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Denmark-Netherlands Preview

(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - The Netherlands and Denmark will get Euro 2012 Group B underway when they meet at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv on Saturday evening.

The teams also met in their opening match of the 2012 World Cup, and the Dutch will be hoping for a similar outcome to the 2-0 win in South Africa. Bert van Marwijk's side qualified for Poland and Ukraine with ease, winning nine of the ten games and scoring 37 goals in the process to defy their anti-football critics.

Having been in the final of the last World Cup and reached the semi-finals in two of the last three Euros, the Dutch are rightly considered among the favourites to win the tournament this time around, and are confident of their ability to do so.

"The Euros will be a success for us when we win it," said midfielder Rafael van der Vaart. "And you have to say that out loud as well, because saying things like 'a semi-final is nice'… No, we were finalists in the World Cup, so we also need to have the highest ambition now.

"I won't say it's now or never, but it's certainly a moment that you could describe as, 'If you can do it now, then it should definitely happen'.

"At a World Cup, it's a bit easier because sometimes you play against a couple of teams in the group stage when you don't have to be at 100%, and you have some time to grow into a tournament like that. But when you are in a group with Germany, Portugal and also Denmark - because many people forget that they are also very strong - then you have to be ready from the first minute onwards."

The talk in Holland ahead of the tournament has been of team selection.

With Van der Vaart and Kevin Strootman both making good cases for inclusion in midfield, it is up front where competition is strongest, with Van Marwijk struggling to fit both Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar into the same side.

Huntelaar top-scored for the Oranje in qualifying - hitting 12 in just eight games - and comes into the tournament on the back of a season where he finished leading scorer in the Bundesliga with 29 goals. Van Persie, however, remains favourite for the starting role, and veteran midfielder Mark van Bommel believes it will help the team to have such strong substitutes to call upon.

"We have a strong bench," said the 35-year-old Van Bommel. "That was also the case during the World Cup, and everyone adjusted, almost in an un-Dutch way, and sacrificed themselves for the team. Everyone was thinking about the team: it doesn't matter if I don't play, as long as the team wins. And if you have that feeling in a team, then you are almost invincible."

Surprise European Championship winners back in 1992, Denmark impressed in qualifying for their seventh Euros - topping a group including Portugal and Norway. They are drawn in the toughest group this time around, but experienced coach Morten Olsen believes that the underdog tag may just suit his talented squad in their opening fixture and beyond.

"It's a game against one of the tournament favourites from our point of view, so of course the Netherlands are favourites, but that doesn't mean that we are going to throw in the towel and say that we don't stand a chance," said Olsen of the opening fixture. "We will naturally try and grab the opportunity with both hands.

"We need to be successful in our play and of course you always need that little bit of luck, whether it's a favourable call from the ref, an injury or hitting the post or not.

"We are not practising hitting the outside of the post, we are naturally trying to hit the inside of the post. However, we're dealing with people and sometimes you just don't have that last bit of luck you need. Against the Netherlands we might need a little more luck than we would against the other opponents in our group. But that is what we must hope for."

The Danes are strong at the back - having conceded just six goals in qualifying - and offer a strong attacking threat, spearheaded by striker Nicklas Bendtner. Dennis Rommedahl and Michael Krohn-Dehli will offer pace and creativity on the flanks, while all eyes will be on how highly-rated Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen deals with the limelight in his playmaker role in midfield.

The other two teams in Group B are Germany and Portugal, who meet later on Saturday evening in Lviv.

Updated June 7, 2012

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