Soccer-Netherlands, Poland limp into Euro 2024

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2024 Qualifier - Group B - Republic of Ireland v Netherlands - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland - September 10, 2023 Netherlands' Matthijs de Ligt during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Stripped of their leading lights, the Netherlands and Poland limp to the start line at the European Championship on Sunday when they begin their Group D campaign in Hamburg.

The Dutch must do without playmaker Frenkie de Jong due to an ankle injury and Poland talisman Robert Lewandowski will also miss the opening game.

Poland were already without right back Matty Cash and striker Arkadiusz Milik when forward Karol Swiderski hurt his ankle while celebrating the opening goal in Monday's friendly against Turkey. He and Lewandowski should, however, be fit for the second group game against Austria.

The Dutch injury list also includes Europa League winners Marten de Roon and Teun Koopmeiners as well as defender Sven Botman.

"In principle we still have a strong squad now," Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman said.

"I think that we have been a little unlucky with quite a few injuries during the past year and also for sure a lot of injuries to players who were more than valuable for the national team."

Poland are likely to suffer more of a morale blow with the absence of 35-year-old Lewandowski who has scored 82 goals in 150 internationals.

"He's an outstanding player, who has given much to the team in how he helped in every way," Poland coach Michal Probierz said.

Koeman stirred up controversy before the game by suggesting Lewandowski’s injury might be a bluff to which Probierz responded with irritation.

"If we officially report something like this, it is to remove doubts from our supporters," he said.

"He (Koeman) may have enormous knowledge of injuries. I don't and I just have confidence in our medical staff. There is a quote: 'Tell the truth and people think you are lying'. That applies here."

With matches to come against Austria and France, Sunday’s game is viewed as a must-win for both teams.

"The fact that we are seen as underdogs can work to our advantage. Everyone thinks that France and the Netherlands are the favourites in our group. Because few people count on us, we feel little pressure. That is more a signal to show that we have a good team," said Poland midfielder Jakub Moder.

The Dutch are unbeaten in their last 12 meetings with Poland, last losing to them in 1979.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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