Netherlands strikers need to start scoring
GDANSK, Poland (AP) -Whether it's Robin van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, one of the Dutch star strikers had better start scoring if the Netherlands is to live up to its billing as a European Championship favorite.
With its back to the wall, the Netherlands has to beat Germany on Wednesday in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to have a chance of advancing from Group B.
Neither Van Persie nor Huntelaar scored in the 1-0 opening loss to Denmark, when Van Persie started the match and Huntelaar went on as support with about 30 minutes to play. The Dutch managed to lose despite creating a dozen clear chances against the Danes.
Losing the opening match may not be a disaster. Spain lost to Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup and still won the title.
The Dutch may seek comfort in another statistic - Germany has lost the middle match in its group at the past two major tournaments, against Croatia at Euro 2008 and against Serbia at the 2010 World Cup. The Germans progressed both times however, before losing to Spain, in the 2008 final and the 2010 semis.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk might decide to go with Huntelaar against Germany. Huntelaar topped the Bundesliga scoring charts with 29 goals for Schalke last season. Van Persie led the Premier League with 30 goals for Arsenal.
"You simply have to beat Germany, that is clear,'' Van Marwijk said. "And I refuse to accept defeat at this stage. We showed we can play well. We can create a lot of chances. We also showed that. And in the past we have proven that we can beat Germany, so why not now?''
The last time the two sides met in November, Germany outclassed the Dutch 3-0 in a friendly when both sides were missing several players. In that match, striker Miroslav Klose scored one goal and set up two others. It probably won't be enough to make him start Wednesday's match, given the form of Mario Gomez.
Like his Dutch counterpart, Germany coach Joachim Loew has the luxury of having two world-class strikers at his disposal. The problem is who to choose.
In the opener against Portugal, Loew picked Bayern Munich's Gomez over Klose against expectations and proved to be right, with Gomez scoring the winner - moments before he was supposed to be substituted by Klose, Loew's preferred striker over recent years.
"By now, you should know that I like to spring a surprise every now and then, that I am unpredictable,'' Loew joked with journalists Monday.
Klose came into the tournament recovering from a thigh injury and nursing a back problem. At 34, he needs more time to recover and Loew went with the fit Gomez, who had 28 goals in the Bundesliga and 12 in the Champions League in leading Bayern to the final.
"It's never been that close between us, never so difficult for the coach to choose between us,'' Gomez said Monday.
Gomez said he was aware that Klose was already waiting on the touchline to come in.
"I saw him but I knew that I still had one more chance,'' he said.
Gomez took it, scoring off a deflected free kick.
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