Kjaer, one of the stand-out performers against the Netherlands. When questioned about the threat posed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Kjaer said that they "can cope with him as a team and defeat Portugal again". 

Denmark look set to name an unchanged team from their win against the Netherlands, though yellow cards for Simon Poulsen and William Kvist would see them suspended for their final group match against Germany. Portugal, despite losing their first match to the Germans, look set to keep faith with their forward line of Ronaldo, Nani and Helder Postiga

The Portugal coach, Paulo Bento, said that his side has to "work a little more efficiently and look for the luck we've been missing in recent games". If things don't go Portugal's way today, they could be the "Group of Death's" first surprise victim.

Netherlands v Germany

Joachim Löw, the Germany coach, is refusing to rule out the possibility of changes for today's Group B game with the Netherlands.

They beat Portugal 1-0 on Saturday, but goalscorer Mario Gomez could be dropped to the bench, paving the way for Miroslav Klose to start. The Lazio striker was carrying a knock for the opening game, but is now fully fit, while Lukas Podolski could be replaced by Bayer Leverkusen's Andr Schürrle .

"I am glad that Miro [Klose] is feeling better. When he is fit he is world class," Löw said. "He is still missing a few things but he has progressed enough that he could start a match. I don't always say 'never change a winning team'. It is possible that I will make some changes but I have not decided yet."

Gomez would not be drawn on selection issues and said Germany are wary of the quality Bert van Marwijk's side possess: "The Netherlands have a very strong side even if they did lose their first match. They produced lots of goalscoring chances but just didn't manage to convert them; in football you are punished for that. It will be a very tight, exciting match."

The opposition have selection dilemmas of their own. Talisman Robin van Persie failed to fire in their 1-0 defeat against Denmark and there are calls for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to lead the line. One of the attackers definitely playing is Arjen Robben, who is bullish about the Netherlands' chances: "It is make or break, but we are still confident. We will, can and should win. If that happens, everything will be good and we can rise again." Defeat for the Dutch will see them leave the tournament in the group stage for the first time since 1980.

Player to watch: Ibrahim Afellay, Netherlands

Ibrahim Afellay is not one of the giants of the Dutch game. He does not have the profile of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder or Arjen Robben, the three greats who are still hunting for a major title together. He does not have the aura of the bad cop-bad cop combination in midfield of Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong.

But he is an excellent footballer, one of the most natural, watchable players at the European Championship. He could well be the difference between the Netherlands succeeding and failing to scramble out of Group B, which now looks even harder than it did before Saturday.

Against Denmark, much of the Dutch attacking play was good, and had Van Persie been more clinical they might have won. But there was a feeling of the old concern, that Van Persie, Sneijder and Robben are better individually than in combination. They compete with each other, for adulation, for the ball, for that shooting space on the edge of the box, from open play and free-kicks.

Afellay is different. More of an old-fashioned winger, he has recently replaced Dirk Kuyt; in a rare concession to style from Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk. Afellay has the traditional wide-man's gifts of pace and a taste for the byeline. But Shaun Wright-Phillips he is not: his first touch and awareness were enough to convince Barcelona to buy him from PSV Eindhoven in 2011.

But a long-term absence with a knee injury has limited his playing time at the Nou Camp. A lack of experience, though, is not the Netherlands' problem. Tonight they need to be quicker and sharper, and more selfless and cohesive. A winger like Afellay, who can run at Jerome Boateng, occupying German bodies and minds, stretching the pitch and providing service, might just help to get the best from the big names, and keep the Dutch in the cup.

Today at Euro 2012 in figures

15 The Czech Republic's win over Greece last night contained the fewest amount of shots - 15 - in a European Championship finals game since 1980.

39 Tonight will be Germany's 39th meeting with the Netherlands. Germany have won more often, 14 to the Netherlands' 10.

2010 Germany have not trailed in a competitive match since the third-place play-off match of the 2010 World Cup.

24 Years since as few as two teams failed to score in the opening round of a Euros - Portugal and the Netherlands are the only sides yet to score this year.

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