Dutch vow to go down swingin'

Netherlands' national soccer player Wesley Sneijder attends a training session at Metalist stadium...

Netherlands' national soccer player Wesley Sneijder attends a training session at Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, June 12, 2012. (Vasily Fedosenko/REUTERS)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - "Perhaps we will go out and start a fight now."

Those were the final words Dutch coach Bert Van Maarwijk spoke as he stood up to end his press conference Tuesday, implying that his players were poised to begin smacking each other around during their evening practice at Metalist Stadium.

Van Maarwijk was joking of course, although his comment was also oozing with sarcasm.

There is no doubt it was a parting shot at the 150-plus reporters who had just finished mercilessly grilling he and star midfielder Wesley Sneijder on the eve of their titanic Euro 2012 clash with Germany, their most bitter of rivals.

Heading into Wednesday's titanic do-or-die matchup against Die Mannschaft, a sheet of panic has smothered the soccer-crazed country of Holland in the wake of De Oranje's shocking 1-0 upset loss to Denmark last week.

And with it, of course, have come allegations that there is disinterest and disenchantment inside the Dutch locker room, suggestions that Van Maarwijk and Sneijder spent their 15-minute session with the media attempting to defuse.

Not sure reporters came away convinced by their denials.

The orange lightning rods of controversy have been a pair of strikers, Robin Van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Despite the fact that at least five or six of his teammates blew slam-dunk scoring chances in the loss to the Danes, Van Persie clearly has been made the scapegoat. In fact, when he was seen talking on a cell phone on the pitch just moments after the crushing defeat, he was subsequently ripped by Feyenoord legend Willem van Hanegem.

"What kind of impression does this make?" Van Hanegem wrote in his column in Algemeen Dagblad. "You just lost a very important match where you missed a few very good chances and then the people see you calling on the side of the pitch! I really think this is impossible to believe and Van Marwijk should talk to him about this.

"I don't get why he was calling there. It's something you shouldn't do and I have never seen this in my life."

There also is talk that Van Persie might be distracted because he is being wooed by a number of European club teams that are trying to pry him away from Arsenal. In fact, Italian newspapers reported that Serie A giants Juventus sent legendary alumnus Pavel Nedved to lure Van Persie, with a meeting between the two allegedly to have taken place last week.

As for Huntelaar, fears of his discontent sprouted when reporters were informed Monday that he would be the only Dutch player who would not talk to the press. Huntelaar was said to be livid when he was overlooked as the starting striker in favour of Van Persie against the Danes.

Such in-house chaos is nothing new to Holland, known for several decades as a team of stars who tend to underachieve. As one former player once put it: "The most difficult opponent for the Dutch is the Dutch."

For his part, Sneijder refused to be sucked into any controversial comments.

"When there is a big game like this, sure there is pressure," Sneijder said. "That's what makes it a nice game."

Nice? That's a different take on it, to be sure.

Count on this: There will be nothing nice for Sneijder and his teammates should they lose.

If that comes to pass, the Danes would need just a single point in their final two matches to eliminate De Oranje, a potential crushing blow for a team that reached the World Cup final just two years ago.

Back in November, the Germans hammered the Dutch 3-0 during a one-sided friendly in Hamburg. You can bet there will be nothing "friendly" when these two teams take to the pitch this time around.

Both teams admit as much, pointing to the fact that the Dutch did not field their strongest team.

"That score will not be the same this time," Sneijder vowed. "We don't want it to be the same this time."

It better not be.

Otherwise the reception for the players when they arrive back at home will be anything but friendly.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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