Personal tragedy reinforces unity of the Dutch

Netherlands v Russia: Today, 19.45, Basle, ITV1

The Netherlands have played the most joyful football of Euro 2008; yesterday they were confronted with a sadness that renders all that talk of glory and trophies redundant. Khalid Boulahrouz's wife, Sabia, who was in Switzerland supporting her husband, gave birth, prematurely, to a daughter who died. The player has said he is available for tonight's quarter-final against Russia.

Boulahrouz was a full-back who deputised at centre-half without much success in either position during his time at Chelsea in the 2006-07 season but he has become emblematic of the new spirit within Marco van Basten's national squad. He insisted that he was in a fit state to play and that his wife supported his decision. The sadness that the couple have gone through has touched the players and the Dutch fans as well, making their progress at Euro 2008 just that little bit more poignant.

A group of the Dutch players, concerned that Boulahrouz and his wife were suffering away from home, came to visit them in hospital to offer their support. Van Basten came to see them, too. As well as the loss the couple have suffered, the Dutch public have been struck by the togetherness of a national squad which has, in previous tournaments, been anything but united. Tonight they face Guus Hiddink's Russia in Basle with a greater esprit de corps than any of their predecessors.

The pressure of facing Hiddink, who led the Netherlands to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals and repeated the feat four years later with South Korea, is not lost on the Dutch and there were some feisty exchanges at his press conference yesterday. However, the Netherlands go into tonight's game with a much greater sense of unity than was achieved in 1998, when Hiddink sent Edgar Davids home after a spectacular public fall-out. Van Basten has achieved what many thought was impossible.

True, the football is fantastic and any international manager who can afford to start games with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie on the substitutes' bench is blessed indeed, but Van Basten is reaping the benefits of decisions he made before the tournament. Clarence Seedorf was not content with a substitute's role, so he was left behind. Mark van Bommel, who has never seen eye-to-eye with Van Basten, was also judged to be surplus to requirements.

Van Basten and Hiddink are both expected to start with their usual first-choice line-ups – in the Netherlands' case that is the team that started their second group game, the 4-1 win against France. Russia should be unchanged from the team that began the 2-0 win over Sweden, their last group fixture.

The Russia coach found himself in conflict with Dutch reporters yesterday when it was put to him that coaching a team against his native country was "traitorous". Hiddink responded by sarcastically suggesting that he was his country's "biggest traitor" just because he would sing the Russian national anthem tonight.

"The only thing that worries me is that the Dutch team will have had five days more rest than us," Hiddink said. "That is not insignificant. But can we beat them? Why not? I am really blown away by the rapid progress that the team has made, given it has been put together only recently.

"My players are impressive in their capacity to listen and to understand. They also possess a lot of qualities in terms of speed and creativity."

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).

Russia (probable, 4-1-3-1-1): Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow); Anyukov (Zenit St Petersburg), Kolodin (Dynamo Moscow), Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow); Semak (Rubin Kazan); Zyryanov (Zenit St Petersburg), Semshov (Dynamo Moscow), Bilyaletdinov (Locomotiv Moscow); Arshavin (Zenit St Petersburg); Pavlyuchenko (Spartak Moscow).

Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil