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Netherlands-Portugal Preview

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO

STATS Writer

(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Netherlands' chances of advancing to the quarterfinals of the European Championship are dim.

Portugal's took a favourable turn in just seven minutes.

The Dutch need to beat Portugal for the first time in 21 years to have any chance of qualifying for the knockout stage, while the Portuguese can scrape by with a draw Sunday night in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Netherlands haven't failed to advance from the group stage of a major international tournament since Euro 1980, when only the winners of the two groups qualified for the final with the second-place teams playing for third.

Now, one of the heavy favourites to win Euro 2012 are on the brink of going home very early thanks to losing 2-1 to Germany on Wednesday following a stunning 1-0 loss to Denmark to begin Euro 2012 on June 9.

"We had imagined all of this very differently," said captain Mark van Bommel, who has been blamed by the public for the German goals.

The prospects of beating Portugal don't look good from a historical perspective, either. They're 1-6-3 against them all-time with that lone victory coming in a friendly at home on Oct. 16, 1991.

Netherlands' only chances of advancing including ending their eight-game winless streak against the Portuguese combined with a Germany victory over Denmark, and having the Group B tiebreakers go their way.

Portugal's chances aren't nearly as convoluted, as a win significantly increases their chances at the quarterfinals while a draw can also see them through. Still, they'll need the result of Germany-Denmark to also go their way for potential tiebreakers.

It seemed the Portuguese's odds were damaged greatly after squandering a two-goal lead by giving up a goal in the 80th minute to Denmark on Wednesday, but Silvestre Varela tallied seven minutes later to secure a 3-2 victory. The dramatic match, considered the best of the tournament so far, came four days after Portugal fell 1-0 to Germany.

"Those of us who don't play from the start must be ready to join in at any time and deliver what the manager wants," said Varela, who replaced Raul Meireles in the 84th.

So far, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't delivered, failing to score in two games despite taking 11 shots with eight on net. The pressure is mounting on the midfielder, who seems to score at will for Real Madrid and had a staggering 46 goals in 38 games in La Liga last season.

"Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world and is a very good captain and a very good leader," said defender Pepe, Ronaldo's teammate at Real Madrid. "I'm sure he will score soon."

The Dutch have also seen an offensive outage from their stars, as only forward Robin van Persie has hit the net while midfielder Arjen Robben has come up empty on 10 shots - three on frame.

Coach Bert van Marwijk is expected to make changes to the first team, and the likely candidates may be van Bommel and midfielder Ibrahim Afellay, who were both removed at halftime against Germany.

That could mean Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar being introduced into a lineup that should also continue to include van Persie, Robben and midfield playmaker Wesley Sneijder.

The last meeting between these teams ended in a 1-0 win for Portugal in the round of 16 of the 2006 World Cup.

Updated June 15, 2012

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