Dutch keen to start on positive note

Holland's stars insisted their European Championship opener against Denmark was even more important than their clashes with Germany and Portugal.

Football News: Wesley Sneijder, Stijn Schaars

The Dutch trained in Krakow this morning for the first time after arriving in Poland on Monday and were already on message about the significance of their first Group B encounter on Saturday.

Twenty-two of their 23-man squad were designated to deliver that message, with Arsenal captain Robin van Persie apparently gagged from speaking amid mounting speculation over his future.

Rafael van der Vaart was more forthcoming, despite himself being linked with a move away from Tottenham.

He said: "Everybody's talking about Germany, Portugal. But Denmark also have a strong team.

"The first game of a tournament is always the most important one."

Dirk Kuyt, who quit Liverpool on Sunday to join Fenerbahce, added: "For us, the first game is the most vital one.

"Everyone is speaking about Germany and Portugal, but Denmark has a very good young, talented team, and I'm sure they will be ready for us.

"We have to make sure we are ready for them."

Former Chelsea star Arjen Robben refused to pick the most difficult opponents in a pool that was immediately dubbed the 'Group of Death' when the draw was made.

The Bayern Munich winger said: "All three - it's going to be three very difficult matches.

"It's a very hard group and we have to be there from the first game on."

Everton defender Johnny Heitinga added: "It's not going to be easy because everybody's thinking about the games against Germany and Portugal but the main thing is Denmark.

"It's a difficult group but, if you want to win the tournament, you have to win those games as well."

Van der Vaart was certain Holland were up to the challenge, saying: "It's a really tough group and, from the beginning, you have to play at your best level, so it's going to be difficult.

"The confidence is there, we have a great squad, so everybody's 100%."

Holland are among the favourites to go all the way, having finished runners-up at the 2010 World Cup before qualifying for Euro 2012 at a canter.

The European Championship is widely regarded as the tougher tournament to win but Kuyt said: "I don't agree with that.

"Countries like Argentina and Brazil, they are very tough.

"In the group stages, it's more difficult to go to the second round.

"In 2008, we played France, Italy and Romania. It was also a very difficult group and this time it will be the same. If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best.

"That's what it's all about."

Heitinga added: "There's Spain, Germany and we are also one of the favourites.

"It's never easy but, if you see the squad we have, all the players are around 27, 28, 29.

"You don't get many chances to win a prize and this is an opportunity for us."

Holland play all their group matches in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but have based themselves in Krakow, Poland.

Van der Vaart and Kuyt shrugged off the possible impact of flying to and from games.

Van der Vaart said: "I think we have a great hotel here and the pitch is fantastic, the stadium, everything is nice.

"So, we're all happy that we are based here.

"We fly one day before the game, we fly to Kharkiv, so I think it's okay."

Kuyt added: "These players are used to travel. It's more important to have good accommodation and also to have a good training pitch."



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