Van Nistelrooy and Koller hold key in Dutch-Czech showdown

PORTO: Two big strikers with large reputations are likely to have a major impact on the heavyweight Group D clash between Holland and the Czech Republic today. 

In the Dutch corner stands Ruud van Nistelrooy, whose dramatic and brilliantly executed equaliser earned his side a 1-1 draw with Germany in their opening match. 

Standing in the opposite corner is the tallest professional player in Europe, the 2.02m (6' 8”) Jan Koller. 

Van Nistelrooy will lead the Dutch attack alone, while Koller, supported by Milan Baros, will use his great height and under-rated skills on the ground to rattle the Dutch defenders, who struggled to cope with Germany’s physical approach. 

BIG MEN, BIG SAY: Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and Czech hitman Jan Koller, both tall and deadly, are likely to have a major impact when their teams clash in their Euro 2004 Group D match today.

Victory for Koller and the Czechs would guarantee them a place in the quarter-finals while a Dutch win would provide a release from the intense pressure surrounding their camp. 

It would also give them a good chance of a place in the last eight, although much still depends on how Germany fare against outsiders Latvia. 

Group D, comprising three former European champions, was always going to be the toughest and although the Czechs have the slight advantage following their 2-1 win over Latvia, anything is still possible. 

The fact that the teams also know each other so well should have a bearing on the outcome. Neither is likely to surprise the other, either tactically or psychologically, although the Czechs definitely go into the match in a more confident frame of mind. 

The two teams were in the same qualifying group with the Czechs coming out on top, thanks to a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam and a 3-1 win in Prague, and they are also in the same qualifying section for the 2006 World Cup. 

The Czechs have slight injury worries over defenders Rene Bolf (knee) and Zdenek Grygera, who went to hospital with swollen glands on Thursday, but both are expected to be fit to play. 

The hot weather has also taken its toll, with playmaker Pavel Nedved and fellow midfielder Tomas Rosicky suffering from headaches, while Koller needed an intravenous drip after losing five kilos in the win over Latvia. 

Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf has returned to full training after recovering from an injury and may well go straight back into the side. 

Coach Dick Advocaat sprung a surprise by selecting Boudewijn Zenden ahead of youngster Wesley Sneijder in midfield against Germany, and Sneijder should start against the Czechs after impressing as a second-half substitute. 

Edgar Davids was also taken off at half time against the Germans after failing to impose himself but his experience should be vital in trying to curb the rich creative talents of Nedved and Rosicky. – Reuters  

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