Nuremberg, June 24 :
Portugal and The Netherlands conceded only one goal in going unbeaten in their first three matches. With two defences like that, their second round match indicates a low-scoring encounter and one goal may make the difference.
Yet with Luis Figo and Deco on one side and Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie on the other, itâ€™s anybodyâ€™s guess what will happen in Sundayâ€™s game between the heavyweights. If history is anything to go by, the odds favour Portugal.
â€œThe Netherlands is a totally different team now, and this game is very different, too. Itâ€™s a World Cup,â€ said Portugalâ€™s Maniche, who scored the winner against the Netherlands in the 2004 European Championships semi-finals. â€œThey know how we play and theyâ€™ll be a big hurdle for us to get over.â€
Portugal will probably field a starting lineup similar to the one that beat the Netherlands 2-1 two years ago, while Dutch coach Marco Van Basten has totally revamped his team since.
Portugal looks like it will be fully fit for the match, while only John Heitinga is a doubt for the Netherlands.
Deco trained on his own to protect a sore ankle, but the Barcelona star should be declared fit on Sunday. The 33-year-old Figo has turned back the clock in his performances so far in the competition and been instrumental in the good run.
â€œWe feel sure we can get past the Netherlands in 90 minutes,â€ Maniche said. â€œEven if it goes to extra time and penalties, weâ€™re in good shape to cope with that.â€
Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar represents his teamâ€™s age and experience, and will become the most capped Dutch player with his 113rd international appearance on Sunday.