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By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) -- Total football could be on the verge of a total flameout.
Still stinging from their shocking loss to begin the European Championships, the Netherlands face a daunting challenge to regroup Wednesday night when they play Germany in a Group B match at Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The Dutch were tipped to make a deep run in Poland and the Ukraine, but now they face the very real threat of failing to survive the "Group of Death" following a 1-0 upset defeat to Denmark on Saturday. While the Oranje controlled possession for much of the game and created quality scoring chances - most notably Arjen Robben hitting the woodwork - the goal came on the lone counterattack by the Danes, and the Dutch showed a surprising lack of urgency in the second half trying to find the equaliser.
"It was the only dangerous action of Denmark," Netherlands captain Mark van Bommel said. "I'm speechless, because these three points are very important."
The sluggish play by the Dutch was stunning given their staggering amount of offensive talent. However, Robin van Persie never found that sublime first touch he displayed with Arsenal throughout the match, fellow striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had his only quality chance smothered after entering as a substitute, and Robben and Wesley Sneijder failed to create a flowing offence for the 2010 World Cup runners-up.
"There were maybe four, five, six players who had chances," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said, refusing to place the blame squarely on van Persie.
"I refuse to throw in the towel," he added. "We must beat Germany. We have done that before."
While the debate will again swirl around van Marwijk to choose between van Persie and Huntelaar as his starting striker, the Dutch backline may receive some fortification as defender Joris Mathijsen appears fully healthy after missing Saturday's match due to a hamstring injury. Van Marwijk said Mathijsen likely will replace Ron Vlaar if he is able to play.
As the Dutch realize anything but three points may scuttle their chances to reach the round of eight, Germany have an inside position to one of those quarterfinal berths following their 1-0 win over Portugal on Saturday. Mario Gomez's header on a deflected cross from Sami Khedira in the 72nd minute provided the match's lone goal after Germany survived a first-half blast off the underside of the crossbar by Portgual's Pepe.
The three-time European champions played a pragmatic and strong match with plenty of possession offensively, and relied on the dynamic backline duo of Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels to neutralize Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in their final third. The duo will again have to marshal Die Mannschaft's defence versus a Dutch squad shut out for the second straight match in a major tournament following its 1-0 extra time loss to reigning Euro champions Spain in the World Cup final.
"I played against Klaas-Jan Huntelaar this season and did well, but not so well against Robin van Persie, who scored three goals in two matches against us," Hummels told UEFA's official website. "The Dutch will have to attack more than the Portuguese did.
"We will have to try to be in command while at the same time keeping a balance in defence."
Gomez, who scored 12 goals in helping Bayern Munich reach the Champions League final, may have held off Miroslav Klose to make a second straight start after netting his 23rd goal in 53 international appearances.
The Dutch beat West Germany in the semifinals of the 1988 tournament en route to their only Euro title, and the squads played to a 1-1 draw in the most recent Euro meeting in group play in 2004.
The teams complete group play next Sunday when the Dutch play Portugal at Kharkiv while Germany plays Denmark simultaneously at Lviv.
Updated June 11, 2012